Bunk, Brian D., 1968-; Pack, Sasha D.; Scott, Carl-Gustaf (ed.) / Nation and conflict in modern Spain: essays in honor of Stanley G. Payne
Esenwein. George Richard
The Cold War and the Spanish Civil War: the impact of politics on historiography, pp. 175-189 ff.
The Cold War and the Spanish Civil War British author George Orwell (Eric Blair) and the independent scholar, Burnett Bolloten. According to the revisionists, it is because both of these men had become widely recognized as authorities on the Spanish Civil War that it was now necessary to expose the fundamental shortcomings of their works. Above all, this was to be achieved by treating their writings on Spain more as ideological expressions of the Cold War era than as important contributions to the historiography of the Spanish Civil War. The main aim of this essay is two-fold. On one level, I would like to challenge the aforementioned suppositions of the revisionist school of scholars. To this end, I shall argue that, in their campaign to divest Civil War studies of its Cold War ideological overtones, the revisionists have unfairly and inaccurately characterized both Orwell and Bolloten as Cold War warriors. Secondly, the essay will point out the ways in which the revisionists' discourse on the Civil War is no less politicized than those of previous generations. As such their efforts to achieve a consensus view of the war which is constructed around their own readings of that conflict often impedes rather than encourages scholarly efforts to achieve a more bal- anced picture of this highly controversial and complex subject. Personalities Anyone who is familiar with the literature on the Spanish Civil War will recognize the names of Burnett Bolloten (1909-1987) and George Orwell (1903-1950). However, most people are unaware of the extent to which both men were connected by their respective personal and professional involvement in the Spanish conflict. George Orwell came to Spain in late 1936, not only as a writer and journalist, but also in order to fight for a cause in which he deeply believed: the defense of a democratically-elected government against a rebelling group of military officers and their supporters on the right. Though he was a person of strong left-wing convictions, Orwell was no ideologue. Thus, when he was unable to enlist in the Communist-directed International Brigades, he readily seized the opportunity to join a militia attached to the anti-Stalinist POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificaciiin Marxista), the sister party of the British left-wing organization with which Orwell had personal ties, the Independent Labour Party. As a member of the POUM militia stationed on the relatively quiet Aragon front, Orwell became a participant in the fighting. During and following the episode of the war that has come to be known as the May Events of 1937, his role in the war underwent a significant transformation. Caught up in the bitter and destructive political wrangling that characterized Republican Spain at the time, he was able to observe first-hand the war within a war that raged in Barcelona from May 3-7, 1937. Later, while he was convalescing from a near-fatal wound he received on the Huesca front, Orwcll returned to Barcelona, where, thanks to his affiliation with the now vilified POUM, he became a politi- cal outcast. Along with his first wife, Eileen, he was forced to flee Spain in June 1937. It was also at this point in his sojourn in Spain that we see Orwell, the writer, coming to the fore. 177
Copyright 2008 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin