Peter Sedgwick

A Prologue:
A Day in the Life of the ’Fifties


Peter Sedgwick, A Prologue: A Day in the Life of the ’Fifties from World Crisis Essays in Revolutionary Socialism, 1971, pp.21-34.
Marked up by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Tuesday, January 25, 1955

The crowd of some thousands that has gathered outside Parliament to lobby MPs against German rearmament consists of workers, older women and a scattering of students. Considering that this is a working day, the turn-out is a good one.

Deputations have come from factories with lists of questions to nail their MPs; miners and railwaymen have come with petition forms crammed with their mates’ signatures; and the provincial branches of the National Women’s Assembly have brought large contingents of working-class women. The only centrally organised force in the campaign has been that of the Communist Party and its kindred organisations, but this is basically a confluence of many currents, from Constituency Labour Parties and trade-union locals as well as from the industrial and women’s movements under CP influence. Inside the Commons several dozen Labour Members are either enthusiastic for the lobby or at least friendly. A motion demanding Four-Power talks before the final decision to rearm West Germany has just been tabled by a handful, who include Sidney Silverman (Nelson and Colne), Tom Driberg (Maldon), Harold Davies (Leek) and Michael Stewart (Fulham East). From these the Parliamentary Labour Whip has been withdrawn because of their earlier vote against German rearmament.

My own Labour Member – for Kirkdale, Liverpool – is much less forthcoming. This is the first time that I have been inside Parliament: the deputation from my constituency, mostly dockers, wanders uncertainly in the spacious corridors and the big central lobby area whose tall stone columns rise to a vault far above us. On quiet days, it must look like a cathedral. We fill out our green tickets and give them to a policeman (and it does not strike us as odd that all the receptionists for visiting constituents in the Commons are uniformed police). Then Keegan comes out to us: a short, white-haired chap, formerly a local official of the solidly Right-wing Transport and General Workers’ Union, who is received with caustic scepticism by our dockers. I get to see him individually in an odd corner of the lobby, and bring out my carefully prepared arguments. It has been necessary to prepare, for surely these MPs are themselves well equipped with the argumentation of news ingested and analysed, as well as of Parliamentary sophistry. As I present a fairly documented, standard Left-Bevanite case criticising the received wisdom about Russia’s threat to the West, it becomes clear that this MP is just not with it. ‘Yes, but what about all these Russian troops in Eastern Europe?’ he retorts. ‘After all, they took over Czechoslovakia in 1948 ...’ To which I can only reply, in the factually precise but analytically ignorant way that was my wont, ‘There were no Russian troops in Czechoslovakia in 1948.’ The man, it was obvious, didn’t know his basic stuff; from his other comments I could only conclude that he didn’t even read the newspapers with any attention. I return, bewildered but a little wiser, to the Kirkdale deputation, who shout at Keegan (he is going away without seeing any more): ‘Right, Keegan, we’ll get you for this. Don’t you dare show your face round the docks again! We’ll tell the lads!’

He turns, enraged. ‘I know you people, I know who you are. Communists! Communists!’ This, as a matter of fact, is true, both of the dockers who shouted, and also of myself. We are amused by this label, the last refuge of the man who cannot answer. To him, however, it seems both relevant and apt, indeed the cardinal issue in our confrontation.

The police outside, as it appeared shortly, took the same view. The crowds began to muster at 2 pm: and, as more people joined them after working hours in the late afternoon, the waiting queue outside the Commons entrance turned into a multitude. At 7.43 pm somebody in charge of the police must have decided that this was now an extra-Parliamentary manifestation, strictly against statute. Mounted police rode straight into the long queue to disperse the threat. Terrified housewives ran across the dark square in droves, like chickens pursued by the farmer’s chopper. Those who stood, protesting their rights as constituents, were ridden down: a Labour MP, talking outside, was trampled on by a horse, and told by the mounted officer to go and talk somewhere else and ‘Get these buggers out of here’. (He went back into the Commons and informed the Speaker what was up, to no avail: his account of the trouble, complete with the officer’s pungent command, was duly written up and printed in Hansard, enlivening otherwise tedious pages.) The crowd then moved off to an open-air meeting in the West End: in Parliament Square a military-looking lobbyist gent in a suit and a little moustache stood leaning upon his stick with a shocked expression, his trouser-leg bared (either ripped in the affray or folded back in a defiant gesture) to reveal a full artificial limb. The same sentiment may (charitably) account for the display of World War Two medals among some of the participants: it was less than ten years, after all, since the last phalanx of German generals had been thoroughly liquidated, with the active concurrence of our Prime Minister of 1955, Sir (or Mr, in those days) Winston Churchill.

The march, now numbering around ten thousand, wound past Nelson’s Column and up towards Foyle’s. Its mood was exhilarated, perhaps in relief after the unpleasantness just encountered: by now our forces had reassembled in good order, solidly reinforced and flying the colours of our little regiments: the union branches, the Labour constituencies, the Young Communists locals. And then outside Leicester Square Tube the Cossacks struck again: a column of mounted policemen dashed down Charing Cross Road, head-on into several hundred marchers, riding after them as they scattered. I was pinned against the large window of a public house. At my back, plate glass; in front of me, an enormous nervous beast come to a sudden halt after its dash, a straddled cop trying to control it, hard hooves swishing up, heavy flanks rearing back. It missed the glass and went off: now, a few yards further on, police on horseback with truncheons out were battering down the banner of a Kent miners’ lodge. It was like Eisenstein in technicolor: Betteshanger Colliery’s red Labour banner heaving to keep aloft, and the blue-black uniforms striding on animal stilts to smash it down. Power of batons versus strength of human arms : arms of Kent miners and their wives who had been walking peacefully bearing the lodge banner on a May Day outing. We all moved in to defend it, the flag of all of us now: ‘Fascists! Fascists! Fascists!’ the chant came at the police. The police tore the banner out of the miners’ hands, then the crowd got it back, then mounted and foot police charged in again and, after a fierce struggle, seized the miners’ banner and trampled it in the gutter.

It was explained later by a senior police officer that the carrying of banners transgressed the rules that forbade demonstration within a certain radius of Parliament while the House was in session. The fact that it was being carried up the Charing Cross Road, in the opposite direction from Westminster, made not the slightest difference. The police kindly returned the broken flag, with another one from a miners’ branch that they had removed from the march: if, however, the banners were raised again (we were warned) the authorities would be obliged to destroy them.

The press on the following day was full of it, of course. Riots in the West End. Terrible scenes of hooliganism. One priceless head-line I still remember: Crowds of Reds Attack Police. We had expected nothing different.

There was another better press, though, beholden to no trust of millionaires or Cold War liberals. The Daily Worker reported the lobby, the march and the police attacks, all magnificently. Any eyewitness could have compared the Worker with the newspapers of ‘the capitalist press’ (a title that was not simply bestowed on them but well and truly earned); such comparisons would be made, by workers engaged in labour disputes, and by participants in a host of other struggles, repeatedly over many years, and always to the advantage of the Daily Worker. There was then no ‘underground press’ of student militancy or independent Leftism. Only two visions of reality, one reflecting the standpoint of the rulers, the other faithfully reporting the struggles of the ruled, contended in mutual exclusion, many newspapers against one, millions of bank notes against the shillings of the Fighting Fund. Two visions: two versions. Two media: two messages. This being so, thousands of Worker readers, drawn from circles of political allegiance well outside the ranks of the Communist Party itself, were also inclined to give its reportage the benefit of the doubt when its version of fact clashed with that of its unfriendly competitors, on other matters: the Soviet Five-Year Plan, say, or the trials in Eastern Europe. The doubt had already been suppressed, if truth be known, in the editorial offices of the Worker, at the very point of fact-production: a year or two later about a third of the Worker’s key journalists would resign, all with traumas and some with nervous breakdowns, when the pressure of real fact burst the elaborate dams and the old handling of doubt could be seen as less of a benefit, more of a terrible liability. In the meantime, however, the Stalinist vision of reality, the police interpretation of history that opposed but also mirrored the historical vision of our own ruling class and its police, received a double blessing, first from the planners and then from the viewers of the Party’s media, who together constituted (by a bitter paradox) the overwhelming bulk of the forces in British society that stood in reasoned and clear-sighted opposition to imperialism, capitalism and world war.

My own contribution to the media battle was slight. I wrote up my own witnessing of the events in Parliament Square and the West End for the student literary magazine of the institution in which I resided, and then sent it, just as it was printed, in an envelope to Prague, where sat the headquarters of the Stalinist-controlled International Union of students and its organ World Student News. There a young Czech named Jiri Pelikan, fulminating alike against Yankee bombardments and Titoist spy-plots, steered the IUS and its world-wide propaganda network, maintaining the confidence both of the Moscow apparat and of militant student grouplets in the (still only half-decolonised) ‘Third World’. My article duly appeared in World Student News: I saw it only in the English-language edition, but it may have gone into other issues in French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Czech, Rumanian, Hungarian, Albanian, Chinese, Arabic, Urdu and possibly Serbo-Croat and Montenegrin (or whatever languages the IUS printed its stuff in for smuggling clandestinely into that stronghold of imperialism, Yugoslavia). Despite its humble origins in a rather effete undergraduate journal in England, the article came to the wrathful attention of the officers of Britain’s own National Union of Students. The officialdom of NUS, then staunchly affiliated to a rival student international (later revealed as the recipient of lavish funds from the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States) was anxious to fend off the moves towards a rapprochement with IUS that were being sponsored in Britain both by CP activists and by liberal supporters of Peaceful Co-existence. The IUS, they insisted, had still not mended its old Stalinist ways: they cited as evidence the publication of this angry little article, which presented such an inaccurate picture of the British way of life. The references to the police, one gathered, were particularly offensive.

I have recorded this incident in detail because it crystallises the main points of the mythology of that period of politics which ends shortly afterwards in the cataclysm of 1956. So many myths indeed and so powerful as to enter the field of reality itself as structured, determining causes. The Cold War myths were the most obvious immediate retrospect, and the most suddenly painful to break with. For decades the morale of thousands of socialists in Britain had been kept going by the sense that they were all comrades in an international political crusade engaged in steadfast combat in every land where exploitation ruled: a movement whose traditions and tactics stemmed directly from Marx and Lenin and which had won irreversible victories, through the achievement of actual State power, in societies where exploitation no longer ruled, covering one-third of the earth’s surface. The defence of the Socialist Camp against the powerful and threatening capitalist world, headed by the United States, the identification of the Socialist Bloc’s traitors and renegades as the utmost in treachery and renegacy, the belief that socialism was no longer Utopian because it was being put into practice by millions of the toiling masses under the peace-loving leadership of Stalin, Mao, Rakosi, Ulbricht and the rest: these were absorbing, energising components in a total world view which also encompassed, inseparably from them, the imperatives of struggle at home against colonial war in Kenya and Malaya, against rotten employers and their backers in a Labour or Tory government.

But that was the least of the myths, one which was, in any case, important mainly for the Communist and fellow-travelling intelligentsia. The other, more pervasive, mythology was one which is even now scarcely overcome: the myth of the British Labour Movement. The battle over German rearmament in 1954-5, and the earlier fight of ‘Bevanism’ in the local Labour parties and the small trade-union Left, were the political battles in a wide-ranging running battle conducted around multiple economic and welfare fronts, a residual ‘People’s War’ waged by the hard-core Mau Mau, the intransigent guerillas who had survived the passing of the larger, older war of working-class hopes against capitalist privilege from 1940 to 1945. The political ideology of this guerrilla was a semi-socialist populism, which like all populisms drew strength from emotions with outright chauvinist undertones. (These last tendencies were somewhat in evidence during the German rearmament campaign of the early ’fifties, became sublimated into an idealistic Little Englandism during CND and the Committee of 100 battles of the early ‘sixties, and have re-emerged openly again in many Left currents of opposition to the Common Market: an observation which is not intended to undermine the strength of the internationalist and socialist case that could be mounted against German rearmament, the Bomb or capitalism’s Cartel Europe.)

The organisational mythology of the committed Left amounted to the construction of a vast shadow panoply of trade-union structures, manned by conscious militants at branch and district level and by progressive or reactionary, Left-wing or Right-wing, responsible or autocratic General Secretaries and Executives in the national offices. Like the constitutional map of Soviet Russia projected by Sidney and Beatrice Webb in the 1930’s, the initiatives of the rank-and-file were supposed to send countless pressures upwards, channelled and summed in the block vote of six or seven digits that was cast at the annual Trade Union Congress or the Labour Party Conference. As the neurologist’s recording equipment marks the gross electrical rhythms of the brain, each stroke on the graph representing the aggregate of millions of tiny voltages from the individual neurons, so the Conference or Congress vote aggregated the voices of invisible throngs: or rather would do so, provided that the recording machinery itself were not spiked by treacherous leaders.

For the Right Wing of trade-union bureaucracy – the Carrons and the Deakins, the lords and the knights of the TUC General Council – could and would falsify the register, replace plus by minus in the reckoning of the figures, and masquerade before the world with a forged mandate. There were, on the other side, a few authentic, progressive trade-union chiefs who faithfully reflected their rank-and-file’s militancy: the Electrical Trades Union, the Constructional Engineers, the Miners’ General Secretary and so on. The credentials of these national officials were evidenced in the speeches they made and in the articles they wrote, by invitation, in Labour Monthly, the semi-official CP magazine edited by R. Palme Dutt. The trade-union performance of these progressives, in the contracts of wages and conditions that they drew up for their membership, was never taken in evidence.

The very notion of a national Labour Movement, as a functioning organism whose myriad cells were marshalled into a set of central purposes, was a myth. The national machinery of trade unionism is not, of course, entirely unrelated (or, still less, entirely opposed) to working-class purposes. The election of leaders like Scanlon and Jones, the flourishing of militancy in white-collar union executives, the movement towards the Left in district and regional committees, clearly express the jettisoning of traditional passivities and connivances (both tending de facto towards the Right) among thousands of trade-union activists and semi-activists. All the same, the specifically local dimensions of working-class action – the key role of local bargaining in determining rates, the multiplication of shop-steward organisations and plant-by-plant precedents – are singularly absent from the trade-union theory of twenty or even ten years ago. Nowadays the significance of local working-class pressures has become a truism of industrial sociology on both Right and Left (all the way from Clegg to Cliff, as it were; indeed one can suspect that much of the research work of employers’ agencies like the Donovan Commission is heavily indebted to the pioneering analysis of such handbooks of militant ‘wage-drift’ as the Cliff-Barker Incomes Policy pamphlet of 1966). To put it crudely, the vital structures of organised labour are local, not national; the mechanisms of influence are shop-stewards’ committees, not General Secretaries; the lobbies of power are in the factories themselves, not at central conferences. But the modern account, common both to the heresies of ‘workers’ control’ and the conformities of ‘productivity bargaining’, has never been taken back to the ‘forties and ‘fifties. There the local world of labour pressures, the real contours of working-class consciousness in the cities and industrial centres, remain as uncharted territory. Decades of behaviour on the part of millions of working people in this country, complex but basic sequences of attitude displayed by masses of British proletarians in relatively recent years of our epoch, are as inaccessible as the thought patterns of the Incas. This is in part because the attitudes and the responses were never, in this period, tested by stress: the shadow army of the national bureaux could offer itself as real, precisely because the other army, of local working-class commandos, remained unaware of the significance of its own battles. The academics had not twigged because the government had not yet asked them to investigate ‘wage drift’. And the militant Left, formally committed to the working class as the instrument of all social change, was as bemused as anybody. The Trotskyist journals of the ’fifties, including those of the precursors to International Socialism, fought hard and valiantly against the international Cold War myth of Stalinism (even though, among some of their more orthodox following, the CP doctrine of the Socialist Camp was paralleled by the celebration of the still-flourishing Workers’ State, constructed on revolutionary economic foundations despite the evil doings of the Bonapartist Bureaucracy). But all the tendencies of Trotskyism in this period reek, at least as much as the publications of the CP and Labour Left, of the vapour of resolution mongering and internal polemic with Transport House which nowadays presents the appearance of so much portentous steam produced by tiny kettles in a frantic effort to make-believe that the locomotive of history was really revving up somewhere in the wings.

The myth of the British Working-Class Movement which sustained this pretence was predicated on a complex misconception concerning the representative character of the mass institutions of Labourism: the trade unions and the Labour Party itself. In the first place the formal constitutional structure of Labour’s decision-making agencies ascending from the grass-roots Soviets of ward or branch up by several stages of election to the Supreme Soviet that met annually in some charming seaside resort, was taken to reflect the structure of actual pressures exerted by the working class against capitalist society. The headlines of Left publications during the ’fifties punctuate the phases of the battle waged within this formal national structure, a gain here, a loss there; lessons, at any rate, to be drawn for the benefit of those stalwart troopers who would realise the significance of the battle-fields named in the heading: From Morecambe to Margate; From Blackpool to Brighton; After Scarborough, What?; Stalemate at Bournemouth. (I paraphrase only slightly.)

The reason for this emphasis was simple: the only people in Britain who could be influenced by Marxist sophisticates were in and around the Labour Party (including its youth sections). A complete vision of politics had to be manufactured in order to promote to historical significance this periphery and the dialogue which took place between it, the ‘rank-and-file’, and the Marxist Left of various stripes and shades. The industrial analysis and reportage conducted by Marxists in this period was, by contrast, relatively meagre.

The mythology of Labour’s representation, fortifying the Socialist and Communist Left in their battles for the soul of the Party, was a powerful stimulant: it worked no less powerfully (one might add) among their opponents of the Labour Right, who pointed repeatedly to the statistics of Party elections which voiced the mandate of their ‘rank-and-file’. To the Right Wing’s claims Bevanites, Trotskyists and Communists responded with a number of substantial objections. The block vote of the large trade unions for Attlee and Gaitskell was achieved through the manoeuvres of a bureaucratic clique, not through the exercise of a genuine rank-and-file mandate; bans and black lists against Communist Party members weakened the resources of the Left and cemented the solidarity of officialdom’s supporters; anti-Communist demagogy and appeals to blind loyalty were staple themes in the Right Wing’s rallying of the membership. All this was true, but not good enough. For the central question that would strike a Marxist of the present generation would not be the Right Wing’s relationship to Conference (or Congress) but its relationship to consciousness: the details of manipulation and demagogy would be less interesting than the analysis of the character of the mass base which the Right-wing leadership utilised for its politics. The Right ‘represented’ the opinions of the working class just as little, in the main, as did the Left; but it benefited from the acquiescent neutrality of the masses who had voted in ‘their’ party. At certain points, moreover, the most retrograde policies of Labour in office could count on a measure of positive chauvinist support from workers.

We are nowadays very much aware of the undercurrents of nationalism, parochialism and (frequently) anti-trade-union feeling which run freely in large sections of the working class. A basic cultural dimension is now evident in the analysis and agitation of the far Left: a dimension which makes it possible, for example, to treat general intellectual topics like ‘human nature’ and ‘women’s liberation’ as necessary elements in the conduct of propaganda among workers. It is plain that much of the resistance to socialist ideas within the working class comes from the popularity of such ancient maxims as ‘The rich are the people best equipped to rule’, ‘Education isn’t for the likes of us’ and ‘British is best’.

Little, if anything, to this effect could have been picked up from the literature and the oratory of the hard Left in the ‘forties and ‘fifties. It is not as if the material was unavailable for socialists to draw conclusions. Powellism did not begin with Powell, or even with immigrants: it was already infecting thousands of young workers serving with British forces overseas, rationalising the tasks of repression in Cyprus, Malaya, Kenya, the Canal Zone. The working-class ‘deference voter’, touching a humble forelock before his moneyed betters, had been around for years, if not indeed aeons, before he was discovered by New Left sociology in 1960. The ideology of an economic ‘national interest’, uniting workers, managers and the State in a common endeavour, was made over into an explicit rhetoric by government spokesmen for ‘incomes policy’ during the middle ‘sixties; implicitly, however, and sometimes even avowedly, similar feelings of economic kinship with their employers had pulsed within many working-class breasts long before. British Marxism sheltered, within the Labour Party battle, from the necessity to deal with what workers actually thought. The philistinism of the Marxist Left, its near-total apathy towards problems of culture, ideology and class-consciousness, resembled (more than anything) the narrow perspectives of the very Social Democracy against which it pitted itself. In policy and programme Marxism’s relation to the Labour Party might be one of opposition; a Marxist did not even join the Labour Party, he ‘entered’ it. But at the deeper level of politics beyond the programme, in the selection, that is, of what elements of life were to count as politics at all, it is most unclear now just who, in that day and age, was entering whom.

The expression ‘the Old Left’ has been sadly misused in recent years: sometimes as a vaguely dismissive label by those who were unwilling or unable to accept any continuity in the socialist tradition (‘Don’t trust anyone over thirty’, as the apocryphal slogan of American student militancy had it); sometimes in an air of tremendous condescension by generations which imagined that they had no need to analyse even the vices and failings of their forefathers. All the same, there was an Old Left politics in Britain, which took some ten years, from the shock of Suez and Hungary in 1956 to the shock of wage freeze and Wilson in 1966, to define the full extent of obsolescence and illusion. Almost without exception all the elements which came together so hopefully on that late day in January, a decade and a half ago, have been probed, stripped, revealed as nothing by the merciless challenge of the years. The crisis of Stalinism took away many: never again was the British Communist Party able to stand as the single coherent initiative present within a national demonstration on a political issue. The protracted agony of the Labour Party has removed, probably, many more: those who remain active within the Party after all the bitter disillusion of recent years are probably incapable now of public demonstration on any matter which would set them at odds with the official leadership.

Two trajectories may be taken as symbolic of the general decay: Jiri Pelikan, once the media-man of the Stalinist youth movement, graduated into the Czechoslovak television service. A convinced supporter of Dubcek’s liberalisation programme, he threw open the channels of Czech TV to the public exposure of the old bureaucracy, and helped to man the clandestine transmissions that rallied his people against the Russian invasion of 1968. Pelikan is now in exile; his Communism once owned a ‘Socialist Fatherland’ but now that it has ‘a human face’, it can claim no country. The path traversed by Mr Michael Stewart is also instructive. A moderate, decent rebel in 1955, suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party for his solidarity with West German Socialism’s opposition to rearmament, he was restored to official Transport House favour as the Party’s spokesman on social services during the Opposition years. One can only assume that, absorbed conscientiously in the statistics of house construction and the eleven-plus, he was unable to notice the loosening of the old Cold War loyalties in the bigger world outside this island. At any rate, on moving to the Foreign Office, he at once began where John Foster Dulles left off.

Hooked upon bankrupt loyalties, officered by cadres under-going constant erosion of morale and perspective, the active elements of the working class were shaken severely during the years of testing. The defects and deficits of conscious leadership were recompensed in many struggles by a surging spontaneity: economic militancy was illuminated by half-conscious political insights as State and employer, Labour leadership and local management, united in a common front against trade unionism which rendered untenable the old separation between shop-floor consciousness and politics. All the same, the passing of the old loyalties brought little in the way of socialist organisation among the workers’ militant sections: localised struggle, often successful in securing immediate gains, was paralleled by a gaping ideological vacuum in the space where generalised politics might have stood. Many older workers still tried desperately to operate within the pretentious politics of the old ‘Labour Movement’s’ house of cards: block-vote cards, Party cards, cards in a poker game called Productivity where the dealer knew just how weak were the hands of the national trade-union bargainers. The Electrical Trades Union was caught hiding a stacked deck up its sleeve some years ago; the players were drummed out of the club, replaced by stone-faced Right-wing gentlemen out of whose immaculate sleeves there now poked a longer, more inscrutable expanse of cuff. And there were those who still went on playing the game according to the old house rules even when the walls of the casino had collapsed in ruins around their poor deaf ears. Such was the fate of the representatives of the Kent collieries, whose proud banners we had defended in the hard old days, and who achieved the ultimate in political split identity during the last months of 1969. The Kent NUM sponsored an enthusiastic ‘Vietnam Day’, festively attended by the stalwarts of lodge and pit, to welcome the delegates of the French miners’ union and the NLF’s representatives at the Paris talks. Nevertheless, when the national unofficial strike of miners swept the coalfields of Britain, in opposition not only to the openly Right-wing executive but also to the NUM General Secretary (elected on a ‘progressive’ ticket and still a prominent spokesman for Vietnam Solidarity), the miners of the Kent field carried on working, adding to the stockpile of coal that was management’s best weapon against their mates.

The banner of ‘Red Betteshanger’ has moved a long way on since 1955. The Labour MPs are more prosperous since then, and more remote: nowadays you would not get a militant lobby like that, simply because very few workers would have enough faith in Parliament to take a day off and come down to London to waste their time and breath. The streets of London are held now less often by workers than by bands of middle-class radical youth, wave after wave of whom has known its brief hour of rebellion, before graduating into private careers and private opinions. The working class cannot graduate: if it is not to surrender, it must stand and fight collectively, unceasingly. But its consciousness is slower to ignite than that of the Instant Left, and the disarray of its loyalties is bound to continue for a long time.

In all the mutability of political fortune, however, through all the ravages of time, one constant landmark has remained, unshifting and unbroken. The police, thank heaven, still know their duty. The writing on the old red banner may have changed, the hands that carry it may be young and uncalloused, but uniform and truncheon still stand ready to move in and bash the symbol down.


Last updated on 9.11.2004