1931 saw the fall of the Spanish monarchy
who was then replaced by a democratically elected government dedicated to the
restructuring of the social stratification of Spain. This newly elected
government became known as La Segunda Republica Espanola, the Second Spanish
Republic. The newly formed government was largely comprised of people of low
and middle socio-economic status and promoted policies which aimed to end the
traditionalist Spanish culture. Their amendments included the restructuring and
redistribution of land, the separation of church and state, and a pacifist,
antiviolence policy dedicated to undermining the power of the nobility, the
Catholic Church, and the armed forces (“”). This, of course, led to the
aristocracy’s, the Catholic Church’s, the military and the monarchists’,
resentment of what they saw as an attack on their authority. This resentment
towards the newly form government united and led them to rebel against the
government reforms. Meanwhile, the government’s naïve reforms disastrously failed
to satisfy the left radicals or gain the support of laborers. The Second
Republic struggled to stay in power by forming a series of weak coalition
governments (“Spanish Civil War”).

In 1936 following the democratic victory
of the Popular Front, a combination of communists, liberals, and socialists
emphasized both the hope for social reforms for those who the Second Republic
failed to care about and the fears the new reforms posed to the right. The
Nationalists, the rightist opponents of the Second Republic government, soon
revolted against the Republicans, the antimonarchist supporters of the Second

George Orwell first arrived in Barcelona,
Spain near the end of 1936, which was only month after the Spanish Civil War
had started. After having arrived in the main are of the revolutionary Spain in
one of the regions of Spain called Catalonia, Orwell began to record what he experiences
in what he would later title Homage to Catalonia. Homage to Catalonia provides
a first-hand account of what was more than a war, but a revolution.

There is no denying that Homage to
Catalonia belongs in any important book list about the Spanish Civil War, but
just like any important literary works, it has is positives and negatives. Homage
to Catalonia has served as a key source in the English speaking worlds’
formation of their opinion about the war. However, just like any literary work,
Homage to Catalonia has its flaws. The first is the limitation of Orwell’s knowledge
about Spain. Homage to Catalonia is limited to the times and place of which
Orwell was a part of. The problem with this is that how much Orwell really knew
about the broader politics of the war is rather questionable. Orwell clearly
did not have much knowledge about the origins of the civil war or the social
crisis behind the clashes (Preston). This is evident by the fact that nowhere
in the book are we able to find him mentioning having any prior knowledge about
Spain. Orwell himself acknowledges his flaws and his bias in Homage to
Catalonia when he says “my partisanship, my mistakes of fact, and the
distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events”.

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Something that Orwell does get right, in
my opinion, is when he infers that the defense against the military of
Francisco Franco and his attempted coup was not really a defense of democracy
but rather a revolution. Everyone outside of Spain assumed that the people of
Spain were simply defending their Republic against Franco, however, to the
people in Spain the fact that this was a socialist and anarchist movement was
more than clear.

The problem with this idea is that even though
it makes sense, it is evidence of Orwell’s bias and compromising the validity
of his book. The Republican group had components that were keen of revolution,
and they made up many of the Republican’s ranks. Anarchists were certainly
eager to have a revolution, as were communists (like Orwell, who joined the
POUM), however, they did not make up the majority of the Republican’s.

Revolution was not really a purpose in the Basque territories of Spain, and
many Catalan Republicans were not really revolutionaries. From Orwell’s perspective,
his statement makes perfect sense, but this again shows how his recollection
and view of the war is limited to the times and places of which he was a part
of and not the war as a whole. There is also the fact that the Republicans were
made up of many different groups and their priorities and cause often differed.

Some highlighted victory and had no problem with waiting for their
revolutionary reforms to be implemented. Others, on the other hand, believed
that revolution was tremendously important, and further assumed that revolution
was only the way to triumph.

While Orwell does put aside the broader
picture of the many reasons and factions behind the Spanish Civil War, such as
the background involvements of Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini, in order to
simply emphasize the political and social differences between the different
parties involved in the civil war, he does provide a good description of
Catalonia and almost succeeds at persuading people to believe that even the
Catalonian people wanted to be free from Spain.

as an academic with a utopia in mind of people fighting for freedom and
equality who felt that  independence and
freedom were important, and there was hope for a better society in the air.

“There was much in it that I did not understand,” he acknowledged; “in some
ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of
affairs worth fighting for.”

The aftermath of the Spanish Civil War transformed
the balance of power in Europe and tried the military power of Germany and
Italy. It is true that the Spanish Revolution should never be forgotten and
Orwell’s account of the revolution in Homage to Catalonia, even with all is
biased opinions, serves as a great retelling of what happened and the reasons
behind the people’s support of the revolution. 


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