In Chapter 1 of "Homage to Catalonia," Orwell first arrives in December 1936. Why does he find the situation there so inspiring?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interesting question! Orwell's treatise on socialist revolution, Homage To Catalonia, explores the working class struggle for legitimacy and relevance in Spain.

In this book, Orwell documents his experiences in working with the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista). The party is a fusion of two separate entities: the Workers and Peasants Bloc (BOC) and Izquierda Comunista de España (ICE). The POUM is also an anti-Stalinist organization which embraces the Trotskyist view of revolution as a permanent undertaking.

Chapter One begins by describing Orwell's pleasure in meeting an Italian militiaman in Barcelona who embodies all the attributes of a fierce Anarchist soldier. The year, of course, is 1936. Orwell is inspired by everything he sees in Spain because it appears that the working class struggle has succeeded in winning long-desired rights for the oppressed. You will find that Orwell describes seeing the black and red insignia and badges of Anarchists everywhere. In this chapter, Orwell refers to a revolution; this is the Spanish Revolution, which started in 1936 while the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was occurring.

The Spanish Revolution for workers' rights is suppressed after a ten month period because the (Communist supported) Spanish Republican government is more interested in winning the war against the Franco-led Nationalists (who are supported by fascist Italy and Germany), than in agitating for societal change. The Republicans are aided by the Stalinist regime of the Soviet Union.

Orwell proclaims his excitement that the Anarchists (which initially supports the Communist government of Spain) are in control of Catalonia; he is ecstatic that he can see the insignia of the Anarchists everywhere:

It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists;...almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were being systematically demolished by gangs of workmen. Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivised; even the bootblacks had been collectivised and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal... There were no private motor-cars, they had all been commandeered, and all the trams and taxis and much of the other transport were painted red and black... Down the Ramblas, the wide central artery of the town where crowds of people streamed constantly to and fro, the loudspeakers were bellowing revolutionary songs all day and far into the night... In outward appearance it was a town in which the wealthy classes had practically ceased to exist... Practically everyone wore rough working-class clothes, or blue overalls, or some variant of the militia uniform. All this was queer and moving. There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognised it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for. Also I believed that things were as they appeared, that this was really a workers' state and that the entire bourgeoisie had either fled, been killed, or voluntarily come over to the workers' side;...

The above is one of the most famous paragraphs in the book. Orwell is celebrating the seeming overthrow of Nationalist interests. The Nationalists mainly represent the interests of landowners, members of the clergy, and businessmen. That's why you read of Orwell describing the collectivization of transportation and business interests as a good thing; he is inspired by the seeming decimation of bourgeoisie power and privilege.

He lauds the equality he sees in the dress and demeanor of the Anarchists, and welcomes the lack of unemployment and 'few conspicuously destitute people.' Perhaps the situation that Orwell finds most inspiring can be summed up in the following paragraph:

Above all, there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.