Harry Young (1901-1996):

Born in 1901. Father ran a bicycle shop but was unsuccessful in this and other ventures and later ‘. . . descended into the ranks of the lumpenproletariat’. Only child. Educated at 8 or 9 elementary schools, including Westbourne Park School (aged 13). Also attended Socialist Sunday School run by the Social Democratic Federation. Became a student at the Working Men’s College in 1948 and later achieved an Open University degree. Married a Russian girl, who came to England with the author in 1929. Lived in various districts of London (1901-21); Moscow (1922-9); London (1929-56); Watford (1956-?). Living in Wembley in 1984. Tea-boy at a motor works then engaged in making bomb cases (1914); metal bracket grinder at an iron works; post-boy to a firm of manufacturing opticians; piercer in a cartridge factory; served in a bookshop (1917-18); assistant to a music hall magician; unskilled docker (in Antwerp); office worker in the Communist Party offices (1920-21); National Organiser of the Young Communist League; Young Communist official and representative in the Soviet Union (1922-9); foreign language operator for the London Telephone Service (1929-30), but was demoted to relief man when his political activities were discovered (1930); foreign correspondence clerk for a firm of machine tool importers; English editor of the Communist International (1932-5); manager of Collett’s bookshop (1934); munitions worker (Woolwich Arsenal); travel courier; taxi driver; ambulanceman (during World War II); science teacher (from 1946) and lecturer. Young Communist representative to the several Congresses of the Chinese Communist Party and on the Executive Council of the Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern); member of the Secretariate of the Praesidium of the Executive Committee of the Young Communist International; chairman of the Founding Conference of the British Communist Party, then National Organiser and International Secretary in Moscow; active anti-war campaigner; left the CP over the issue of the Spanish Civil War; was present at Lenin’s last speech, the discussion of the Zinoviev letter and Trotsky’s expulsion; joined the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1939; official in the National Association of Teachers. An evocative portrait of London life around the turn of the century followed by a revealing insight into Communist Party organisation and activities in the Soviet Union and England. The first section deals with the author’s poor and often destitute childhood, taking the reader into the world of beershops; prostitution; buskers (‘the poor man’s music hall’); shops; street hawkers; Socialist Sunday Schools (‘spontaneous’ and ‘natural’ with no attempt by teachers to dominate or control); pacifism and conscientious objectors; reading matter; schooling; early work life; and containing pen pictures of his father, mother (whose life was a ‘hell upon Earth’), and other relatives. The second major theme is the author’s life in the Soviet Union and daily activities as a Young Communist official, describing sexual encounters (polygamy causing him the ‘greatest remorse and regret and shame’); impressions of Soviet leaders and British activists (Lenin; Trotsky; Bukarin; Stalin; Richard Schuller; Zinoviev; Harry Pollitt; Willie Gallagher; R. Palme Dutt; J.B. Campbell; Robert Stewart; J.T. Murphy; Arthur McManus); the New Economic Policy; a critique of Stalinism; social activities; Comintern Congresses; ‘Labour Days’; ‘errors’ of Leninism. Final sections discuss the British Communist Party in the 1930s (‘front’ organisations, local activities, clashes with Mosley’s Blackshirts) and teaching experiences. The author claims the text is honest and truthful: ‘. . . nothing added, nothing taken away. No preservatives, no colouring matter. The boozing and the snogging. The intrigues and the plots, the joys and sorrows . . . above all, the presentation of the everyday lives of the so-called dedicated revolutionaries . . .’. The narrative is composed of short and usually self-contained chapters which tends to interrupt the flow and chronology of the story.

Young, Harry. ‘Harry’s Biography.’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:0858.

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