The weekend was one of those busy ones with plenty of things to write about. So, I will start where I left off in the last post. A quick review of George Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’
Where do I start? It is hard to know. All I can really say is that it is a fantastic book that should be made compulsory reading in schools across the world. But then I do have a certain interest in the region and the subject.
Homage to Catalonia
Orwell went to Barcelona to join one of the mythical ‘International Brigades’. Makeshift militia of idealistic young men who thought it was a good idea to go and fight a war in another country in the name of either socialism or anti-fascism or maybe pro-democracy. Take your pick. There were Marxist/Trotskyist, who considered themselves true workers socialists and consisted (among others) of various trade unions – and the group Orwell joined. The communists who had more than one faction and there were also the Anarchist groups. All supposedly fighting under the ‘Republican’ banner.
The Barcelona he describes when he arrives is as some kind of workers/Marxist utopia. Then after a few months on the front line he returns injured to find things have changed. The various groups of ‘left-wing’ socialists, Trotskyist, Marxist, communists, anarchists, unions and government forces (believe me they are all there) are squabbling amongst themselves and fighting breaks out.
Orwell becomes disillusioned as he thought they all had a common enemy – Franco’s nationalist forces. But things get much worse. The militia he was a part of is rounded up and hunted down by the heavily communist influenced government (official) forces and police. In the end he is fortunate to survive and escape to France. While the idealist Marxists groups were fighting for revolution (in all its ‘glory’) the communists were really backing a more liberal left agenda.
In the final chapters Orwell tries to understand if it was right to rationalise all the different forces of the left. The thought being that the main aim should be to fight fascism and not each other. However, it is also clear that even had they beaten Franco’s side, things would have got a lot worse shortly after.
Orwell manages to dissect a lot of what went on but was (and still is in some cases) incorrectly reported by the media outside of Spain. Most of the books I have read on the Spanish civil war tend to be Republican biased so Orwell’s first-hand account from the trenches (literally at times) of the Republican side is even more interesting as it tells some uncomfortable truths.
It is very interesting to read his initial excitement at the Marxist ‘paradise’ he finds on arrival. Very hard to equate the dullness of such a place to the vibrant tourist trap that is the Barcelona we have known for many decades. I cannot see how anyone would visit the place Orwell describes in in first chapter. Another interesting aspect is how some of the things he saw and wrote about inspired his later (and far more well-known) fictional works; Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” is one of his most famous lines and you can certainly see where this came from when you read ‘Homage to Catalonia’.
This brings me nicely on to the Spanish elections on Sunday. I have to say there were a lot of people out and about. There usual are on Sundays especially if the weather is fine. This Sunday however places seemed to be very busy. It turns out that there had been an increase in voter turnout of 9.3%. Quite an increase.
In the end the (nominally) socialist PSOE won the most seats but not enough to form an outright majority. Basically this election that was forced by the opposition parties failed to make any change. As expected nothing changed in Catalonia so it will be interesting to see what the latest PSOE government does with that situation.
One notable difference is that on of the newer parties (Vox) made a breakthrough and won their first seats. Apart from that the congress is more or less the same as it was before the election. Such is political life these days eh?
Going to Vote…
Myself and Dani accompanied his mum when she went to vote. While I was in the school – internationally the building of choice for elections it seems – I picked up some leaflets for most of the parties I had never really heard about. The list is an interesting one as is normally the case.
Here are some of the more interesting examples:
Humanist – Part of the Humanist International movement (I think). It’s not that this lot are void of nice ideas. There are some. It’s just more like a fantasy of utopian ideals. Sadly, or naturally (depending on your views) there are more people who believe in unicorns than those who think such policies are workable.
Por un Mundo más Justo (a party ‘for a fairer world’) – No. Me neither. I guess it kind of speaks for itself (?)
Animalist Party against the mistreatment of Animals. (Partido Animalista Contra el Maltrato Animal; PACMA) Yes; the usual suspects. Once again, some nice ideas but this lot seem to focus almost exclusively on bull-fighting, which is not an issue that particularly bothers me. In fact, I should thank them for reminding me. I have been wanting to write a post about bull-fighting for some time. I wonder where they stand on Halal meat? These groups never seem to talk about that topic do they? Amazingly almost one third of a million voted for this lot but that failed to translate into any seats in Congress.
Two Communist parties! One calling itself the people’s communist party while the other goes by the name of the worker’s communist party. Message to Mr. Orwell: They are still at it, George!
Actúa (aka PACT) – this party was formed from what remained of the United Left party after it had joined forces with Podemos to be the new socialist option. Yes, really George! Not much has changed has it? They did not win any seats.
What I still find odd, is how there can be regional parties in a nationwide election. Should that not be allowed? What is you wanted to vote for a Catalan party but lived in Madrid? Or you want to vote for a Basque party but live in Andalusia? As it is a general (national) election, should the parties all be obliged to stand on country-wide issues only? Afterall they already have their own regional governments. It is an odd thing but is certainly not peculiar to Spain. It is the same in most countries as far as I know.
It is certainly the same in most of the UK – albeit to a slightly lesser extent – with the Scottish National and Welsh Nationalist parties. And of course, the party divisions in Northern Ireland are (at least) as complicated as the Catalan situation.
Some famous (or should that be infamous) London based politician once said “If voting changed anything they would ban it.” Interesting quote if applied to this latest Spanish election. Even more interesting in the wider context…