My great uncle John was born in Stepney in 1926. As a child he left school at a young age so he could help his father support their large family of eleven.
Also as a child he saw the Blackshirts march through the East End.
To many working people, politics was something that others did and they obeyed. To John’s young eyes, politics could be something very dangerous if left to its own devices.
Despite his lack of education he never stopped trying to gain knowledge. As an adult he immersed himself in books, music, and kept up on all current affairs. One thing I remember about him is his generosity in sending me every classic book he could think of. From my birth until his death in 2001, John was always encouraging me to learn, learn, learn.
In 1968 John enrolled in an O Level course to try and gain a promotion. After his death I found his coursework for this course, and felt as if I knew him better because of it. Yesterday I got it all out again and was gobsmacked at what I found.
This exercise, “If I were Harold Wilson”, could almost be parallel to the struggles the left face at this very moment.
Do we struggle with the same things consistently? Do we not progress, or do the right push us into the same battles every decade?
Whatever the reason may be, it was incredible to see his thoughts mirror mine and so many others, all those years before. If only he could’ve seen Corbyn.
I suppose all we can do, to make sure these things will one day, finally, become history, is to learn, learn, learn.
[The coursework in question is posted below with kind permission of Rachel Mulberg and John's family]
If I were Mr. Wilson
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