Homage to Catalonia. George Orwell. First published in This web edition published by [email protected] Last updated Wednesday, December 17, . The Anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the revolution was still in full swing. To anyone who had been there since the beginning it probably. Topics: , Fascism, not-anarchist, Spanish Revolution, violence, war. IN the Lenin Barracks in Barcelona, the day before I joined the militia, I saw an Italian militiaman standing in front of the officers’ table. The Anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the.
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Topics HOMAGE TO CATALONIA - ENGLISH - GEORGE ORWELL. Collection IdentifierHomageToCatalonia-English-GeorgeOrwell. Read "Homage to Catalonia" by George Orwell available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first download. A National Review Top Ten Best . All our eBooks are FREE to download, but first you must sign in or create an as a militiaman in the Spanish Civil War, chronicled in Homage to Catalonia.
There were officers and N. They had attempted to produce within the militias a sort of temporary working model of the classless society. Of course there was no perfect equality, but there was a nearer approach to it than I had ever seen or than I would have thought conceivable in time of war. But I admit that at first sight the state of affairs at the front horrified me. How on earth could the war be won by an army of this type?
It was what everyone was saying at the time, and though it was true it was also unreasonable. For in the circumstances the militias could not have been much better than they were. A modern mechanized army does not spring up out of the ground, and if the Government had waited until it had trained troops at its disposal, Franco wouKt-never have been resisted.
Later it became the fashion to decry the militias, and therefore to pretend that the faults which were due to lack of training and weapons were the result of the equalitarian system. It is based on class-loyalty, whereas the discipline of a bourgeois conscript army is based ultimately on fear.
The Popular Army that replaced the militias was midway between the two types. In the militias the bullying and abuse that go on in an ordinary army would never have been tolerated for a moment.
The normal military punishments existed, but they were only invoked for very serious offences.
When a man refused to obey an order you did not immediately get him punished; you first appealed to him in the name of comradeship. The discipline of even the worst drafts of militia visibly improved as time went on. In January the job of keeping a dozen raw recruits up to the mark almost turned my hair grey. In May for a short while I was acting-lieutenant in command of about thirty men, English and Spanish.
We had all been under fire for months, and I never had the slightest difficulty in getting an order obeyed or in getting men to volunteer for a dangerous job. The journalists who sneered at the militia-system seldom remembered that the militias had to hold the line while the Popular Army was training in the rear. For until about June there was nothing to keep them there, except class loyalty.
Individual deserters could be shot — were shot, occasionally — but if a thousand men had decided to walk out of the line together there was no force to stop them.
A conscript army in the same circumstances — with its battle-police removed — would have melted away. Yet the militias held the line, though God knows they won very few victories, and even individual desertions were not common.
In four or five months in the P.
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At the beginning the apparent chaos, the general lack of training, the fact that you often had to argue for five minutes before you could get an order obeyed, appalled and infuriated me. But considering the circumstances they were better troops than one had any right to expect.
Meanwhile, firewood — always firewood. Throughout that period there is probably no entry in my diary that does not mention firewood, or rather the lack of it.
We were between two and three thousand feet above sea-level, it was mid winter and the cold was unspeakable. The temperature was not exceptionally low, on many nights it did not even freeze, and the wintry sun often shone for an hour in the middle of the day; but even if it was not really cold, I assure you that it seemed so.
The thin skin of earth over the limestone turned promptly into a slippery grease, and as you were always walking on a slope it was impossible to keep your footing.
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For days together clothes, boots, blankets, and rifles were more or less coated with mud. I had brought as many thick clothes as I could carry, but many of the men were terribly underclad. For the whole garrison, about a hundred men, there were only twelve great-coats, which had to be handed from sentry to sentry, and most of the men had only one blanket.
One icy night I made a list in my diary of the clothes I was wearing. It is of some interest as showing the amount of clothes the human body can carry. I was wearing a thick vest and pants, a flannel shirt, two pull-overs, a woollen jacket, a pigskin jacket, corduroy breeches, puttees, thick socks, boots, a stout trench-coat, a muffler, lined leather gloves, and a woollen cap.
Nevertheless I was shivering like a jelly. But I admit I am unusually sensitive to cold. Firewood was the one thing that really mattered. The point about the firewood was that there was practically no firewood to be had. When we were not eating, sleeping, on guard, or on fatigue-duty we were in the valley behind the position, scrounging for fuel.
Three people searching for a couple of hours could collect enough fuel to keep the dug-out fire alight for about an hour. The eagerness of our search for firewood turned us all into botanists. We classified according to their burning qualities every plant that grew on the mountain-side; the various heaths and grasses that were good to start a fire with but burnt out in a few minutes, the wild rosemary and the tiny whin bushes that would burn when the fire was well alight, the stunted oak tree, smaller than a gooseberry bush, that was practically unburnable.
There was a kind of dried-up reed that was very good for starting fires with, but these grew only on the hill-top to the left of the position, and you had to go under fire to get them.
If the Fascist machine-gunners saw you they gave you a drum of ammunition all to yourself. Generally their aim was high and the bullets sang overhead like birds, but sometime they crackled and chipped the limestone uncomfortably close, whereupon you flung yourself on your face. You went on gathering reeds, however; nothing mattered in comparison with firewood.
Beside the cold the other discomforts seemed petty. Of course all of us were permanently dirty. It was beastly water, hardly more transparent than milk. Theoretically it was for drinking only, but I always stole a pannikinful for washing in the mornings. I used to wash one day and shave the next; there was never enough water for both. The position stank abominably, and outside the little enclosure of the barricade there was excrement everywhere.
Some of the militiamen habitually defecated in the trench, a disgusting thing when one had to walk round it in the darkness. But the dirt never worried me.
Dirt is a thing people make too much fuss about. It is astonishing how quickly you get used to doing without a handkerchief and to eating out of the tin pannikin in which you also wash.
In eighty nights I only took my clothes off three times, though I did occasionally manage to get them off in the daytime. It was too cold for lice as yet, but rats and mice abounded. In other ways we were not badly off. The food was good enough and there was plenty of wine. Cigarettes were still being issued at the rate of a packet a day, matches were issued every other day, and there was even an issue of candles.
They were very thin candles, like those on a Christmas cake, and were popularly supposed to have been looted from churches. Every dug-out was issued daily with three inches of candle, which would bum for about twenty minutes. At that time it was still possible to download candles, and I had brought several pounds of them with me. Later on the famine of matches and candles made life a misery.
You do not realize the importance of these things until you lack them. Every militiaman possessed a tinder-lighter and several yards of yellow wick. Next to his rifle it was his most important possession. The tinder-lighters had the great advantage that they could be struck in a wind, but they would only smoulder, so that they were no use for lighting a fire.
When the match famine was at its worst our only way of producing a flame was to pull the bullet out of a cartridge and touch the cordite off with a tinder-lighter.
It was an extraordinary life that we were living — an extraordinary way to be at war, if you could call it war. The whole militia chafed against the inaction and clamoured constantly to know why we were not allowed to attack. But it was perfectly obvious that there would be no battle for a long while yet, unless the enemy started it.
Georges Kopp, on his periodical tours of inspection, was quite frank with us. To begin with, there was the nature of the country. Provided a few trenches have been dug, such places cannot be taken by infantry, except in overwhelming numbers.
In our own position or most of those round us a dozen men with two machine-guns could have held off a battalion. Perched on the hill-tops as we were, we should have made lovely marks for artillery; but there was no artillery.
Sometimes I used to gaze round the landscape and long — oh, how passionately! One could have destroyed the enemy positions one after another as easily as smashing nuts with a hammer. But on our side the guns simply did not exist. The Fascists did occasionally manage to bring a gun or two from Zaragoza and fire a very few shells, so few that they never even found the range and the shells plunged harmlessly into the empty ravines.
Against machine-guns and without artillery there are only three things you can do: Practically the alternatives are stagnation or suicide. And beyond this there was the complete lack of war materials of every description.
It needs an effort to realize how badly the militias were armed at this time. Any public school O. The badness of our weapons was so astonishing that it is worth recording in detail. For this sector of the front the entire artillery consisted of four trench-mortars with fifteen rounds for each gun.
Of course they were far too precious to be fired and the mortars were kept in Alcubierre. There were machine-guns at the rate of approximately one to fifty men; they were oldish guns, but fairly accurate up to three or four hundred yards.
Beyond this we had only rifles, and the majority of the rifles were scrap-iron. There were three types of rifle in use. The first was the long Mauser. These were seldom less than twenty years old, their sights were about as much use as a broken speedometer, and in most of them the rifling was hopelessly corroded; about one rifle in ten was not bad, however.
Then there was the short Mauser, or mousqueton, really a cavalry weapon. These were more popular than the others because they were lighter to carry and less nuisance in a trench, also because they were comparatively new and looked efficient. Actually they were almost useless. They were made out of reassembled parts, no bolt belonged to its rifle, and three-quarters of them could be counted on to jam after five shots. There were also a few Winchester rifles. These were nice to shoot with, but they were wildly inaccurate, and as their cartridges had no clips they could only be fired one shot at a time.
Ammunition was so scarce that each man entering the line was only issued with fifty rounds, and most of it was exceedingly bad. The Spanish-made cartridges were all refills and would jam even the best rifles.
The Mexican cartridges were better and were therefore reserved for the machine-guns. Best of all was the German-made ammunition, but as this came only from prisoners and deserters there was not much of it. I always kept a clip of German or Mexican ammunition in my pocket for use in an emergency. But in practice when the emergency came I seldom fired my rifle; I was too frightened of the beastly thing jamming and too anxious to reserve at any rate one round that would go off.
We had no tin hats, no bayonets, hardly any revolvers or pistols, and not more than one bomb between five or ten men. It was on the principle of a Mills bomb, but the lever was held down not by a pin but a piece of tape. You broke the tape and then got rid of the bomb with the utmost possible speed.
There were several other types, even more primitive but probably a little less dangerous — to the thrower, I mean. It was not till late March that I saw a bomb worth throwing.
And apart from weapons there was a shortage of all the minor necessities of war. We had no maps or charts, for instance. Spain has never been fully surveyed, and the only detailed maps of this area were the old military ones, which were almost all in the possession of the Fascists.
The Spaniards seemed never to have heard of a pull-through and looked on in surprise when I constructed one. When you wanted your rifle cleaned you took it to the sergeant, who possessed a long brass ramrod which was invariably bent and therefore scratched the rifling.
There was not even any gun oil. You greased your rifle with olive oil, when you could get hold of it; at different times I have greased mine with vaseline, with cold cream, and even with bacon-fat.
Moreover, there were no lanterns or electric torches — at this time there was not, I believe, such a thing as an electric torch throughout the whole of our sector of the front, and you could not download one nearer than Barcelona, and only with difficulty even there. As time went on, and the desultory rifle-fire rattled among the hills, I began to wonder with increasing scepticism whether anything would ever happen to bring a bit of life, or rather a bit of death, into this cock-eyed war.
It was pneumonia that we were fighting against, not against men. When the trenches are more than five hundred yards apart no one gets hit except by accident. Of course there were casualties, but the majority of them were self-inflicted. Our worn-out rifles were a danger in themselves. Some of them had a nasty trick of going off if the butt was tapped on the ground; I saw a man shoot himself through the hand owing to this.
And in the darkness the raw recruits were always firing at one another. One evening when it was barely even dusk a sentry let fly at me from a distance of twenty yards; but he missed me by a yard — goodness knows how many times the Spanish standard of marksmanship has saved my life. Another time I had gone out on patrol in the mist and had carefully warned the guard commander beforehand.
But in coming back I stumbled against a bush, the startled sentry called out that the Fascists were coming, and I had the pleasure of hearing the guard commander order everyone to open rapid fire in my direction. Of course I lay down and the bullets went harmlessly over me. Nothing will convince a Spaniard, at least a young Spaniard, that fire-arms are dangerous. Once, rather later than this, I was photographing some machine-gunners with their gun, which was pointed directly towards me.
The next moment there was a frightful roar and a stream of bullets tore past my face so close that my cheek was stung by grains of cordite. It was unintentional, but the machine-gunners considered it a great joke.
The difficult passwords which the army was using at this time were a minor source of danger. They were those tiresome double passwords in which one word has to be answered by another. One night, I remember, the password was Cataluna — eroica, and a moonfaced peasant lad named Jaime Domenech approached me, greatly puzzled, and asked me to explain. I told him that it meant the same as valiente. A little while later he was stumbling up the trench in the darkness, and the sentry challenged him:.
However, the sentry missed him. In this war everyone always did miss everyone else, when it was humanly possible.
Our new position was at Monte Oscuro, several miles farther west and within sight of Zaragoza. They went into the ground for prodigious distances, and inside they were pitch dark and so low that you could not even kneel in them, let alone stand. On the peaks to the left of us there were two more P. These women were not exactly beautiful, but it was found necessary to put the position out of bounds to men of other companies.
Five hundred yards to our right there was a P. It was just here that the road changed hands. At night you could watch the lamps of our supply-lorries winding out from Alcubierre and, simultaneously, those of the Fascists coming from Zaragoza.
You could see Zaragoza itself, a thin string of lights like the lighted portholes of a ship, twelve miles south-westward. The Government troops had gazed at it from that distance since August , and they are gazing at it still. Apart from the one or two inevitable nuisances — for, as everyone knows, war attracts riff-raff — the English were an exceptionally good crowd, both physically and mentally.
It says a lot for the Spanish character that the English and the Spaniards always got on well together, in spite of the language difficulty. All Spaniards, we discovered, knew two English expressions. Once again there was nothing happening all along the line: The enemy was somewhat closer to us here, perhaps three or four hundred yards away.
Their nearest position was exactly opposite ours, with a machine-gun nest whose loopholes constantly tempted one to waste cartridges. The Fascists seldom bothered with rifle-shots, but sent bursts of accurate machine-gun fire at anyone who exposed himself. Nevertheless it was ten days or more before we had our first casualty. The troops opposite us were Spaniards, but according to the deserters there were a few German N.
At some time in the past there had also been Moors there — poor devils, how they must have felt the cold! A mile or two to the left of us the line ceased to be continuous and there was a tract of country, lower-lying and thickly wooded, which belonged neither to the Fascists nor ourselves. Both we and they used to make daylight patrols there. It was not bad fun in a Boy Scoutish way, though I never saw a Fascist patrol nearer than several hundred yards.
By a lot of crawling on your belly you could work your way partly through the Fascist lines and could even see the farm-house flying the monarchist flag, which was the local Fascist headquarters.
Occasionally we gave it a rifle-volley and then slipped into cover before the machine-guns could locate us. I hope we broke a few windows, but it was a good eight hundred metres away, and with our rifles you could not make sure of hitting even a house at that range. The weather was mostly clear and cold; sometimes sunny at midday, but always cold. Here and there in the soil of the hill-sides you found the green beaks of wild crocuses or irises poking through; evidently spring was coming, but coming very slowly.
The nights were colder than ever. Coming off guard in the small hours we used to rake together what was left of the cook-house fire and then stand in the red-hot embers. It was bad for your boots, but it was very good for your feet. But there were mornings when the sight of the dawn among the mountain — tops made it almost worth while to be out of bed at godless hours.
I hate mountains, even from a spectacular point of view. But sometimes the dawn breaking behind the hill-tops in our rear, the first narrow streaks of gold, like swords slitting the darkness, and then the growing light and the seas of carmine cloud stretching away into inconceivable distances, were worth watching even when you had been up all night, when your legs were numb from the knees down, and you were sullenly reflecting that there was no hope of food for another three hours.
I saw the dawn oftener during this campaign than during the rest of my life put together — or during the part that is to come, I hope. We were short-handed here, which meant longer guards and more fatigues. I was beginning to suffer a little from the lack of sleep which is inevitable even in the quietest kind of war. In my first three or four months in the line I do not suppose I had more than a dozen periods of twenty-four hours that were completely without sleep; on the other hand I certainly did not have a dozen nights of full sleep.
The effects of this were not so bad as might be expected; one grew very stupid, and the job of climbing up and down the hills grew harder instead of easier, but one felt well and one was constantly hungry — heavens, how hungry!
All food seemed good, even the eternal haricot beans which everyone in Spain finally learned to hate the sight of.
Our water, what there was of it, came from miles away, on the backs of mules or little persecuted donkeys. For some reason the Aragon peasants treated their mules well but their donkeys abominably.
If a donkey refused to go it was quite usual to kick him in the testicles. The issue of candles had ceased, and matches were running short.
The Spaniards taught us how to make olive oil lamps out of a condensed milk tin, a cartridge-clip, and a bit of rag. When you had any olive oil, which was not often, these things would burn with a smoky flicker, about a quarter candle power, just enough to find your rifle by.
There seemed no hope of any real fighting. When we left Monte Pocero I had counted my cartridges and found that in nearly three weeks I had fired just three shots at the enemy. They say it takes a thousand bullets to kill a man, and at this rate it would be twenty years before I killed my first Fascist. At Monte Oscuro the lines were closer and one fired oftener, but I am reasonably certain that I never hit anyone. As a matter of fact, on this front and at this period of the war the real weapon was not the rifle but the megaphone.
Being unable to kill your enemy you shouted at him instead. This method of warfare is so extraordinary that it needs explaining.
Wherever the lines were within hailing distance of one another there was always a good deal of shouting from trench to trench. From ourselves: Viva Franco!
In every suitable position men, usually machine-gunners, were told off for shouting-duty and provided with megaphones. Generally they shouted a set-piece, full of revolutionary sentiments which explained to the Fascist soldiers that they were merely the hirelings of international capitalism, that they were fighting against their own class, etc.
This was repeated over and over by relays of men; sometimes it continued almost the whole night. There is very little doubt that it had its effect; everyone agreed that the trickle of Fascist deserters was partly caused by it. It might make just the difference between deserting and not deserting. Of course such a proceeding does not fit in with the English conception of war. I admit I was amazed and scandalized when I first saw it done.
The idea of trying to convert your enemy instead of shooting him! I now think that from any point of view it was a legitimate manoeuvre. In ordinary trench warfare, when there is no artillery, it is extremely difficult to inflict casualties on the enemy without receiving an equal number yourself. If you can immobilize a certain number of men by making them desert, so much the better; deserters are actually more useful to you than corpses, because they can give information.
But at the beginning it dismayed all of us; it made us fed that the Spaniards were not taking this war of theirs sufficiently seriously. The man who did the shouting at the P. Sometimes, instead of shouting revolutionary slogans he simply told the Fascists how much better we were fed than they were.
His account of the Government rations was apt to be a little imaginative. Lovely slices of buttered toast! It even made mine water, though I knew he was lying.
One day in February we saw a Fascist aeroplane approaching. As usual, a machine-gun was dragged into the open and its barrel cocked up, and everyone lay on his back to get a good aim.
Our isolated positions were not worth bombing, and as a rule the few Fascist aeroplanes that passed our way circled round to avoid machine-gun fire. This time the aeroplane came straight over, too high up to be worth shooting at, and out of it came tumbling not bombs but white glittering things that turned over and over in the air.
A few fluttered down into the position. They were copies of a Fascist newspaper, the Heraldo de Aragon, announcing the fall of Malaga. That night the Fascists made a sort of abortive attack. I was just getting down into kip, half dead with sleep, when there was a heavy stream of bullets overhead and someone shouted into the dug-out: There was utter darkness and diabolical noise.
The fire of, I think five machine-guns was pouring upon us, and there was a series of heavy crashes caused by the Fascists flinging bombs over their own parapet in the most idiotic manner. It was intensely dark. Down in the valley to the left of us I could see the greenish flash of rifles where a small party of Fascists, probably a patrol, were chipping in.
The bullets were flying round us in the darkness, crack-zip-crack. A few shells came whistling over, but they fell nowhere near us and as usual in this war most of them failed to explode.
I had a bad moment when yet another machine-gun opened fire from the hill-top in our rear — actually a gun that had been brought up to support us, but at the time it looked as though we were surrounded.
Presently our own machine-gun jammed, as it always did jam with those vile cartridges, and the ramrod was lost in the impenetrable darkness. Apparently there was nothing that one could do except stand still and be shot at. The Spanish machine-gunners disdained to take cover, in fact exposed themselves deliberately, so I had to do likewise.
Petty though it was, the whole experience was very interesting. It was the first time that I had been properly speaking under fire, and to my humiliation I found that I was horribly frightened.
You are wondering all the while just where the bullet will nip you, and it gives your whole body a most unpleasant sensitiveness. After an hour or two the firing slowed down and died away. Meanwhile we had had only one casualty.
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They were in fact not attacking, merely wasting cartridges and making a cheerful noise to celebrate the fall of Malaga. The chief importance of the affair was that it taught me to read the war news in the papers with a more disbelieving eye.
A day or two later the newspapers and the radio published reports of a tremendous attack with cavalry and tanks up a perpendicular hill — side! When the Fascists told us that Malaga had fallen we set it down as a lie, but next day there were more convincing rumours, and it must have been a day or two later that it was admitted officially.
By degrees the whole disgraceful story leaked out — how the town had been evacuated without firing a shot, and how the fury of the Italians had fallen not upon the troops, who were gone, but upon the wretched civilian population, some of whom were pursued and machine-gunned for a hundred miles.
The news sent a sort of chill all along the line, for, whatever the truth may have been, every man in the militia believed that the loss of Malaga was due to treachery. It was the first talk I had heard of treachery or divided aims. It set up in my mind the first vague doubts about this war in which, hitherto, the rights and wrongs had seemed so beautifully simple.
In mid February we left Monte Oscuro and were sent, together with all the P. It was a fifty-mile lorry journey across the wintry plain, where the clipped vines were not yet budding and the blades of the winter barley were just poking through the lumpy soil. Months earlier, when Sietamo was taken, the general commanding the Government troops had said gaily: If I ever go back to Spain I shall make a point of having a cup of coffee in Huesca.
ON the eastern side of Huesca, until late March, nothing happened — almost literally nothing. We were twelve hundred metres from the enemy. When the Fascists were driven back into Huesca the Republican Army troops who held this part of the line had not been over-zealous in their advance, so that the line formed a kind of pocket.
Later it would have to be advanced — a ticklish job under fire — but for the present the enemy might as well have been nonexistent; our sole preoccupation was keeping warm and getting enough to eat.
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As a matter of fact there were things in this period that interested me greatly, and I will describe some of them later. But I shall be keeping nearer to the order of events if I try here to give some account of the internal political situation on the Government side. At the beginning I had ignored the political side of the war, and it was only about this time that it began to force itself upon my attention.
If you are not interested in the horrors of party politics, please skip; I am trying to keep the political parts of this narrative in separate chapters for precisely that purpose. But at the same time it would be quite impossible to write about the Spanish war from a purely military angle. It was above all things a political war. No event in it, at any rate during the first year, is intelligible unless one has some grasp of the inter-party struggle that was going on behind the Government lines.
When I came to Spain, and for some time afterwards, I was not only uninterested in the political situation but unaware of it. I knew there was a war on, but I had no notion what kind of a war. If you had asked me why I had joined the militia I should have answered: The revolutionary atmosphere of Barcelona had attracted me deeply, but I had made no attempt to understand it.
As for the kaleidoscope of political parties and trade unions, with their tiresome names — P. It looked at first sight as though Spain were suffering from a plague of initials. I knew that I was serving in something called the P. I had only joined the P.
At Monte Pocero, when they pointed to the position on our left and said:. But in Spain, especially in Catalonia, it was an attitude that no one could or did keep up indefinitely. Everyone, however unwillingly, took sides sooner or later. As a militiaman one was a soldier against Franco, but one was also a pawn in an enormous struggle that was being fought out between two political theories.
When I scrounged for firewood on the mountainside and wondered whether this was really a war or whether the News Chronicle had made it up, when I dodged the Communist machine-guns in the Barcelona riots, when I finally fled from Spain with the police one jump behind me — all these things happened to me in that particular way because I was serving in the P.
So great is the difference between two sets of initials!
To understand the alignment on the Government side one has got to remember how the war started. When the fighting broke out on 18 July it is probable that every anti-Fascist in Europe felt a thrill of hope.
For here at last, apparently, was democracy standing up to Fascism. For years past the so-called democratic countries had been surrendering to Fascism at every step. The Japanese had been allowed to do as they liked in Manchuria. Hitler had walked into power and proceeded to massacre political opponents of all shades.
But when Franco tried to overthrow a mildly Left-wing Government the Spanish people, against all expectation, had risen against him. It seemed — possibly it was — the turning of the tide. But there were several points that escaped general notice. To begin with, Franco was not strictly comparable with Hitler or Mussolini.
His rising was a military mutiny backed up by the aristocracy and the Church, and in the main, especially at the beginning, it was an attempt not so much to impose Fascism as to restore feudalism. This meant that Franco had against him not only the working class but also various sections of the liberal bourgeoisie — the very people who are the supporters of Fascism when it appears in a more modern form. Land was seized by the peasants; many factories and most of the transport were seized by the trade unions; churches were wrecked and the priests driven out or killed.
As soon as the rising broke out the organized town workers replied by calling a general strike and then by demanding — and, after a struggle, getting — arms from the public arsenals. If they had not acted spontaneously and more or less independently it is quite conceivable that Franco would never have been resisted. There can, of course, be no certainty about this, but there is at least reason for thinking it. The Government had made little or no attempt to forestall the rising, which had been foreseen for a long time past, and when the trouble started its attitude was weak and hesitant, so much so, indeed, that Spain had three premiers in a single day.
However, the arms were distributed, and in the big towns of eastern Spain the Fascists were defeated by a huge effort, mainly of the working class, aided by some of the armed forces Assault Guards, etc.
It was the kind of effort that could probably only be made by people who were fighting with a revolutionary intention — i. This might only be me, but Orwell also shows some instances of understated or downplayed humour in certain comments of his. These are short, one sentence long quips that are made regarding the circumstances he's recounting as if he were using the benefit of hindsight to his advantage.
Worth the read for a realistic perspective of the drudgery of his war experiences, internecine political struggles among militia groups, but most of all for Orwell's wonderful way of crafting the English language.
Orwell's clear prose and his humility in recounting his own errors and confusion during this tumultuous period make this an enduring work. Orwells' greatest work. He indeed reported what was actually going on in Catalonia during those times by fighting against the Facist. I read it once and no doubt I will read it again.
I feel this is George Orwell's best work. The book is amazingly timeless and holds up well for being written in the late s. I am also a sucker for the Spanish Civil War. This is a really entertaining and informative book. Orwell explains with clarity the Spanish political and social environment of the time especially in Barcelona. His first hand account as a Brit in s Spain is fantastic. If you start this book you may not put it down. In my view, one of Orwell's best: I read it once a year.
A description of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War - especially as the communists took over the revolution and turned on the other leftist groups. From his description of life in revolutionary Barcelona; his experiences with the Republican militias; trench life and being shot; the chaos and mutual suspicion of the city during the purges, it is gripping reading.
It also comes with one of the most prescient and best written final paragraphs ever! Skip to main navigation Skip to main navigation Skip to search Skip to search Skip to content. Help Help, opens a new window. Queer, the affection you can feel for a stranger!
It was as though his spirit and mine had momentarily succeeded in bridging the gulf of language and tradition and meeting in utter intimacy. I hoped he liked me as well as I liked him. But I also knew that to retain my first impression of him I must not see him again; and needless to say I never did see him again.
One was always making contacts of that kind in Spain. I mention this Italian militiaman because he has stuck vividly in my memory. With his shabby uniform and fierce pathetic face he typifies for me the special atmosphere of that time. He is bound up with all my memories of that period of the war—the red flags in Barcelona, the gaunt trains full of shabby soldiers creeping to the front, the grey war-stricken towns farther up the line, the muddy, ice-cold trenches in the mountains. This was in late December , less than seven months ago as I write, and yet it is a period that has already receded into enormous distance.
Later events have obliterated it much more completely than they have obliterated , or , for that matter. I had come to Spain with some notion of writing newspaper articles, but I had joined the militia almost immediately, because at that time and in that atmosphere it seemed the only conceivable thing to do.Beside the driver a beautiful dark-haired girl of about eighteen was nursing a sub-machine gun across her knees.
I do not think I have ever seen a country where there were so few birds. In my first three or four months in the line I do not suppose I had more than a dozen periods of twenty-four hours that were completely without sleep; on the other hand I certainly did not have a dozen nights of full sleep. Then you can start reading site books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no site device required.
So far so good; there was much to be said on both sides. Occasionally we gave it a rifle-volley and then slipped into cover before the machine-guns could locate us. Many of the militiamen had never had a gun in their hands before, and very few, I imagine, knew what the sights were for.
Best of all was the German-made ammunition, but as this came only from prisoners and deserters there was not much of it. While the intelligentsia around the world were debating the lofty ideals of the proletarian struggle, the democratic ideal, and the dignity of all men, Orwell points out, life in the trenches is far less political. And all day and night the meaningless bullets wandering across the empty valleys and only by some rare improbable chance getting home on a human body.