This is a human book: it shows us the heart of innocence that lies in revolution; also the miasma of lying that, far more than the cruelty takes the heart out of it.
A. W. J., Manchester Guardian
14 June 1938, p. 8
Mr Orwell fought in the P. O. U. M. militia; he considers Fascism the greatest danger of to-day and sees in the Catholic Church of Spain the working man’s enemy. The merit of his book is that he takes this stand without being blind to the faults of those who share his beliefs and writes without rant and ideological malice. His story of the fighting in the Aragon hills, in which he took part, reads excellently well, perhaps because he describes things more often than feelings (thus avoiding the main fault of the novelists of war). There is a fine air of classical detachment about his description of war’s horrors: ‘If there is one thing I hate more than another it is a rat running over me in the darkness. ’ There are no false heroics and no needless trafficking in sordidness.
The part about the politics of loyal Spain makes confusion clear and the defence of the Trotskyist P. O. U. M. is convincing. The division in Spanish politics lay between those who felt that before the war could be won a social revolution must take place and those, led by the now highly respectable Communists, who held that the winning of the war was more important than radical social change. The revolutionary workers have been defeated, the Communist view has prevailed, and the Spanish Government has become extremely ‘Liberal’; but Mr Orwell makes the case for the factiousness of his own comrades very plain. It is characteristic of the Spanish people that even the advance of the foreign enemy could not bring them to settle their political differences without bloodshed.