Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Marr's mistake

My sister got me the book of Andrew Marr's Making of Modern Britain for xmas. I've been having a flick through various interesting sections and came across a bit of a howler in it about George Orwell in the Spanish Civil War:
There he joined the anarchist POUM militia... (page 309)
Anarchist? Isn't the POUM rather famously Trotskyist (though I think some might even dispute that label)? I think it's name was something like the Unified Party of Marxist Workers (I'm not cheating by looking it up). It certainly wasn't anarchist though. The anarchists were the CNT-FAI.

I don't think this is trainspotter-ish. There were quite a few factions on the Left in Spain, but not that difficult to follow. In terms of orientation, size and influence this is a little bit like mixing up the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats today. What's more it's all spelt out very clearly in Homage to Catalonia. Maybe he hasn't read it - which would be odd as it's arguably Orwell's best book.

Ho hum.


Jim Jepps said...

Well, you're right. They weren't anarchists - although the POUM and the CNT did share a lot of their political practice and did undergo unity talks - talks cut short by both being made illegal and having their leaders arrested.

I think it's reasonable to lump them together in the sense that they both saw the war against Franco as only being won by furthering the revolutionary course where the CP and others felt the 'experiments' should be put on hold until the war was won.

On whether the poum were trotskyist - well, they applied to be admitted to the fourth international and trotsky refused to admit them because (from memory) he felt they should not have participated in the popular front government, ie that they should not have formed alliances with other anti-franco forces that were not as revolutionary as them but taken their own independent actions.

Whether Trostky was right we'll never know as no one in Spain agreed with him at the time.

Tom Powdrill said...

Cheers Jim - I knew someone in the blogosphere would know it better than I do!

I just Googled POUM to find out what the acronym stands for and it turns out the Marxists were unified rather than the workers....

CharlieMcMenamin said...

Hmm.I think it no accident that Orwell fought with the ILP contingent in Spain: both the ILP and POUM were affiliated to the so called 'Second and Half International', a short lived grouping of left currents between the old (Second) Socialist International and the Comintern(the Third International). Trotsky and his followers did associate with them but eventually dismissed them as 'centrist'.

Have I ever told you about my large collection of personally gathered locomotive numbers?

I'll get my coat.

Tom Powdrill said...

Charlie wins a copy of 'A History of Spotting at Clapham Junction Vol 5: 1957-64'.