I had a strange idea yesterday. I had the idea of inviting Harriet Harman home for dinner. This isn’t a thought that occurs to me often, but I suddenly felt it might be fun.
I’d invite my Dad too. And then, when we’d given Harriet a nice meal (what do you think she likes to eat?), my father could tell her his story.
He could tell her how the Soviets and the Nazis closed in on his home town of Lvov in September 1939 and how the town council chose the Soviets to surrender to. Then he might tell her how the fathers of his friends were taken to the woods at Katyn and shot by the communists.
He might recount the story of his father’s arrest as an antisocial element, of Adolf Finkelstein’s repeated interrogations leading to a trial in his absence and a jail sentence of 15 years’ hard labour. Then Dad could tell the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party about his own experience as a child, exiled to a remote Siberian village. And how he and his mother and his father never saw their home again.
And, when he’d finished, he could let Harriet speak. And she could explain to Dad why she thinks that Fidel Castro is a hero.
Its been almost 60 years since my grandfather’s arrest and 50 years since the Soviets invaded Hungary. The Prague Spring has come and gone, the Gdansk shipyard strike is history, the Berlin Wall has fallen. We’ve read Robert Conquest tell of Stalin’s murderous deeds and Jung Chang tell of Mao’s.
We’ve watched films about the Stasi and recoiled in disgust at the opulent lives of the Ceausescus. We know that Alger Hiss was guilty and that there was, after all, a communist conspiracy in America. We’ve read Solzhenitsyn and Sharansky. We know.
Yet still the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, the Leader of the House of Commons, a member of the Cabinet, is in love with Fidel. When asked, earlier this week, in an interview: “Fidel Castro – authoritarian dictator or hero of the Left?” she answered unhesitatingly – “hero of the Left”.
Which brings me to this question – Why? Why does she think that? Why would she say that?
Indeed. Read the whole thing. Oh, and I wanted to quote this:
We have to understand why parts of the Left, people who think of themselves as impeccably liberal, still think of communism as an heroic doctrine and communists as basically well meaning and a bit “alternative”. It’s a pervasive attitude that goes well beyond politicians. Go to Tate Modern and you will find an exhibition of Soviet art – workers joyfully producing tractors or some such. In the bookshop you can buy a book of posters from the cultural revolution. Hitler memorabilia is not on sale. They wouldn’t dream of having a room full of artfully designed Juden Raus! posters.