The Crystal Spirit Script

From Andy Fedak
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Text Selections (notes in italics)

And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me.”

chapter 8, 5th paragraph, 4th sentence then skips a little in the middle of paragraph and pick up again

"I had dropped more or less by chance into the only community of any size in Western Europe where political consciousness and disbelief in capitalism were more normal than their opposites. Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living at 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 foretaste of Socialism, by which I mean that the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of civilized life — snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc. — had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of 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 upon anyone who experienced it. However much one cursed at the time, one realized 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. "...

"For the Spanish militias, while they lasted, were a sort of microcosm of a classless society. In that community where no one was on the make, where there was a shortage of everything but no privilege and no boot-licking, one got, perhaps, a crude forecast of what the opening stages of Socialism might be like. And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me."

Near Alcubierre, one of the actual bunkers where Orwell was located during the war has been reconstructed into what it might have looked like at the time. The ruins seem to be integrated into the reconstruction in some places to the point you can’t tell what is fake and what is genuinely from the time he was there.

“They had attempted to produce within the militias a sort of temporary working model of the classless society.“

Chapter 3, paragraph 8, 8th sentence, skips a sentence then continues

"In a workers’ army discipline is theoretically voluntary. It is based on class-loyalty, whereas the discipline of a bourgeois conscript army is based ultimately on fear."...

"In the militias the bullying and abuse that go on in an ordinary army would never have been tolerated for a moment. The normal military punishments existed, but they were only invoked for very serious offenses. When a man refused to obey an order you did not immediately get him punished; you first appealed to him in the name of comradeship. Cynical people with no experience of handling men will say instantly that this would never ‘work’, but as a matter of fact it does ‘work’ in the long run. The discipline of even the worst drafts of militia visibly improved as time went on. In January the job of keeping a dozen raw recruits up to the mark almost turned my hair grey. In May for a short while I was acting-lieutenant in command of about thirty men, English and Spanish. We had all been under fire for months, and I never had the slightest difficulty in getting an order obeyed or in getting men to volunteer for a dangerous job. ‘Revolutionary’ discipline depends on political consciousness "...

Chapter 3, paragraph 7, 6th sentence

"Everyone from general to private drew the same pay, ate the same food, wore the same clothes, and mingled on terms of complete equality. If you wanted to slap the general commanding the division on the back and ask him for a cigarette, you could do so, and no one thought it curious. In theory at any rate each militia was a democracy and not a hierarchy. It was understood that orders had to be obeyed, but it was also understood that when you gave an order you gave it as comrade to comrade and not as superior to inferior. There were officers and N.C.O.S. but there was no military rank in the ordinary sense; no titles, no badges, no heel-clicking and saluting. They had attempted to produce within the militias a sort of temporary working model of the classless society."

This particular location moves away from the reconstructed barracks, and on into the area which has been excavated nearby. The larger space which begins the piece is a water retention pit, and is untouched as to how it was years ago.  The corner on which the worm was photographed was located within the reconstructed section, the rock itself is real and historical, but the constructed walls are new.  

"The Anarchist viewpoint is less easily defined.”

Chapter 5, 18th paragraph, first sentence then skips 3 sentences and ends with “equality”  not end of paragraph

"The Anarchist viewpoint is less easily defined. In any case the loose term ‘Anarchists’ is used to cover a multitude of people of very varying opinions" ....

"Nevertheless they differed fundamentally from the Communists in so much that, like the P.O.U.M., they aimed at workers’ control and not a parliamentary democracy. They accepted the P.O.U.M. slogan: ‘The war and the revolution are inseparable’, though they were less dogmatic about it. Roughly speaking, the C.N.T.—F.A.I. stood for: (i) Direct control over industry by the workers engaged in each industry, e.g. transport, the textile factories, etc.; (2) Government by local committees and resistance to all forms of centralized authoritarianism; (3) Uncompromising hostility to the bourgeoisie and the Church. The last point, though the least precise, was the most important. The Anarchists were the opposite of the majority of so-called revolutionaries in so much that though their principles were rather vague their hatred of privilege and injustice was perfectly genuine. Philosophically, Communism and Anarchism are poles apart. Practically — i.e. in the form of society aimed at — the difference is mainly one of emphasis, but it is quite irreconcilable.  The Communist's emphasis is always on centralism and efficiency, the Anarchist's on liberty and equality.”

This bunker was constructed in Lanaja, not too far from the area in which Orwell was located.  It was built by Republican forces and overlooks a wide swath of land, over 180 degrees from both outlooks.

In the text Orwell makes reference to the CNT - FAI.  These are the two large anarchist unions in Catalonia.  CNT stands for the National Confederation of Labor, and the FAI stands for the Iberian Anarchist Federation.   Many times the two are linked, like above as they are so often mentioned in the same breath.  The FAI is a faction within the CNT and is more militant, while the CNT is more oriented for workers rights, federalism, and mutual aid.

“…for some reason all the best matadors were Fascists.”

Chapter 2, first paragraph, 3rd sentence

"On a ruinous wall I came upon a poster dating from the previous year and announcing that ‘six handsome bulls’ would be killed in the arena on such and such a date. How forlorn its faded colours looked! Where were the handsome bulls and the handsome bull-fighters now? It appeared that even in Barcelona there were hardly any bullfights nowadays; for some reason all the best matadors were Fascists."

The Osborne Bull was erected in 1956 as an advertisement for a new brandy that the Osborne Company was selling.  Over the years the bull became a symbol for Spanish power and moved into the public domain, no longer a product but an icon.  It is even shown on the flag from time to time, and to this day the bulls are located all over the countryside.  In Catalonia the bull is seen as a symbol of restraints that the country has placed over Catalan culture.  Thus from time to time the bull is burned or vandalized.  More recently, bullfighting, the most famous of Spanish customs, has been banned in Catalonia.

“….as an anti-revolutionary force."

Chapter 5, 11th paragraph - huge paragraph again, starts after “the seizure of the barcelona telegraph exchange, then after a few sentences, skips a little bit and picks up again

"the workers’ militias, based on the trade unions, were gradually broken up and redistributed among the new Popular Army, a ‘non-political’ army on semi-bourgeois lines, with a differential pay rate, a privileged officer-caste, etc., etc. In the special circumstances this was the really decisive step; it happened later in Catalonia than elsewhere because it was there that the revolutionary parties were strongest. Obviously the only guarantee that the workers could have of retaining their winnings was to keep some of the armed forces under their own control. As usual, the breaking-up of the militias was done in the name of military efficiency; and no one denied that a thorough military reorganization was needed. It would, however, have been quite possible to reorganize the militias and make them more efficient while keeping them under direct control of the trade unions; the main purpose of the change was to make sure that the Anarchists did not possess an army of their own. Moreover, the democratic spirit of the militias made them breeding-grounds for revolutionary ideas. The Communists were well aware of this, and inveighed ceaselessly and bitterly against the P.O.U.M. and Anarchist principle of equal pay for all ranks. A general ‘bourgeoisification’, a deliberate destruction of the equalitarian spirit of the first few months of the revolution, was taking place."...

"The whole process is easy to understand if one remembers that it proceeds from the temporary alliance that Fascism, in certain forms, forces upon the bourgeois and the worker. This alliance, known as the Popular Front, is in essential an alliance of enemies, and it seems probable that it must always end by one partner swallowing the other. The only unexpected feature in the Spanish situation — and outside Spain it has caused an immense amount of misunderstanding — is that among the parties on the Government side the Communists stood not upon the extreme Left, but upon the extreme Right. In reality this should cause no surprise, because the tactics of the Communist Party elsewhere, especially in France, have made it clear that Official Communism must be regarded, at any rate for the time being, as an anti-revolutionary force."

Montserrat is the location of the Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery where during the war 22 monks were killed by Republican forces.  After the war many republicans hid upon the mountain hoping to avoid the nationalists controlling the land below.

“The thing that had happened in Spain was, in fact, not merely a civil war, but the beginning of a revolution.”

Chapter 5, paragraph 8, 4th sentence down to end

"Along with the collectivization of industry and transport there was an attempt to set up the rough beginnings of a workers’ government by means of local committees, workers’ patrols to replace the old pro-capitalist police forces, workers’ militias based on the trade unions, and so forth. Of course the process was not uniform, and it went further in Catalonia than elsewhere. There were areas where the institutions of local government remained almost untouched, and others where they existed side by side with revolutionary committees. In a few places independent Anarchist communes were set up, and some of them remained in being till about a year later, when they were forcibly suppressed by the Government. In Catalonia, for the first few months, most of the actual power was in the hands of the Anarcho-syndicalists, who controlled most of the key industries. The thing that had happened in Spain was, in fact, not merely a civil war, but the beginning of a revolution.”

José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the street upon which the piece starts, was the founder of the Falange (Phalanx), the major fascist movement in Spain.  Belchite itself was a nationalist stronghold and was captured by the republican forces during the war.  When Franco’s forces recaptured the town it was left as is, and those forces who were captured there were made to build a new Belchite adjacent.  The rubble of the old town was left as a sign to those nationalists who fell in battle there.  The building located in front of the wind turbine’s is a concentration camp where these prisoners were housed.  According to a local resident the fountain in the piece is the location where many involved in the Republican attack were shot and killed - “The streets ran with blood”.  In the final composite, the graffiti (which has since been covered up) on the door of the cathedral is translated as:

“Old town of Belchite, young children won´t walk around you any more, the "jotas" our parents used to sing won´t be heard any more.”  

“…and which undoubtedly has a religious tinge.”

Chapter 6, paragraph 14

“It struck me that the people in this part of Spain must be genuinely without religious feeling — religious feeling, I mean, in the orthodox sense. It is curious that all the time I was in Spain I never once saw a person cross himself; yet you would think such a movement would become instinctive, revolution or no revolution. Obviously the Spanish Church will come back (as the saying goes, night and the Jesuits always return), but there is no doubt that at the outbreak of the revolution it collapsed and was smashed up to an extent that would be unthinkable even for the moribund C. of E. in like circumstances. To the Spanish people, at any rate in Catalonia and Aragon, the Church was a racket pure and simple. And possibly Christian belief was replaced to some extent by Anarchism, whose influence is widely spread and which undoubtedly has a religious tinge.”

The cross was placed there by Franco to commemorate the fallen nationalist soldiers in the battle of Belchite.

“…with the normal division into rich and poor.”

chapter 9, first two paragraphs with a skip in the 2nd paragraph

"From Mandalay, in Upper Burma, you can travel by train to Maymyo, the principal hill-station of the province, on the edge of the Shan plateau. It is rather a queer experience. You start off in the typical atmosphere of an eastern city — the scorching sunlight, the dusty palms, the smells of fish and spices and garlic, the squashy tropical fruits, the swarming dark-faced human beings — and because you are so used to it you carry this atmosphere intact, so to speak, in your railway carriage. Mentally you are still in Mandalay when the train stops at Maymyo, four thousand feet above sea-level. But in stepping out of the carriage you step into a different hemisphere. Suddenly you are breathing cool sweet air that might be that of England, and all round you are green grass, bracken, fir-trees, and hill-women with pink cheeks selling baskets of strawberries.

Getting back to Barcelona, after three and a half months at the front, reminded me of this. There was the same abrupt and startling change of atmosphere. In the train, all the way to Barcelona, the atmosphere of the front persisted; the dirt, the noise, the discomfort, the ragged clothes the feeling of privation, comradeship, and equality." ....  

.... "Everyone was profoundly happy, more happy than I can convey. But when the train had rolled through Sabadell and into Barcelona, we stepped into an atmosphere that was scarcely less alien and hostile to us and our kind than if this had been Paris or London."...

Chapter 9, 8th paragraph - skips first few words

"there was the startling change in the social atmosphere — a thing difficult to conceive unless you have actually experienced it. When I first reached Barcelona I had thought it a town where class distinctions and great differences of wealth hardly existed. Certainly that was what it looked like. ‘Smart’ clothes were an abnormality, nobody cringed or took tips, waiters and flower-women and bootblacks looked you in the eye and called you ‘comrade’. I had not grasped that this was mainly a mixture of hope and camouflage. The working class believed in a revolution that had been begun but never consolidated, and the bourgeoisie were scared and temporarily disguising themselves as workers. In the first months of revolution there must have been many thousands of people who deliberately put on overalls and shouted revolutionary slogans as a way of saving their skins. Now things were returning to normal. "

Chapter 5, 11th paragraph - huge paragraph, it’s about 3/4ths of the way down

"what had seemed on the surface and for a brief instant to be a workers’ State was changing before one's eyes into an ordinary bourgeois republic with the normal division into rich and poor."

The Generalitat of Catalonia, the face of Catalan autonomy in Spain, has a huge historical significance to the people of Catalonia.  Each time when Catalonia lost it’s rights, it’s freedom, it was here that it was taken away and here that it was restored. Ironically the Anarchist influence in Barcelona which kept the fascists from sweeping into the city during the coup did not wish at first to fully participate in this political enterprise.  Anarchism itself is based on non-heretical structures, and thus a political government is antithetical to this belief, but in the idea of the greater good it fought alongside this more classical type democratic institutions.  This amalgamation was termed the popular front.  

The spanish republic was envisioned by some artists as a spanish woman.

The ramblas, translated as a “long meandering stream” , runs through much of the city and plays a role in the book.  Along this path is the hotel Continental, the location where Orwell stayed during his time there (at least while he could).  

Finally the cemetery in the piece is Montjuic cemetery, I was searching for Buenaventura Durruti’s grave, the great Anarchist hero, but could not find it and got lost.