I drifted into Communism when I was about eleven under the influence of a militant boy called Mickey Lerner. He was thin and undersized, with a chronic cough, and suffered many indignities at the hands of bullying masters and pupils. His father, a presser, also coughed because his lungs had been rotted by the steaming cloth he pressed ten hours a day. In fact, the whole family coughed. They lived in the sooty air of a Brick Lane alley overhung by a railway bridge and had a habit of blinking like troglodytes in full daylight. This made them seem puzzled and defenceless when, in reality, they were tough and stiff-necked tribe. I was led into Communism more by the misery and toughness of the Lerner family than by anything in my own predicament.