Friday, April 3, 1981

The prophet armed

I got up really late and by the time I’d got up and everything it was half-past eight. The weather was just like summer, collared doves cooing in the garden and birds singing all the way to school.

Mid-morning and quite out of the blue, Ingham came in to the common room and introduced me to Craig Bentley, who used to do History at Egley and is now doing a degree in Intellectual History at Watermouth. He was dressed pretty weirdly, in shabby maroon cords and a braided, military jacket and Ingham said I should talk with him about Watermouth. After making him some coffee, we went into the study area to talk. It’s so difficult conducting a conversation with someone you’ve never even met before but he seemed OK, and I got a few good interview tips from him. Mainly though, the ‘session’ consisted of several pretty heavy silences, awkward pauses and wooden exchanges. Fortunately, he did all the talking. It seems now that my line would be a course in Politics at Watermouth University.

As soon as I got back into the common room I was greeted by Duncan and Angela and their absolutely puerile, shitty little comments. I was so humiliated. At eleven Jeremy, Deborah, Duncan and I went down for our two hours extra art and I completed my comparative essay. After dinner I stayed in the common room talking to Claire about History or being slapped by Angela. Last period was History all about Trotsky’s contribution to the Soviet Union. We’ve got a pretty important test to revise for on Monday. I’ve also been delegated responsibility for Wednesday’s assembly.

In the evening Nanna P. came and I passed most of the time scouring through Deutscher’s The Prophet Armed and writing various essay plans for History. As I did so, I was gradually seized with enthusiasm for socialism. The details of the prerevolutionary Russian underground are fascinating and I’m eager to read more. Suitably inspired, I grabbed paper and an envelope and wrote a letter to the SPGB, enquiring about local discussion groups. Writing my letter I suddenly realised that “Dear Sir” implies an inherent, sexist attitude – “Comrade” would be better but sounds so contrived somehow – “Citizen”? “Fellow Socialist”? – "Dear fellow socialist” has it. Still clichéd but . . .?? It was interesting to compare SPGB articles on Trotsky and Lenin with the Deutscher biography and Basic Writings. Who at first appears heroic and admirable becomes treacherous and hypocritical.

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