It’s frustrating that so many conservatives try to claim Orwell, and so many leftists mistake him for a conservative. Both errors evince lack of historical knowledge and a failure to understand that democratic socialism is antithetical to Communism.
Orwell knew socialism only improves lives in democracies that permit freedom of thought and expression. He didn’t just hate Stalin; he hated Soviet Communism — i.e., the pairing of economic socialism with political dictatorship — because he knew totalitarian despotism poisons the substance and spirit of socialism. Orwell recognized Communism as counterfeit socialism, “a particularly vicious form of state-capitalism.” Orwell wrote, Stalin’s “purges never surprised me because I had always felt” those kinds of “horrors” were “implicit in Bolshevik rule.” Orwell quotations are from Christopher Hitchens, Why Orwell Matters (2002), pp. 59, 61.
The problem is compounded by the cartoonish contemporary understanding of the Cold War, which remembers the end — Reagan vs. Brezhnev, conservative capitalism vs. inept dictatorship — but forgets the beginning: Truman/Attlee vs. Stalin/Mao (liberals & leftists vs. genocidal maniacs).