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Bunk, Brian D., 1968-; Pack, Sasha D.; Scott, Carl-Gustaf (ed.) / Nation and conflict in modern Spain: essays in honor of Stanley G. Payne
(2008)

Esenwein. George Richard
The Cold War and the Spanish Civil War: the impact of politics on historiography,   pp. 175-189 ff.


Page 180

NATION AND CONFLICT IN MODERN SPAIN 
Orwell took pride in being an iconoclast and was therefore loath to attach
himself to orga- 
nizations that had a specific ideological agenda. This is not to deny his
total lack of political 
engagement. During the last years of his life, he belonged to several organizations
concerned 
with civil liberties, but apparently was only active in one: the Freedom
Defense Committee, 
which was primarily concerned with defending the rights of British left-wingers
who were 
being prosecuted for political reasons. He was also loosely affiliated with
more broadly based 
organizations of this type. For example, he briefly participated in the foundation
of the 
League of Dignity and the Rights of Man (sponsored by such luminaries as
Arthur Koestler, 
Bertrand Russell, and Victor Gollancz) and was invited by Koestler to join
the international 
writers' organization PEN-which at the time had a distinctly anti-Communist
message. 
Like Orwell, Bolloten coveted his intellectual independence (and personal
anonym- 
ity) so highly that he tended to shun formal political associations--especially
those that 
were vying for the public spotlight-as well as ties to academia. And while
it is true that he 
was privately supportive of various political causes he deemed worthwhile,
he believed that 
writing history mattered more than engaging in doctrinal polemics. This latter
point bears 
underscoring insofar as Bolloten has been falsely and maliciously accused
by his fiercest 
critics-notably the International Brigade veteran and American historian
Robert Colodny, 
and Herbert Rutledge Southworth, another independent scholar who spent the
greater 
part of his life researching and writing about the Civil War and related
themes-of having 
his work subsidized and sponsored by right-wing organizations (Hoover Institution)
and 
even the CIA. According to them, Bolloten's writings should be regarded as
vehicles for 
promoting the propagandistic views of political agencies fighting the ideological
war against 
Communism.6 
Sources 
Any serious assessment of Civil War scholarship would have to begin by evaluating
the evi- 
dence or sources that are being used to construct an historical narrative
or interpretation. 
One of the major criticisms that the revisionists have leveled at Bolloten's
explanatory model 
of the war and revolution, for example, is that it relies too heavily on
a selective and highly 
tendentious body of evidence. Because his writings on Spain are more reportorial
than his- 
torical, Orwell's reading of the Civil War has been attacked for other reasons.
Above all, 
his descriptive accounts of the May Events and other noteworthy episodes
of the war have 
been dismissed by his critics as the partisan views of an ill-informed eye
witness whose ex- 
periences were restricted to parts of Aragon and Catalonia. According to
the distinguished 
labor historian John Saville, Orwell and those who accept his anti-Communist
version of the 
Civil War are guilty of engaging in what he characterizes as an "old-fashioned"
Cold War 
approach to the subject. If we glance briefly at the empirical foundations
of the writings of 
both Orwell and Bolloten, the speciousness of the revisionists' assumptions
in this regard 
180 


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