'Comrades!' he cried. 'It is a special honour for me to stand before you at last -heroic defenders of democracy, champion fighters against the Fascist hordes . . .' It was Harry Pollitt, leader of the British Communist Party . . .
He was my first experience of a professional working-class leader . . . Wilting though we were, he had us convinced that not only would we smash Franco, Hitler and Mussolini, but go on to capture the whole world for the workers. We were all heroes, and he was our leader, and we cheered him as he stood there, larger than life, shining noble and shaking with emotion.
Then it was all over. The spell and the magic quite broken. He jumped down from the platform to mix with the men and was immediately surrounded by a jostling crowd . . . plucking at his sleeves and pouring out their grievances, asking to be sent back home. 'It ain't good enough, you know. I bin out 'ere over nine months. Applied for leave and didn't get no answer. When they goin' to do something, eh, comrade? . . . eh? . . .' The last I saw of [him], he was backing towards the door . . . eyes groping lor escape: 'Sorry, lads - sorry . . . nowt to do with me . . . sorry, I can't do owt about that . . .'
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