There is a word expressly designed for people like Alice Bareham. That word is “bolshie.” Alice was bolshie to her bones: stroppy, frequently unreasonable and often abrasive.
But she was also bolshie in the purely political sense, a member of The Communist Party for many years, until, like so many British Communists, she left in disgust at the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. But if her faith in Soviet Communism took a dent then, her belief in socialism did not. Alice and her husband Ted stayed active and were involved in founding The Greater London Pensioners Association in 1973.
But though she could be a bit of a nightmare, there was so much more to her than that. In the years I worked with her I came to see her as a friend and I feel very privileged that I had the chance to get to know her. Not just because talking to her was like encountering the whole history of of the British Labour Movement made flesh (or at any rate, made gristle). No, I became really fond of the cantankerous old firebrand, and I was proud to sing The Red Flag with her few surviving comrades at her funeral.
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