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Reasons to be CheerfulReasons to be cheerful cover  Amazon Co UK

Mark Steel.  Scribner, London 2002.  ISBN 0 7432 0804 8.  £6.99

Until Mark Steel came along I thought that Groucho was the only Marxist comedian.  Not so.  Mark Steel is a dedicated follower of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky and a very witty social commentator.

Steel seems to be about my age and like me, he became politically active as a teenager in the 1970s. In his case, he joined the Socialist Workers’ Party.  I joined the National Front.  Despite the ideological differences, though, the similarities are amazing.  Joining a political group, he says is like the first day at school or a new job.  Everyone knows the rules, and the in jokes.  His account of how meetings are conducted is brilliant – and so true! 

Steel takes us through all the milestones of the Thatcher years; the campaign against the poll tax, the Anti-Nazi League, the IRA hunger strike, the miners’ strike, the first Gulf War, etc., right up to the triumph and subsequent disappointment of Tony Blair’s election victory in 1997.

As a delegate for the pro-IRA ‘Troops Out Movement’, he visited Belfast and Londonderry in 1981 and was very much impressed by the dedicated support he found for the IRA hunger strikers.  That these men were dedicated to their cause is undeniable, but it doesn’t make that cause right! 

This is an honest book, and will be appreciated by political activists of all stripes.  It’s bound to trigger many memories for those of a certain age.

David Kerr



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