Sunday, 25 March 2012
Homage to Homage to Catalonia...
Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living the same level and mingling on terms of equality.
In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a fore-taste of Socialism, by which I mean the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of life - snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc. - had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class division in society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no-one owned anyone else as his master.
Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the whole surface of the earth. But it lasted long enough to have its effect on anyone who experienced it. However much one cursed at the time, one realised afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word 'comrade' stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality.
I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab motive left intact.
But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all...