However, dear reader I deviate from my subject so let's get on with a review of Neil Young's autobiography , "Waging Heavy Peace". I gave up half way through, on the advice of Young himself who, at the end of a chapter wrote that he was not into format in a book and if the reader wasn't content with this then to give the book away, which I will. The book appears to have been written on an iPad or something similar, as and when Young ( whose singing I admire greatly ) had ten minutes to spare. There is no continuity and the book covers Young's musical tastes, his recording sessions, his car and train hobbies and he is open and frank about his personal life but meanders back and forwards, in "Back to the Future" style. If you have little concentration span or like to browse a book for ten minutes or so and then put it down then, this may be for you, but for sitting and reading for an hour or more then it grates.
Although his undying love for his wife of 36 years, Peggi, is repeated throughout, it is badly in need of an update, as since its publication in 2012 he has filed for divorce against her and according to the press was quick to start a new romance with Darryl Hannah. If I had paid £25 for the book then I would have been very miffed, but fortunately I brought a second hand copy for £2.50 from http://www.abebooks.co.
"Our aims are modest -
we only want the world."
Consolation however has come in the form of my second choice, now sadly out of print, but still available, at a price, from the above bookseller. It is a biography of the towering figure of international socialism James Connolly, shot by firing squad, in Dublin, following the Easter Rising in 1916. The book is, "The Life and Times of James Connolly" brilliantly written in superb English, something which is sadly lacking today, in 1961 by C. Desmond Greaves. Connolly was one of the pioneers of the labour movement in Edinburgh, enduring, like today, much discrimination and many hardships as an unskilled labourer because of his political beliefs before moving to Dublin, where he founded the Irish Socialist a Republican Party. Then came a period of seven years in the U.S.A. where he became one of the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1910 he returned to Ireland and played a leading part in the working class struggles in Belfast and Dublin.
I was bought up in the years of the Atlee government and remember the pride of my parents in his creation of The National Health Service and the privitasation of the mines and the railways. Despite the dreadful post war economic situation Nye Bevan masterminded not only the creation of the NHS but the building of more houses in the lifetime of a single government than any other since. Most of these were model estates comprising a decent house and garden and green spaces for play and relaxation.
My socialist leanings were later cemented when I read Jack London's "People of the Abyss" which recounted his period of living amongst the deprived and starving of London in Victorian times, at the height of The British Empire. Those people were forced to live in disgusting conditions within a mile or two of all of the pomp and elegance of Buckingham Palace.
In 1964 I celebrated the return to power of a proper Labour government under Harold Wilson, who amongst other achievements despite American pressure kept us out of the Vietnam war, introduced equality legislation and equal pay for women, formed The Open University, abolished censorship, introduced legislation to legalise homosexuality, ended hanging, and reformed comprehensive education. Andrew Marr showed his bias and lack of historical education in describing Wilson as a squalid man, much to his everlasting shame.
I have now , late in my life, discovered the writings and speeches of James Connolly who through his own diligent reading and apprenticeship became one of the greatest contributors to the formation of internationalist socialist ideals and principles which simply put are an end to wars, poverty, exploitation and oppression.