Monday, March 13, 2006


George Orwell came to Spain as a journalist in 1936 and left some months later a combat veteran.Below are his impressions of revolutionary Barcelona. The sights and sounds he encountered there inspired him to join the POUM (Workers Party Of Marxist Unification) militia and after some rudimentary training he was sent to the Aragon Front. Wounded in the neck he returned to Barcelona to find a city now controlled by minions and allies of Stalin. POUM was outlawed, there was to be no unification. Orwell fled Spain disallusioned but carrying the seeds of his greatest work..."Animal Farm".

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. 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 seemed even in December or January that the revolutionary period was ending; but when one came straight from England the aspect of Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming. It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties;almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were being systematically demolished by gangs of workman. Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivised; even the bootblacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black.Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal.Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobodysaid 'Senor' or 'Don' or even 'Usted'; everyone called everyone else 'Comrade' or 'Thou', and said 'Salud!' instead of 'Buenos dias'. Tipping had been forbidden by law since the time of Primo de Rivera; almost my first experience was receiving a lecture from a hotel manager for trying to tip a lift-boy. There were no private motor-cars, they had all been commandeered,and the trams and taxis and much of the other transport were painted red and black. The revolutionary posters were everywhere, flaming from the walls in clean reds and blues that made the few remaining advertisements look like daubs of mud.

More about Orwell later, his odyssey in Spain will be the subject of several posts.


Anonymous Bakelite Lung said...

Regarding the running joke about Cletus: apparently Cletus is someone who has implied that The General is less than 110% heterosexual. He may even have given some evidence thereof.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Bakelite Lung said...

PS: He is, of course, a damned liar.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous WhattheH said...

Durrati, I'm looking forward to your posts about George. It's interesting that what he wrote about, both in Animal Farm and 1984 is coming true. Dreadful situation, and I suspect that George is sitting up and with a smile, yelling I told you so.
Cletis is a damned liar and the General is a 110% manly heterosexual.
It's a running gag, as perfected in Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in.

12:02 PM  
Blogger durrati said...

Thanks ladies...

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Bakelite Lung said...

Aren't you glad you learned about Cletis before today's post?

8:11 AM  
Blogger durrati said...

Sure are. Especially as MzNick is poised to make this my last post...

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Jackie_O said...

Forgive my tardiness in leaving a comment. Your site is a great reprieve from keeping balanced on what sometimes, in the blog world, feels like Tennessee William's vision of cats lined up on a Hot Tin Roof.

So, Dear Man, what say you about John Reed. I have my own romantic notions about what a tragic person he was and, no doubt, you are familiar with his adventures with Pancho Villa during the Mexican revolution or insurgency (take your pick) as he gathered information to report on the fighting.
I recently ordered his book, "Ten Days that Shook the World," from Barnes and Noble, so I'm now probably on an NSA watch list.
By the way, I don't suffer fools, but I can live with a grammar/spelling error, and I never forget a kind gesture.

9:48 AM  
Blogger durrati said...

Thank-You for yer kind words, Mme Bouvier!

John Reed, well what can you say? Anybody who beds Diane Keaton is aces in my book. But seriously, I give you the tail ending of a letter written by Louise Bryant after his death. It quite sums up the man...

But I have been in Red Square since then — since that day all those people came to bury in all honor our dear Jack Reed. I have been there in the busy afternoon when all Russia hurries by, horses and sleighs and bells and peasants carrying bundles, soldiers singing on their way to the front. Once some of the soldiers came over to the grave. They took off their hats and spoke reverently. “what a good fellow he was!” said one. “he came all the way across the world for us.” “he was one of ours” In another moment they shouldered their guns and went on again.

I have been there under the stars with a great longing to lie down beside the frozen flowers and the metallic wreaths and not wake up. How easy it would be!

I send greeting to all old friends.

Good luck to all of you.


Perhaps I will do a post on him, there is a connection after all, Stalin's shadow darkened both my beloved Spanish Republic and the life and death of John Reed.

BTW if you haven't seen it please check out in the Feb. archives my post about ABE Osheroff....this guy, what a corker!

Hurry Back,

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Jackie_O said...

Thanks,I can't wait to read the book. I can't help but wonder what would have happened to such an extraordinary man in ordinary times. Perhaps a longer life, but we learned, despite the attempts of the US Sedition and Espionage Act, so much about the Russian Revolution, and the disappointments that followed.
John Reed was a rare creature of his time having left untouched almost no corner of the earth.
I will indeed check out Abe Osheroff.

11:11 AM  
Blogger KidKawartha said...

I have no idea what happened, but you are scaring the shit out of me!
I was attempting to provide a link in that comment to a second posting of mine on a different site so that you could drop that card from your sister in- I didn't want to link from there to your comments as I felt it would violate your privacy here in some ways.
I was using what I believe is the standard html linking tag and I don't know what went wrong. I have never seen your dashboard, ever, and I think the world of you respect wise. I would never do what you think is happening, and to be honest, I'm a bit of an idiot html at times, very much a rookie.
I literally feel nauseous right now- when you first e-mailed I thought for sure, I had once again screwed up somehow with a friend but had no idea how, and being the type that's gotten kicked when I'm down a lot, I actually went so far as to delete two of the posts at my blog in an overreaction to believing I had offended you somehow. I'm an idiot.
Does that help?

9:06 PM  
Blogger KidKawartha said...

To be safe, I'm going to run my desktop through a thorough virus scan and I'll stay off your site until it's done.

9:21 PM  

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