“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Hard Influences

with 4 comments

Bob from Brockley poses a hard question: who was most influential upon my politics?

The question should be easy, but to be honest I can’t come up with an quick answer, my views have changed over the years, it is hard to think back that far and I most definitely am not into hero worship but I’ll try:

1. My family.

My family contained some of the stroppiest, most belligerent trade unionists you could find, along the way, as if by osmosis, I picked up many of those views. Some of their views were shaped by the extreme poverty of the 1930s, and when they told you what they went through you’d sometimes laugh at the absurdities and misery. They were not for self-pity so would joke about the pawn shops, the kids with no shoes, buying things on tick, the hunger and the dole office. Compared to their existence I had it mostly easy, although it would have been hard to have it worse.

2. Harold Wilson/Ted Heath.

Watching Harold Wilson in black-and-white giving the Labour Party election broadcasts was always enjoyable, even if I didn’t take in half of what he said, I knew that when I voted I wouldn’t vote for Tory scum, and every time I saw Ted Heath I felt like spitting. I still feel like spitting when I see Thatcher or Cameron.

3. Unions and my first real Branch Sec.

I have been in numerous Unions over the years but I remember when I was made a young Branch chairperson, I didn’t have a clue. My first real Branch secretary, Maureen, was a lovely woman from Kent, a departmental secretary and she eventually came down with arthritis of the hands, which was horrible, but a more resilient, organised and honest person you could not wish to meet, no side to her. She never crawled, she never moaned, just organised and I learn the basics from the best role model you could want. I didn’t fully appreciate her ideas for years, but having seen many lay official, scheming politicos, ambitious no bodies and empty suits, I wish I had listened more.

4. Travelling.

I was lucky that I could travel a bit, seeing countries that my forebears would only hear about vaguely. I enjoyed the comfort that travelling gives you, the insights, the good meals and the company, but mostly seeing a wider world, in some parts very organised in others dire. From the height of modern technology to kids walking round in bare feet and shorts, always looking hungry. It made me aware of the things that I now took for granted, but others could only dream of. It made me conscious of the world’s wider problem of deprivation and what I had suffered, in a small way, wasn’t the real poverty, even though it seemed so at the time.

5. Trotsky.

I am most definitely not a Trotskyist, and I think the near religious reverence that he is held in, is absurd.

But I remember reading his book on fascism in Germany and it struck me how many lessons could be learnt from that sad period. The mad politics of the KPD, the weakness of the SPD, Stalinism’s malevolent influence and, above all how many very intelligent people underestimated the Nazis, and they often died as a result. Looking back I can see how crude the book is now, but the essential point: complete opposition to Fascism is still sound.

5a. My books.

Having only comics as a kid, I acquired the love of books very late in life, but it’s interesting to muse on a problem, then realise thousands of people have looked at it the same way as you. Or that the ideas put forward in politics and history are not so hard to understand if you sit down and think about them, and they most definitely are not the province of the rich, pampered or educated elite’s.

I enjoyed Down and Out in London and Paris, the Borstal Boy, Memoirs of a British Agent, Hugo Gryn’s biography and many more, which are stored away, if I could only look at them my poor memory might recall some of the better ones. Oh and that book on how to chair a Union meeting, how many times did I re-read it?

No more hard questions Bob, just ask me about how to fix the world (or computers), I have plenty of swift answers to that!

Contentious Centrist
answers it in tick.

Written by modernityblog

10/10/2007 at 04:35

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Excellent answers – of course. Moving, interesting, thoughtful. Sorry to spin you a hard one.

    Feel free to tag 5 other bloggers – unless you think the task is too cruel!


    10/10/2007 at 10:13

  2. Your list seems authentic, straight from the gut. A very honest summation of influences, either adopted or rejected. Who I am is also a measure of who I am not. And who I am not is pretty much evidenced in the leaders and thinkers I loathe.

    The Hebrew poet Shaul Tchevikhovski wrote a poem which begins with: A man is nothing if not an impression of the native landscape of his youth.

    The first three items of your list explain this primary landscape and the last three explain how you have transcended it. It may not have been your intention, but yours is a poetic perspective. Very nice.


    10/10/2007 at 15:51

  3. Modernity,

    I Always enjoy what you have to say at Harrys Place

    Your past seems similar to mine. Our history shares real real degrading poverty within living memory. And it does effect your political beliefs.

    I dont want to butt in if this is the wrong place but are you happy to discuss our different views when it comes to linking to neo-Nazi web sites. I said some things at Harrys Place which I regret, but other things that I really believe and I would like to talk about them. If this is inappropriate no problem. At least I now know how to spell etiquette.

    Also my asshole flatmates sometimes comment under my name as a way of mocking my political beliefs so anything that has been said by donaldbane at Harrys Place is not necessarily by me.

    I assume you are from a Jewish background. I am not. I am Irish Catholic West Coast Scotland immigrant ‘scum’. Och, there is so much I want to say. But to start, i work shifts so our conversation (if you are happy to continue with it) may be somewhat stillted.

    Is it Ok to post my questions here? No problem if not.


    13/10/2007 at 05:51

  4. fire away 🙂


    13/10/2007 at 13:05

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