Thursday, September 11, 2014

Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson (William Morrow 2014)

"I hear you were keen, quite a firebrand."

"Are you trying to embarrass me with my youthful politics now, Mr. Banks? What does that have to do with anything? Are you going to arrest me for being a communist forty years ago? Yes, I admit it, officer, I was a member of the Marxist Society. It was a long time ago. I was young and idealistic. Weren't you ever young and idealistic? I thought communism would solve all the world's problems. I still believe in equality, whatever you may think of me. Maybe you'd call me a champagne socialist. Isn't that the term today for rich people like me who spout on and on about inequality and social injustice? Guardian readers? I think everyone should have Veuve Clicquot rather than Freixenet, if that's what they want."

"Or a decent single-malt whisky," said Banks. "I couldn't agree more. Though I doubt the distillers and the winemakers would agree."

Lady Chalmers smiled. "Capitalist pigs." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What can I say? We were young, naive, privileged intellectuals. There were people around then with the real will and power to do things, to change things, to do it violently, if necessary, through social upheaval. I was a bit too queasy for that. They could cause serious political and social unrest. We were intellectuals, theorists and ideologists. They were activists. The front line."

"The unions?"

"Yes, for the most part. As you might remember, they were very militant back then. There was the romantic idea of the true revolutionary hero, the proud worker standing on the barricades brandishing the red flag, not the bloke you see by the roadside leaning on his shovel and having a cup of tea every time you pass by some roadworks. Establishing the true workers' state. It was a very powerful idea. Very real."

"Mostly I remember the power cuts," said Banks. "Why did Gavin Miller telephone you after all this time?"

Lady Chalmers let out another breath and said, "He wanted to touch me for some money, for old times' sake. A few hundred pounds, just to get him on his feet. Apparently he'd fallen on hard times."