Harry Young (B.1901-1996): Habits, Culture & Belief

English_language_Communist_International_issue_6Harry writes of how being in the communist youth party changed his habits from quitting smoking to taking up physical activity. However, he writes little else on the matter. He instead, it seems, found leisure in travel and holidays, a luxury which not many of the working classes could afford. This is again due to his circumstances within the CP which allowed him to travel. As an ‘apparatchik’, he was entitled to holidays and could even apply for extended leave as the office was well aware that our journeys would almost inevitably be partial propaganda tours’.
He traveled to Volga, Astrakhan, Tbilisi, and through central Asia to outer Mongolia. He took journeys stopping at Bokhard, Samarkand and Almaty before his position in the CP landed him in bother. Despite being officially on holiday and traveling for leisure he was constantly asked to speak in the locations he traveled. Thus, tired of these requests and finding his comrade was revealing his locations, he traveled on his own back to Moscow.
It is interesting to speculate how both his age and gender shaped his desires to travel. It has already been noted that his class seemed to affect this very little as his political position removed the boundary of money. Despite growing up in a poor part of Islington, Harry has an unfettered drive to explore places that are so far removed from his childhood home. His youth gave him a thirst for adventure which removed any fear of the unknown. As a man he was able to travel further to remote place without fear of vulnerability. Both of these aspects allowed him to travel further, ye also placed him in danger when he naively chose to return to Moscow alone. He returned unscathed, yet he remarks of how on his journey home his taxi driver discovered he was a ‘foreigner’ and ‘would have cheerfully cut my throat and dumped me into a river’.
It is without a doubt that his travels changed him as a person, learning different cultures and languages at such a young age. Yet it is also interesting that he was asked to share his political beliefs with the locals, also changing their views and through the nature of his politics, making them question their own position as a proletariat – the working class.
Upon returning back to England, he was unable to travel as frequently as he used to. Harry

London Cab driver in 1933
London Cab driver in 1933

found recreation in the form of reading, particularly reading science. Between working as a cab driver he found enjoyment in science and the acquisition of knowledge. His love of this subject eventually turned into a profession as he successfully applied to become an educator and later in 1953 he gaining a diploma in teaching science.

It is clear from reading his memoir that he put a lot of emphasis upon gaining knowledge and expanding the mind. He loved to read and learn and this thirst for knowledge put him at an advantage to others in his situation. He became a rounded individual with knowledge and skill and a desire to help others. Certainly, his life would have been very different if he didn’t have the courage and drive to explore the unknown.
Burnett, John, David Mayall and David Vincent eds The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography vol. 2. Brighton: Harvester, 1987. YOUNG, Harry 2-858

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