Skip to comments.Orwell’s “Catalonia” revisited (The George Orwell Most Forget)
Posted on 02/05/2007 6:20:39 AM PST by shrinkermd
Dr. Daniels begins predictably witht this:
...Why should Orwell be so desired and desirable, in short so unanswerable, an ally? He is a secular saint, over whose relics everyone squabbles. There are good reasons for this, no doubt. In his essay, Why I Write, published in 1946, Orwell disarmingly tells us that all writers are to some extent egotistical: they desire to seem clever, to be talked about and admired, and to be remembered after their death....
But finally Dr. Daniels points this out:
...But by far the worst aspect of Homage to Catalonia is its strong advocacy of totalitarianism. It is the literary equivalent of an urban myth that the book argues against the Stalinist deformation of socialism, when the very opposite is much nearer the truth. Of course, Orwell does indeed object to the Stalinist resort to lying on an industrial scale, but that is only a minor part of his objection to Stalins policy in Spain. His real objection is that Stalin did not want the radical revolutionas exemplified by the destruction of the church, the collectivization of the land, the nationalization of all major industry, the elimination of the bourgeoisie, the prohibition of prostitution and the legal profession, and the complete equalization of wagesto proceed, because he thought that a popular front, in which liberal democrats would be taken into temporary partnership, would be more effective in stopping Franco.
Orwell objected to Stalins policy because Stalin maintained that we cant afford to alienate the peasants [in Spain] by forcing collectivization upon them, whereas Orwell thought that the war was lost unless it was turned into a true revolutionary war, which included such forced collectivization.
(Excerpt) Read more at newcriterion.com ...
In much the same way, I guess, Whittaker Chambers was a socialist and devout Marxist before he saw the light. It would be interesting to make a list of disillusioned left-wingers.
John Dos Passos saw the "right"
I read Homage to Catalonia about 10 years ago. I remember liking it but now I can't remember a thing about it. I'm getting old!
Thanks for that. I'ld never heard of him before.
And Christopher Hitchens seems to be in transition.
Orwell may have been a fool for socialism, but that makes his observations all the more powerful to us, because they can by no means be deemed "reactionary" by the left.
He is a pertinent excerpt from Homage to Catalonia:
In reality, it was the Communists above all others who prevented revolution in Spain. Later, when the Right Wing forces were in full control, the Communists showed themselves willing to go a great deal further than the Liberals in hunting down revolutionary leaders.
Between the Communists and those who claim to stand to the Left of them there is a real difference. The Communists hold that Fascism can be beaten by alliance with sections of the capitalist class (the Popular Front); their opponents hold that this maneuver simply gives Fascism new breeding-grounds. The question has got to be settled; to make the wrong decision may be to land ourselves in for centuries of semi-slavery.
A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook
Title: Homage to Catalonia (1938)
Author: George Orwell
I'm not sure the author really gets it. Orwell recognized something very useful to conservatives:
"Communism" is a fascist ruse, and
The real force behind communism is a fascist (I prefer neo-feudal) aristocracy
Actually, I prefer Hayek who demonstrated that both communism and fascism are different manifestations of the same collective totalitarianism.
Here's a good thread if you've never encountered Hayek.
"It might be ancient history for most, but for those, like I, who do make him a "Saint," Orwell surely was a socialist and at one point in his life a devout Marxist."
True enough. Although in his later years (and especially during the Second World War) George seemed to have learned his lesson. Given the examples of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, Orwell figured out that socialism could never be implemented on a world-scale (and that to attempt to would lead to murderous tyranny of the worst kind), and that it would at least, have to make some compromises with capitalism if it was to survive at all. He mostly objected to capitalism on reasonable grouds, i.e. the hypocrisy the often accompanies many aspects of it.
If "Homage to Catalonia" is anything, it is the diary of young, idealistic man having his idealism shattered by reality. Orwell left Spain wounded, ill with tuberculosis (which eventually killed him), disilusioned, and with the more rabid revolutionary elements seeking his arrest, and God knows what else.
I've recommended this before, but for anyone who wants to experience Orwell outside of his "classics" (i.e. "Homage", "Road to Wiggan Pier", "1984", "Animal Farm") should make an effort to get their hands on a copy of the "Complete Essays of George Orwell", published by Penguin Books' Everyman's Library. It's quite lengthy (over 1200 pages) and consists of Orwell's newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews and pamphleteering (I find the "As I Please..." series of WWII newspaper columns to be wonderful reading). In these essays and articles, Orwell discusses the motivations and facts behind what were to eventually become his classic novels, which makes for fascinating reading.
"In reality, it was the Communists above all others who prevented revolution in Spain. Later, when the Right Wing forces were in full control, the Communists showed themselves willing to go a great deal further than the Liberals in hunting down revolutionary leaders."
One might suggest that in the case of Spain, Stalin, saw an opportunity to work with Franco as an opportunity to diffuse German influence. Faced with the inability of Britain & France to take the threat of Nazi German seriously, he could have seen cooperation with Franco as a price worth paying if it kept France from fighting on three fronts (Germany, Italy & Spain). It was the smart (but heartless) move but credited the French with more ability than was due, given what we see of France in 1940.
P.S.: Orwell's "The Lion and The Unicorn" (or "England, Your England") is, in my opinion, one of tghe most patriotic pieces of litterature ever written, both because his love of country is so obvious, but because he was willing to tell the truth as he saw it.
Also note that Orwell's esssays are some of the best examples of clear writing in the English language.
When I was a high school sophmore (in the days before electricity), my English teacher told us that we would learn to write better if we read Orwell because he was a very clear thinker. He believed that clear writing (something in short supply today) was primarily a product of clear thinking (something even more precious today).
He's my second-favorite author of all time (behind Churchill). But you're absolutely correct in that regard; Anyone who reads Orwell always comes away with exactly the idea he intended to convey.
Maybe, but by 1984 he was clearly a SINO - Socialist In Name Only.
I agree, and very insightful about the dynamics of power.