George Orwell wrote this review of Eugene Lyons’s memoir Assignment in Utopia (1937) in June 1938, two months after the publication of his work Homage to Catalonia. Lyons’s book describes his experience working in the Soviet Union as a United Press correspondent between the years 1928 and 1934. Orwell praised Lyons’s narrative, which is markedly anti-Soviet, as one of the few reliable accounts of the Stalinist regime. Assignment in Utopia is widely recognised as one of the texts that served as inspiration for Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Homage to Catalonia, which was initially a commercial flop, had received unfavourable reviews in some of the periodicals of the Left – many believed that Orwell’s criticism of the role of the Communist Party in Spain was prejudicial for the ‘greater cause’ of socialism. In his review of Lyons’s work Orwell openly denounced this position, which he saw as a form of moral dishonesty: ‘It is an unfortunate fact that any hostile criticism of the present Russian régime is liable to be taken as propaganda against Socialism; all socialists are aware of this, and it does not make for an honest discussion.’