History,  Trots

From the Vaults: The Guardian, March 29, 1991

It seems to me that the Hare Krishna followers, who can on occasion be seen dancing up and down Oxford Street, have more fun than the Socialist Worker newspaper sellers that Jon Ronson described in the article that I extract from below:

Young Guardian: They’ll keep the red rag flying – The students who flog the Socialist Worker on the streets of Manchester

Jon Ronson

The Guardian, March 29, 1991

THE PROBLEM with the Socialist Workers Party, the old joke goes, is that hardly any of its members are workers, even fewer are socialists and none of them knows how to party.

Nonetheless, the members’ dogged dedication to the greater glory of The Revolution is legendary. Few of us have been spared the pleasure of being accosted by a young SWP zealot while trying to buy our latest bourgeois luxury consumer item on a Saturday afternoon.

Most paper sellers are young around 18 which begs the question: what happens to members when they reach 30? Perhaps, as in Logan’s Run, they are voluntarily disintegrated to make way for new blood. Or maybe they just settle down to start small businesses. Who knows? Membership turnover is certainly very high.

Current SWP stalwarts are … suspicious. ‘Bugger off!’ advises one young member as I approach, notebook at the ready. ‘You could be anyone the police, the opposition, anyone.’

‘You want an interview?’ says another. ‘Then buy a paper.’ ‘But I’ve already got one,’ I reply. ‘Well, buy another. Buy one for your mother.’….

Most passers-by treat the SWP sellers as they’d treat someone carrying a Hungry And Homeless sign: avoid eye contact in true Brit manner and be glad you’re not them.

The SWP people don’t mind. They seem to be enjoying themselves. They swap jokes and cigarettes and shout jovial insults at passing fellow travellers and passing fellow students. They appear, from a distance, less a Socialist Workers Party and more a Socialist Workers Gang. But they do, from time to time, get involved in heated and intense discussions with passing intellectual types, who bat around ideological quagmires before going off to do their shopping.

The shift for Theresa, Linda and Steve lasts 90 minutes, and at 2pm it’s time to count up the money. Around a dozen papers have been sold, which they are content with, and they stand around indulging in post-match analysis. ‘I was loud,’ says Linda. ‘I was dead loud.’ ….

But why do they stand in the freezing cold every Saturday afternoon when they could be out doing more conventional young people’s things like hanging around amusement arcades and scaring pensioners?

‘Because we believe,’ replies Theresa, staring at me with overzealous and almost saintly sincerity. ‘We believe that there’s no choice.’