It's wonderful how one thing leads to another. My last blog was about Denis Healey and his conversion to communism when a student at Oxford in the 1930s - an embrace which lasted three years.
That in turn prompted Nicholas Deakin to send me a copy of his new book Radiant Illusion?, in which Denis Healey features. The book's focus is on middle-class recruits to the CPGB in the era of its greatest success among students and intellectuals, the 1930s.
It's a mix of accounts by academics - Deakin, Kevin Morgan, Geoff Andrews - and the offspring of those recruited into the party in the (and of course those two groups overlap).
The book dispels any sense that CPers of the thirties - both those who came on board during the sectarian, class-against-class, early '30s, and those attracted to the much more open and collaborative Popular Front period from 1934-5 - were loners, sociopaths, obsessives. They tended to get on well with their parents, have lots of friends and were often among the most conspicuously talented of their generation.
As far as I am aware, there is no published study of student communism in the 1930s and '40s - which would need to embrace the Indian students communists who became so influential within the CPI. I've blogged here before about some of those who were attracted to communism as students, notably Freda Bedi and Ram Nahum. Radiant Illusion? is the wonderful sort of book which both informs and nourishes and raises a whole load of other questions which deserve attention.
As you'll see the book is published by a small press and at a very affordable price.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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