George Orwell’s Animal Farm turns 70 on August 17, but the occasion is more than a publishing anniversary. Decades after its release, the anti-Communist, anti-Stalinist classic reveals a dynamic of the left often overlooked but still playing out daily.
In Orwell’s tale, old Major, Mr. Jones’ prize boar, makes his famous speech about the oppression of farm animals by human beings. While Major was speaking, “four large rats crept out of their holes and were sitting on their hindquarters listening to him.” The dogs chased them off, but the incident prompted Major to pose a question: “Are rats comrades?” The vote was taken at once, “and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority that rats were comrades.”
Rats, also known as criminals, are very much at home on the revolutionary left, as Orwell knew from Stalin, a bank robber, gangster and mass murderer. Such criminals do not shun violent action against political opponents, which is why, in leftist regimes, the worst tend to get on top. F.A. Hayek explained that reality in The Road to Serfdom, published a year before Animal Farm, when Stalinism was the rage. But there’s more to this than history.
In the view from the left, even violent criminals are victims of the unjust capitalist system. Criminals’ violent actions, therefore, are a kind of protest against “the violence inherent in the system,” the left wants to overturn or transform. In the view of the left, the imperialist, oppressive United States is responsible for all conditions that prompt foreign nationals to come to the United States.
Whatever the duly constituted immigration laws, the left wants the entire nation to be a sanctuary, and cities such as San Francisco even welcome and protect violent criminals who have violated immigration laws. So in sanctuary cities rats are comrades and that reality overrides any concern about public safety and the victims of violent crime. Consider this dynamic in the shooting of Kathryn Steinle by illegal immigrant felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez.
When the victim’s relatives responded with “Kate’s Law,” California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who has praised Stalinists such as Harry Bridges, promptly dubbed it the “Donald Trump Act.” San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee referred questions to sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who released Lopez-Sanchez. Sheriff Mirkarimi rushed to the barricades to defend the city’s sanctuary policy and accuse others of playing politics with the issue.
California’s governor Jerry Brown remained unusually subdued, but he was already on the record. In 2013 Brown signed the Trust Act, which prohibits local law enforcement from detaining immigrants longer than necessary for minor crimes so that federal immigration authorities can take custody of them. The Act reserves deportation for those charged with or convicted of “serious offenses.”
After the Steinle murder, Brown issued no call to eliminate the sanctuary city policy, and on that theme he boasts previous experience. Dennis Banks, a founder of the American Indian Movement, was convicted of riot and assault for a 1973 courthouse gun battle in South Dakota. When Banks fled to California, governor Jerry Brown granted sanctuary to the fugitive and refused to extradite him.
In the wake of Steinle’s murder, President Obama failed to match his rhetoric over Ferguson and Charleston. The president did not call the Steinle family, defended the sanctuary city policy, and threatened to veto any “Kate’s Law” that reached his desk. Last October, the president was also unmoved when Luis Enriquez Monroy Bracamontes, a Mexican national in the United States illegally, gunned down Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy Danny Oliver. Bracamontes, a violent felon deported multiple times, also killed police detective Michael Davis and wounded Jeff Davis, a deputy.
The default response in such cases is to decry “gun violence,” but that did not happen. In both cases, an Hispanic foreign national gunned down a non-Hispanic American, but no official charged that it might have been a hate crime, or even, in the Steinle case, “violence against women.” When the left prevails, rats get special consideration, and that should come as no surprise.
As Barry Rubin noted in Silent Revolution, Barack Obama is not a liberal. If he was, he would not disregard the greatest accomplishments of liberals and call for the nation to be transformed. Rubin sees Obama as part of the Third Left, heir to both the Old Left and New Left. In these quarters, as in San Francisco, rats are still comrades.
Orwell had that dynamic nailed in 1945, but his work of genius had a hard time reaching readers. Animal Farm drew rejections from 14 publishers, including T.S. Eliot on behalf of Faber and Faber, precisely because it was too unkind to Stalin. Random House founder Bennett Cerf proposed a publishing ban on all books critical of the Soviet Union. Animal Farm prevailed, and 70 years later still exposes the deadly dynamics of the left.