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George Orwell in Spain

Orwell, the tall figure in the middle fighting in Spain with the Marxist POUM Partido Obrero de Unification Marxista.

      Orwell's wife Eileen is seated to his left .Orwell was shot in the throat His wife helped him escape to France after the members of the POUM were arrested by the republicans .

 

 

 The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

In December 1936, Orwell went to Spain as a fighter for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War that was provoked by Francisco Franco's Fascist uprising.  He did not join the International Brigade as most leftist did , but the little known Marxist POUM .In conversation with Philip Mairet, editor of New English Weekly, Orwell said: 'This fascism ... somebody's got to stop it'.To Orwell, liberty and democracy went together, guaranteeing, among other things, the freedom of the artist; the present capitalist civilization was corrupt, but fascism would be morally calamitous.

The POUM Barcelona 1937 Orwell in back

John McNair (1887–1968), quotes him: 'He then said that this [writing a book] was quite secondary, and [that] his main reason for coming was to fight against Fascism'. Orwell went alone; his wife, Eileen, joined him later. He joined the Independent Labour Party contingent, which consisted of some twenty-five Britons who had joined the militia of the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM - Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista), a revolutionary communist party. The POUM, and the radical wing of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT (Catalonia's dominant left-wing force), believed General Franco could be defeated only if the Republic's working class overthrew capitalism — a position at fundamental odds with the Spanish Communist Party, and its allies, which (backed by Soviet arms and aid) argued for a coalition with the bourgeois parties to defeat the fascist Nationalists. After July 1936 there was profound social revolution in Catalonia, Aragón, and wherever the CNT was strong, an egalitarian spirit sympathetically described in Homage to Catalonia.

 

George Orwell - Spanish Civil War and Tea

Fortuitously, Orwell joined the POUM, rather than the Communist International Brigades, but his experiences — especially his and Eileen's narrow escape during a Communist purge in Barcelona in June 1937 — much increased his sympathies for the POUM, making him a life-long anti-Stalinist and firm believer in what he termed Democratic Socialism, socialism with free debate and free elections.

In combat, Orwell was shot through the neck and nearly killed. At first, he feared his voice would be reduced to a permanent, painful whisper; this was not to be so, though the injury affected his voice, giving it "a strange, compelling quietness". He wrote in Homage to Catalonia that people frequently told him he was lucky to survive, but that he personally thought "it would be even luckier not to be hit at all".

' People then had something we haven't got now. They didn't think of the future as something to be terrified of..'

                            Coming up for Air

George and Eileen Orwell then lived in Morocco for half a year so he could recover from his wound. In that time, he wrote Coming Up for Air, his last novel before World War II. It is the most English of his novels; alarums of war mingle with images of idyllic Thames-side Edwardian childhood of protagonist George Bowling. The novel is pessimistic; industrialism and capitalism have killed the best of Old England, and there were great, new external threats. In homely terms, Bowling posits the totalitarian hypotheses of Borkenau, Orwell, Silone and Koestler: "Old Hitler's something different. So's Joe Stalin. They aren't like these chaps in the old days who crucified people and chopped their heads off and so forth, just for the fun of it ... They're something quite new ."

 

 

 

 

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