One of Stalin’s first decisions as the leader of the Soviet Union was to initiate something known as the Five-Year-Plans, the first of which was accepted in 1928 for the years 1929-1933. The Plans continued in Russia up until the early 1990s, and their main goal was to rapidly industrialize the nation so that it could catch up with the West.
Going hand in hand with the Five-Year-Plan was Stalin’s decision to collectivize agriculture. He thought that he could increase crop output by moving to large-scale mechanized farms, and by bringing the peasantry under direct control. The plan meant a massive drop in quality of living for the peasants, and quickly revealed itself as a failure. There are historical debates about the degree to which Stalin’s plans led directly to the widespread famine of 1931 and 1932, which killed millions of Russian peasants. What is clear, however, is that once the famines started, Stalin did little to help the people.
In Animal Farm, we find that Napoleon has the animals working harder than ever (alluding to the Five-Year-Plans). Even the neighboring humans "had developed a certain respect for the efficiency with which the animals were managing their own affairs" (6.9). Meanwhile, Napoleon’s own hypocrisy is becoming increasingly apparent to anyone who is paying attention. The pigs have begun to sleep in the humans’ beds, and Muriel the horse reads out the altered commandment "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets" (6.13).
Despite (or perhaps because of) Napoleon’s initiative, there are widespread food shortages across Animal Farm (paralleling the famines in Russia). Napoleon quickly realizes that "it was vitally necessary to conceal this fact from the outside world" (7.4), and he sends the sheep out to talk about their increased rations. At the same time, Napoleon has all the empty food bins in the store-shed filled with sand in order to hide the lack of food. Napoleon, like Stalin, is floundering to make his policies look like they are working, to give the illusion of strength when the Farm is becoming increasingly weak.