1969 – Ruth S, London District Committee

Member of the YCL London District Committee. Anti-racist and trade union activist. Current member of the Executive Committee and Vice Chair of the Communist Party.

I am Vice Chair of the Communist Party and on the Executive Committee. I was born into a Communist family, and grew up aware of political meetings at home, and the communists, trades unionists and local activists who came to them. My political awareness was stimulated by the discussions I heard, and by reading The Daily Worker through my childhood.

There were many political discussions at home, about race discrimination, Apartheid South Africa and why we did not buy their goods, about trades unionism, current events, class, and sex discrimination, to mention just a few. Regarding sex discrimination, we had a household chores rota, which my older brother initially rebelled over, stating he was not doing ‘women’s work’.

He was promptly offered a shelf in the fridge for food, that he had to buy and cook, and was advised when the washing machine was available, amongst other things. Unsurprisingly his rebellion did not last long!

In 1968 the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King; opposition to the Vietnam war and media coverage bringing home the full horrors; anti-Apartheid activity; and the rebellion that swept across the world involving many, but especially youth, really opened my eyes.

It was a tumultuous year, and watching communists, trade unionists, students, and others, engage in struggle influenced my political awareness.

I wanted to join the YCL in 1968, but was told I had to be 13 years old. Imagine my frustration at being told, just after my 13th birthday, that I now had to research all young people’s political organisations and explain why I wanted to join the YCL and not the rest. I did so and persuaded my parents to let me join, and became the youngest member of my local YCL Branch. 

I have memories of telling off older, (especially male) members about patronising me. On one occasion James Klugman was speaking at our meeting and chortled loudly when I berated one of the older, male, members about their attitude. As you may realise, I did not suffer a lack of confidence, having been raised to speak up, question and reject dismissal, which all had to be done politely!

My YCL Branch engaged in activity every weekend and ran a lot of social activities, eg a folk club. I never held a YCL Branch position, but I was elected to the YCL London District Committee at one point. The debates, activities and education helped my political understanding, whilst having great fun. The YCL helped develop my skills and the political knowledge and skills that helped shape the Communist I am today.

Young people who want to change our capitalist society and be part of creating a socialist future need to develop Marxist political analysis skills. They will need to understand the nature of capitalism, and develop skills to successfully work and organise collectively. The YCL offers the education and opportunities to do this, which alongside the experience of socialising and working with comrades, is an experience not to be missed.

Ruth