George Orwell is committed to socialist ideals of egalitarianism, but he values human decency and generosity above political labels and party factions. He often sees the enemy as human, whether he's describing the miserable fascist draftees who seem to want to be anywhere but at the front, or the Assault Guards (militarized police) who share their cigarettes with him at the front. Although Orwell would never be vain enough to describe himself as brave, he does volunteer for patrol duty because he enjoys strolling through the valley alone, with bullets whizzing overhead. Orwell fights against the Nationalists at the Spanish towns of Alcubierre, Monte Trazo, and Huesca, but the worst, most disillusioning days of the war for Orwell are "those evil days of street warfare" in Barcelona. In May 1937 Orwell sees communists and anarchists turn against each other. When the tensions erupt into street fighting, Orwell joins in, with the POUM (in English, Workers' Party of Marxist Unification), on the anarchist side. His ideals are shaken by this experience, and his pessimistic predictions about the postwar future of Spain turn out to be mostly right.
George Orwell first meets Georges Kopp, his commander, at Alcubierre, a town on the Aragon front in the Spanish Civil War. He describes Kopp as a "stout Belgian comandante"—or commander—mounted on a splendid horse captured from the fascists. Kopp commands ably, particularly during a nighttime raid on a fascist position at Huesca. It is also Kopp who sees Orwell through the violent street fighting in Barcelona in 1937, when tensions between revolutionary anarchists and reform-minded communists erupted. Soon after the communist government of Spain declares the POUM illegal, Kopp is arrested. He realizes he is going to be shot, and though he faces this fate with equanimity, he asks Orwell to try to get him released from prison. Heartsick, Orwell fails. Kopp did in fact leave jail in 1938 and was nursed back to health by Eileen Blair's brother and sister-in-law.
Benjamin is a short young man whom Orwell guesses to be about 25, with black hair and a pale face. He speaks "terrible English," according to Orwell, with a strong French accent. Benjamin leads a nighttime raid on a fascist position at Huesca, a raid in which Orwell and Jorge also participate. Benjamin is a brave man, a good leader, and a good strategist, as his actions in the nighttime raid show.
John McNair is fair-minded, uncomplaining, and brave. When he runs into Orwell as the street fighting is just about to start in Barcelona, he asks if Orwell needs anything. Without meaning anything much by it, Orwell says they could do with some cigarettes. McNair says nothing, but he immediately goes out in the nighttime streets, braving armed checkpoints to bring back cigarettes for Orwell's company. Orwell is moved by this "small act of heroism," the more so because McNair seems ready to throw his life away in order to act like a decent chap toward a fellow Republican fighter. Along with Orwell, he goes into hiding when the government cracks down on the POUM. He rides the train to France with Orwell and his wife.