Tuesday, April 16, 2013

understanding 1984 and Animal Farm: George Orwell and Homage to Catalonia

I just finished reading Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. I had thought 1984 and Animal Farm were inspired by an intellectual revulsion to Stalinism, but the disgust was actually extremely personal. I knew Orwell fought against Franco's fascists, but I hadn't known more than that. The anti-fascists were divided into several factions, and Orwell's was the victim of a purge by the side dominated by Stalinists—Orwell fled Spain in fear he would be arrested like his friends. He knew first-hand what happens when totalitarians of any ideology take power.

Communists and capitalists both argue about Orwell's politics—binarians see him as a socialist who became a conservative. I prefer to take him at his word: he died a democratic socialist. He falls into a category that some people claim does not exist, the left-libertarian or libertarian socialist who believes governments should help everyone and only restrict those who try to restrict others. In 1947, in "Why I Write", he wrote, "The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it."

Homage to Catalonia is free online here:

At George-Orwell.org: George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia

At Project Gutenberg Australia: Homage to Catalonia

Possibly of interest:

Goodreads | Steve (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Mexico)'s review of Homage to Catalonia

George Orwell - Spilling The Spanish Beans - Essay

International Socialist Review: The Orwell we never knew

Eric Hobsbawm on the Spanish Civil War: an anti-historical tirade - World Socialist Web Site