In the beginning of Animal Farm, we learn that “old Major, the prize Middle White boar, had had a strange dream on the previous night and wished to communicate it to the other animals” (1.2). Old Major is the most respected animal on the farm, and is known to be extremely wise. One suspects that the animals wouldn’t gather for just anyone’s “strange dream”; they feel confident that Old Major has something important to share with them.
Old Major’s message is that animals do not have to live the short, miserable lives that they do. He thinks that their misfortunes can all be traced back to Man, who “is the only creature that consumes without producing” (1.9). In other words, Man takes advantage of the animals by forcing them to work themselves to death, while he (Man) does nothing but boss them around. Yet when the animals produce goods – whether it be milk, eggs, or fertilizer – it is Man that reaps the benefits. As Old Major says, “Is it not crystal clear, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings?” (1.11).
But Old Major does more than just describe the problem. He also thinks that he has a solution. He thinks that if only the animals can overthrow Men and take control of the farm then all animals can live in a state of equality. To remind them of this goal, he teaches them the anthem "Beasts of England," which they continue to sing for many years after his death.
Old Major is meant to represent Karl Marx, one of the most famous philosophers and political theorists in the history of the world. Marx wrote a little book called The Communist Manifesto in 1848 that is now known all over the world, in large part due to the Russian Revolution of 1917, which tried to implement many of Marx’s ideas.
The Manifesto opens, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Marx goes on to explain the “internal tensions” that will lead capitalism to eventually destroy itself. He imagines that the next economic stage of society will be a stateless, classless society, what he calls “the dictatorship of the proletariat” (working class).
In Animal Farm, the animals represent the proletariat, the working class, those who are supposed to usher in the next stage of history. The humans represent the capitalists, those who take advantage of the working class and keep the benefits of their labor for themselves. According to Marx, it’s only through revolution that this situation can end. As Marx says at the end of his book, “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, Unite!”
Old Major leaves his animals with a similarly revolutionary message. He even gives them "Beasts of England" to remember it by. Yet three days later, he dies, and the slow process of distorting his ideas and ruining his legacy begins.