Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
As is now my practice I am writing how I feel about the book before I start. To show how little respect I have shown writing in the past I have not read Orwell; at least I think I have not. “Down and Out in Paris and London” has always been a reference – beggars expect you to give them something, they don’t know who is giving. This lack of gratitude stuck in me, if there is no gratitude then what value the gift? Giving is wonderful but no gratitude makes me think the giving has no meaning. I don’t think I finished the book. 1984 I have seen the movie, I think I have read it but ….
Why am I reading this? It follows from Russell. Orwell fought in the Spanish War, a class revolution, a regime change, what meaning is this? At the same time my two years in the CP I worked closely with a comrade who had fought in Spain. I was in my 30s, he his 70s. People in the movement warned me against him, against his ego, but I worked with him. Spain has always been a flag that comrades like him wore with pride, what does it mean? Hence this book.
There is one character a writer wants to be but can never be – a revolutionary (Warren Beatty in Reds; in this I am a writer. A revolutionary has to be committed, without doubts – or so they are perceived; to kill for a regime change. A soldier is indoctrinated, everything they learn makes them a soldier, almost without choice. But a revolutionary has to reject all the doctrine, has to develop his or her own, and then fight a war based on that understanding. A writer can never do that because a part remains detached. A writer remains dual; part can immerse and experience, but part naturally sits back detached observing. For me that detached part always said peace. No matter how much the 1% takes I know that the mass movement does not perceive the 1% as enemy. And for me it has to be mass movement and not Bolshevik. I also know the 1% will never allow the mass movement to unite, or if they do it will be because they have sufficient military to defend (with technology it is not now the number of soldiers that matters – just a few committed). I want to see what Orwell’s revolutionary is.