Red Ken outrage

Peter Reardon peterreardon at
Fri May 12 16:19:33 MDT 2000

----- Original Message -----
From: Chris Kromm <ckromm at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 6:16 AM
Subject: Re: Red Ken outrage

> You Brits have no idea how funny you sound arguing about whether Red Ken
> a sellout. What would we give to have anything even resembling a "red"
> in ANY U.S. city!
> CK

----- Original Message -----
From: Chris Kromm <ckromm at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 6:16 AM
Subject: Re: Red Ken outrage

Chris wrote:

> You Brits have no idea how funny you sound arguing about whether Red Ken
> a sell-out. What would we give to have anything even resembling a "red"
> in ANY U.S. city!
> CK
This is perfectly fair comment and as a former Brit I would like to respond
to what is, after all, a cultural trait. Brits so often see their glass as
half empty rather than half full. This is not 'playing with words' it is how
many children were taught when I was young. In most cases we went through
childhood being discouraged to learn; we had sarcastic teachers, we were
ridiculed if we had a point of view that didn't support the teacher, or
ridiculed in the workplace if anybody's 'thinking' was different. Indeed,
the concept of alternative/original thinking was not a major feature of my
formative years. Sarcasm too is a social device meant to 'tell' a person
that their behaviour, or expressions are unacceptable. It is a destructive
tool in that it can shatter a persons self confidence hence all of the
negativity in an event in London which, over the next five years, could
quite realistically caste ripples out into the future for years to come.
It was on later in life that I learned the expression 'If you don't agree
with me then you must be opposed', in others words life is only black, or
white, there is no middle-road, and I thought how well that fit my formative
years in the UK. 'Red Ken' has been on the political scene for more than 25
years I believe. Although the working class were supposed to wholeheartedly
support the Labour Party there was little, or no discussion of party
politics in front of children. I guess there was the thinking that whatever
went on in the ballot booth there was the thinking that, like the bedroom it
was private, and communism, like sex was not discussed openly in polite
society. Even at school social studies somehow managed to skirt round
communism, there was never any debate. There were no questions solicited,
nor comparisons made. Critical thinking had not yet found its way to the
shores of England. And yet, paradoxically, my father had a book on a top
shelf of a cupboard that was never mentioned.
According to a stamp inside the front cover the book might have come from an
organisation called the G.(?) or C.H.L.P. League of Youth Library, about
which I know nothing. The book, which I now have, is 'Capital (A Critique of
Political Economy) By Karl Marx. Translated from the Fourth German Edition
by Eden and Cedar Paul, Volume One' published in 1930. London and Toronto
Published by J.M Dent & Sons Ltd., & in New York by E.P Dutton & Co. The
book was marketed by Everymans Library as SCIENCE.  There is an interesting
note: To the memory of my very dear friend Wilhelm Wolff. Bold and faithful
champion of the proletarian cause.  Born in Tarnau in June 21 1809. Died in
exile in Manchester on May 9, 1864.  The Depression years in England were as
difficult for my father as they  for so many others. However, he found work
with the local municipality and in time became an electrician, but reasons
for his interest in Marx was never discussed. Interestingly he went on to
become an Installation Inspector with the company but would never accept a
foreman, or supervisors position. With this background my father urged me to
take an electrical apprenticeship when I left school in the mid-fifties. The
working class ethic even in those days was that a tradesman with an
indentured apprenticeship behind him (no 'her' in those days) was
'respected'. The problem was the union in those days in England was the
Electrical Trades Union (ETU) which was dominated by 'communists'. The word
communist meant variously 'thuggish, or bullying behaviour', or 'the
political views of a person that did not conform to locally accepted belief
systems', or, 'somebody with a foreign accent'. Being a communist meant that
the person was on the fringe of society, and therefore suspect.
In terms of looking after worker interests the union representatives were
generally acknowledged to be bullies during my five years of training I lost
all respect for unions, not for their place in society and they work that
was required to help  working people, but the manner in which some union
officials served themselves first. I joined the union as an apprentice, in
fear that the 'yard' would be called out on strike if I did not join. A
bluff? Probably, but as a seventeen year old this was heavy stuff! However,
my activities in union affairs was limited indeed. After my apprenticeship I
quit the industry and was soon conscripted into the British Army for
mandatory two years of  'National Service'. Towards the end of this period I
was to be labelled a 'communist' because I had criticised our military
living conditions on a television programme.
 I was with the Parachute Brigade and our Signals unit was being used to
make a short film about military life. I thought the film, might have been a
government recruiting drive and asked the producer if this was so. He
assured me that it was a fifteen minutes 'public interest' shoot for
Independent Television (ITV) London about life as a paratrooper. We carried
on a conversation, and he asked if some of us would agree to go on camera to
field questions about army life. We were assured of 'protection from
military persecution' by ITV, and although I was sceptical he was right. The
company did enquire about the three of us who were interviewed after the
showing of the film, and yes, I was persecuted. After the film was shown I
was personally warned by an orderly from the officers mess that senior
officer were upset by our answers to questions and consequently I was a
'communist'. The orderly was concerned for my welfare, he advised that I
'should be careful'. I had a few weeks to serve before the end of my two
years of service and it wasn't until the final two weeks that I was placed
on a charge for some minor infraction. After being berated for the sins of
all of mankind at my hearing the major handed me a two year jail sentence.
However, during his fit of  apoplexy he was reminded by a senior NCO that
the ITV crew were still interested in the welfare of those of us who had
been interviewed, although the other two had by this time completed their
term of service. He grudgingly conceded the point and I was instead confined
to camp until my discharge. Undoubtedly I was still a 'communist' although
my discharge papers did not reflect this opinion.

Yes, Brits are conservative. In different ways for a hundred years or more
they have been bullied into accepting the status quo. Although we can remind
ourselves that for years there has been the working class Labour Party, this
is a myth, there is no national working class Party in Britain. Traditional
practice is that trade unions financially support the Labour Party while at
the same time
supporting the interests of its members. But let us not forget that trade
unions members do not represent all of the working class.The non-unionised
majority of the workforce are unskilled and exploited people who are paid
minimum wage, if they are lucky. Perhaps it is because the Labour Party
continues NOT to represent the interests of the working class that 'Red Ken'
has developed his political platform. In Britain over recent years people
have expressed a desire for an alternative political route. With 'Red Ken' I
presume that for some people their fear is that he might succeed where
others have failed and fear of success is just as traumatic as the fear of
failure. What is to be Done!!

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