Children of the Revolution

Children of the Revolution

Children of the Revolution

Children of the Revolution

Synopsis

Children of the Revolution is a fascinating record of the experiences of children of communist parents brought up in 1950s Britain. Through a captivating series of interviews, Phil Cohen dissects the value-system that dominated these families. He explores how being communist made many children feel isolated from their school mates and how they were often made secondary to political activity. The generation went on to experience the political and cultural excitement of the 1960s, often coming into conflict with parents who were, fundamentally, conservative. Many of them now hold influential positions, and in this book they discuss how their childhoods have affected their current attitudes. Interviews with: Michael Rosen, Hywel Francis, Phil Cohen, Alexei Sayle, Martin Jones, Jackie Kay, Martin Kettle, Carole Woddis, Ann Kane, Jude Bloomfield, Pat Devine, Mike Power and Nina Temple. Foreword by Gillian Slovo.

Excerpt

There was a moment during my mother’s funeral in Mozambique when I found myself taking in an involuntary breath. I was standing in the family line up, listening to a succession of speeches about the heroic martyr rather than the mother I had known, when one of the speakers got specific: he chose as his highest compliment and the peak of his oratory, the fact that Ruth had been an exemplary Communist. What surprised me was not that he thought of her that way but rather my own reaction: I was shocked that he had used the C word in public.

Looking back, I can still marvel at my response. After all, neither of my parents had ever made a secret of their party membership - how could they when they were named, banned and denigrated as reds in every South African newspaper? My mother was hardly exemplary - nothing stopped her from voicing her criticisms of the Soviet Union - but she was still a defiant Communist. and yet at her funeral, when one of her comrades named her thus, it felt to me as if something forbidden and dangerous had been inadvertently let loose.

I realised then how far one of the tentacles of our childhood’s many unspoken rules had been stretched. We children of reds belonged to a unique world, a world of sacrifice and secrecy and conspiracy. When I was growing up in South Africa my parents had a desk with a specially constructed, hidden compartment in which they kept banned literature: meanwhile, thousands of miles away in America, a friend’s parents hid their party newspaper in the freezer. We all belonged to a conspiracy and yet, at the same time, we were excluded from it. We observed the workings of our parents clandestine world, and we learned to hide what was discussed in the home from people whom we instinctively knew would despise us for it. We were special, we . . .

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