‘I have written it down, just as it flowed. Nothing added, nothing taken away. No preservatives, no colouring matter. The boosing and the snogging. The intrigues and the plots, the joys and the sorrows. The tragedies, comedies, triumphs and disasters. Above all, the presentation of the everyday lives of the so-called dedicated revolutionaries, who underneath, as i have shown, were ordinary human beings, with failings and foibles, and all too frequently, victims of circumstances.’
Harry’s biography is clearly written for the purpose of recounting his time as an apparatchik in the Russian Communist Party. He puts particular emphasis on his ability to be objective; ‘It is nearly fifty years since I broke with the British Communist Party. This is a long enough time to reflect and review. It has also enabled me to recall and write objectively, dispassionately and, yes, affectionately.’ His writings are more or less centered on his political experiences, yet he does detail his personal life in chapters on his childhood and background. He also writes of his love affairs with women and a little of the breakdown of his relationship with his wife, including a hilarious chapter simply entitled ‘”CRABS” or Testicle Lice.’
His audience are those who have an interest in life as a Communist Party member; those who would like insight into the inner workings of the party members, or would just like to hear his experience and perspectives. Again, he attempts to remain as objective as possible. He writes his autobiography informatively and usually formally, lapsing into cheeky humor such as recalling the amount of encouragement he received to share his unique experiences ‘I am sick to death of being told “You must write it all down”‘. He obviously has had a keen audience even before he set out to write, and probably wrote his text with his friends, family and colleagues in mind.
He writes purposefully and chronologically. He begins with his family life and childhood, going on to political endeavors and experiences with his comrades, then of his return to England. His experiences and recollections speak positively of the Communist Party. Despite modern media portraying Communism negatively, I became interested in his personal investment in such politics and in my further research into the CP I can understand why he became so devoted to the cause, especially considering his hard working-class background. His experiences may change the perceptions of other readers, too.
I believe the purpose of his opening chapters is to situate him within the working-class background. He tells us of the hardships and poverty his parents had faced during their childhood. He writes of the serious effort his father put into earning a wage whilst always enduring the most unfortunate of circumstances, ‘Like thousands of others he was pitchforked by fate into an alien, hostile world… With no training, without qualifications or profession.’ This experience of his parents life obviously must’ve affected his political view of the world as he grew. Seeing that the government failed to provide for or protect any of his family, he must’ve yearned for a different system, one that would put an end to the poverty and hardship he had witnessed.
Unlike many other working class authors at the time, politics is at the forefront of his story as it his vocation and profession to campaign for the communist party. He seizes the opportunity to move to greener pastures and seek a better life outside of Holloway Road!
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