a ramble around some issuesOctober 1 2008 at 6:28 PM
|Jeremy Hawthorn |
Response to party subculture
The other thing that contributed to a sense of belonging was that the party put pressure on you to be active. Much as we (or certainly I) sometimes hated those calls to go out and sell the Star, or go to the branch or union meeting, or go out leafletting, we also knew that without the party we would be (as I am) more lazy. And you forged closer friendships with those you worked with than with those you merely talked to - even those you disagreed with most of the time.
I've heard it claimed that the move from an activity based membership to a discussion based one - which was never complete - was related to fewer industrial workers and more students and middle-strata members. That doesn't match my own experience: I think that there were inactive and active members from all backgrounds. Similarly, the view that all euros were students and intellectuals, and all hardliners were industrial workers, again does not match my experience. Such divisions cut across class lines.
I seem to recall making the point before that there were larger social movements involved in such changes. Many of the student comrades I knew were the children of industrial workers. The 1930s union and party branch, set in a locality around the big industrial workplace, where the people you worked with were the people who lived down the round and who drank in the same pub, gave way to the workforce scattered out to distant housing estates who preferred to sit at home and watch TV in the evenings, and who just popped into the union branch to renew their membership. Such changes affected the tight solidarities of the 1930s, especially when combined with a richer, more fully employed working class.