Animal Farm Preface: Russell Baker “We were very lucky to get out of Spain alive,” George Orwell wrote afterwards. He was not talking about the nearly fatal throat wound he suffered in combat during the Spanish Civil War but about Stalin’s murderous political apparatchiks who had gained partial control of the Spanish government by 1937. He had gone to Spain to fight for that government because he thought it represented political decency, and his belief in the importance of political decency had nearly been the end of him. More or less by chance, he had ended up in a Trotskyist outfit at a time when Stalinists were trying to destroy every trace of Trotsky’s contribution to the Russian revolution. These purges were directed from Moscow but had deadly consequences even in faraway Spain, where Stalin was ostensibly supporting a democratic Spanish government. “Many of our friends were shot, and others spent a long time in prison or simply disappeared,” Orwell recalled in his preface to a 1947 Ukrainian-language edition of Animal Farm . This narrow escape from the long reach of Moscow-style politics left him alarmed about the gullibility of other well-meaning, decent people in Western Europe. He thought too many decent people in the Western democracies had succumbed to a dangerously romantic view of the Russian revolution that blinded them to the Soviet reality. Soviet communism paid a heavy price for what it did to Orwell in Spain. Out of that experience came Animal Farm . An attack on the myth of the nobility of Soviet communism, Animal Farm became one of the century’s most devastating literary acts of political destruction. Orwell called the book “a fairy story.” Like Voltaire’s Candide , however, with which it bears comparison, it is too many other things to be so handily classified. It is also a political tract, a satire on human folly, a loud hee-haw at all who yearn for Utopia, an allegorical lesson, and a pretty good fable in the Aesop tradition. It is also a passionate sermon against the dangers of political innocence. The passage in which the loyal but stupid workhorse Boxer is sold to be turned into glue, hides, and bone meal because he is no longer useful is written out of a controlled and icy hatred for the cynicism of the Soviet system – but also out of despair for all the deluded people who served it gladly. Maybe because it gilds the philosophic pill with fairy-story trappings, Animal Farm has had an astonishing success for a book rooted in politics. Since its first publication at the end of World War II, it has been read by millions. With 1984 , published three years later, it established Orwell as an important man of letters. It has enriched modern political discourse with the observation that “All animals are equal, but some animals are mo re equal than others.” How did we ever grasp the true nature of the politics of uplift before Orwell explained it so precisely?