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Friday, 25 January 2008

'There is a tide in the affairs of men....'

After the Lemuria debacle they took in hand my political education. I was pretty certain I wasn’t a Marxist; trouble was I didn’t know what I was - a fairly enviable state. Dave Galashan invited me for a drink. We met in an ornate Victorian pub in the centre of Liverpool. He was waiting for me and so was a pint. On the table were a collection of books.

We drank several pints that night and I learnt how a ‘Socratic dialogue’ worked. You basically said ‘yes’ or ‘you’re right’ to each culmination of a short question and answer routine - not out of a slavish desire to please but because each series of questions were designed to give only one answer. The climax was an analysis of Engels’ The Family, Private Property and the State. At it’s end I realized with blinding clarity that I was a Marxist. There was no way out of it. I saw, understood and agreed with the basis of Engel’s argument. To be honest it was the joy of understanding a complex argument that finally won me over. This was a far cry from Basket Work.

Shortly after that, I re-started Walton Young Socialists and in true Bolshevist fashion was elected its secretary. Every so often a few of us met in the homes of Terry Harrison and Ted Mooney, self-taught men of clear convictions and great integrity. We sat around a highly polished table. Here they explained and analyzed, chapter by chapter, Marx’s Das Kapitol until my head hurt, and I wished I was sitting under the table clipping strange patterns from the Liverpool Echo.

But a door had been opened wide for me. I was surrounded by serious people, clever people, University students and others on their way there. And almost without thinking about it I realized I was as good as them. I was reading Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, Kautsky, more stuff than a cook could stuff under his hat. I was arguing, listening, understanding. Here my education began.

Just in time in fact.

I was finishing Catering College.

I had an application form for trainee manager in a Lyon’s restaurant in London, and every time I looked at it, my heart sank.

I didn’t want to go.

Someone suggested I do my GCEs.


The Liverpool Institute of Further Education

Why? My parents asked, and how long?

Because I’ll get a better job in catering. I knew I was lying. It’s only one year.

So now I was no longer going to sea or being a cook; now I was a student. I managed five O levels in a year, and the following year took three A levels ending up to everyone’s surprise at Swansea University.

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men…’ and I was riding it flushed with pride and happiness. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do but I was at a better place.

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