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Chapter 8

THE days grew hotter and even the nights grew tolerably warm. On a bullet-- chipped tree in front of our parapet thick clusters of cherries were forming. Bathing in the river ceased to be an agony and became almost a pleasure. Wild roses with pink blooms the size of saucers straggled over the shell-holes round Torre Fabian. Behind the line you met peasants wearing wild roses over their ears. In the evenings they used to go out with green nets, hunting quails. You spread the net over the tops of the grasses and then lay down and made a noise like a female quail. Any male quail that was within hearing then came running towards you, and when he was underneath the net you threw a stone to scare him, whereupon he sprang into the air and was entangled in the net. Apparently only male quails were caught, which struck me as unfair.

There was a section of Andalusians next to us in the line now. I do not know quite how they got to this front. The current explanation was that they had run away from Malaga so fast that they had forgotten to stop at Valencia; but this, of course, came from the Catalans, who professed to look down on the Andalusians as a race of semi-savages. Certainly the Andalusians were very ignorant. Few if any of them could read, and they seemed not even to know the one thing that everybody knows in Spain--which political party they belonged to. They thought they were Anarchists, but were not quite certain; perhaps they were Communists. They were gnarled, rustic-looking men, shepherds or labourers from the olive groves, perhaps, with faces deeply stained by the ferocious suns of farther south. They were very useful to us, for they had an extraordinary dexterity at rolling the dried-up Spanish tobacco into cigarettes. The issue of cigarettes had ceased, but in Monflorite it was occasionally possible to buy packets of the cheapest kind of tobacco, which in appearance and texture was very like chopped chaff. Its flavour was not bad, but it was so dry that even when you had succeeded in making a cigarette the tobacco promptly fell out and left an empty cylinder. The Andalusians, however, could roll admirable cigarettes and had a special technique for tucking the ends in.

Two Englishmen were laid low by sunstroke. My salient memories of that time are the heat of the midday sun, and working half-naked with sand--bags punishing one's shoulders which were already flayed by the sun; and the lousiness of our clothes and boots, which were literally dropping to pieces; and the struggles with the mule which brought our rations and which did not mind rifle-fire but took to flight when shrapnel burst in the air; and the mosquitoes (just beginning to be active) and the rats, which were a public nuisance and would even devour leather belts and cartridge-pouches. Nothing was happening except an occasional casualty from a sniper's bullet and the sporadic artillery-fire and air-raids on Huesca. Now that the trees were in full leaf we had constructed snipers' platforms, like machans, in the poplar trees that fringed the line. On the other side of Huesca the attacks were petering out. The Anarchists had had heavy losses and had not succeeded in completely cutting the Jaca road. They had managed to establish themselves close enough on either side to bring the road itself under machine-gun fire and make it impassable for traffic; but the gap was a kilometre wide and the Fascists had constructed a sunken road, a sort of enormous trench, along which a certain number of lorries could come and go. Deserters reported that in Huesca there were plenty of munitions and very little food. But the town was evidently not going to fall. Probably it would have been impossible to take it with the fifteen thousand ill-armed men who were available. Later, in June, the Government brought troops from the Madrid front and concentrated thirty thousand men on Huesca, with an enormous quantity of aeroplanes, but still the town did not fall.

When we went on leave I had been a hundred and fifteen days in the line, and at the time this period seemed to me to have been one of the most futile of my whole life. I had joined the militia in order to fight against Fascism, and as yet I had scarcely fought at all, had merely existed as a sort of passive object, doing nothing in return for my rations except to suffer from cold and lack of sleep. Perhaps that is the fate of most soldiers in most wars. But now that I can see this period in perspective I do not altogether regret it. I wish, indeed, that I could have served the Spanish Government a little more effectively; but from a personal point of view--from the point of view of my own development--those first three or four months that I spent in the line were less futile than I then thought. They formed a kind of interregnum in my life, quite different from anything that had gone before and perhaps from anything that is to come, and they taught me things that I could not have learned in any other way.

The essential point is that all this time I had been isolated--for at the front one was almost completely isolated from the outside world: even of what was happening in Barcelona one had only a dim conception--among people who could roughly but not too inaccurately be described as revolutionaries. This was the result of the militia--system, which on the Aragon front was not radically altered till about June 1937. The workers' militias, based on the trade unions and each composed of people of approximately the same political opinions, had the effect of canalizing into one place all the most revolutionary sentiment in the country. 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. I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' that Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all. And it was here that those few months in the militia were valuable to me. 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. 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.

Of course at the time I was hardly conscious of the changes that were occurring in my own mind. Like everyone about me I was chiefly conscious of boredom, heat, cold, dirt, lice, privation, and occasional danger. It is quite different now. This period which then seemed so futile and eventless is now of great importance to me. It is so different from the rest of my life that already it has taken on the magic quality which, as a rule, belongs only to memories that are years old. It was beastly while it was happening, but it is a good patch for my mind to browse upon. I wish I could convey to you the atmosphere of that time. I hope I have done so, a little, in the earlier chapters of this book. It is all bound up in my mind with the winter cold, the ragged uniforms of militiamen, the oval Spanish faces, the morse-like tapping of machine-guns, the smells of urine and rotting bread, the tinny taste of bean-stews wolfed hurriedly out of unclean pannikins.

The whole period stays by me with curious vividness. In my memory I live over incidents that might seem too petty to be worth recalling. I am in the dug-out at Monte Pocero again, on the ledge of limestone that serves as a bed, and young Ramon is snoring with his nose flattened between my shoulder-blades. I am stumbling up the mucky trench, through the mist that swirls round me like cold steam. I am half-way up a crack in the mountain-side, struggling to keep my balance and to tug a root of wild rosemary out of the ground. High overhead some meaningless bullets are singing.

I am lying hidden among small fir-trees on the low ground west of Monte Oscuro, with Kopp and Bob Edwards and three Spaniards. Up the naked grey hill to the right of us a string of Fascists are climbing like ants. Close in front a bugle-call rings out from the Fascist lines. Kopp catches my eye and, with a schoolboy gesture, thumbs his nose at the sound.

I am in the mucky yard at La Granja, among the mob of men who are struggling with their tin pannikins round the cauldron of stew. The fat and harassed cook is warding them off with the ladle. At a table nearby a bearded man with a huge automatic pistol strapped to his belt is hewing loaves of bread into five pieces. Behind me a Cockney voice (Bill Chambers, with whom I quarrelled bitterly and who was afterwards killed outside Huesca) is singing:

There are rats, rats,     Rats as big as cats,     In the. . .

A shell comes screaming over. Children of fifteen fling themselves on their faces. The cook dodges behind the cauldron. Everyone rises with a sheepish expression as the shell plunges and booms a hundred yards away.

I am walking up and down the line of sentries, under the dark boughs of the poplars. In the flooded ditch outside the rats are paddling about, making as much noise as otters. As the yellow dawn comes up behind us, the Andalusian sentry, muffled in his cloak, begins singing. Across no man's land, a hundred or two hundred yards away, you can hear the Fascist sentry also singing.

On 25 April, after the usual mananas, another section relieved us and we handed over our rifles, packed our kits, and marched back to Monflorite. I was not sorry to leave the line. The lice were multiplying in my trousers far faster than I could massacre them, and for a month past I had had no socks and my boots had very little sole left, so that I was walking more or less barefoot. I wanted a hot bath, clean clothes, and a night between sheets more passionately than it is possible to want anything when one has been living a normal civilized life. We slept a few hours in a barn in Monflorite, jumped a lorry in the small hours, caught the five o'clock train at Barbastro, and--having the luck to connect with a fast train at Lerida--were in Barcelona by three o'clock in the afternoon of the 26th. And after that the trouble began.

 

白天变得越来越热,夜晚也是如此。我们胸墙前方弹痕累累的樱桃树上,花儿成簇地开放。跳到小河里洗个冷水澡,已经不再是一件痛苦不堪的事,而是一种非常快活的享受。在托尔费边一带,野玫瑰的枝蔓爬过弹坑周围的环形土堆,凌空悬挂在弹坑的上方,浅碟般大的粉红色花簇争相怒放。在战线的后方,你会经常见到耳边插着野玫瑰的农民。傍晚,他们常常带上绿色的网到野外去捕鹌鹑。你只要在草丛的上方布上网,然后躺下不动模仿母鹌鹑的叫声就行了。所有听到这种叫声的公鹌鹑,都以为母鹌鹑在呼唤自己,一定会马上朝你这个方向跑过来。等这些循声而来的鹌鹑急切地进入网下草丛后,你再朝网上投一块石子惊吓它们,这样,它们就会立即往上窜逃,结果全都被网死死缠住。事实再清楚不过,上当倒霉的都是公鹌鹑,这使我深深地感到太不公平了。

这时,防线内有一群安达卢西亚人向我们靠拢过来。我不大清楚他们是如何进入这一防线的。一般的说法是,他们当初逃离马拉加时太过匆忙,忘记了应该在巴伦西亚停下来。当然,这是加泰罗尼亚人说的,他们蔑称安达卢西亚人是半野蛮人。安达卢西亚人也确实比较愚昧无知。他们当中很少有人识字,他们甚至连在西班牙人所共知的事,即自己究竟属于哪一个政党,全都浑然不知。他们以为自己属于无政府主义者,但不很确定,也许自己属于共产主义者。他们是些性情古怪、相貌质朴的汉子,多以牧羊或在橄榄园打工为生——大概是遥远南方的炽热的阳光,硬生生地晒黑了他们的面庞。他们对我们非常有帮助,因为奥妙能熟练地把干燥的西班牙烟草卷成烟卷。抽烟的事已不用发愁了,在蒙佛洛莱特,碰巧能够买上好几袋最便宜的烟草,其外表和质地很像剁碎了的干草料。烟草的味道虽说很不错,但却那么干燥,以至于你即使勉强地卷成了一支,烟草仍会马上掉出来,只剩下空空的纸筒。然而,安达卢西亚人却能将它卷成令你羡慕的烟卷,他们包裹烟头的技术尤其独特精湛。

有两个英国人中暑倒下了。当时我记得最清楚的是,在中午炽热的阳光下,我们必须光着上身干活,用沙袋来折磨已被太阳晒得脱了皮的肩膀;我们衣服和靴子上的泥垢成块地往下掉;我们要与驮送给养的骡子进行扭斗,它们不在乎枪声,却常常被炮弹在空中爆炸的巨大声响惊吓得乱窜;还有刚刚开始神气起来的蚊子,以及甚至会咬烂皮带和弹药袋的那些令人讨厌的老鼠。除了狙击手开火造成偶尔的伤亡、零星的炮击和韦斯卡上空的空袭,再也没有别的事发生。白杨树已经长满了叶子,我们在遮蔽住战线的树丛中为狙击手搭建了射击台。在韦斯卡的另一边,攻势逐渐停止。无政府主义者损失惨重,未能完全切断杰卡那段道路。他们设法在靠近道路的两侧扎营,使道路处在机枪火力的控制之下,让敌人无法通车。但道路宽达一公里,法西斯军队早就修筑了一条地下通道——一条巨大的壕沟,大批卡车依然能够通过壕沟来来往往。据叛逃士兵说,韦斯卡有充足的军需品,但食品储存不多。然而韦斯卡就是久攻不下。也许,即使出动现有的装备落后的全部15000人马,要攻克这座城镇也是不可能的。后来,在6月份,政府从马德里前线抽调军队,在韦斯卡周边集中三万兵力,并以大量飞机作掩护,结果还是未能攻下这座城市。

我们继续进行休整,我在前线已经渡过了115天。当时,我感到这段时间对我来说也许是我一生中最无所作为的日子。我之所以参加民兵为的是抗击法西斯主义,可我至今几乎没有参加过战斗,只是有如物品那样被动存在,除了忍受寒冷和缺乏睡眠外,碌碌无为,甚至有点对不起发给我的给养。这兴许也就是多数战争中多数军人的命运吧。不过,现在我能正确地看待这一时期,对此全不后悔。的确,我本希望我能更好地为西班牙政府做点事,但从个人的观点来看——从我自己发展着的观点来看,我在前线度过的那最初的三四个月,并不像当时自己认为的那样碌碌无为。这段时间教会了我以任何方式都不可能学到的东西。

至为重要的一点是,在整个这段时间里,我一直感到很孤独,因为在前线,人人都几乎与外面的世界完全隔绝。我甚至连巴塞罗那在发生些什么事,也只有模糊不清的概念——那里有大概但不太准确地被描述为革命者的人。这是民兵体制造成的结果。在阿拉贡前线,这种体制直到1937年6月前后才从根本上得到改变。工人民兵,只有通过工会而且是由政治观点相近的人组成的工会的推举,才有权进入这个国家中最具革命情绪的地方。我来到这个西欧所有社会中唯一的一个在政治意识和对资本主义的怀疑比其对立面更正规的地方,这或多或少是偶然的。在阿拉贡这个地方,数万人中才只有一个人能够来到这里,这些人中的大部分虽然并不都是工人阶级出身,但他们都是生活在同等水平线上并按平等的原则走到一起来的人。大家在理论上完全平等,甚至实际上的平等与理论上的平等也差不离。(我有一种感觉——这里人们预先品尝到了社会主义的滋味,我想说的是,在这里占主导地位的精神氛围就是社会主义的。)许多文明生活中司空见惯的行为——势利、压榨钱财、惧怕老板等等都已不复存在。森严的社会阶级差别在一定程度上已经消失,这在充满铜臭和腐败空气的英国几乎是令人难以置信的。这儿只有农民和我们自己,而且也没有任何人想要别人来做他的主宰。当然,这样的事态不会长久持续下去。它只是暂时的、只是全球大搏杀的一个局部过程。但是,这里所发生的一切,毕竟对曾经亲身经历过的人们产生了深刻的影响。无论那时的咒骂声有多少,但事后人们却总是发现自己确实与某种奇怪的、有价值的东西有所联系。人们全都相处在同样的集体中,在那里,满怀希望要比冷漠或玩世不恭更正常;在那里,“同志”一词代表着友谊,不像在许多国家里那样代表着欺骗。人人都呼吸到了平等的空气。我非常清楚地了解时下正在流行的否定社会主义与平等有任何关系的滥调。在世界各国,都有许多政治党派重金雇佣一大批帮闲文人和圆滑世故的教授,正在忙于“证明”社会主义充其量不过是抓住尚未为人把握的机遇而设计出来的国家资本主义。但幸运的是,也有与此截然不同的社会主义观点存在。真正吸引着普通人投身社会主义,并使他们愿意为社会主义——“社会主义的神秘感”而甘冒生命危险的,正是平等这个理念。对于绝大多数人来讲,社会主义意味着它是一个无阶级制度的社会,否则什么也不是。当然,正是因为如此,我在这儿——在民兵部队的那几个月,对我很重要。只要他们存在下去,西班牙民兵部队就是一个无阶级社会的缩影。在那个集体中,没有人热衷于追名逐利,虽然每样东西都短缺,但没有特权和巴结,人人都能粗略地尝到可能像社会主义起始阶段那样的滋味。最终,这不仅没有使我对社会主义的幻想破灭,反而深深地吸引了我。结果倒是让我产生了一个强烈的愿望,那就是看到一个比此前出现的更加现实的社会主义社会的建立。这部分也是由于我有幸成为了西班牙人的一分子。凭着西班牙人与生俱来的高雅和无时不在的无政府主义色彩,如果把握好机会,他们一定能创造出相当不错的社会主义初始阶段来。

当然,那时候我几乎连自己也没有注意到我的思想意识在发生某些变化。像身边的每个人一样,我主要是感到烦闷、酷热、寒冷、肮脏、虱子多、东西匮乏,以及时而出现的危险。那时的情形与我现在完全不同。当时看起来全然无所作为和风平浪静的时期,现在队伍来说却十分重要。那段日子和我的余生有着天壤之别,甚至具备魔力般的特征,通常,这纯属岁月的记忆。它发生的时候是残忍的,我用脑子去浏览,对其进行更好的补充。我真希望我能向你们充分表述那时的气氛。我以为我已经这么做了,这在本书前些章里已经多少有所提及。它和冬天的寒冷、褴褛的民兵制服、西班牙人椭圆的来年、机关枪发出的摩尔斯发报机似的的哒哒声、小便和腐烂食物的气味、狼吞虎咽锡罐中的带铁皮味的豆子,统统刻在我的脑海中。

这段时期的一切都十分清晰地留在我的脑子里。在我的记忆中,我似乎生活在可能太小而又不值一说的许多琐事当中。现在,我又回到了波切洛山的防空洞里。在当床用的石灰岩上,年轻的雷蒙正打着呼噜,鼻子抵着我的肩胛骨。我穿行在蒸汽般环绕的冷雾中,踉踉跄跄地向那肮脏的壕沟走去。在跨越山坡上的一处裂谷时,为了保持平衡,我极尽全力地抓住裸露在岩石上的野迷迭香的根须。头顶上空,一些漫无目标的子弹尖啸而过。

我和柯普、鲍勃?爱德华,以及三个西班牙士兵卧倒在地面上俯伏前进,隐蔽在奥死库罗山以西洼地的小冷杉树丛中。一群法西斯士兵像蚂蚁一样,正朝我们右侧光秃秃的山顶上爬。他们刚刚接近阵地,法西斯的军营里就传出了响亮的军号声。柯普做了个学童般的手势,将手指放在鼻尖上蔑视这军号声,惹得我暗暗发笑。

我在拉格拉尼亚肮脏的院子里,和围着一口烧菜大锅举着锡罐争抢食物的一群乌合之众混在一起。那个被惹怒了的胖厨师举起长勺,试图制止他们胡闹。在附近的一张桌子旁,一个皮带上系着特大号自动步枪的大胡子正用刺刀把面包剁成五块。在我的身后,一个带伦敦腔的声音唱道(他叫比尔?钱伯斯,曾和我大吵过一次,后来在韦斯卡包围战中阵亡):

老鼠,老鼠,

老鼠大似猫,

就在……

这时,院子上空突然响起炮弹的呼啸声。十五个人立即趴倒在地面上,胖厨师则钻到案板下。直到炮弹落在100码开外爆炸以后,大家才心有余悸、面带惊慌地站了起来。

我在白杨树的粗大枝杈的隐蔽下来回巡逻。在洪水漫溢的壕沟里,老鼠肆无忌惮地到处窜,并发出水獭一样大的叫声。金黄色的黎明刚刚出现出现在我们的身后,那个安达卢西亚民兵就裹着披风,开始唱歌。你能听到,在一二百码之外的无人地带那边,法西斯阵地上的哨兵也在唱歌。

4月25日,在经过一段通常的mananas(明天)之后,从后方开来的一个小分队替换了我们。我们交接了来复枪,收拾好行装,返回蒙佛洛莱特。我并不懊悔离开前线。我裤子里的虱子在迅速地繁殖,连消灭都来不及。个把月以前,我就没有袜子穿了,长统皮靴仅剩薄薄一层底子了,等于光着脚走路。我想痛痛快快地洗个热水澡,换一身干净的衣服,再裹紧被单睡上那么一觉,想都没想过要点文明人生活所需的任何东西。我们在蒙佛洛莱特的一间谷仓里只睡了几个小时,后半夜两三点钟光景又重新爬上卡车。早上五点,有幸在巴巴斯特罗乘上了莱里达开来的一列快车,于26日下午三点抵达巴塞罗那。从此,麻烦也就来了。