The meeting was started by Chairman Neil Ramshaw who advised four apologies had been received.
David Essam made a heartfelt plea for volunteers to fill the remaining two spots on his “Vote of Thanks” rota.
Today’s Speaker making his Harlow Men’s Forum debut was Mr Mike Greenberg whose topic was “To Russia With Love”. Despite a technological issue causing difficulties Mike entertained the audience with his talk about a schoolboy trip to Russia in 1966. The background he gave to the trip was equally interesting as his parents were members of the Communist Party, his father in particular being committed to the cause. His parents antecedents were (father) Russian…possibly Romanian and (mother) Polish. Like many Jews in the 1930’s they had joined the Communist Party as a response to growing Fascism and Anti Semitism in particular from Mosley’s Blackshirts in the East End of London where they resided. His father’s commitment to Communism remained over the years surviving the disturbing stories coming out of the Soviet Republic under Stalin and his newspaper of choice was the Daily Worker later becoming the Morning Star.
The chance of a school trip to Russia was leveraged by Mike as an opportunity for him to see the Communist System himself although not a cheap trip in a household where finances were tight. His experiences on the visit which took in Berlin (then divided), Moscow, Leningrad and other Baltic locations showed marked contrasts from the heavy state expenditure on refurbishing public buildings (churches; palaces), investments in the arts/culture for the masses against the poor quality of food, queues, lack of consumer goods in the shops and the absence of plugs for sinks/basins!! He touched upon the propaganda wars of the time between East and West highlighting the contrast of a vibrant refurbishment of West Berlin (largely at U.S.A. expense) with the greyness of Soviet Society but also recounted some of the intrinsic good ideas in the Russian State that were perhaps poorly or inadequately executed. He mentioned currency restrictions; seeing Lenin in his tomb in Moscow; visiting the Hermitage in Leningrad; bartering with “valuable” Western commodities and the overall feeling of being under constant surveillance whilst on his trip.
The end of the talk provoked some lively debate and questions..
The Vote of Thanks was given by Terry Byrne on behalf of the forty-two attendees.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY