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George Orwell > Homage to Catalonia > Chapter 13

Homage to Catalonia

Chapter 13

IN Barcelona, during all those last weeks I spent there, there was a peculiar
evil feeling in the air--an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, uncertainty, and
veiled hatred. The May fighting had left ineradicable after-effects behind it.
With the fall of the Caballero Government the Communists had come definitely
into power, the charge of internal order had been handed over to Communist
ministers, and no one doubted that they would smash their political rivals as
soon as they got a quarter of a chance Nothing was happening as yet, I myself
had not even any mental picture of what was going to happen; and yet there was a
perpetual vague sense of danger, a consciousness of some evil thing that was
impending. However little you were actually conspiring, the atmosphere forced
you to feel like a conspirator. You seemed to spend all your time holding
whispered conversations in corners of cafes and wondering whether that person at
the next table was a police spy.

Sinister rumours of all kinds were flying round, thanks to the Press
censorship. One was that the Negrin-Prieto Government was planning to compromise
the war. At the time I was inclined to believe this, for the Fascists were
closing in on Bilbao and the Government was visibly doing nothing to save it.
Basque flags were displayed all over the town, girls rattled collecting-boxes in
the cafes, and there were the usual broadcasts about 'heroic defenders', but the
Basques were getting no real assistance. It was tempting to believe that the
Government was playing a double game. Later events have proved, that I was quite
wrong here, but it seems probable that Bilbao could have been saved if a little
more energy had been shown. An offensive on the Aragon front, even an
unsuccessful one, would have forced Franco to divert part of his army; as it was
the Government did not begin any offensive action till it was far too late--
indeed, till about the time when Bilbao fell. The C.N.T. was distributing in
huge numbers a leaflet saying: 'Be on your guard!' and hinting that 'a certain
Party' (meaning the Communists) was plotting a coup d'etat. There was also a
widespread fear that Catalonia was going to be invaded. Earlier, when we went
back to the front, I had seen the powerful defences that were being constructed
scores of miles behind the front line, and fresh bomb-proof shelters were being
dug all over Barcelona. There were frequent scares of air-raids and sea-raids;
more often than not these were false alarms, but every time the sirens blew the
lights all over the town blacked out for hours on end and timid people dived for
the cellars. Police spies were everywhere. The jails were still crammed with
prisoners left over from the May fighting, and others--always, of course.
Anarchist and P.O.U.M. adherents--were disappearing into jail by ones and twos.
So far as one could discover, no one was ever tried or even charged--not even
charged with anything so definite as 'Trotskyism'; you were simply flung into
jail and kept there, usually incommunicado. Bob Smillie was still in jail in
Valencia. We could discover nothing except that neither the I.L.P.
representative on the spot nor the lawyer who had been engaged, was permitted to
see him. Foreigners from the International Column and other militias were
getting into jail in larger and larger numbers. Usually they were arrested as
deserters. It was typical of the general situation that nobody now knew for
certain whether a militiaman was a volunteer or a regular soldier. A few months
earlier anyone enlisting in the militia had been told that he was a volunteer
and could, if he wished, get his discharge papers at any time when he was due
for leave. Now it appeared that the Government had changed its mind, a
militiaman was a regular soldier and counted as a deserter if he tried to go
home. But even about this no one seemed certain. At some parts of the front the
authorities were still issuing discharges. At the frontier these were sometimes
recognized, sometimes not; if not, you were promptly thrown into jail. Later the
number of foreign 'deserters' in jail swelled into hundreds, but most of them
were repatriated when a fuss was made in their own countries.

Bands of armed Assault Guards roamed everywhere in the streets, the Civil
Guards were still holding cafes and other buildings in strategic spots, and many
of the P.S.U.C. buildings were still sandbagged and barricaded. At various
points in the town there were posts manned by Civil Guards of Carabineros who
stopped passers-by and demanded their papers. Everyone warned me not to show my
P.O.U.M. militiaman's card but merely to show my passport and my hospital
ticket. Even to be known to have served in the P.O.U.M. militia was vaguely
dangerous. P.O.U.M. militiamen who were wounded or on leave were penalized in
petty ways--it was made difficult for them to draw their pay, for instance. La
Batalla was still appearing, but it was censored almost out of existence, and
Solidaridad and the other Anarchist papers were also heavily censored. There was
a new rule that censored portions of a newspaper must not be left blank but
filled up with other matter; as a result it was often impossible to tell when
something had been cut out.

The food shortage, which had fluctuated throughout the War, was in one of its
bad stages. Bread was scarce and the cheaper sorts were being adulterated with
rice; the bread the soldiers were getting in the barracks was dreadful stuff
like putty. Milk and sugar were very scarce and tobacco almost non-existent,
except for the expensive smuggled cigarettes. There was an acute shortage of
olive oil, which Spaniards use for half a dozen different purposes. The queues
of women waiting to buy olive oil were controlled by mounted Civil Guards who
sometimes amused themselves by backing their horses into the queue and trying to
make them tread on the women's toes. A minor annoyance of the time was the lack
of small change. The silver had been withdrawn and as yet no new coinage had
been issued, so that there was nothing between the ten-centime piece and the
note for two and a half pesetas, and all notes below ten pesetas were very
scarce. [Note 13, below] For the poorest people this meant an aggravation of
the food shortage. A woman with only a ten-peseta note in her possession might
wait for hours in a queue outside the grocery and then be unable to buy anything
after all because the grocer had no change and she could not afford to spend
the whole note.

[Note 13. The purchasing value of the peseta was about fourpence.]

It is not easy to convey the nightmare atmosphere of that time--the peculiar
uneasiness produced by rumours that were always changing, by censored
newspapers, and the constant presence of armed men. It is not easy to convey it
because, at the moment, the thing essential to such an atmosphere does not exist
in England. In England political intolerance is not yet taken for granted. There
is political persecution in a petty way; if I were a coal-miner I would not care
to be known to the boss as a Communist; but the 'good party man', the
gangster-gramophone of continental politics, is still a rarity, and the notion
of 'liquidating' or 'eliminating' everyone who happens to disagree with you does
not yet seem natural. It seemed only too natural in Barcelona. The 'Stalinists'
were in the saddle, and therefore it was a matter of course that every
'Trotskyist' was in danger. The thing everyone feared was a thing which, after
all, did not happen--a fresh outbreak of street-fighting, which, as before,
would be blamed on the P.O.U.M. and the Anarchists. There were times when I
caught my ears listening for the first shots. It was as though some huge evil
intelligence were brooding over the town. Everyone noticed it and remarked upon
it. And it was queer how everyone expressed it in almost the same words: 'The
atmosphere of this place--it's horrible. Like being in a lunatic asylum.' But
perhaps I ought not to say everyone. Some of the English visitors who flitted
briefly through Spain, from hotel to hotel, seem not to have noticed that there
was anything wrong with the general atmosphere. The Duchess of Atholl writes, I
notice (Sunday Express, 17 October 1937):

    I was in Valencia, Madrid, and Barcelona . . . perfect order prevailed in
    all three towns without any display of force. All the hotels in which I stayed
    were not only 'normal' and 'decent', but extremely comfortable, in spite of
    the shortage of butter and coffee.

It is a peculiarity of English travellers that they do not really believe in
the existence of anything outside the smart hotels. I hope they found some
butter for the Duchess of Atholl.

I was at the Sanatorium Maurin, one of the sanatoria run by the P.O.U.M. It
was in the suburbs near Tibidabo, the queer-shaped mountain that rises abruptly
behind Barcelona and is traditionally supposed to have been the hill from which
Satan showed Jesus the countries of the earth (hence its name). The house had
previously belonged to some wealthy bourgeois and had been seized at the time of
the revolution. Most of the men there had either been invalided out of the line
or had some wound that had permanently disabled them--amputated limbs, and so
forth. There were several other Englishmen there: Williams, with a damaged leg,
and Stafford Cottman, a boy of eighteen, who had been sent back from the
trenches with suspected tuberculosis, and Arthur Clinton, whose smashed left arm
was still strapped on to one of those huge wire contraptions, nicknamed
aeroplanes, which the Spanish hospitals were using. My wife was still staying at
the Hotel Continental, and I generally came into Barcelona in the daytime. In
the morning I used to attend the General Hospital for electrical treatment of my
arm. It was a queer business--a series of prickly electric shocks that made the
various sets of muscles jerk up and down--but it seemed to do some good; the
use of my fingers came back and the pain grew somewhat less. Both of us had
decided that the best thing we could do was to go back to England as soon as
possible. I was extremely weak, my voice was gone, seemingly for good, and the
doctors told me that at best it would be several months before I was fit to
fight. I had got to start earning some money sooner or later, and there did not
seem much sense in staying in Spain and eating food that was needed for other
people. But my motives were mainly selfish. I had an overwhelming desire to get
away from it all; away from the horrible atmosphere of political suspicion and
hatred, from streets thronged by armed men, from air-raids, trenches,
machine-guns, screaming trams, milkless tea, oil cookery, and shortage of
cigarettes--from almost everything that I had learnt to associate with

The doctors at the General Hospital had certified me medically unfit, but to
get my discharge I had to see a medical board at one of the hospitals near the
front and then go to Sietamo to get my papers stamped at the P.O.U.M. militia
headquarters. Kopp had just come back from the front, full of jubilation. He had
just been in action and said that Huesca was going to be taken at last. The
Government had brought troops from the Madrid front and were concentrating
thirty thousand men, with aeroplanes in huge numbers. The Italians I had seen
going up the line from Tarragona had attacked on the Jaca road but had had heavy
casualties and lost two tanks. However, the town was bound to fall, Kopp said.
(Alas! It didn't. The attack was a frightful mess--up and led to nothing except
an orgy of lying in the newspapers.) Meanwhile Kopp had to go down to Valencia
for an interview at the Ministry of War. He had a letter from General Pozas, now
commanding the Army of the East--the usual letter, describing Kopp as a 'person
of all confidence' and recommending him for a special appointment in the
engineering section (Kopp had been an engineer in civil life). He left for
Valencia the same day as I left for Sietamo--15 June.

It was five days before I got back to Barcelona. A lorry-load of us reached
Sietamo about midnight, and as soon as we got to the P.O.U.M. headquarters they
lined us up and began handling out rifles and cartridges, before even taking our
names. It seemed that the attack was beginning and they were likely to call for
reserves at any moment. I had my hospital ticket in my pocket, but I could not
very well refuse to go with the others. I kipped down on the ground, with a
cartridge-box for a pillow, in a mood of deep dismay. Being wounded had spoiled
my nerve for the time being--I believe this usually happens--and the prospect
of being under fire frightened me horribly. However, there was a bit of manana,
as usual, we were not called out after all, and next morning I produced my
hospital ticket and went in search of my discharge. It meant a series of
confused, tiresome journeys. As usual they bandied one to and fro from hospital
to hospital--Sietamo, Barbastro, Monzon, then back to Sietamo to get my
discharge stamped, then down the line again via Barbastro and Lerida--and the
convergence of troops on Huesca had monopolized all the transport and
disorganized everything. I remember sleeping in queer places--once in a
hospital bed, but once in a ditch, once on a very narrow bench which I fell off
in the middle of the night, and once in a sort of municipal lodging-house in
Barbastro. As soon as you got away from the railroad there was no way of
travelling except by jumping chance lorries. You had to wait by the roadside for
hours, sometimes three or four hours at a stretch, with knots of disconsolate
peasants who carried bundles full of ducks and rabbits, waving to lorry after
lorry. When finally you struck a lorry that was not chock full of men, loaves of
bread, or ammunition-boxes the bumping over the vile roads wallowed you to pulp.
No horse has ever thrown me so high as those lorries used to throw me. The only
way of travelling was to crowd all together and cling to one another. To my
humiliation I found that I was still too weak to climb on to a lorry without
being helped.

I slept a night at Monzon Hospital, where I went to see my medical board. In
the next bed to me there was an Assault Guard, wounded over the left eye. He was
friendly and gave me cigarettes. I said: 'In Barcelona we should have been
shooting one another,' and we laughed over this. It was queer how the general
spirit seemed to change when you got anywhere near the front line. All or nearly
all of the vicious hatred of the political parties evaporated. During all the
time I was at the front I never once remember any P.S.U.C. adherent showing me
hostility because I was P.O.U.M. That kind of thing belonged in Barcelona or in
places even remoter from the war. There were a lot of Assault Guards in Sietamo.
They had been sent on from Barcelona to take part in the attack on Huesca. The
Assault Guards were a corps not intended primarily for the front, and many of
them had not been under fire before. Down in Barcelona they were lords of the
street, but up here they were quintos (rookies) and palled up with militia
children of fifteen who had been in the line for months.

At Monzon Hospital the doctor did the usual tongue-pulling and mirror--
thrusting business, assured me in the same cheerful manner as the others that I
should never have a voice again, and signed my certificate. While I waited to be
examined there was going on inside the surgery some dreadful operation without
anaesthetics--why without anaesthetics I do not know. It went on and on, scream
after scream, and when I went in there were chairs flung about and on the floor
were pools of blood and urine.

The details of that final journey stand out in my mind with strange clarity.
I was in a different mood, a more observing mood, than I had been in for months
past. I had got my discharge, stamped with the seal of the 29th Division, and
the doctor's certificate in which I was 'declared useless'. I was free to go
back to England; consequently I felt able, almost for the first time, to look at
Spain. I had a day to put in to Barbastro, for there was only one train a day.
Previously I had seen Barbastro in brief glimpses, and it had seemed to me
simply a part of the war--a grey, muddy, cold place, full of roaring lorries
and shabby troops. It seemed queerly different now. Wandering through it I
became aware of pleasant tortuous streets, old stone bridges, wine shops with
great oozy barrels as tall as a man, and intriguing semi-subterranean shops
where men were making cartwheels, daggers, wooden spoons, and goatskin
water-bottles. I watched a man making a skin bottle and discovered with great
interest, what I had never known before, that they are made with the fur inside
and the fur is not removed, so that you are really drinking distilled goat's
hair. I had drunk out of them for months without knowing this. And at the back
of the town there was a shallow jade-green river, and rising out of it a
perpendicular cliff of rock, with houses built into the rock, so that from your
bedroom window you could spit straight into the water a hundred feet below.
Innumerable doves lived in the holes in the cliff. And in Lerida there were old
crumbling buildings upon whose cornices thousands upon thousands of swallows had
built their nests, so that at a little distance the crusted pattern of nests was
like some florid moulding of the rococo period. It was queer how for nearly six
months past I had had no eyes for such things. With my discharge papers in my
pocket I felt like a human being again, and also a little like a tourist. For
almost the first time I felt that I was really in Spain, in a country that I had
longed all my life to visit. In the quiet back streets of Lerida and Barbastro I
seemed to catch a momentary glimpse, a sort of far-off rumour of the Spain that
dwells in everyone's imagination. White sierras, goatherds, dungeons of the
Inquisition, Moorish palaces, black winding trains of mules, grey olive trees
and groves of lemons, girls in black mantillas, the wines of Malaga and
Alicante, cathedrals, cardinals, bull-fights, gypsies, serenades--in short,
Spain. Of all Europe it was the country that had had most hold upon my
imagination. It seemed a pity that when at last I had managed to come here I had
seen only this north-eastern corner, in the middle of a confused war and for the
most part in winter.

It was late when I got back to Barcelona, and there were no taxis. It was no
use trying to get to the Sanatorium Maurin, which was right outside the town, so
I made for the Hotel Continental, stopping for dinner on the way. I remember the
conversation I had with a very fatherly waiter about the oak jugs, bound with
copper, in which they served the wine. I said I would like to buy a set of them
to take back to England. The waiter was sympathetic. 'Yes, beautiful, were they
not? But impossible to buy nowadays. Nobody was manufacturing them any longer--
nobody was manufacturing anything. This war--such a pity!' We agreed that the
war was a pity. Once again I felt like a tourist. The waiter asked me gently,
had I liked Spain; would I come back to Spain? Oh, yes, I should come back to
Spain. The peaceful quality of this conversation sticks in my memory, because of
what happened immediately afterwards.

When I got to the hotel my wife was sitting in the lounge. She got up and
came towards me in what struck me as a very unconcerned manner; then she put an
arm round my neck and, with a sweet smile for the benefit of the other people in
the lounge, hissed in my ear:

'Get out!'


'Get out of here at once!'


'Don't keep standing here! You must get outside quickly!'

'What? Why? What do you mean?'

She had me by the arm and was already leading me towards the stairs. Half-way
down we met a Frenchman--I am not going to give his name, for though he had no
connexion with the P.O.U.M. he was a good friend to us all during the trouble.
He looked at me with a concerned face.

'Listen! You mustn't come in here. Get out quickly and hide yourself before
they ring up the police.'

And behold! at the bottom of the stairs one of the hotel staff, who was a
P.O.U.M. member (unknown to the management, I fancy), slipped furtively out of
the lift and told me in broken English to get out. Even now I did not grasp what
had happened.

'What the devil is all this about?' I said, as soon as we were on the

'Haven't you heard?'

'No. Heard what? I've heard nothing.'

'The P.O.U.M.'S been suppressed. They've seized all the buildings.
Practically everyone's in prison. And they say they're shooting people

So that was it. We had to have somewhere to talk. All the big cafes on the
Ramblas were thronged with police, but we found a quiet cafe in a side street.
My wife explained to me what had happened while I was away.

On 15 June the police had suddenly arrested Andres Nin in his office, and the
same evening had raided the Hotel Falcon and arrested all the people in it,
mostly militiamen on leave. The place was converted immediately into a prison,
and in a very little while it was filled to the brim with prisoners of all
kinds. Next day the P.O.U.M. was declared an illegal organization and all its
offices, book-stalls, sanatoria, Red Aid centres, and so forth were seized.
Meanwhile the police were arresting everyone they could lay hands on who was
known to have any connexion with the P.O.U.M. Within a day or two all or almost
all of the forty members of the Executive Committee were in prison. Possibly one
or two had escaped into hiding, but the police were adopting the trick
(extensively used on both sides in this war) of seizing a man's wife as a
hostage if he disappeared. There was no way of discovering how many people had
been arrested. My wife had heard that it was about four hundred in Barcelona
alone. I have since thought that even at that time the numbers must have been
greater. And the most fantastic people had been arrested. In some cases the
police had even gone to the length of dragging wounded militiamen out of the

It was all profoundly dismaying. What the devil was it all about? I could
understand their suppressing the P.O.U.M., but what were they arresting people
for? For nothing, so far as one could discover. Apparently the suppression of
the P.O.U.M. had a retrospective effect; the P.O.U.M. was now illegal, and
therefore one was breaking the law by having previously belonged to it. As
usual, none of the arrested people had been charged. Meanwhile, however, the
Valencia Communist papers were naming with the story of a huge 'Fascist plot',
radio communication with the enemy, documents signed in invisible ink, etc.,
etc. I have dealt with this story earlier. The significant thing was that it was
appearing only in the Valencia papers; I think I am right in saying that there
was not a single word about it, or about the suppression of the P.O.U.M., in any
Barcelona papers, Communist, Anarchist, or Republican. We first learned the
precise nature of the charges against the P.O.U.M. leaders not from any Spanish
paper but from the English papers that reached Barcelona a day or two later.
What we could not know at this time was that the Government was not responsible
for the charge of treachery and espionage, and that members of the Government
were later to repudiate it. We only vaguely knew that the P.O.U.M. leaders, and
presumably all the rest of us, were accused of being in Fascist pay. And already
the rumours were flying round that people were being secretly shot in jail.
There was a lot of exaggeration about this, but it certainly happened in some
cases, and there is not much doubt that it happened in the case of Nin. After
his arrest Nin was transferred to Valencia and thence to Madrid, and as early as
21 June the rumour reached Barcelona that he had been shot. Later the rumour
took a more definite shape: Nin had been shot in prison by the secret police and
his body dumped into the street. This story came from several sources, including
Federico Montsenys, an ex-member of the Government. From that day to this Nin
has never been heard of alive again. When, later, the Government were questioned
by delegates from various countries, they shilly-shallied and would say only
that Nin had disappeared and they knew nothing of his whereabouts. Some of the
newspapers produced a tale that he had escaped to Fascist territory. No evidence
was given in support of it, and Irujo, the Minister of Justice, later declared
that the Espagne news-agency had falsified his official communique. [Note 14, below]
In any case it is most unlikely that a political prisoner of Nin's importance
would be allowed to escape. Unless at some future time he is produced alive,
I think we must take it that he was murdered in prison.

[Note 14. See the reports of the Maxton delegation which
I referred to in Chapter II.]

The tale of arrests went on and on, extending over months, until the number
of political prisoners, not counting Fascists, swelled into thousands. One
noticeable thing was the autonomy of the lower ranks of the police. Many of the
arrests were admittedly illegal, and various people whose release had been
ordered by the Chief of Police were re--arrested at the jail gate and carried
off to 'secret prisons'. A typical case is that of Kurt Landau and his wife.
They were arrested about 17 June, and Landau immediately 'disappeared'. Five
months later his wife was still in jail, untried and without news of her
husband. She declared a hunger-strike, after which the Minister of Justice, sent
word to assure her that her husband was dead. Shortly afterwards she was
released, to be almost immediately re-arrested and flung into prison again. And
it was noticeable that the police, at any rate at first, seemed completely
indifferent as to any effect their actions might have upon the war. They were
quite ready to arrest military officers in important posts without getting
permission beforehand. About the end of June Jose Rovira, the general commanding
the 29th Division, was arrested somewhere near the front line by a party of
police who had been sent from Barcelona. His men sent a delegation to protest at
the Ministry of War. It was found that neither the Ministry of War, nor Ortega,
the chief of Police, had even been informed of Rovira's arrest. In the whole
business the detail that most sticks in my throat, though perhaps it is not of
great importance, is that all news of what was happening was kept from the
troops at the front. As you will have seen, neither I nor anyone else at the
front had heard anything about the suppression of the P.O.U.M. All the P.O.U.M.
militia headquarters, Red Aid centres, and so forth were functioning as usual,
and as late as 20 June and as far down the line as Lerida, only about 100 miles
from Barcelona, no one had heard what was happening. All word of it was kept out
of the Barcelona papers (the Valencia papers, which were running the spy
stories, did not reach the Aragon front), and no doubt one reason for arresting
all the P.O.U.M. militiamen on leave in Barcelona was to prevent them from
getting back to the front with the news. The draft with which I had gone up the
line on 15 June must have been about the last to go. I am still puzzled to know
how the thing was kept secret, for the supply lorries and so forth were still
passing to and fro; but there is no doubt that it was kept secret, and, as I
have since learned from a number of others, the men in the front line heard
nothing till several days later. The motive for all this is clear enough. The
attack on Huesca was beginning, the P.O.U.M. militia was still a separate unit,
and it was probably feared that if the men knew what was happening they would
refuse to fight. Actually nothing of the kind happened when the news arrived. In
the intervening days there must have been numbers of men who were killed without
ever learning that the newspapers in the rear were calling them Fascists. This
kind of thing is a little difficult to forgive. I know it was the usual policy
to keep bad news from the troops, and perhaps as a rule that is justified. But
it is a different matter to send men into battle and not even tell them that
behind their backs their party is being suppressed, their leaders accused of
treachery, and their friends and relatives thrown into prison.

My wife began telling me what had happened to our various friends. Some of
the English and other foreigners had got across the frontier. Williams and
Stafford Cottman had not been arrested when the Sanatorium Maurin was raided,
and were in hiding somewhere. So was John Mc-Nair, who had been in France and
had re-entered Spain after the P.O.U.M. was declared illegal--a rash thing to
do, but he had not cared to stay in safety while his comrades were in danger.
For the rest it was simply a chronicle of 'They've got so and so' and 'They've
got so and so'. They seemed to have 'got' nearly everyone. It took me aback to
hear that they had also 'got' George Kopp.

'What! Kopp? I thought he was in Valencia.'

It appeared that Kopp had come back to Barcelona; he had a letter from the
Ministry of War to the colonel commanding the engineering operations on the
eastern front. He knew that the P.O.U.M. had been suppressed, of course, but
probably it did not occur to him that the police could be such fools as to
arrest him when he was on his way to the front on an urgent military mission. He
had come round to the Hotel Continental to fetch his kit-bags; my wife had been
out at the time, and the hotel people had managed to detain him with some lying
story while they rang up the police. I admit I was angry when I heard of Kopp's
arrest. He was my personal friend, I had served under him for months, I had been
under fire with him, and I knew his history. He was a man who had sacrificed
everything--family, nationality, livelihood--simply to come to Spain and fight
against Fascism. By leaving Belgium without permission and joining a foreign
army while he was on the Belgian Army reserve, and, earlier, by helping to
manufacture munitions illegally for the Spanish Government, he had piled up
years of imprisonment for himself if he should ever return to his own country.
He had been in the line since October 1936, had worked his way up from
militiaman to major, had been in action I do not know how many times, and had
been wounded once. During the May trouble, as I had seen for myself, he had
prevented fighting locally and probably saved ten or twenty lives. And all they
could do in return was to fling him into jail. It is waste of time to be angry,
but the stupid malignity of this kind of thing does try one's patience.

Meanwhile they had not 'got' my wife. Although she had remained at the
Continental the police had made no move to arrest her. It was fairly obvious
that she was being used as a decoy duck. A couple of nights earlier, however, in
the small hours of the morning, six of the plain--clothes police had invaded our
room at the hotel and searched it. They had seized every scrap of paper we
possessed, except, fortunately, our passports and cheque-book. They had taken my
diaries, all our books, all the press-cuttings that had been piling up for
months past (I have often wondered what use those press-cuttings were to them),
all my war souvenirs, and all our letters. (Incidentally, they took away a
number of letters I had received from readers. Some of them had not been
answered, and of course I have not the addresses. If anyone who wrote to me
about my last book, and did not get an answer, happens to read these lines, will
he please accept this as an apology?) I learned afterwards that the police had
also seized various belongings that I had left at the Sanatorium Maunn. They
even carried off a bundle of my dirty linen. Perhaps they thought it had
messages written on it in invisible ink.

It was obvious that it would be safer for my wife to stay at the hotel, at
any rate for the time being. If she tried to disappear they would be after her
immediately. As for myself, I should have to go straight into hiding. The
prospect revolted me. In spite of the innumerable arrests it was almost
impossible for me to believe that I was in any danger. The whole thing seemed
too meaningless. It was the same refusal to take this idiotic onslaught
seriously that had led Kopp into jail. I kept saying, but why should anyone want
to arrest me? What had I done? I was not even a party member of the P.O.U.M.
Certainly I had carried arms during the May fighting, but so had (at a guess)
forty or fifty thousand people. Besides, I was badly in need of a proper night's
sleep. I wanted to risk it and go back to the hotel. My wife would not hear of
it. Patiently she explained the state of affairs. It did not matter what I had
done or not done. This was not a round-up of criminals; it was merely a reign of
terror. I was not guilty of any definite act, but I was guilty of 'Trotskyism'.
The fact that I had served in the P.O.U.M. militia was quite enough to get me
into prison. It was no use hanging on to the English notion that you are safe so
long as you keep the law. Practically the law was what the police chose to make
it. The only thing to do was to lie low and conceal the fact that I had anything
to do with the P.O.U.M. We went through the papers in my pockets. My wife made
me tear up my militiaman's card, which had P.O.U.M. on it in big letters, also a
photo of a group of militiamen with a P.O.U.M. flag in the background; that was
the kind of thing that got you arrested nowadays. I had to keep my discharge
papers, however. Even these were a danger, for they bore the seal of the 29th
Division, and the police would probably know that the 29th Division was the
P.O.U.M.; but without them I could be arrested as a deserter.

The thing we had got to think of now was getting out of Spain. There was no
sense in staying here with the certainty of imprisonment sooner or later. As a
matter of fact both of us would greatly have liked to stay, just to see what
happened. But I foresaw that Spanish prisons would be lousy places (actually
they were a lot worse than I imagined), once in prison you never knew when you
would get out, and I was in wretched health, apart from the pain in my arm. We
arranged to meet next day at the British Consulate, where Cottman and McNair
were also coming. It would probably take a couple of days to get our passports
in order. Before leaving Spain you had to have your passport stamped in three
separate places--by the Chief of Police, by the French Consul, and by the
Catalan immigration authorities. The Chief of Police was the danger, of course.
But perhaps the British Consul could fix things up without letting it be known
that we had anything to do with the P.O.U.M. Obviously there must be a list of
foreign 'Trotskyist' suspects, and very likely our names were on it, but with
luck we might get to the frontier before the list. There was sure to be a lot of
muddle and manana. Fortunately this was Spain and not Germany. The Spanish
secret police had some of the spirit of the Gestapo, but not much of its

So we parted. My wife went back to the hotel and I wandered off into the
darkness to find somewhere to sleep. I remember feeling sulky and bored. I had
so wanted a night in bed! There was nowhere I could go, no house where I could
take refuge. The P.O.U.M. had practically no underground organization. No doubt
the leaders had always realized that the party was likely to be suppressed, but
they had never expected a wholesale witch-hunt of this description. They had
expected it so little, indeed, that they were actually continuing the
alterations to the P.O.U.M. buildings (among other things they were constructing
a cinema in the Executive Building, which had previously been a bank) up to the
very day when the P.O.U.M. was suppressed. Consequently the rendezvous and
hiding-places which every revolutionary party ought to possess as a matter of
course did not exist. Goodness knows how many people--people whose homes had
been raided by the police--were sleeping in the streets that night. I had had
five days of tiresome journeys, sleeping in impossible places, my arm was
hurting damnably, and now these fools were chasing me to and fro and I had got
to sleep on the ground again. That was about as far as my thoughts went. I did
not make any of the correct political reflections. I never do when things are
happening. It seems to be always the case when I get mixed up in war or politics
--I am conscious of nothing save physical discomfort and a deep desire for this
damned nonsense to be over. Afterwards I can see the significance of events, but
while they are happening I merely want to be out of them--an ignoble trait,

I walked a long way and fetched up somewhere near the General Hospital. I
wanted a place where I could lie down without some nosing policeman finding me
and demanding my papers. I tried an air-raid shelter, but it was newly dug and
dripping with damp. Then I came upon the ruins of a church that had been gutted
and burnt in the revolution. It was a mere shell, four roofless walls
surrounding piles of rubble. In the half-darkness I poked about and found a kind
of hollow where I could lie down. Lumps of broken masonry are not good to lie
on, but fortunately it was a warm night and I managed to get several hours'

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