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Rear View

The capitalist farm

'China bans George Orwell's Animal Farm and letter 'N' as censors bolster Xi Jinping's plan to keep power indefinitely. Experts believe increased levels of suppression are sign Xi Jinping hopes to become dictator for life' (independent.co.uk, 1 March). One famous phrase from this satire concerning the perversion of revolutionary aims is all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. State capitalist China has over 100 billionaires who together have wealth equal to twice Ireland's GDP and, according to a Peking University report from 2016, its income disparity is getting worse with the top 1 percent owning a third of the country's wealth and the bottom 25 percent of the population just 1 percent. The human oppressors in Orwell's classic are overthrown by the farm animals, but their desire for the farm to be run for the benefit of all is thwarted by the emergence of a new ruling class composed of dogs and pigs. Under new management the wealth of the farm grows but is accumulated by the rulers rather than shared. The pigs start to argue and reflecting the power struggle between Stalin and Trotsky, one leading pig uses his trained dogs to drive another member of the ruling class off the farm. Such struggles continue today in the real world. We are also informed 'it was not immediately obvious why the ostensibly harmless letter ‘N’ had been banned, but some speculated it may either be being used or interpreted as a sign of dissent.' Indeed, why not: the banished pig was called Snowball and the victor Napoleon.

Pigs in paradise

'After long playing second fiddle to China, India has leapfrogged its rival to become the world’s fastest-growing major economy' (theweek.co.uk, 1 March). Yet this growing prosperity for a small parasitical class has not lessened the chronic malnutrition of children; in the 2017 Global Hunger Index of 119 countries India slipped to the 100th place. In fact, this country is home to a quarter of the world’s hungry – a staggering 190.7 million people or 14.5 per cent of the population is undernourished. India also has the world's largest number of homeless and landless persons. Furthermore, at least 5,650 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2014. Earlier this year, 'seven workers died of suffocation...while cleaning an underground drainage pit at a poultry farm in southern India.... Such accidents are common in India, where workers clean deep drainage pits without protective gear' (arabnews.com, 16 February). India's ruling class prefer to use the stolen wealth elsewhere: 'New Delhi and Moscow have finalised contractual terms for four new stealth frigates that Russia will supply the Indian Navy for slightly over Rs 200 billion ($3 billion), or about Rs 50 billion ($775 million) per vessel' (defensetalk.com, 28 February).

Tolstoy's farm parable

‘I see mankind as a herd of cattle inside a fenced enclosure. Outside the fence are green pastures and plenty for the cattle to eat, while inside the fence there is not quite grass enough for the cattle. Consequently, the cattle are tramping underfoot what little grass there is and goring each other to death in their struggle for existence. I saw the owner of the herd come to them, and when he saw their pitiful condition he was filled with compassion for them and thought of all he could do to improve their condition. So he called his friends together and asked them to assist him in cutting grass from outside the fence and throwing it over the fence to the cattle. And that they called Charity. Then, because the calves were dying off and not growing up into serviceable cattle, he arranged that they should each have a pint of milk every morning for breakfast. Because they were dying off in the cold nights, he put up beautiful well-drained and well-ventilated cowsheds for the cattle. Because they were goring each other in the struggle for existence, he put corks on the horns of the cattle, so that the wounds they gave each other might not be so serious. Then he reserved a part of the enclosure for the old bulls and the old cows over 70 years of age. In fact, he did everything he could think of to improve the condition of the cattle, and when I asked him why he did not do the one obvious thing, break down the fence, and let the cattle out, he answered: 'If I let the cattle out, I should no longer be able to milk them'’ (Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, pamphlet ‘to the working classes of all nations’).