Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Sins Of The Fathers

For some the big political news was the ejection of the former Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock from his seat at the Fulham against Cardiff football match for antagonising other supporters Wrong Again misjudging the situation around him.

This lack of awareness and the potential consequences not mentioned in the reports have long been a feature of those on the left.  Which brings me back to the Ed Miliband business again and his row with the Daily Mail about his father, Ralph Miliband which interestingly enough followed this blog item from the 25th September.

This comment is from the time before the boys were born or had even been factored in to the Miliband Five Year Plan and relates to two events, meetings where he and I were present with a number of others.

They were both talks, or quasi lectures, one by Jack Dash the prominent leader of the dock workers union and the other by the Soviet Ambassador to the UK.  The occasions were quite different in their way but told me a lot that they did not teach Ralph Miliband and his peers or rather comrades.

Jack, who I talked to and bumped into a couple of times in later years was a charming and courteous man who had learned many things but was a dedicated communist in which the movement marched to the theory and it was the job of the intellectuals like Miliband to explain and elucidate the meaning of the theory.

There are many and various matters but picking out one as a key example.  After WW2 and conscription there were very large numbers of men able to drive, mechanically trained and who had become familiar with the basics of logistics.  Also, there were a lot of trucks to be had. 

The consequence was the rapid expansion of road transport once fuel became more available with all the implications both for the railways and the docks.  In the docks the lost and old cargo ships had been replaced with smaller numbers of much larger ones equipped for mechanical handling techniques.

The reaction of the dockers was to obstruct and hinder as much as possible the lifelines of UK trade, food supply and the rest, notably resisting new methods of handling etc.  The result was a long period of attrition which encouraged anyone who could to avoid certain ports by any means possible.

So when container shipping became a major feature of trade the old and traditional UK ports went into collapse.  Jack and Ralph and their friends had been totally oblivious to reality in their belief that it could all be planned and micromanaged away and they could continue to hold UK governments to ransom.

As for the Soviet Ambassador, what was clear in his speech was that it had been through several drafts.  Apart from that many of us could not believe what we were hearing.  The Soviet Union was to overtake the USA in GNP in the next five years. 

The SU had a policy of peace and so the Third Shock Army in East Germany was there to help children cross the road despite their being hardly any cars or trucks.  The evident superiority of the SU in all matters meant that if only the people would listen to the intellectuals of the left, paradise on earth was there for the taking.

The intellectuals of the left, including Ralph, were sitting there starry eyed at all this.  Those in the audience many with a lot more practical experience and a handful with better sources recognised this as a purely propaganda exercise.  Yet this was the material that fed the intellectuals.

My father, born within months of Ralph, had different views.  He had done time in manual work on the docks, according to the evidence of my birth certificate.  His thesis was that the troublemakers causing all the problems should be put up against a wall and shot.

Just like they did in Russia.


  1. We were too soft with such people. My father was in Russia for a while during Stalin's time - he said it was a dreadful place. Armed police everywhere and no Russian would dare talk to a foreigner.

  2. My parents always bitterly recall that at the height of the Battle of Britain, the Liverpool dockers were on strike

    1. By '38 we got lucky and were in the Midlands and glad to be there, steady work, regular wage and no strikes.