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#1 Andy Walker

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Posted 29 October 2004 - 05:41 PM

A student from my College asks:

"What role did the writer George Orwell play in the Spanish Civil War?"

#2 John Simkin

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Posted 30 October 2004 - 03:01 PM

Orwell, a committed socialist, went to Spain in December 1936 to report on the Spanish Civil War. He soon decided to join the struggle against the Nationalist Army and became a member of the Lenin Division in Barcelona, a unit under the control of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM).

In January 1937 Orwell, given the rank of corporal, was sent to join the offensive at Aragón. The following month he was moved to Huesca. After 115 days at the frontline he was granted leave and he returned to Barcelona. While there he witnessed the May Riots.

Orwell returned to Huesca on 12th May. Promoted to second lieutenant, he commanded a unit of 30 men. Soon after arriving back at the front he was hit by a sniper's bullet which passed through his neck. As a result of the wound, Orwell's left side was paralyzed and he temporarily lost his voice.

While in hospital Orwell heard that the Workers Party of Marxist Unification had been declared an illegal organization. Orwell was now in danger of being murdered by communists in the Republican Army. With the help of the British Consul in Barcelona, Orwell was able to escape to France.

When Orwell returned to England he wrote about his experiences of the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia (1938). In the book Orwell attempted to expose the propaganda disseminated by newspapers in Britain. This included attacks on both the right-wing press and the Daily Worker, a paper controlled by the Communist Party. Although one of the best books ever written about war, it sold only 1,500 copies during the next twelve years.


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