Readers of this blog will no doubt know that I spent many years in the UK, where as member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) , I received a grounding in political activity, internationalism, and marxism that I still find very useful to this day. I was privileged in the CPGB to meet some outstanding communist intellectuals, who were variously academics, trade union leaders, community activists, raconteurs, anti-racist fighters, anti-fascists, and internationalists, and often all of these at once. I prefaced that list by stating that it was the intellectual life of the CPGB that I found most stimulating. Whether self -taught auto-didacts with rows of literary or political classics on their shelves, or leading academics in their various fields, the fellow comrades of the 'Party' as it was always referred to provided a rich and varied forum for discussion. It was a party that cherished discussion and debate amongst its members, sometimes tedious and tendentious, but usually notable for its relatively high level. I have never encountered the likes of it since the demise of the CPGB in any political organisation I have subsequently been involved with. Even though my period of involvement with the CP was in its latter stages I met some notable figures, some of who had derived their political education in the 1920's and 1930's where the intellectual ferment of the Left in the UK was arguably at its most influential in terms of the intellectual life of the country. For a small party the CPGB undoubtedly punched well above its weight in intellectual terms. Through my membership of this, what on looking back on it, was an extraordinary disciplined and committed organisation, as a young man, I was privileged to derive cross generational discussions and opportunities to learn from people, that the vast majority of my age group would never have the chance to encounter. I recollect meeting people such as the legendary George Thomson, the classical scholar, Alan Bush the composer, James Klugmann, Charlie Woods, Peter Jobe, Monty Johnson, Maurice Levitas, Edward Upward the poet and novelist and close friend of Auden and Isherwood, Max Morris, the late great working class leader Frank Watters, Johnny Tarver, Charles Godden a talented drama critic and inspiring enthusiast for all things Shakespearean, and last but by no means least the great historian and analyst of Irish political history C D Greaves. I could fill the page with other equally remarkable names.
Perhaps from this rich treasury of past experiences, which went a great way to enriching my life, I retain an affection for the newspaper that put me in touch with all this in the first place, the Morning Star, formerly the Daily Worker had long since ceased to be the 'organ' of the CPGB when I first read it in 1977, but it was nevertheless a newspaper that pretty dutifully reflected the politics of the CP at the time. I think the first time that I started to read the paper on a regular basis was when I worked for a time in the Fords Dagenham plant before I went away to University. Like many young people in the late 1970's I had come across various Trotskyist publications, notably the ubiquitous "Socialist Worker" which seemed to be a sort of Trot version of the Daily Mirror, although it must be said that the weekly writings of the late Paul Foot and its breathless and irreverent news content was exciting. I noticed that the Socialist Worker and a number of other 'trot' papers were being sold at the gates of the Foundry where I was working every Thursday, all well and good I suppose. But working in the Foundry I was even more impressed to discover that the Morning Star the organ of the so called 'dead' CP was found in many places inside the factory. I was offered it one morning in the canteen by a steward, who looked as though he had been transferred directly from the Ealing Comedy 'I'm Alright Jack', in fact the character Peter Sellers played in the 1960's film could have been based on him, or even more bizarrely perhaps he had based hiimself on the character from the film.... He had short hair, a dust jacket adorned with a small soviet Lenin lapel badge, and approached the table with a quire of Morning Stars (thats 25 to the uninitiated) , and just said 'Star anyone?' I think he sold about 8 that I saw in the canteen, but I remember thinking, 'this lot are inside the factory', not standing at the gates. I know now that it was probably an unusual occurrence since even then the CPGB's industrial strength was in decline, but nevertheless it was evident after I joined the CP, and I was not given a card until I had attended a good few meetings and activities, that working class radicals of all sorts were far far more numerous in this strange almost family like cum quasi-religious organisation than were evident in all the Trot groups I had come across.
Its very very scary indeed to think that I am 31 years older than those days, ( I was 18 then, so go figure if your curious) and I still get the 'good old Star' as I have taken to calling it, by post now from across the water....So I am delighted to report that it has been announced by John Haylett, the editor of the paper ( see left) that the paper will be sigificantly expanding its coverage from January, thanks it would seem to a consortium of reasonably wealthy supporters providing much needed investment funding. This injection of funds will see the paper go from 12 to 16 pages from Monday to Friday, and 20 pages instead of 16 on Saturdays, great news. The most exciting development in my opinion is the decision to open up the content of the paper to a much larger reading public by putting its entire content daily online free to the online community from january 2009, samples of the content of this can be found here
I want to extend my congratulations and thanks to all at the Morning Star, its a great newspaper, going now continuously since 1930, apart from a period when it was banned in World War II. It was sometimes referred to as the 'Daily Miracle' well I for one am delighted that the age of miracles seems to be far from over...Good Luck Comrades....