Voices from the Communist Party - Silvia Salisbury



in Kabul you [Applause] you my name is Sylvia Salisbury and next week I will be 85 years old and I've had a long association with the Communist Party not always as a member but associated was through families and friends my father was a member of the Communist Party and as a child I grew up during the five or six until I was 12 during the Second World War and there was not at that time an anti-communist party flavor around because they were fighting the fascists the the Soviets were fighting the fashion on the same side as us so there was quite a friendly attitude by people who didn't know a great deal about the Soviet Union but they knew they were on our side and so I grew up in la Kimba and there were communist party meetings there were four houses in a very short space of space of four houses being all members of the Communist Party in Punchbowl there was one street that Victoria Street I think it was called where there were so many members of the Communist Party they used to refer to it as Red Square and when they had a barbecue on raising money to send stuff to the soldiers it was supported by everyone in the in the district so I grew up with the fact that there were communists around they were hard there were films being shown by the Communist Party in La Kimba that were like battle for Stalingrad battle for Leningrad and people just went because we were seeing war films all around in the newsreels they didn't have television they didn't have television so but in always in newsreels in the city in the in Sydney used to have a place that did nothing but newsreels and you just went in sat through as many as you liked and walked out and that was the equivalent of what we now see on television at that time my father also took me to when I was 12 to new theater which was a left-wing theatre producing plays that always had a social justice content in their plays and they also did political reviews and I just loved it I just loved this theater and it was actually run by mostly members of the Communist Party that was part of their work to introduce to people questions on social justice I then joined the theater as soon as I left school and performed in plays and always had social justice questions around then later on when I married and had I married a member of the Communist Party and when we had children they then joined the young socialist movement I still didn't didn't think of joining the party myself because I was much more interested in the cultural side of life and was very interested that the Communist Party itself encouraged working-class people to express themselves I don't think I ever had a first impression it was always around being there as a child so I never had to think about who this is something different I didn't know they they were there they were working-class and they were cultural and that mixture I found very attractive and then later when my children joined the Socialist Party I was helping them have meetings at our place and putting on cups of tea and that and Mary Wright a very old member of the party the wife of Tommy Tommy Wright who was I think the building carpenter it was in the building Union his wife said to me why don't you join and she was a real battler to getting people to join and I said I don't know what I could do I'm interested in the theater and interested in working-class people having the the access to expressing things but no not actually but she kept on persisting you can do something and so I joined just as a in the local branch whatever they were going to do I never had the feeling that I was going to be a political theorist or or to climb up high I had no ambitions to climb up the the ladder of you know getting positions in the party I just was happy to work with the people whatever work that was needed I was happy to do and I like I like the people say their sons movement in the Vietnam War because I was against the Vietnam War and our young men particularly the young men who did not have the vote being conscripted to go just on the draw of a lottery you know the number and I thought that was so unfair that they didn't have the vote to decide on the government but they had to go and fight so I got involved with that and used my scene for the say of the sun's movement a lot and then I was interested in the revival of an Australian revival in the 1960s of Australian folk song songs of what the working men in Australia sang so the cultural side and the fact that the Communist Party supported this cultural in among workers was to me a very very attractive well I suppose it's to be always helping improve conditions for people improve conditions for families the tech the campaigns are different now because technology has changed over those 85 of my 85 years so young people have got a totally different way of communicating with each other and communicating what they feel should be changed in society so I'm a little bit out of it now being so much older I still tend to do things the old-fashioned way actually if I stop and think one of the most exciting things was that after the war when there was this sort of you know tolerance say to communists and then it started to change and you started to get a lot of anti-communist articles in the main press and there was this sort of you know there's something and then suddenly in the 1960s this Sputnik went up and the ABC were playing and breaking programs every five minutes to say the Soviet Union has launched a Sputnik and it was completely unknown to us in the West that they were that advanced that they could actually get a control Sputnik around the world and all the time on the radio they kept stopping it was such a big surprise and to a communist it was it reinforced the fact that we knew they were doing things will and technically well but that we weren't hearing about it and that to me was even more exciting than say this landing of the man the Americans on the moon I suppose I'd really like them to know that they are ordinary people like themselves with a strong desire for a good life for people for not not a exciting life not a wealthy life not those things but that the basic things that we need a roof over our heads to be has time to relax and enjoy our children and watch them grow up so to know that there's a health care there when when it's needed to and that people are fighting for these things and they're not you know going around as the old saying you know with a bomb in their pocket to you know ruin the country and pull the government down they want it to grow and they want life to be good for people wholesome and good and I just found working with them and being with communists very satisfying and and I know there's a lot of problems and I know that people make mistakes or don't live up to the ideals but that's life that's life it's just part of the tapestry of life well actually the actual moment of joining was Mary right because she just kept on insisting she was a very insistent person and I really didn't know what I was letting myself in the other thing was probably my husband who who had a very almost idealistic view of communists but a hard worker and he knew that life was always going to be a struggle he had a more positive attitude and I suppose in a way my husband and the people in new theatre oh I'd say that is because things are getting very tough for people in in Australia after the war when it was easy to get a job you know there wasn't quite after a while there wasn't that sort of need to struggle because things were getting easy but now I really feel for young people because it's hard for them to get an apprenticeship the the selling off of things that were done by the government into private enterprise if it's privatized we can't vote on the board of a director but whether it's done by the government we can vote a government out we can have a say and I think now things are getting so hard for people and there's a lack of there's a lack of joy and everything and I think they are now looking for an answer before it never came into their head that there was another way of doing things but slowly people are starting to see there must be another way and with the advent of Corbin and Sanders the word socialism is starting to have not the horror that you know everyone had like there must be something in it and I'm I'm really hopeful that young people with their new technology they're more open way of looking at things that they will eventually see yes things have got to change and they have to be part of the change




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