course of the Spanish Civil War was inevitably disillusioning, but it is at least a moot point that the policy of ‘winning the war by whatever means possible’—including dirty pool—was as justified as turning a civil war into a revolutionary war which, after the full-scale intervention of Mussolini and Hitler, had no chance of success. In fairness to Orwell, and to recorded history, the Government’s policy led to disaster, but only because of the active intervention of the Fascist nations and, of equal importance, the active non-intervention of the Western democracies. But to say that the liberals and socialists in accepting Communist aid from within and from without Spain was a betrayal is to ignore the rudiments of politics in times of crisis.
It is regrettable to spend so much time on such a fine book by a fine writer in hashing over old scores. But Orwell’s enthusiastic vision of an equalitarian socialism might have been paired with a recognition of the fact that ‘the road to socialism is paved with bedbugs. ’ Possibly then he might not have fallen into the sloughs of despond of his last books. To repeat, my political reservations are intended as no reflection on his integrity, humanity, and his love for and mastery of the English language.
Herbert Matthews, Nation
27 December 1952, pp. 597-9
Herbert Matthews (b. 1900), foreign correspondent for the New York Times, author of Eyewitness in Abyssinia (1937), The Education of a Correspondent (1946) and The Yoke and the Arrows (1956), on the Spanish Civil War.
The resurrection of buried literary works is not without its dangers. Anything George Orwell wrote is worth reprinting, and we can all give two cheers for the American edition of Homage to Catalonia, which was first published in England in 1938. The danger in this case is that Orwell was writing in a white heat about a confused,