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

1 comment:

  1. I love that book. It's such an interesting set of insights into the behaviors of ideologues. The "war is hell" business gets covered elsewhere from time to time, but the "ideologues shoot one another in preference to anyone else" is not.