That Spanish War, of Distant Memory

Today, we have been told, is the 75th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War. No doubt today we shall hear a lot of windy nonsense about it from many quarters, as we have occasionally since that day 75 years ago. No need to go into much of that now, but to mark the occasion, I offer this.

It was a lot of years ago that I stumbled on this passage and it has
always been to me a reflection of the *genuine* anarchist/communist/socialist sector, which rejects capitalism, statism and reformism, no matter what the self-labeling of the same might be.

“…I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community in
Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in
capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragon
one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely
of working-class origin, all living at the same level and mingling on
terms of equality. In theory it was perfect equality, and even in
practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be
true to say that one was experiencing a foretaste of Socialism, by
which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of
Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilised life—snobbishness,
money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.—had simply ceased to exist. The
ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that
is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was
no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned
anyone else as his master. Of course such a state of affairs could not
last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game
that is being played over the whole surface of the earth. But it
lasted long enough to have its effect upon anyone who experienced it.
However much one cursed at the time, one realized afterwards that one
had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been
in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism,
where the word `comrade’ stood for comradeship and not, as in most
countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality. I am well
aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything
to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of
party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy `proving’ that
Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the
grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of
Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary
men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it,
the `mystique’ of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast
majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means
nothing at all. And it was here that those few months in the militia
were valuable to me. For the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were
a sort of microcosm of a classless society. In that community where no
one was on the make, where there was a shortage of everything but no
privilege and no boot-licking, one got, perhaps, a crude forecast of
what the opening stages of Socialism might be like. And, after all,
instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me. The effect was to
make my desire to see Socialism established much more actual than it
had been before. Partly, perhaps, this was due to the good luck of
being among Spaniards, who, with their innate decency and their
ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of
Socialism tolerable if they had the chance… “

from Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell

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This entry was posted in a/c/s, Crump, DB, Red Menace, Tr/bL, WiC. Bookmark the permalink.

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