After a rather un-proletarian New Year's Eve lunch at the fantastic Whitstable Oyster Company restaurant I found my second hand book of the year in Oxford Street Books, Whitstable, for 95p.
A Penguin special, published in 1952, "The Communist Technique in Britain" is by Bob Darke, who was one of 2 Communist Party councillors in Hackney in the immediate post-war years and Agent for the CP in Hackney South in the 1945 General Election when it was a target seat for them. I think he was councillor for the equivalent of my ward - he certainly lived in the current Chatham Ward at Nisbet House on Homerton High Street, one of the main council blocks in my ward - his stories of having to deliver leaflets to the 400 flats in the block were uncannily familiar. He also worked in my ward at Bergers Paint Factory in Morning Lane - currently used as council social services offices but soon to become the site of a new City Academy - before becoming a bus conductor out of Dalston Garage so that he could help run the CP line in the TGWU.
The book is fascinating for anyone interested in how the far left operated and still operates - delete the word Stalin and insert Trotsky, and delete CPGB and insert SWP/Respect or Militant/SSP and it will be familiar to most current ultraleftists. He details the crippling levels of activity required, the focus on infiltrating trade unions, the need to sell hundreds of party newspapers, the front groups, the rigid internal discipline.
Darke quit the CP over the Korean War - seeing through the hypocritical way in which the party exploited genuine peaceniks through the "Hands Off Korea" campaign (hmm... sounds familiar).
He was also disillusioned by their treatment of local Methodist Minister Rev Hugh Lister (after whom I think Lister Court Estate in Stoke Newington is named) who recruited 3,000 members to local trade unions but was driven out of political activity because he was not a Communist.
For Hackney residents it details a lost world of mass trade unionism (35 branches affiliated to the Hackney TUC, 28 of them Communist controlled) , local paint, furniture and garment factories, a borough population where the Jewish community were the largest ethnic minority, and a Communist Party with nearly 900 members just in the old, smaller Metropolitan Borough of Hackney.
The politics of the trade union movement it records are strangely topsy turvey: the AEU was the main Communist-controlled union and the TGWU under Bevin and Deakin was so right wing it banned CP members from holding office.
There are extracts from Darke's book online (with an introduction by an anarchist) here:
Do any historians of Hackney or Communist politics out there know what became of Darke after he left the CP? Did he join the Labour Party? Did he stay on the council?