Occupational thoughts

Covering life on the home front.

Young Communist League summer camp 2009

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Day 1

I had been expecting a camp of perhaps 50 people [EDIT: A quick facebook search reveals that the YCL has 227 members in it’s FB group], in fact it is a hired out Youth Hostel with 12 people. I was also told that there would be 18 people but 6 people left by the time I arrived (halfway through the camp). I’m going to refer to it as a camp even though we’re not sleeping in tents outside. The people here are still friendly and accepting. They remind me of my eccentric friends in the scouts. In terms of their politics I discovered that they reject the term ‘State Capitalist’ used to describe China, North Korea and the former USSR. I object to this, when I mentioned that I attend meetings of the Socialist Worker’s Party they registered a vague negative feeling. I now see how from their point of view the SWP can be seen as moderate. Despite this I am learning a lot about how they think and act.
Regrettably there is no internet connection here so I am writing this on a notepad. I noticed that my blog readership plummeted to zero views for 2 days. I checked when I got a wifi connection at Bordeaux airport. Today we re-enacted the Cuban revolutionary war; it was more of an excuse to stroll around the Derbyshire countryside scaring Tory-voting farmers out of their SUVs. This walk culminated in a short but spectacular water fight. I even got to borrow a beret and pretend I was Che Guevera. A guy in our group called Dominic had a Castro hat and we addressed him as ‘Fidel’ or ‘El Comandante’.
Last week’s holiday in France was alright. It could have been better if my crazy grandad had not interfered with everything. I did get to sleep in a house on my own every night so I did have some independence. But I was not allowed to cook for myself or use any mode of transport that wasn’t my grandad’s car. At one point I briefly dreamed that Mariah could be there with me but remembered that I’d already asked her and she declined. Dam.
That’s probably too short a summing up of my holiday… it’s the best I can do as I didn’t keep a diary over there.
I read Mark Thomas’s ‘Belching out the Devil’ and am currently reading George Monbiot’s compilation of articles called ‘Bring on the Apocalypse’.

Day 2

Today we went campaigning in Sheffield, as we arrived I dutifully noted a medium-rise-medium-density (50 dwellings per hectare) council estate. This has some community land which is shared with a high-rise building of a similar density. Afterwards I saw a tramway line and was suitably impressed.
We set up a stall outside the town hall near a flowery structure of a steelworker. I also noted that the task of handing out leaflets/newspapers becomes exponentially easier the more people you have with you. Or it’s just possible that Sheffield is just a more working-class town so more willing to take left-wing propaganda. We gave away 50 copies of the Morning Star and as many leaflets for the new people’s charter. I had the opportunity to browse the other stalls and was amazed by the childlike disputes between socialist parties. Led by a vision of a united left and solidarity among workers the squabbling has brought me back to an unpleasant reality.
Another reveries which was shown false was my imagined expectations of a Communist camp. Huddled together the figures drink and sing. Within the warm atmosphere intense debates rage and speakers make fiery revolutionary speeches. In the eye of such passion sit me and Mariah, united and happy. I console myself with the continued hope that such an expectation may be met in the future.
The observation I made yesterday about the small amount of participants on this camp is revised by two more thngs I learnt. There seems to be a high turnover of participants as since I’ve been here 2 people have left and one joined our group. Secondly that this is the first YCL camp for 30 years. When the Young Communist League is hailed as ‘Britain’s largest revolutionary youth organisation’ I feel a more adequate mantra would be ‘Britain’s only revolutionary youth organisation’.
In Sheffield I was also able to acquire a Super Mario plush figure. A Luigi one was available but I decided against it.


Day 3

Last night the group split between watching Che part 2 and watching television. I chose to watch TV  because I have already seen Che part 2. We huddled around the tiny screen and moved the aerial to get a picture. After much fiddling we blu-tacked it to a wall and left it alone. The programme was of a stand-up comedian called Michael McIntyre, a comrade passed around chocolate; it was a nice evening.
I was puzzled by an apparent mistake in one of the leaflets distributed yesterday. The story was about Irau security forces who had attacked a refugee camp for Iranian political exiles called Camp Ashraf. This was made illegal under the 4th Geneva Convention. Attacking refugee camps is not allowed, there’s no debate, it’s a really really bad thing to do, don’t do it. Amnesty international reported it and in their report the death toll was counted as 8 with 400 wounded. In the condensed story on the other page, the death toll is counted at 12 with 500 injured. Both reports confirm 50 or more refugees ‘arrested and taken to unknown locations’. Some people are doing a hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy. I hope to say hello and show my support when I go to London.
This evening we watched the People’s Flag and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. We also went for an hour-and-a-bit walk around Bretton.
I do not know what to make of the Communist attitude towards the other parties. The Worker’s Liberty paper seemed to have the aim of bashing other parties and promoting their own. Yet some people here speak with great fondness about certain parties and a united left. But they attack some other left-wing parties as ‘crazy’ or ‘nutters’.

Day 4

Apparently Peter Mandelson was in the YCL for some time.
We painted a YCL banner, it had ‘Join the Red Summer’ and a read sun complete with hammer and sickle drawn by me. In the evening we ate pizza and trifle. We had been writing speeches and so came to deliver them. My short imagined expectation became a reality. It was warm, everyone was happy, we sang and delivered our speeches, it was magnificent. Afterwards we went to the pub and relaxes in the dual pleasures of drink and fine company. Mariah wasn’t there but it was a night I won’t easily forget. Previously I had seen these people as a motley collection of young people who happen to share the same ideology. Now I see them as somehow more of one unified revolutionary entity.

Day 5

I leave today, this morning at 6 I got up and with some comrades went walking around the hills. It made a beautiful sight: 3 young communists marching up a hill towards the rising sun. I will catch a lift down to Birmingham then take the bus from there to Oxford. Birmingham bus station smells and is dirty.



Written by Pierre

August 27, 2009 at 07:47

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