Homage to Catalonia: You’ve read the book. Now see the film!

Oh fuck.

From The Brains That Brought You Battle in Seattle // This Revolution

In 1995, Ken Loach directed Land and Freedom (written by James “Jim” Allen: 1926–1999), a bastardised version of Homage in which the ‘anarchists’ were lumped in together with the POUM. (See the review Land & Freedom (or: I Couldn’t Afford the Rights to Homage to Catalonia)’, Black Flag, No.207: “I feel sorry for poor old Ken Loach, it must be terrible being a working class hero trying to make a film about the Spanish civil war when the enemy has all the best tunes. Thankfully he can sleep at night ‘cos he nicked them. I’m not talking about the fascists, of course, but the anarchists. In fact it would have been impossible to make a film about the POUM without extensively nicking from anarchist heritage because the POUM had none of their own…”)

And now, for your viewing pleasure:

Firth, Spacey to star in ‘Catalonia’
Pamela McClintock and John Hopewell
May 19, 2009

Hugh Hudson will direct the bigscreen adaptation of George Orwell’s “Catalonia,” with Colin Firth and Kevin Spacey attached to star. Arclight Films is repping the film at the Cannes market.

Hudson (“I Dreamed of Africa,” “Chariots of Fire”) will direct from a script by Bob Ellis…

Bob Motherhugging Ellis “has had a long and close involvement with politics, covering as a journalist twenty-four [electoral] campaigns in Australia, the UK and the USA, and writing speeches or slogans for Kim Beazley, Bob Carr, Mike Rann, Jim Bacon, John Faulkner, Cheryl Kernot, Bob Brown and Mark Latham.”


Note that something like 57 Australian citizens went to Spain to fight as part of the Communist ‘International Brigades’. One who did not was the Englishman Harvey Buttonshaw, who settled in Australia after WWII. Harvey, “went to Spain to fight with the Syndicalists in 1936, and told George Orwell to pull his head in, or he’d get shot, just before exactly that happened. He is among the group shown on the front cover of [one particular edition of] Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.”


The scale of Franco’s post-Civil War pogrom against his opponents and “enemies of the church” may never be known. The most conservative figure for executions between 1939 and 1946 is around 50,000; others estimate the number as high as 370,000. All that can be said is that local authorities in Spain are still [2004] excavating the mass graves of Franco’s victims, the Republican desaparecidos [disappeared], sixty-three years after the end of the war. There was also the still unanswered question of the fate of the 10,000 children of anti-Francoists taken away by the regime’s social services, priests and nuns and never heard of again… ~ Stuart Christie, Granny Made Me An Anarchist: General Franco, The Angry Brigade and Me, AK Press, 2007 (2004)

One of my own, initial introductions to anarchist thought came by way of the local, Melbourne Spanish anarchist community in exile, members of which re-published Noam Chomsky’s essay ‘Notes on Anarchism’ in 1991. In this context, see also : General Strike : ‘Federation’, November 28, 2008.

See also : ‘George Orwell and the Language of Spin’, Bob Ellis, The Australian Worker, October 2004 | ‘Reviewing the 1937 Spanish Civil War debate at the University of Melbourne 70 years on’, Fay Woodhouse (Paper presented @ ‘Labour Traditions: The tenth national labour history conference’, July 4–6, 2007 @ the University of Melbourne) | ‘Spanish Civil War and Cinema – Selected Bibliography’, David Archibald, (University of Glasgow, March 2009, PDF) | And of course the totally neat-o Poumista blog (even if I’m not cool enuff to make it on to his/her blogroll).

The Guardian on the reign in Spain, July 30, 2006 | Barcelona, 1936, July 21, 2006 | The Spanish Revolution and the English Literati, July 16, 2006.

We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a time. For, you must not forget, that we can also build palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least bit afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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8 Responses to Homage to Catalonia: You’ve read the book. Now see the film!

  1. Darrin Hodges says:

    Yeah ‘Catalonia’ was awesome, especially the bits where the reds are shooting anarchists and the anarchists are shooting reds – should be more of it really.

  2. @ndy says:

    Your grasp of Spanish history is both profound and nuanced — should be more of it really.

    By the way, how’s your mate Martin? Bit embarrassing having a raving anti-Semite on the team isn’t it Dazza?

  3. Thomas says:

    Wait, we’re you being sarcastic about this film? At any rate it’s a decent flick and just as sympathetic to the anarchists as the POUM.

  4. @ndy says:

    Me? Kinda. I think… I mean, you mean Land and Freedom yeah? If so, yes, I enjoyed the film: the village scene, in which the villagers debate how to go about re-constructing their village, is great. Criticism of the film stems from its historical inaccuracy, rather than technical proficiency or performance.

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  7. Tony Forbes says:

    I met Harvey Buttonshaw when I went to Lavers Hill to teach in 1981. He was a fascinating character and used to come up to the school and help the students with their French. Harvey loved blues music because it was so honest and unpretentious — just like Harvey. He told me about his time in the Spanish Civil War and showed me Orwell’s book that mentioned his name. What an interesting life! Tony Forbes teacher at Lavers Hill Consolidated 1981 to 84.

  8. Phil says:

    Harvey Buttenshaw’s son, Simon, was the graphic designer behind the Rip Curl brand. What a world.

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