[George Orwell] Homage to Catalonia

  • Title: Homage to Catalonia
  • Author: George Orwell
  • Published: 1938
  • Publisher: The Folio Society, London (1998)

Spanish Civil War has not been a popular subject, and I only had a fragmentary notion of it. George Orwell’s vivid illustration of his experience in the war surely ignites my curiosity to know more about what has really happened.

I recently watched and read ‘All quiet on the western front‘ – novel by Erich Maria Remarque (1929), movie directed by Lewis Milestone(1930) -, which made me feel shocked (the first time), then sad (the second time), finally uneasy and disturbed. Is it the world in which I live? Being or becoming pessimistic cannot be an option, but there seems no way around.

Homage to Catalonia is not a systematic synthesis of politics nor a non-partial history. But through it, I can see hope and possibility of human society and my existence. What attracts me is not how the war had been progressed or how cruel the situation was but how the anarchists were able to uprise in the real history. Socialist society can be regarded as a fantasy, or even against basic human conditions. We accept capitalism as democracy and regard socialism as a joke. Why are we afraid of equality? Is it really against our instincts? Or are we just stupid mass controlled by big ideologies and propaganda?

G. Orwell was crushed in the Spanish Civil War. His naïve optimism was stumbled by the complex political feuds. But he experienced what Spaniards had achieved even in a short period. Workers in CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) were not equipped with intellectual ideologies. They were called anarchists, but they did not define themselves. Equality and freedom were the products of their brave actions. It was a real revolution, as Orwell affirmed in the book.

George Orwell concerned about the power struggles among anti-fascist groups (pro-republicans).

  • POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista – Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) : Trotskyist Intellectuals
  • CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo – National Confederation of Labour) : anarcho-syndicalist labor unions
  • FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica – Iberian Anarchist Federation) : Anarchist political group in CNT
  • PSUC (Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya – Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia), PCE (Partido Comunista de España) : Communist Party
  • UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores – General Union of Workers) : Socialist labor unions

At the early stage of the civil war, they worked as separate units: CNT, PSUC, and POUM. When the Republican government tried to reorganize all anti-fascist troops and militias under the communists (backed by Soviet), the conflict among groups was inevitable. The first victim was POUM and then CNT.

It was a sad history. It showed the possibility of different social structures but was crushed by existing (worse) structures. Since then, we haven’t seen this kind of eruption of the will of human freedom. Even though it is just nostalgia now, George Orwell left us the vivid image of what human beings might have achieved.

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