Category Archives: Politics

Card Carrying Commies (5)

One of my very best friends, whom I have known since Infants’ School, has always been a keen photographer. In 1989 he decided to go to Berlin on one of those cheap European flights. As luggage, he took with him a camera and a large hammer. He wanted, I suppose, to help history along on its way:

By December 25, 1991, the desire for change had spread to the USSR. The Soviet hammer and sickle flag over the Kremlin was pulled down for the last time. Mikhail Gorbachev, a good man, was replaced by Boris Yeltsin.

Here’s Gorbachev and Yeltsin:

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And the world that Aleesa and Vladimir had known all their lives comes crashing down. For years and years, Aleesa has come into the office with her Party dues. She has paid her money every single month without fail, to the only organisation she has ever belonged to. And then, she goes along to pay for May 1990, perhaps thinking it will help with the cost of the celebrations to mark the end of the Great Patriotic War on May 8th or perhaps even May Day itself. The day which celebrates the Workers of the World. But the Party is over. Gone for ever:

Vladimir will experience exactly the same process. He goes in one day to pay his 1 rouble 13 kopecks and there’s nobody to take it from him. Why, they’ve even written the next year on the blank page, so certain were they both that the Party would be there for ever:

But now, there are just lots and lots of blank pages, each with the number of a future year already inked in in the top right hand corner. Life though, has changed for ever:

Even “Zolochevskiy” has changed as I found out when I googled it. In my previous post, “Zolochevskiy” was the name of the local administrative area of the Communist Party. I skimmed through four news reports thrown up by Google and I found nothing at all about any branches of the old Communist Party.

“Zolochevskiy” was there though, but the stories were all reported with the kind of vocabulary such as:

“Anti-Corruption Bureau, colossal greed, corruption, crime, criminal proceedings, dirty money, embezzlement, illicit assets, laundering, mafia, misappropriation, possible abuses, proceeds from crime, seizure of property through abuse of official position, stacks of treasures, suspicion of illegal enrichment and the wanted list.”

How sad. The Party fades away and is replaced by something lots, lots worse. And that’s not just the Ukraine, of course. Plenty of other ex-members of the Soviet club are much, much worse off than they ever were before. Whole countries run by criminal elements. Fixed elections. Old people forced to beg in the streets because their pension funds have been stolen.

Don’t worry though. I’m sure that somebody will come along and save them all:



Filed under History, Humour, Personal, Politics, Russia

Card Carrying Commies (4)

Last time, we were looking at the Communist Party membership cards carried by just a deluded few  of those maniacal Commies who did nothing with their lives except plot and scheme how to overcome NATO. They all carried a little booklet:

The next page we get to is all about cash. The top sets of words are Ukrainian with at least one letter “ i ” and the second one is Russian. The top box is “Payment-(of) membership-dues”. The year is 1975:

The first of the four vertical columns is the month which in Russian is “M-YE-S-YA-TS”, which is like the Latin word “mensis” and means ‘month’. Russian is a very ancient language and tends to have words related to Latin rather more frequently than many modern European languages, except for universal words such as ‘tennis’, or ‘football’ or ‘tank’.
Going down the column you might be able to work out the names of the months. They are YA-N-V-A-R (don’t bother about the little letter ‘b’. It’s an accent) F-YE-V-R-A-L , M-A-R-T, A-P-R-YE-L, M-AYE (the letter ‘й’ ias again an accent, a bit like a letter ‘Y’ in English). Then it’s “EE-YU-N” and “EE-YU-L”. After that it’s A-V-G-OO-S-T, S-YE-N-T-YA-B-R, O-K-T-YA-B-R, N-O-YA-B-R and D-YE-K-A-B-R.
The next three columns are quite interesting. The second one is headed “Monthly earnings”, so she made 271 roubles in January, 267 roubles in February and so on.

As for how much that was worth, it’s very difficult to say. I visited the USSR in 1969 and paid 3p for a newspaper or 5p for a packet of 20 cigarettes. The Moscow underground was inexpensive with go-anywhere tickets at 3p. So many Muscovites used the underground that the Soviet Mint made a special three kopeck coin  to quicken things up at the ticket machines. Travel on the trams or buses was equally low-priced. Overall, most ordinary everyday things were extremely cheap, although many Western-type things were virtually unobtainable so they were very expensive.

I think Aleesa could have led a simple and relatively comfortable life on this amount of money. True, she would have lacked a lot of consumer goods but at the same time, she would not have had the average personal debt we supposedly have here in England of £14,000 per person, excluding house mortgages. Her streets were largely crime and graffiti free, she had decent accommodation that she could afford to heat, she had a job, her education was completely free and when she grew old, she received a pension. She had access to a very large number of simple leisure activities, such as sport, dance and libraries, theatre and opera and all of it was very low priced. A large number of people in contemporary Russia would return to the old days if they could, especially the old people.
Her party membership fees are listed in Column Three.

They seem to vary but are very roughly 3% of her total salary. I have not been able to find out exactly what were the particular benefits of Party membership. Presumably, a lot of ordinary people just wanted to be Communists and to defend the massive gains they had made under that system. A search of the Internet in general reveals that the Party granted people a greater chance of reaching a higher level in whichever field they were working in, from the Army to professorships in Zoology. If that’s the case though, then the Party’s doors were open a lot wider than the Bohemian Club, the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University, the Pitt Club at Cambridge University or the Skull and Bones at Yale University. And there must be lots of other clubs so secret that we don’t even know about them. This is the badge of the Ukrainian Communist Party:

Whatever Aleesa got out of Party Membership, she was happy to pay the fees. The third column is the signature of the Secretary of the local party. It’s written “S-YE-K-R-YE-T-A-R-YA”.

Vladimir doesn’t seem to have received as much per month if you look at the second column. He earned 73 roubles in January 1977, for example.

Perhaps he worked part time or perhaps he was disabled or a war veteran and received a sum every month. It’s impossible to know now. His contributions are just tiny…some 37 kopecks per month. And all of it signed for by the party secretary, although, if you look very carefully, it has already been stamped. What is on the stamp is very difficult to read, but it certainly has the word “Zolochevskiy” which I take to be the area concerned. It is the first word and begins with ‘Z-O-Lambda-O”.

What happened next, next time. In the meantime, “Workers, keep uniting!”.




Filed under History, Humour, Politics, Russia

Card Carrying Commies (3)

Last time, we were looking at the Communist Party membership cards carried by all of those Commies we have spent so much of our tax revenues trying to oppose. They all carried a little booklet:

The pretty young thing in the first booklet was called Aleesa. Here’s the second booklet we are going to look at. This is the top half of the identification page:

The surname of this gentleman is  “Artim”.  Look at the printed word “familiya”, with the Greek ‘Phi’. It means ‘surname’. His actual surname is handwritten which is a different alphabet and is best left for now. On the second line, his personal name is Vladimir with eight handwritten letters. It begins with a non-Greek letter which equals our “V” but then there is Lambda-Alpha as Letters No 2 and 3, and the word also ends with Rho as Letter  No 8.  The next line gives his patronymic, based on his father’s name. The first five letters show that Dear Old Comrade Dad was Vasili. Vladimir was born in 1933 on Line 4 and joined the Party in (March) 1967 on Line 5. He too comes from Lvov in the Ukraine.

Here’s his details in the Ukrainian version. Given that his Party number is 14,773,494 and Aleesa’s was 11,286,415, that means the Party acquired 3,487,079 new people in three years. I don’t know about the Democrats and the Republicans but it’s certainly a lot better recruitment than the Conservatives or Labour have ever managed in England:

As you can see, Ukrainian is only a little bit different although it is definitely a separate language rather than just a dialect of Russian. It’s perhaps like the difference between, say, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, or maybe, Portuguese and Spanish.

Here is the bottom half of the page:

The bit above the photo refers to the issuing authority which is near Lvov in the Ukraine (now Lviv). His party membership book was issued on April 26th 1974 (bottom line).

I like Vladimir. He looks exactly the sort of bloke to have with you if you were a landlord and one of your tenants  was a day late with the rent. When I went to the Soviet Union in 1969 on a school trip,  we used to go out on our own in the evenings. Quite frequently we would be followed by KGB men who were not at all subtle about what they were doing.  Just imagine Vladimir in an over sized 1950s double breasted pale grey pin stripe suit and that’s them! Apparently, the KGB wanted to make sure most of all that we were not visiting churches to make contact with the Christian underground. We weren’t.  Here’s one of their student-agents of the time:





Filed under History, Humour, Politics, Russia

Card Carrying Commies (2)

Last time we looked at what the members of the Soviet Communist Party used to carry around with them as proof of their membership. It was a little booklet:

This is the top half of the page which shows the Party Member who was No 11,286,415 in 1964 when she joined the Party:

The first line is her surname, with, printed in Russian “F-A-M-EE-L-EE-YA” with the Greek ‘Phi’, which is the word for ‘surname’. This lady is called “YA-TS-YEY-KA”. “я” is the sound “Ya” in English or “ja” in German. “YEY” should rhyme with ‘play’ and ‘stay’. There is an ‘o’ at the end of the name but it would be pronounced like the “a”  in ‘Carolina’. So her surname is “Yatsyeyka”.

The next line is her first name, which is “A-L-EE-S-A” …our “Alice”. Both names are handwritten in the special handwriting alphabet.

The next line is what is called a patronymic which is a name taken from your father. Alice is “I-V-A-N-O-V-N-A”, so her father was Ivan. Her patronymic is feminine. As a man, I would be “Frederickovich”. It’s no different from being “Svensson” or “Jonsdottir”, which would be my daughter’s name if we were Icelandic. 1932 is Aleesa’s date of birth, and “A-P-R-YE-L 1964” the date when she joined the Party.

Here is the bottom half of the page:

The bit above the photo refers to the issuing authority which is near Lvov in the Ukraine (now Lviv).

Aleesa received this particular membership book (bottom line) on November 23rd 1973. She may not be much of a looker, but a lot of Russian ladies are. In general, St Petersburg has the reputation of having the most beautiful girls, many of them with pale skins, brown eyes and very dark brown hair.




Filed under History, Humour, Politics, Russia

Card Carrying Commies (1)

During the days of the Soviet Union, people frequently joined the Communist Party mainly by reason of their political beliefs or for career advancement. It must have been like joining the Church of England or being a Freemason or buying your way into a top university like Oxford or Cambridge. It was not compulsory, but entirely by coincidence, everybody in the top jobs had done it.
Communist Party members had a booklet to prove their membership, pocket sized at 11 cm by 8 cm. Now that the Evil Empire has collapsed (the Soviet Union, not the Church of England or the Freemasons) you can buy old ones which belonged to previous Party members on ebay. Here is one of the job lot of 10 that I bought years ago. I only paid £3 each so I’m already making a profit from the deal if you have a look at current prices:

The lettering is in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet which is based on Ancient Greek. Here is the Greek alphabet, beloved of mathematicians and physicists, and ancient Greeks, presumably:

The top four words of the red cover of the booklet mean “Proletarians of all countries, unite”. You might recognise the “Pi-Rho-Omicron-Lambda” of the first word. Here is Marx’s phrase printed more clearly:

The second version of the Communist mission statement above is in Ukrainian because, as you will see, both of the Party members in these blog posts are from the Ukraine. Ukrainian is slightly different from Russian. You can always recognise Ukrainian because it has the letters  “ i ” and “ ï ”.

This means “Communist Party (of the) Soviet Union”.

You might recognise the “Kappa-Omicron-Mu-Mu” of the first word. Soviet Union begins with the non-Greek letter ‘C’ which is our letter ‘S’. You will have seen it perhaps on ice hockey players with their CCCP letters.

The abbreviation at the bottom is “ц-K” which stands for “Central Committee”. “ц” is a non Greek letter which means “ts” as in “bits”. “KПCC” is again “Communist Party (of the) Soviet Union”.

The first page on the inside has some bald bloke on it:

His autograph is at the end, “Ulyanov (Lenin)”. The quote, again with lots of Greek letters, is “(The) Party (is the) Intellect, Honour and Conscience (of) Our Epoch”. The words in brackets are not in the text. Russian does not normally have “the” “a” or “is, are”.

More from “Know your Enemy” next time.



Filed under History, Humour, Politics, Russia

Will Knifton v the Kaiser (Round 4)

This is the fourth, and final, round of my Grandfather, Will’s, tales about his life in the First World War.

The pinnacle, or perhaps, nadir, of Will’s relationship with the upper classes came when he was given an officer’s beloved horse to look after. This was the kind of thing:

In the stable, the highly strung beast decided it would kick Will, very hard and very painfully. Will, however, was not a man to take things lying down, so he took a run up, rather like a football goalkeeper about to take a goal kick, and kicked the animal very, very hard in the testicles. This would have been honours even, perhaps, but unfortunately, the officer had just returned to the stable to see how his pride and joy was faring, and was actually standing right behind Will as he did the evil deed.

For his crimes, Will was charged, court martialled, found guilty, and given Field Punishment Number One, which consisted of being handcuffed, fettered and then tied to a gun carriage wheel for twenty-four hours. This picture is the closest fit I could find:

In similar vein, I remember as a teenager, talking to another veteran, an old man who used to spend all day, every day, sitting on the bench seat, watching the traffic go around the Tollgate roundabout in our small mining village, Woodville. This man had been gravely wounded on July 1st 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. When a shell went off in that disastrous attack, he had been knocked unconscious, coming round to find that he had lost both of his legs in the explosion.

Luckily for him, as he acknowledged later, he was found by the Germans, who saved his life. He was always to say that the levels of care among the German forces were so much better than those in the British Army, where the officers’ horses tended to be better looked after than the men. This is a German military hospital:

Much to my very great regret, I have forgotten the name of this man, but I will never forget the bitterness or the truth of his words. Sharply resentful, he told me how every day, for almost sixty years, he had no choice but to put on his two artificial legs. He began with leather straps under each groin, and then the large strap around his waist. Then came more straps over both of his shoulders.

Even after all these years, he had persistent sores wherever the rough leather rubbed into his skin, particularly on his shoulders, and the poor man was in constant pain. Many people in Woodville thought that he was just a moaner, but he had a lot to moan about. Like my grandfather, he was not much of a fan of Field Marshall Haig either.

At the end of the Great War, Will returned from France directly to Woodville, and the life he had known before he emigrated to the New World. He went back to his church in Church Gresley, where everyone was delighted to see him. So much so, in fact, that they presented him with his own copy of “The Methodist Hymn Book”

Inside the front cover, it was inscribed…

“Wesleyan Church, Church Gresley

Presented to Mr.W.H.Knifton as a token of gratitude to God for his preservation while on Active Service during the Great War, and as a momento of the hearty good
feeling with which he is welcomed on his return.

On behalf of the Church and Sunday School,


Will never seemed to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but the war certainly affected some aspects of his thoughts and behaviour. In the trenches, for example, there was a seemingly permanent shortage of sugar. For this reason, long years after the conflict had finished, Will would never fail to celebrate the existence of the delectable white powder. If you visited him and he made you a cup of tea, he would normally put between six to eight spoons full of sugar in it, and even when there were objections, nobody ever escaped with fewer than four spoons full.

Another fear which Will brought back from the trenches, beyond that of running out of sugar, was the much more real one of rats. There were certainly plenty of them about. Here is a French military ratcatcher, “un dératiseur” and his dog:

Will knew very well that besides an entire suite of unpleasant, and occasionally sickening, behaviours, rats carried Weil’s Disease, an ailment which even now, as I write, has no known cure. In 1941, during his ab initio training for the RAF, Fred was to experience the same fear as his father had known twenty or so years previously, as rats, bold and unafraid, ran over his chest and feet as he camped out in the winter woods.

Incidentally, a lot of people nowadays want to think that the First World War was a “war for democracy”. It wasn’t. It was a war for power and empire. Just to knock the democracy idea firmly on the head , the figures I found on the Internet were that 7,694,741 people were eligible to vote in 1914. The population of the United Kingdom and its colony of Ireland was approximately 46 million. That is 16.72 percent who were able to vote. And who do you think did most of the fighting? The 16% or the 84%?



Filed under Canada, Criminology, France, History, Personal, Politics

Will Knifton v the Kaiser (Round 3)

My Grandfather Will, as we have already seen, spent approximately two years four months in a Canadian Army at war. At the end of the conflict, an officer stood at the front of the men on parade, and made a speech about what would happen when they all returned home. With his optimistic words, delivered no doubt in all sincerity by this upper class young man, Will became one of an unknown but enormous number of soldiers who, in 1919, were promised “a home fit for heroes”. Politicians were quick to jump on the bandwagon, of course:

In actual fact, before his return, Will was already very cynical about whether he would receive his just rewards for fighting in the war. Indeed, after just a short time back home in England, he became certain that he was destined never to be given what was due to him. These were the days, of course, when injured ex-soldiers would beg in the streets, unable to find employment. It affected both the victors and the vanquished:

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Overall, Will had very little time for high ranking officers. He did not like the way that they refused to visit the front line with its ever present smell of rotting corpses, but preferred instead to stay in the palatial comfort of country houses miles behind the fighting troops:

As a boy, I remember him telling me never ever to buy a poppy for the Haig Fund because he hated Earl Haig so much. He thought that Haig had no regard whatsoever for the casualties among his men, and that he did not care a jot about their eventual, and dismal, fate. Thank God that Will had no access to the Internet and never found out that Haig was Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE. Will did not realise either that Haig’s wife, Maud, was a maid of honour to Queen Alexandra, wife of King George V, and that that, supposedly, was how he got his job, in charge of the armies of the British Empire. Years before, in 1905, Haig had put his hat in the ring for a plum job at the War Office but his efforts had all been in vain because he was accused of “too blatantly relying on royal influence”.  (Groot). Here are Queen Alexandra and her daughters at “Maud’s wedding”:

For Will and a very large number of his fellow soldiers, the establishment of Haig’s post-war charity was merely a means for a guilty butcher to salve his blood soaked conscience:

Instead, Will urged me to give any money I had to the Salvation Army, who had always been on hand, ready and willing to help the ordinary soldier.

One final tale. In later years, Will told me how, in the Great War, Gurkhas were sent out at night, to make their way over to the German trenches and to kill as many of the enemy as possible. The Gurkhas were paid one shilling for every German’s right ear that they brought back, threading them carefully onto a piece of wire carried on the front of their chest. The problem was, however, that the Gurkhas were extremely efficient and brought back so many ears that the whole process became a very expensive one, so expensive, in actual fact, that it was discontinued. Fierce little chaps. Every time they get their kukris out they must draw blood, even if it is their own:

The senior officers also seem to have considered it vaguely disquieting to kill the enemy in this very direct, but rather brutal, or even unsporting, way.


Filed under Canada, France, History, Personal, Politics