Bulletin of the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification1 (P.O.U.M.2)
3 February 1937
British Author With the Militia
At the beginning of January, we received a visit in Barcelona from Eric Blair, the well-known British author, whose work is so much appreciated in all English-speaking left circles of thought. Comrade Blair came to Barcelona, and said he wanted to be of some use to the workers’ cause. In view of his literary abilities and intellectual attainments, it appeared that the most useful work he could do in Barcelona would be that of a propaganda journalist in constant communication with socialist organs of opinion in Britain. He said: ‘I have decided that I can be of most use to the workers as a fighter at the front.’ He spent exactly seven days in Barcelona, and he is now fighting with the Spanish comrades of the P.O.U.M. on the Aragon front.
In a postcard which he sent us, he says: ‘When I have persuaded them to teach me something about the machine-gun, I hope to be drafted to the front line trenches.’
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- The Spanish Revolution was published fortnightly from 10 Rambla de los Estudios, Barcelona, and presented the POUM’s case in the propaganda war being waged within the government forces. It was available in London (from the Independent Labour Party and the Marxist League) and in New York, Chicago, and Toronto. This issue also had a longer article, ‘Fighting Men from Britain,’ and one summarising ‘The Stalinist Position,’ ‘The P.O.U.M.’s Position,’ and ‘The Anarchist Position’ under the heading ‘If they are not Socialist, nor Communist, nor Marxist, What Are They?’ In addition to explaining why ILP men were fighting under the POUM banner, this and later articles reveal a tone strikingly similar to the propaganda fed people at home during World War I. Training, it was explained, lasted fifteen days, ‘and by that time they should be ready for service at the front.’ The food was said to be good but it would ‘take the lads a week to get used to the drinking of wine at practically every meal.’ Each man was given a packet of cigarettes a day ‘and the pay received is remarkably good, namely 10 pesetas.’ Pay came as a surprise, ‘as all of our lads had volunteered to fight and had never considered the possibility of such a regular sum.’ Its frequency is not mentioned. A peseta was worth about fourpence. Orwell kept copies of The Spanish Revolution among his papers until his death.
- P.O.U.M., Partido Obrero de Unification Marxista (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) was described by Orwell in Homage to Catalonia as ‘one of those dissident Communist parties which have appeared in many countries in the last few years as a result of the opposition to “Stalinism”; i.e. to the change, real or apparent, in Communist policy. It was made up partly of ex-Communists and partly of an earlier party, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc. Numerically it was a small party, with not much influence outside Catalonia, and chiefly important because it contained an unusually high proportion of politically conscious members. … It did not represent any block of trade unions.’ He gives the membership as 10,000 in July 1936; 70,000 in December 1936; and 40,000 in June 1937, but warns that the figures are from POUM sources, and ‘a hostile estimate would probably divide them by four’.