Highlights from Homage to Catalonia

The Spaniards are good at many things, but not at making war. All foreigners alike are appalled by their inefficiency, above all their maddening unpunctuality.

for some reason all the best matadors were Fascists.

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.

It was not till late March that I saw a bomb worth throwing.

I admit I was amazed and scandalized when I first saw it done. The idea of trying to convert your enemy instead of shooting him! I now think that from any point of view it was a legitimate manoeuvre.

Actually churches were pillaged everywhere and as a matter of course, because it was perfectly well understood that the Spanish Church was part of the capitalist racket.

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 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.

The Communist’s emphasis is always on centralism and efficiency, the Anarchist’s on liberty and equality.

When I joined the militia I had promised myself to kill one Fascist–after all, if each of us killed one they would soon be extinct–and I had killed nobody yet, had hardly had the chance to do so.

If there is one thing I hate more than another it is a rat running over me in the darkness.

I have felt exactly the same thing when stalking a wild animal; the same agonized desire to get within range, the same dreamlike certainty that it is impossible.

Many of the normal motives of civilized life–snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.–had simply ceased to exist.

And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me. The effect was to make my desire to see Socialism established much more actual than it had been before. Partly, perhaps, this was due to the good luck of being among Spaniards, who, with their innate decency and their ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of Socialism tolerable if they had the chance.

A fat man eating quails while children are begging for bread is a disgusting sight, but you are less likely to see it when you are within sound of the guns.

It is a horrible thing to have to enter into the details of inter-party polemics; it is like diving into a cesspool.

There are occasions when it pays better to fight and be beaten than not to fight at all.

Anyone who has served in Spain knows that the one operation of war that Spaniards really perform really well is that of feeding their troops.

Since 1930 the Fascists had won all the victories; it was time they got a beating, it hardly mattered from whom.

My second was a violent resentment at having to leave this world which, when all is said and done, suits me so well.

To be killed in battle– yes, that is what one expects; but to be flung into jail, not even for any imaginary offence, but simply owing to dull blind spite, and then left to die in solitude–that is a different matter.

I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards. I only twice remember even being seriously angry with a Spaniard, and on each occasion, when I look back, I believe I was in the wrong myself.

Highlights from Rules for Radicals

“The establishment in many ways is as suicidal as some of the far left

If we fail to communicate with them, if we don’t encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right.

We must first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be.

Political realists see the world as it is: an arena of power politics moved primarily by perceived immediate self-interests, where morality is rhetorical rationale for expedient action and self-interest.

The pursuit of happiness is never-ending; happiness lies in the pursuit.

Concern for our private, material well-being with disregard for the well-being of others is immoral according to the precepts of our Judaeo-Christian civilization, but worse, it is stupidity worthy of the lower animals.

In short, ethics are determined by whether one is losing or winning.

The ninth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.

To oversimplify, what Gandhi did was to say, “Look, you are all sitting there anyway—so instead of sitting there, why don’t you sit over here and while you’re sitting, say Independence Now!'”

The Haves develop their own morality to justify their means of repression and all other means employed to maintain the status quo.

and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life.

To pander to those who have no stomach for straight language, and insist upon bland, non controversial sauces, is a waste of time.

he knows that worn-out words like “white racist,” “fascist pig,” and “motherfucker” have been so spewed about that using them is now within the negative experience of the local people

They knew not only of my concern about their plight but that I liked them as people. I felt their response in friendship, and we were together. It is in this totality of the situation that I did what, otherwise, would have been offensive.

With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons. It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason—this is a fight with a windmill. The organizer should know and accept that the right reason is only introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved, although it may have been achieved for the wrong reason—therefore he should search for and use the wrong reasons to achieve the right goals.

Communication on a general basis without being fractured into the specifics of experience becomes rhetoric and it carries a very limited meaning.

Organizations are built on issues that are specific, immediate, and realizable.

It is impossible to maintain constant action on a single issue. A single issue is a fatal strait jacket that will stifle the life of an organization.

We learn, when we respect the dignity of the people, that they cannot be denied the elementary right to participate fully in the solutions to their own problems. Self-respect arises only out of people who play an active role in solving their own crises and who are not helpless, passive, puppet-like recipients of private or public services.

One big problem is a constant shifting of responsibility from one jurisdiction to another—individuals and bureaus one after another disclaim responsibility for particular conditions, attributing the authority for any change to some other force.

You can insult and annoy him, but the one thing that is unforgivable and that is certain to get him to react is to laugh at him. This causes an irrational anger.

They are right; but we must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the big middle-class majority.

They see the poor going to colleges with the waiving of admission requirements and given special financial aid. In many cases the lower middle class were denied the opportunity of college by these very circumstances.

People must be “reformed”—so they cannot be deformed into dependency and driven through desperation to dictatorship and the death of freedom. The “silent majority,” now, are hurt, bitter, suspicious, feeling rejected and at bay. This sick condition in many ways is as explosive as the current race crisis. Their fears and frustrations at their helplessness are mounting to a point of a political paranoia which can demonize people to turn to the law of survival in the narrowest sense.

The frenetic scene around them is so bewildering as to induce them to either drop out into a private world, the nonexistent past, sick with its own form of social schizophrenia—or to face it and move into action.

The middle classes are numb, bewildered, scared into silence. They don’t know what, if anything, they can do. This is the job for today’s radical—to fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame to fight.