A message of hope for the New Year

Wonderful stuff from Neil Ascherson in latest London Review of Books. This should be spread on a wide level as a message of hope in these sad and dark times:
“….the Spanish War can be remembered for its epiphanies. What happened in and around Barcelona in the first years of the war did not last, did not happen in most of Spain, ended in tragedy and a viciously disputed memory and made little difference to the war’s outcome. Adam Hochschild, in Spain in Our Hearts, suggests that the foreign journalists covering the war were so obsessed with the military struggle and the Republican leadership in Madrid that they hardly noticed the revolution going on outside their hotels. And yet Barcelona in those years, rather than what was done on the battlefields, was a brief revelation of something latent but dazzling in humanity: the hope to fly like angels.
It was one of those moments only Europe seems to do. The granite mountains of government and wealth, the ravines of class and the dark forests of the law, suddenly turn out to be cardboard stage scenery. Ordinary people kick them down and fall into one another’s arms. Everything is to be held and done in common; nobody is to be unwillingly obeyed; in the sunlight of what Robert Burns called ‘social love’, human beings return to their true nature of unselfish sharing. It’s a transfiguration first seen in the French Revolution; most recently (in flashes) during the 1968 ‘events’ of Berlin and the Paris May. We, or our children, will see it again.
In Barcelona and Catalonia, this epiphany was released (they wouldn’t have liked the word ‘led’) by anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists. Orwell arrived there in December 1936 to ‘fight fascism’ and walked about the streets in a daze, trying to adjust to a place where waiters and shop assistants spoke to him as an equal and where he was denounced for trying to give a lift-boy a tip. He wrote, with touching Englishness: ‘All this was queer and moving. There was much in it that I did not understand, in some way I did not even like it, but I recognised it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.’”

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