Out Now!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Gendarmes and Anarchists

Red Star over Leningrad


Politics on campus was dominated by the Socialist Society or Soc Soc, a broad church of the left but in reality riven in faction. RSPGB fought IMG; both despised IS and all three despised the PLP. The initials say it all. There was also a thriving Anarchist Society dominated (if not led) by Ian Bone. He at least has remained true to the principles he espoused in 1969. Whether that is meritorious or sad is open to debate, but I doubt many other members of Soc Soc can make the same boast.

There was a difference between them and an old trade unionist I met in Liverpool. He had been a boy during the Russian Revolution and in 1926 experienced the General Strike. Later on in life he made his first visit to St. Petersburg (Leningrad). He described approaching the city by night, the bus hedged by forest to either side. Then, in the distance, he glimpsed a red star twinkling from the highest building in the city. As he told the story, his eyes became visibly moist, the image and symbol still so potent in his memory. I doubt former Soc Soc students will ever experience the same emotional response on seeing the Lewis Jones Hall of Residence peeping over the trees of Singleton Park.

Trotsky was asked what went wrong with the Russian Revolution. He answered in a parable. When there’s a shortage of bread you have bread queues. When you have bread queues you have police controlling them – and the police take the bread. One wonders what kind of Gendarme Trotsky would have made had he not been forced into exile by Stalin.

Anyway, the plum wine is strong tonight. Hmmm…sounds like a cold war password

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