In order to better explain how Orwell changed his view of the Spanish Revolution, this essay will discuss the Spanish Revolution and its manifestations among the civilian and military populations, how Orwell and other political groups viewed the Spanish Revolution at different stages, and how Orwell's own peculiar biases may have affected his ultimate conclusions.
As a preliminary matter, in order to define the Spanish Revolution properly, it is necessary to place it in its historical context. In many ways, the revolution was unexpected by the governing elite; indeed, the Spanish military had calculated that a military coup against the Republican elite would be effective in quelling domestic dissent and reestablishing a firmer sense of order for the civilian population. The political atmosphere was especially tense. What happened instead of a smoothly executed coup was a breaking apart of the country; more specifically, anarchists, communists, and those with socialist leanings mobilized against the military rebels while simultaneously rejecting Republican rule. The immediate result was a decentralization of power in many parts of Spain, particularly in areas influenced by the anarchists.
The Spain that Orwell wrote about in Homage to Catalonia, therefore, was a Spain in which different areas of the country were held by the Republicans, by the military Nationals, and by the anarchists. Catalonia, the main subject of Orwell's work, was firmly in control of the anarchists and like-minded groups.
The manifestations were rapid and pervasive; as noted by Orwell, for instance, it was surprising how quickly the common workers had taken control of Barcelona. He described this initial sense of transformation by noting that "It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle" (1.8). This simple statement assumes much meaning given the fact that Orwell was a well-traveled man; more relevant to this essay, it demonstrates an initial sense of wonder and enthusiasm. This was an experiment that Orwell thought might succeed.
He went on to describe how thoroughly the common people had assumed command. The workers carried rifles and displayed anarchist flags. They had taken control of virtually all of the buildings in Barcelona. The churches had been attacked and many had been burnt. The shops had new signs and placards displayed which stated that they had been collectivized. Cars had been seized and put to collective use and public transportation had all been painted black and red. In the same way as the shops, factories and agriculture were collectivized. Patriotic songs were played through loudspeakers at all times of the day and night. In short, in this part of Spain, the manifestations for civilian society were extreme and pervasive. There were expectations that workers, whether industrial or agrarian, would control the means of production. There were expectations that people would be allowed to treat each other as equals, and this social equality would translate in a better society. The military withdrew to secure regions.
Orwell, despite admitting his admiration for the ideals expressed by the people, also admitted certain uneasiness. At one point, he acknowledged "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