[NLR readers have been generous with criticisms, corrections and documents. Two of them are reproduced below. The second instalment of this article has been held over for publication in the next issue: Raphael Samuel.]
[This letter, addressed to questions of personal and national identity, and written in the midst of the Comintern’s Third Period ‘ultra-leftism’, is a testimony to the solidity of a Marxist tradition, of the obligation to reason, and of an unexpected and welcome respect for the autonomy of the child. The writer, T.A. Jackson, was a Clerkenwell printer by trade, an ‘impossibilist’ propagandist in pre-1914 years, one of twelve Communist leaders jailed during the General Strike, and a prolific writer on history, philosophy and literature. (Jonathan Rée, Proletarian Philosophers, Oxford 1984, has a most perceptive account of his politics, and Our History has produced a useful short biography.) The letter has been sent to me by Ray Waterman, who joined the Stepney Communist Party, as a school-girl, in 1929. A Family of Shopkeepers, written under the pen-name Ruth Adler, is her fictionalized autobiography of those times.]
You ask me a very difficult and delicate question, and one that it is impossible to answer without a good deal of qualification, and consideration of all the circumstances involved.
Ultimately you, yourself, must accept the responsibility of deciding: all I can do is to suggest the general considerations you must take into account.