How was the more revolutionary Catalonia

Summary of My Catalonia

The Spanish Civil War in Catalonia

After the monarchy had been abolished and the republic introduced in Spain in 1931 with broad popular approval, it initially appeared that long overdue modernizations in agriculture, the military and education were being tackled. But just a few years later, a conservative government made up of high-ranking military officials, the church and large landowners reversed all reforms. The ensuing uprising by socialists, trade unions and other political forces was led by General Francisco Franco forcibly beaten down. When the Popular Front, an alliance of left and liberals formed to save the republic, won the elections in 1936, the reaction was not long in coming. On July 17, 1936, high-ranking military officials, fascists and monarchists staged a coup. Yet their plan, with the support of Benito Mussolini Fascists and German National Socialists took Spain by storm but failed because of the organized resistance of the workers. The civil war began.

Resistance was strongest in the province of Catalonia, which looked back on a long tradition of anarchist independence movements. In the capital, Barcelona, ​​workers confronted Franco's soldiers with their expropriated weapons and repulsed them. The victories of the workers resulted in profound social changes: Workers took over businesses, trade and transport and managed them on their own. Not only in Catalonia, but also in other regions of Spain from time to time workers 'and peasants' councils were in government. With the strengthening of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) and its Catalonian sister party PSUC, which had Stalin's USSR on their side and were supplied with weapons by it, the revolution was slowed down and finally came to a standstill. The POUM workers' party, which represented a Marxist, anti-Soviet line, was ousted from the military leadership with the help of the Soviet Union, its militias dissolved, its members persecuted and arrested, tortured and murdered.

The civil war in Spain not only called fascists and National Socialists, but also communists and socialists from all over Europe. From Great Britain alone, over 2000 volunteers came to Spain to support the left popular front in the fight against Franco's fascists. The POUM's first militia group was formed in September 1936, and the continued influx of volunteers from all over Europe gave rise to additional units in the winter and spring of the following year. After the street fighting that broke out in Barcelona in May 1937 between supporters of the PSUC and the POUM and ended with the victory of the Communists, foreign militiamen were increasingly arrested and murdered. As a result of these events, many previously staunch communists distanced themselves from their movement.


Orwell reached Barcelona via Paris and Perpignan in December 1936 - initially with the intention of writing reports on the civil war. With a letter of recommendation from the British Independent Labor Party, which was close to the POUM, he immediately joined the workers' militia. In the winter of 1936/37 Orwell took part in the fighting on the Huesca Front in Aragon, northern Spain. After a serious injury, he spent several weeks with his wife in Barcelona. Here he witnessed the tensions within the Left Popular Front and the street fighting between supporters and opponents of a social revolution.

Not only in Spain, but also in the foreign press, the POUM was made the scapegoat for the violent clashes. These accusations prompted Orwell, who escaped from Spain with his wife just in time, six months after the events, to write a report on them. His aim was to straighten out the distorted image in international perception, to expose the terror of the Moscow-loyal communists and to rehabilitate the POUM. My Catalonia appeared in London in April 1938.

Impact history

Orwell's account of the Spanish Civil War sparked mixed reactions in his British homeland. While some praised that the book did away with any revolutionary romance, many communists criticized the supposedly one-sided portrayal of the conflict. After Orwell's later novel successes Animal farm and 1984 has been My Catalonia reissued and translated into German in 1964. The book influenced Ken Loachs Movie Land and Freedom from 1995 about a British unemployed person who volunteered in the Spanish Civil War.