YCL and Communist Party member for almost half a century. Joined in Leeds in 1972. Elected to the Yorkshire District Committee in 1973.
My name is Steve and I have been a member of the YCL and the Communist Party in Britain for not quite half a century!
I was 13 going on 14 when one Saturday in Leeds City Centre I came across a demonstration organised by the Communist Party and YCL against the Vietnam War still raging at the time.
I picked up a YCL leaflet and went home and told my parents I was going to fill it in.
But this was no sudden decision. I had in fact already started showing an interest in politics after the first miners’ strike under the Ted Heath Conservative Government.
Although my parents had long dropped out, I was aware from an early age that my grandparents on my mother’s side were involved in something called The Party. My grandparents were well known in the local community for trade union and other activities and I learned about Vietnam, South Africa and Angela Davis.
I was soon learning that the USA and Britain were not the good guys on the side of freedom. Like many teenagers at the time, I was reading American superhero comics where the villains were often Cold War stereotypes.
I had wondered why Iron Man was fighting people like my grandparents when they had spent their lives helping other people. I soon realised that Tony Stark was the type of capitalist it was necessary to overthrow.
My parents recognising my interest in politics had suggested that I join the Labour Party Young Socialists. They thought that I would have an easier time at school than if I became a young Communist.
But I didn’t want to be a Young Socialist, I wanted to be a Young Communist. So, having made that decision, I visited my granddad and was given a selection of Marx and Lenin pamphlets from Progress Publishers, some of which I still have today.
It took a while from me sending in the membership application to me being visited (slowness in following up the applications was a problem even then), but I soon got my membership card and attended within a week my first YCL branch meeting and district educational.
Most other comrades were in their early 20s but I never felt talked down to. I didn’t quite get at the time their preference for folk nights rather than discos but my own music tastes were soon to go in that direction.
Until then I had been the quiet kid in school, but I soon became more vocal, taking in leaflets and Challenge. So much so that at a parent’s evening my dad was told that I seemed to be on some sort of “Marxist kick”.
I was the youngest member in the Yorkshire District. We used to have an annual summer camp at Jerusalem Farm near Halifax and a regular Red Festival.
I got my first taste of internal tensions by attending the YCL Congress in 1973, but that and subsequent history is the basis of a different article. The highlight of my first YCL Congress was the fraternal speaker from Vietnam.
Despite all those difficulties, joining the YCL made a positive impact on my life and I would urge young people today to seek the same path in fighting for the finest cause in the world, Socialism and human liberation.