In the moment I heard that David Widgery had died, I saw him standing in front of me on York station in the early summer of 1968. His eyes were shining and he had a grin on his face as though it were fixed there forever. I was off to speak on socialism at York University—he had just come from there. ‘It’s great’, he said. ‘Great. An enormous middle-class fun palace.’ Suddenly his expression changed, and he glowered at me. ‘They don’t need you there’, he said. ‘Not another of us. They need the proletariat.’ Years later when I read his book Some Lives!, I noticed again how he was the only person I ever knew who used the word ‘proletariat’ unselfconsciously, as though it came from the chorus of a popular rock band.
Subscribe for just £40 and get free access to the archive
Please login on the left to read more or buy the article for £3