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But the thing that I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.
Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War in the POUM militia (Workers' Party of Marxist Unification) and wrote a book about it: Homage to Catalonia. He joined POUM out of coincidence and later said he'd rather have joined the anarchist militias if he'd known the contexts of the political conflict going on behind the battle lines. Orwell's beliefs can be described as libertarian socialist, as he partly, but didn't fully subscribe to an anarchist programme which is generally the rejection of the State and parliamentarianism, the utilization of direct action, and the advocacy of co-operative and federal organization.
In the first half of the 1930s Orwell had a negative view of anarchist beliefs, from Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow:
>for he complained that for an ‘ordinary man, a crank meant a Socialist and a Socialist meant a crank’: ‘One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words “Socialism” and “Communism” draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, “Nature Cure” quack, pacifist and feminist in England.’ While few anarchists would have been all, still fewer would have satisfied none of these despised categories. He told the working-class Jack Common, now co-editor of the Adelphi, in 1936 that so many of the socialist bourgeoisie ‘are the sort of eunuch type with a vegetarian smell who go about spreading sweetness and light and have at the back of their minds a vision of the working class all TT [teetotal], well washed behind the ears, readers of Edward Carpenter or some other pious sodomite and talking with BBC accents’. Orwell’s distaste for homosexuals was an abiding characteristic, with him castigating in private ‘the pansy left’, the ‘fashionable pansies’, Auden and Spender, being singled out for especial contempt. Yet he insisted, as usual unpredictable and unfailingly contradictory, that he had ‘always been very pro-Wilde’.
In 1936 he collected material on the condition of unemployed for the book: The Road to Wigan Pier, which proved revelatory for him, and when he began to believe in and support socialism as the only possible course for any decent person to work towards.
>The fundamentals of Orwell’s socialism were justice, liberty and decency. For him socialism meant ‘justice and common decency’, a decency inherent in the culture of the traditional working-class community. He believed that ‘the only thing for which we can combine is the underlying ideal of Socialism; justice and liberty’ [sic]; and concluded: ‘All that is needed is to hammer two facts home into the public consciousness. One, that the interests of all exploited people are the same; the other, that Socialism is compatible with common decency.’
Orwell returned from Spain a different man and with a firm belief in Socialism. Even more decisive was his negative experience with the machinations of international Communism. The working-class revolution was crushed after the May Days there, his comrades from POUM were imprisoned, and he was lucky to escape with his life:
>It was during the winter of 1936–7 that the Spanish Communist Party – a minuscule, unimportant organization at the beginning of the year – was able to extend its influence dramatically, largely since, on account of the adhesion of the liberal democracies to the policy of non-intervention, Republican Spain was obliged to depend on Russian arms supplies and advisors. As early as September 1936 a Soviet agent had been detailed to Spain to establish the NKVD, the political police. From her first visit Goldman abhorred the Communist presence in the Popular Front and the lionization of the USSR (even in revolutionary Barcelona); and she warned ceaselessly against the mushroom growth in Spain of Stalinist power.
>The crisis came in the May Days of 1937. Fighting erupted in Barcelona from 3 May between, on the one hand, the CNT-FAI rank and file and the dissident Marxist POUM and, on the other, the Communist-controlled Assault Guards, leaving five hundred killed and over a thousand wounded. It was suppressed by 7 May with the dispatch of troops by the Popular Front government (now in Valencia). As a result of the May Days, Largo Caballero was overthrown; the CNT left the Valencia government (although it was to re-enter in March 1938); Juan Negrín became prime minister; and Communist influence was very considerably increased. There were even more far-reaching consequences: the Communists proceeded to liquidate the POUM (with whom Orwell had fought); anarcho-syndicalist supremacy in Catalonia was broken; and the social revolution was reversed everywhere with the dismantling of the collectives.
Orwell contrasted the anarchists and Communists as poles apart philosophically, saying the Communist's emphasis is always on centralism and efficiency, the Anarchist's on liberty and equality. In a letter a year before his death Orwell maintained that the real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.
Because of Homage to Catalonia's anti-communist stance Orwell's publisher turned it down, so a different publisher picked it up, but it made less than 1,500 sales and was remaindered after his death in 1950. Also the New Statesman rejected a commissioned book review of two books on Spain in which he had stated: "The most important fact that has emerged from the whole business is that the Communist Party is now... an anti-revolutionary force." The origins of Animal Farm are to be found in counter-revolutionary Barcelona.
Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: https://libcom.org/files/1846310253.pdf
Homage to Catalonia: https://libcom.org/files/Homage%20to%20Catalonia%20-%20George%20Orwell.pdf
pic is anti-anarchist propaganda