Tuesday, 3 July 2012

SPAIN: Not just football and George Orwell!

SPAIN's team last Sunday night triumphed in the EURO 2012 final, in what one newspaper has called 'an historic night in Kiev' .    In a 4-0 victory over Italy, Spain became the first coutry to win three major tournaments in a row and to become the 'greatest international team of all time'.  This morning the incumbent Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, said that he hoped the result would give some pleasure to the many unemployed Spaniards suffering from the downturn in economic activity.

Last month, Harry Eyres in his Saturday column in the Financial Times (02/06/12) wrote that at a dark and difficult junction in his own life Spain '... or rather its generous, warm-hearted people - opened up roomfuls of sunny windows, made me feel life was more various and richer than I had realised'.  He was he claimed 'in rebellion against aspects of (his) upbringing, (his) schooling, (his) class' and, he writes 'the Spanish and Catalan friends I made in Barcelona, and then more widely spread over the country, seemed to understand without too much explanation that ancient boarding schools and universities might have their oppressive aspects.'  Harry, clearly a middle-class lad, was in Spain after Franco died on the 20th,  November 1975 at the aged of 82, but I went to Spain in February 1963 to work with the young Spanish anarchist resistance to the regime while Franco was still in power; having been a former secondary modern boy who was the son of a Lancashire mill girl and a semi-skilled machinist. 

Harry Eyres, who knew the old anarchist John Retty, tells us that it helped that the Spaniards and Catalans 'revered George Orwell, who they saw Eton as a microcosm of a fascist state - even though that great and brave writer never seemed to me to convey much feel for Spain or Catalonia.'  Mr. Eyres writes of the Spaniards that:  'I was included, with no fuss at all, in family celebrations, invited to weddings, offered accommodation whenever I felt like it' and he continues 'there was an unforgettable kindness of picnics and on ... occassion a bottle of cider on trains and buses, as if food and drink were not private possessions but communal gifts.'    He says 'I was lucky to arrive in Spain at an intensely vibrant and exciting time for the country:  the early 1980s.'  He thinks that it was the best time to go to Spain because 'Democracy was being re-established (the country had only ever known one brief period of modern democracy in its history, the storm-tossed Second Republic of 1931-1936), and it was not without alarms especially the attempted coup d'etat of February 23 1981.'

I would say that his shows Harry Eyres, who says of Orwell he 'never seemed to me to convey much feel for Spain',  doesn't himself understand the deep eternal spirit of Spain and Spanish society, which to visitors from northern Europe has often proved irresistible even when it has been accompanied by an authoritarian regime in Madrid.  For Orwell, Spain and his experiences during the Spanish Civil War pursuaded him that the idea that socialism was a practically possiblity; simply because, as he says in his letters later, that the nature of the ordinary Spaniards he met won him over as nothing else could to the idea that a better more egalitarian world was possible.  Hence, anytime is a good time to go to Spain - that is Spain of the  Spaniards and not those parts of Spain that seem as if they have fallen off the back of a lorry because they are so full of foreigners from Northern Europe. 

My problem in spending so much time with English types in England now, either among careerists who are so ambitious, self-absorbed, or with the narrow-minded English eccentrics and stamp-collectors of the anarchist ilk, is that I often forget that there are decent people like those in Spain  who could possible make socialism work.  Mr. Eyres article has reminded me that I need another visit to Spain to recuperate from the inanities of English society, and paradoxically perhaps to appreciate England a bit more.

No comments: