Because Animal Farm is so critical of Soviet Communism, some readers may be surprised to learn that Orwell was a committed socialist. As a result of his experiences as a colonial policeman in Burma and while living in working-class areas of London and Paris, Orwell became a fierce opponent of colonialism and unchecked capitalism. Eventually he joined the Socialist Independent Labor Party, and he documented the development of his political beliefs in a series of essays and books, most famously The Road To Wigan Pier (1937).

In 1936, Orwell travelled to Spain in order to oppose the Fascist faction in the Spanish Civil War. While in Spain, Orwell was caught up in the conflict between the Stalinist and Trotskyist factions in the Communist forces, and he was lucky to escape with his life. This experience shaped his lifelong hatred of Stalinism and totalitarianism in general. He was disgusted by the extent to which British socialists were willing to defend Stalin, and one of his main goals in writing Animal Farm was to expose the cruelty and hypocrisy of Stalinism to other British socialists. The novella also portrays capitalism—represented by the regimes of Jones and Pilkington—as cruel. The book’s kindly portrayal of Boxer and the other “lower animals” has its roots in Orwell’s sympathy for oppressed people.