Review From User :
One of the best books I've ever read. I get the feeling Mr. Orwell is telling me his story directly.
The whole process is easy to understand if one remembers that it proceeds from the temporary alliance that Fascism, in certain forms, forces upon the bourgeois and the worker. This alliance, known as the Popular Front, is in essence an alliance of enemies, and it seems probable that it must always end by one partner swallowing the other. The only unexpected feature in the Spanish situation -- and outside Spain it has caused an immense amount of misunderstanding -- is that among the parties on the Government side the Communists stood not upon the extreme Left, but upon the extreme Right. Official Communism must be regarded (at any rate, for the time being) as an anti-revolutionary force.
To begin with, the things that most enlightened me had not yet happened, and in any case, my sympathies were in some ways different from what they are not.
It is nonsense to talk of opposing Fascism by bourgeois "democracy." Bourgeois "democracy" is only another name for capitalism, and so is Fascism. The only real alternative to Fascism is workers' control.
The Communist's emphasis is always on centralism and efficiency; the Anarchist's on liberty and equality.
On the surface, the quarrel between the Communists and the POUM was one of tactics. The POUM was for immediate revolution, the Communists not.
One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.
One of the dreariest effects of this war has been to teach me that the Left-wing press is every bit as spurious and dishonest as that of the Right.
The people who write that kind of stuff never fight. It is the same in all wars: the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours.
As far as the journalistic part of it, this war was a racket like all other wars.
General and private, peasant and militiaman, still met as equals; everyone drew the same pay, wore the same clothes, ate the same food and called everyone else 'thou' and comrade.' There was no boss-class, no menial-class, no beggars, no prostitutes, no lawyers, no priests, no boot-licking, no cap-touching. I was breathing the air of equality, and I was simple enough to imagine that it existed all over Spain. I did not realize that more or less by chance I was isolated among the most revolutionary section of the Spanish working class - in the strip of Aragon controlled by Anarchist and POUM troops.
The ting for which the Communists were working was not to postpone the Spanish revolution till a more suitable time, but to make sure that it never happened.
I used to think of the recruiting poster in Barcelona which demanded accusingly of passers-by: "What have you done for democracy"
When you think what fighting means it is queer that soldiers want to fight and yet undoubtedly they do. In stationary warfare there are three things that all soldiers long for: a battle, more cigarettes, and a week's leave.
For sheer beastliness, the louse beats everything I have encountered.
I think the pacifists might fight it helpful to illustrate their pamphlets with enlarged photographs of lice. Glory of war, indeed! In war, all soldiers are lousy, at least when it is warm enough. The men who fought at Verdun, at Waterloo, at Flodden, at Senlac, at Thermopylae -- every one of them had lice crawling over his testicles.
At the front, everyone stole, it was the inevitable effect of shortage, but the hospital people were always the worst. The practicantes (hospital assistants) stole practically every valuable object I possessed, including my camera and all my photographs.
The Spanish Church will come back (as the saying goes, night and the Jesuits always return)
To the Spanish people, at any rate in Catalonia and Aragon, the Church was a racket pure and simple. And possibly Christian belief was replaced to some extent by Anarchism, whose influence is widely spread and which undoubtedly has a religious tinge.
It is queer how, just now and again, Spaniards can carry out a brilliant feat of organization.
I cannot convey to you the depth of my desire to get there. Just to get within bombing distance before they heard us! At such a time you have not even any fear, only a tremendous hopeless longing to get over the intervening ground. I have felt exactly the same thing when stalking a wild animal; the same agonized desire to get within range, the same dreamlike certainty that it is impossible. And how that distance stretched out!
I had joined the militia in order to fight against Fascism, and as yet I had scarcely fought at all, merely existed as a sort of passive object, doing nothing in return for my rations except to suffer from cold and lack of sleep. Perhaps that is the fate of most soldiers in most wars.
A kind of interregnum in my life...and they taught me things that I could not have learned in any other way.
interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order
I had dropped more less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragon entirely of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on terms of equality. the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life -- snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc. -- had simply ceased to exist.
To the vast majority of people, Socialism means a classless society. And it was here that those few months in the militia were valuable to me. For the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were a sort of microcosm of a classless society. In that community where no one was on the make, where there was a shortage of everything but no privilege and no boot-licking, one got perhaps a crude forecast of what the opening stages of Socialism might be like.
Like everyone about me, I was chiefly conscious of boredom, heat, cold, dirt, lice, privation and occasional danger. It was beastly while it was happening, but it is a god patch for my mind to browse upon. I wish I could convey to you the atmosphere of that time. It is all bound up in my mind with the winter cold, the ragged uniforms of militiamen, the oval Spanish faces, the Morse-like tapping of machine-guns, the smells of urine and rotting bread, the tinny taste of bean-stews wolfed hurriedly out of unclean pannikins.
The whole period stays by me with curious vividness struggling to keep my balance and to tug a root of wild rosemary out of the ground. High overhead some meaningless bullets are singing.
I had been a hundred and fifteen days in the line and had come back to Barcelona ravenous for a bit of rest and comfort; and instead I had to spend my time sitting on a roof opposite Civil Guards as bored as myself, who periodically waved to me and assured me that they were 'workers' (meaning that they hoped I would not shoot them), but who would certainly open fire if they got the order to do so.
It may seem that I have discussed the accusations against the POUM at greater length than was necessary. Compared with the huge miseries of a civil war, this kind of internecine squabble between parties with its inevitable injustices and false accusations may appear trivial. It is not really so. I believe that libels and press-campaigns of this kind and the habits of mind they indicate, are capable of doing the most deadly damage to the anti-Fascist cause.
internecine = destructive to both sides in a conflict.
Anyone who has given the subject a glance knows that the Communist tactic of dealing with political opponents by means of trumped-up accusations is nothing new.
The only hope is to keep political controversy on a plane where exhaustive discussion is possible. But so long as no argument is produced except a scream of 'Trotsky-Fascist!" the discussion cannot even begin. It is as though in the middle of a chess tournament one competitor should suddenly begin screaming that the other is guilty of arson or bigamy. The point that is really at issue remains untouched. Libel settles nothing.
libel = a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation.
newspaper correspondent: "This war is a racket the same as any other."
No one in his senses supposed that there was any hope of democracy in a country so divided and exhausted as Spain would be when the war was over. It would have to be a dictatorship.
[The Spanish Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil EspaÃ±ola) was fought from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939 between the Republicans, who were loyal to the established Spanish Republic, and the Nationalists, a rebel group led by General Francisco Franco. The Nationalists prevailed, and Franco ruled Spain for the next 36 years, from 1939 until his death in 1975
The conservative, strongly Catholic Basque country, along with Galicia and the more left-leaning Catalonia, sought autonomy, or even independence, from the central government of Madrid. The Republican government allowed for the possibility of self-government for the two regions, whose forces were gathered under the People's Republican Army (EjÃ©rcito Popular Republicano, or EPR), which was reorganized into mixed brigades after October 1936.
A few well-known people fought on the Republican side, such as English novelist George Orwell and Canadian physician and medical innovator Norman Bethune.
The Nationalists (nacionales)-also called "insurgents", "rebels", or, by opponents, "Franquists" or "fascists"-feared national fragmentation and opposed the separatist movements.
Many non-Spaniards, often affiliated with radical communist or socialist entities, joined the International Brigades, believing that the Spanish Republic was a front line in the war against fascism.
Though General Secretary Joseph Stalin had signed the Non-Intervention Agreement, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics contravened the League of Nations embargo by providing material assistance to the Republican forces, becoming their only source of major weapons.
Franco's troops conquered Catalonia in a whirlwind campaign during the first two months of 1939. Tarragona fell on 15 January, followed by Barcelona on 26 January and Girona on 2 February. On 27 February, the United Kingdom and France recognized the Franco regime.
The Republicans showed a raised fistwhereas the Nationalists gave the Roman salute
In the anarchist-controlled areas, AragÃ³n and Catalonia, in addition to the temporary military success, there was a vast social revolution in which the workers and peasants collectivised land and industry and set up councils parallel to the paralyzed Republican government. This revolution was opposed by the Soviet-supported communists who, perhaps surprisingly, campaigned against the loss of civil property rights.]
Obviously they were Italians. No other people could have grouped themselves so picturesquely or return the salutes of the crowd with so much grace. The men who were well enough to stand had moved across the carriage to cheer the Italians as they went past. A crutch waved out of the window; bandaged forearms made the Red Salute. It was like an allegorical picture of war; the trainload of fresh men gliding proudly up the line, the maimed men sliding slowly down, and all the while the guns on the open trucks making one's heart leap as guns always do, and reviving that pernicious feeling, so difficult to get rid of, that war is glorious after all.
It is a waste of time to be angry but the stupid malignity of this kind of thing does try one's patience.
This was not a round-up of criminals, it was merely a reign of terror.
Fortunately this was Spain and not Germany. The Spanish secret police had some of the spirit of the Gestapo, but not much of its competence.
The little office hesitated a moment, then stepped across and shook hands with me.
Spaniards have a generosity, a species of nobility, that do not really belong to the twentieth century. Few Spaniards possess the damnable efficiency and consistency that a modern totalitarian state needs.
And then England -- southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world. Don't worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning, the New Statesman will come out on Friday.
Down and Out in Paris and London
O scathful harm, condition of poverte! - Chaucer
It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first; the shifts that it puts you to, the complicated meanness, the crust-wiping.
You discover, for instance, the secrecy attached to poverty. At a sudden stroke you have been reduced to an income of six francs a day. But of course you dare not admit it -- you have got to pretend that you are living quite as usual.
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