George Orwell: The Critical Heritage

By Jeffrey Meyers | Go to book overview

40.

D. W. (Douglas Woodruff), Tablet

9 July 1938, p. 48

Douglas Woodruff (b. 1897), British historian, author of Plato’s American Republic (1926) and Charlemagne (1934). The Tablet is an English Catholic weekly.

Homage to Catalonia, by an English volunteer, who joined the Militia in Barcelona in December, 1936, and spent the next six months on the Aragon front or in Barcelona itself, is a work which must be extremely unpalatable to all those people who like to imagine that the Government side in Spain is fighting for Democracy. Mr Orwell is an impressive witness, a patently honest man who writes clearly, easily, and with a wealth of detail from first-hand experience. He arrived to fight against Franco and Fascism, promising himself that he would kill one Fascist at least. Because he went out from England with I. L. P. associations, he found himself in the P. O. U. M. Militia, and therefore on what was destined to be the weaker and the persecuted side in the conflict between the Anarchists and the Communists. The P. O. U. M. (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) as a minority Communist party agreed with the Anarchists on this point: ‘The war and the revolution are inseparable. ’ The Anarchists were the chief elements in the revolution of July 19th, 1936, and their proletarian revolution was the thing they took seriously. They did not at all want, at any time, to pretend that it had not happened. Not merely did they glory in it, particularly in the anti-religious aspect, but they had a very good case for their contention that it was a great military mistake to pretend, as the Communist strategy demanded, that there had never been any revolution, that the Spanish situation was simply a matter of reactionary Fascists attacking a mild Liberal Democratic regime. The Communists insisted upon this as the right story to tell in France, Britain and America; the Anarchists retorted that, at any rate, it was the wrong story to tell in Spain. They argued that no one in Franco’s territory was going to be moved to take risks for a bourgeois regime, although people might for a genuine revolution.

-131-

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