Living in Eastern Europe for 15 years, I have met many older people who lived to understand that they had spent their lives on a lie or - to be polite - an illusion. There were no believing Communists in power, of course. The leaders were all Prescotts - joining the Party because it was a way for the talent-free to enjoy wealth and privilege. However, there were lots of little people who believed.
I spent a Sunday afternoon once chatting in my broken Polish with a man who rode a Soviet tank into Czechoslovakia to put down the "Prague Spring." It's hard to read between the lines in your fourth language, but I thought I sensed some regret behind his bluff soldierly explanation of his role. I didn't press him. Why should I? It was tough for him already.
The naieve Reaganite idea that they were all glad to be liberated is not right. The older people had adapted to their circumstances and it was too late for them to change. One theatre director in Warsaw explained it well to my wife. "I suppose it will be better for my children," he said, "..but I have lost a way of life I understood." Not to mention a budget unlinked to any need to please his audiences.
One learns to be sensitive to these old Communists. If they were true believers, how could they suddenly accept they wasted their lives on defective ideas? That they lived to the detriment of their fellow men? We only have one life. It's hard to accept that we blew it. I can even feel sorry for them.
For Ted Grant, however, I have no such sympathy. This man lived in the free world and set out to subvert it. He lived an infantile life of secret societies, hidden identities and splits. He was a traitor and would - in a well-ordered democracy - have been executed. He cynically abused the weaknesses of a democratic party filled with naieve believers in Socialism; people who - like my lost old people of the East - genuinely wanted "a better world" and were guilty of naught but foolishness.
Ted Grant was a bad man who lived a full life of fun and self-importance. At this moment, I could wish there were a God so that he could be condemned to Hell. Within weeks, he would have set up in opposition to the Devil and formed new factions of left-wing demons. He would therefore improve Hell as he never managed to improve this world.
Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Obituary: Ted Grant