George Orwell and the communists and anarchists of Catalonia in the Spanish Civil War!
Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell is an absolutely terrific little book. These are Orwell’s memoirs about his direct involvement in the Spanish Civil War as an English member of the 29th Battalion of the POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification), a radical, socialist, internationalist organization. Later POUM was denounced by the Stalinist communists as being a Trotskyite fascist, 5th column organization because it contained a few internationalist Jewish members who followed Trotsky rather than Stalin.
The book covers a 6-month period in 1937 when Orwell was directly involved in the Spanish Civil War. He fought against Franco’s rebellious “Fascist” army in the Aragon front of Catalonia. The tome does not include the beginning or the end of the Spanish Civil War.
Orwell was seriously wounded by a shot fired from a sniper. The bullet entered and exited his neck causing considerable damage that took many weeks for Orwell to recover. Wounded, he was brought from the front to one facility and then taken to another for medical care. After recuperating from the various military hospitals, Orwell eventually returned to Barcelona. He was given discharge papers, but discovered the very troubling fact that Barcelona was now a changed city. Formerly, when the anarchists were in power, there was a jubilant, egalitarian, revolutionary comradeship among people, army, workers, police, etc. Now the situation had changed for the worse. The communists were in power and had created a reign of terror. No one was safe. Former revolutionaries and militia members were being persecuted, accused of being Trotskyites, and arrested.
Some socialist and even diversionary communist leaders, like Andreu Nin Pérez formerly associated with the POUM, were disappearing in dungeons or outrightly executed. Orwell himself was being sought after to be arrested, merely for fighting with the socialist POUM battalion, all members were now being denounced as a treasonous 5th column, supposedly working behind the lines aiding the Fascists! Of course this was ludicrous, but the persecution was being carried out on direct orders from Stalin. After a terrible ordeal, Orwell, pursued by his former leftist allies, was able to escape to France. There the book ends.
And please note: Orwell was not escaping from the Fascists, but from his former communist comrades, who were eliminating their previous allies, the socialist revolutionaries and anarchists. The Caballero Spanish “Republican” government had fallen and given way to the new Spanish Negrin regime controlled by Stalin and his long arm of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD. The Spanish government was simply subservient to Stalin, who was giving them support and arms. Orwell, at the time, was not quite aware of what was behind this terrible situation on the left, but he definitely experienced it.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the first priority of the Soviet communists controlling the Spanish government was not fighting Franco’s army but the extermination of anarchists and Trotskyites (mostly internationalist Jewish socialist revolutionaries). The anarchists were considered enemies because their political philosophy was poles apart from the communists, and they refused to give up their weapons.
Unbeknownst to Orwell at the time, most of the Trotskyites arrested were being shot by the Soviet NKVD (and the subservient Spanish communist secret police), who were actively operating in “Republican” areas of Spain up to just before the triumph of Franco and his Army. One of the secret chiefs of these assassination squads was Alexander Orlov, a man whose story I recounted elsewhere.
It is extremely fortuitous for those of us on the side of freedom that George Orwell, the author and participant, survived this conflict with eyes opened as to the reality of communism. He would go on to write Animal Farm and the even better book, 1984, denouncing totalitarianism and communism. It was a mistake for the Stalinists to incorrectly label Orwell a Trotskyite merely because he had been assigned to the international socialist POUM battalion—the radical Marxist group containing many British recruits but incorrectly branded as a Trotskyite organization and later a fascist 5th column.
It is worth repeating: Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell is absolutely terrific. I highly recommend it as a lost classic and perhaps the best book relating the story of the Spanish Civil War and the anarchists of Catalonia.
Reviewed by Dr. Miguel Faria
Miguel A. Faria, M.D., is Associate Editor in Chief in socioeconomics, politics, medicine, and world affairs of Surgical Neurology International (SNI). This article is excerpted and edited from his newly release book, America, Guns, and Freedom: A Journey Into Politics and the Public Health & Gun Control Movements (2019)
The illustrations used in this book review did not appear in Homage to Catalonia but were added for the enjoyment of our readers at HaciendaPublishing.com.
This article may be cited as: Faria MA. Book Review of Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. HaciendaPublishing.com, November 15, 2019. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/book-review-of-homage-to-catalonia-by-george-orwell-reviewed-by-miguel-a-faria-md/
Copyright ©2019 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.
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Rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.– George Orwell, “You and the Atom Bomb”, 1945
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy…always followed by a dictatorship.”
—Sir Alex Fraser Tytler, University of Edinburgh (1714-1778)
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” ― George Orwell, 1984
“O’Brien, the disarmingly avuncular Party operative in charge of Winston Smith’s torture and interrogation, informed his helpless charge that ‘we are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us…We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him.”—The New American (1999 article) commenting on George Orwell, 1984.
“To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country.”
— George Orwell, quoted by Guillermo Cabrera Infante in Mea Cuba, page 45.
“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever. George Orwell, 1984