Have I ensured that a world socialist revolution will never happen?
A book by Steve Wallis (www.socialiststeve.me.uk)
Falling in love with a fugitive
I made two visits to the United States of America in the early 1990s, to present academic papers that I co-wrote as part of my job at Manchester Metropolitan University. Both of those papers were on economic subjects and only vaguely related to my work at that university, at which I developed my language SDML (as I will describe in chapter YYY). My boss Scott Moss used to be an economist and the early versions of my language were used for economic modelling. He later moved on to using computers for retailing and business policy tasks, as a result of which the research centre I worked became known as the Centre for Policy Modelling.
On the first occasion, in January or February 1991, the conference took place at the Disneyland Hotel in California, near Los Angeles. I only visited the USA for a week that time, seeing the sights in the Los Angeles area (Universal Studios in Hollywood and Disneyland itself, at which I went all the adult rides in an afternoon – possible because of the absence of queues and quite a lot of rides being closed down, it being off-season) and then taking a flight to San Francisco. I met up with members of the Militant Tendency’s sister organisation, then called Labor Militant, in Oakland near San Francisco, staying with John Reimann (who is now a leader of a rival organisation called Labor’s Militant Voice after a faction fight later in the 1990s) and his partner. I happened to be visiting at the time of a mass demonstration (of about 30,000 people) in San Francisco against the 1991 Gulf War, and helped them intervene in that demo.
I made much more ambitious plans for my second visit to the USA, which was in 1992, to travel up the west coast of that country from San Francisco, up to Portland, Oregon, where the conference was being held, and I intended to travel through Canada and fly back from Anchorage in Alaska, all in three weeks. Those plans changed when I met a woman called Ronda Prunty, someone who had a big impact in my life, and who I now regard as my first girlfriend (although we knew each other for such a short period of time that the issue didn’t come up).
I have written the song The Fugitive, accessible at the Galaxia/Red Day website , about her. It starts as follows (borrowing heavily from the Razorlight song America):
There was Waco on the TV
Waco on the radio
It meant a lot to you
Twice in my life
Once in your life
You panicked in America
Oh oh oh oh
I met you in America
Ronda told me about the fact that she was very angry about the FBI storming the building in Waco, Texas, where Branch Dividian cult members were under siege, resulting in many of them dying. Ronda had particularly strong views on this due to her being a Mormon, which I think was due to her church being part-way between a religion and a cult (although quite mainstream in the USA, particularly in Utah and its capital Salt Lake City). Ronda shouted her mouth about it in the street, and started getting weird phone calls, which she thought were from the FBI (and I believed this too). I found out later from her brother that she had spent time in a psychiatric institution (or institutions), which very briefly made me think that maybe she was imagining her harassment, but my knowledge of how the state works (due to my education in Militant) meant that I was probably the first person in Ronda’s life to take her views particularly seriously. Besides, I was present when she received at least one of those phone calls.
You wouldn’t keep your views to yourself
They said it affected your mental health
The FBI harassed you with weird phone calls
It was like a scene from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”
In the wall, you weren’t just another brick
You had your wits about you; you were certainly not thick
You had a wonderful soul
You wouldn’t submit to thought control
I didn’t know you when they said you lost your mind
They said you were crazy
I know you were not crazy
You were not crazy
Ronda was travelling up the west coast of the USA, on a Greyhound bus like myself, from her brother’s to her sister’s house. [I didn’t like travelling with them, since there had been a strike of Greyhound workers a short time beforehand, but it was the most convenient and cheapest way of travelling long distances in the USA.] We started talking at a diner, one of many cheap places where such buses stop so that passengers could get something to eat and drink. We carried on talking towards the back of the bus, which is where I found that the best conversations are had.
Born in the USA
You were born in the USA
Went up north to your sister’s house
’Cos you wouldn’t be as quiet as a mouse
You were sitting at a table at the diner where the bus stopped
I was passing in the diner when I saw you at the table
And you gave me a good smile, then you started talking to me
We continued happily chatting on the back seats of the bus
Ronda and I got off the bus where it terminated in Portland, and initially spent some time there with a Bangladeshi man who was then living in England and was also on the bus. Initially, Ronda seemed more attracted to him than me but I’m not sure whether she was playing hard to get! However, he left the two us after a brief period of time, leaving Ronda and myself on our own. I can’t remember at what point I started having particularly strong romantic feelings towards Ronda; that probably happened on the bus as I was very keen to spend time with her in Portland.
It is appropriate to use some lines from the Huey Lewis and the News song, The Power Of Love, in my song, since it was the first song I ever did on karaoke (considerably later when I was on a holiday in Barbados):
The power of love is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing
Change your heart to a little white dove
And it finally hit me: the power of love
Ronda told me very early in our relationship that she didn’t want any physical contact with me at all, due to a bad experience with another man (or possibly bad experiences with more than one man) that she didn’t want to talk about. Even holding Ronda’s hand, never mind kissing her, was something she strongly objected to, and I respected her wishes in that respect. The Beatles song I Want To Hold Your Hand is appropriate here:
Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something
I think you’ll understand
And I’ll say that something
I wanted to hold your hand
I wanted to hold your hand
I wanted to hold your hand
But you had had
A bad experience with another man
So you wouldn’t let me
You wouldn’t let me hold your hand
You wouldn’t let me hold your hand
You wouldn’t let me hold your hand
A very intense and enjoyable time in our relationship was going to see the film The Fugitive, featuring Harrison Ford who was on the run from the state. It was particularly appropriate because Ronda was on the run from the state too; she thought that she could become free from harassment by moving to a different state where her sister lived.
I am a strong believer that, to fully get over a bad experience with a man, a woman needs to meet a good man who treats her kindly. I am strongly in favour of women’s refuges, where they can get away from violent partners, and be around women in a similar situation. However, there is a danger of blaming men generally for the problems they have faced, rather than the patriarchal capitalist society in which we live, that creates the conditions under which many bitter and twisted men inflict violence on their wives and girlfriends. The women’s rights movement has had some tremendous victories during the time that I have been involved in politics, of which a large part was played by an organisation set up by female members of Militant in the UK, called the Campaign Against Domestic Violence (CADV) after originally being the Free Sara Thornton Campaign in support of a woman convicted for murder after killing her violent partner. Women in that situation nowadays are generally convicted of manslaughter, or can successfully argue that it was self-defence. The CADV has also helped the network of women’s refuges grow considerably, and it is no longer legal for a husband to rape his wife.
An organisation also called the CADV was set up in the USA, which involved men as well as women. I think that was better because men suffer domestic violence too (although not nearly to the same extent) and because meeting good men helps women in that situation as I stated above. However, Militant in Britain had to unite with an organisation called Women’s Aid, which runs most of the refuges, and they insisted on women-only meetings (after a large one in Manchester Town Hall that I went to). Most of the women who work in their refuges are undoubtedly genuine, but the leadership of Women’s Aid was dominated by middle class feminists, and they launched an unjustified and bitter attack on Militant at a later point in the campaign.
At the time that we were together in the US, the Harrison Ford film The Fugitive was being shown in cinemas, and I naturally wanted to take Ronda to see it due to its relevance to the situation she was in. Although I generally went along with her wishes not to touch her in any way, it was such a romantic situation and I felt I needed to show my feelings towards her. Looking back, I think that gently touching her during the film (which she didn’t resist) played a large part in overcoming her distrust of men.
I took you
To see “The Fugitive”
And I tried to be very kind
I touched you gently on the hand
And I helped you get over
Your experience with another man
The film was apt for me and you
Because you were a fugitive too
Your experience prepared me
For when I was on the run more recently
When they said that I’d lost my mind
They said I was crazy
But I was not crazy
I was not crazy
I think that we were both prisoners political
Although you were a non-aligned radical
I will talk about my later periods of time as a political prisoner later in this book, starting in chapter YYY. I never found out the circumstances around Ronda’s incarceration in a psychiatric institution, but I believe that it was due to her political views and determination to do something about them. Not being a member of a socialist organisation made her very vulnerable to actions taken by the state against her.
Ronda’s resistance to the US state makes the Green Day song American Idiot appropriate for her, with some of the lyrics changed:
You didn’t want to be an American idiot
Didn’t want a nation under the new mania
You could hear the sound of hysteria
The subliminal mind for America
You experienced a new kind of tension
Up the west coast of the idiot nation
Everything wasn’t meant to be okay
Orwell’s dreams of tomorrow
Coming true yesterday after Waco
With the FBI, you’re not supposed to argue
We weren’t part of a redneck agenda
Not everybody swallowed the propaganda
And it’s healthy to have a dose of paranoia
The final line above is particularly important. You are not being paranoid if there really is somebody out to get you, and in Ronda’s and my case, there certainly was. It is preferable to be aware that there are such forces acting against us than to ignore such beliefs (not that we could avoid getting a bit paranoid due to our experiences).
In Portland, I offered you a place to stay
In the hotel’s swimming pool we found time to play
I said “Sleep, baby sleep, on my pillow”
The next day, to a conference I had to go
Ronda didn’t have anywhere to stay in Portland, but I was booked in to a Marriott hotel for the conference I was presenting a paper at. The room had a double bed and we both slept in that bed two nights – she slept above the covers the first night but below them on the second; I slept under them both nights. She is the only woman I have slept with in my life so far – but I didn’t touch her in any way, never mind having sex, and she told me later she would have responded very badly if I had touched her at all in bed.
We spent some time alone in the hotel swimming pool, during which she taught me to swim underwater, something that I had previously had great difficulty with – but I later swam a whole length of the swimming pool of Moss Side Leisure Centre in Manchester (half the length of an Olympic swimming pool at 25 metres) without taking a breath of air.
Ronda also took me to a radical shop, which I think sold books and pamphlets, but at which I just bought a badge. The badge was about the brutal attack by Los Angeles police, captured on camera creating a furore, on a young black man called Rodney King.
I didn’t spend much time at the conference venue, apart from when I presented the paper I co-authored, and I explained why to one of the participants – I had met someone who I had stronger feelings towards than anybody I had previously met in my life.
I felt so strongly about Ronda, despite only having known her for a couple of days, that I seriously considered emigrating to the USA to be with her. That would have been a very bad move politically, with the US being such a right-wing country with powerful forces of the state (such as the FBI) that would have made struggling for socialism there very difficult. I think that was the reason for my subconscious causing me to panic and muck things up with her.
When I returned I said “Ronda, let me in”
I wanted to be your girlfriend
I wanted to be in your dreams and visions
For me to emigrate would have been a trap
Maybe even a suicide rap
Maybe I would have never come back
Baby, you were on the run
I panicked, I was getting in too deep
I even thought that you would leap
Out of the window of the hotel
Even though I’d rescued you from your personal hell
I called hotel security
But you had simply not heard me
I broke down, saying I had fallen in love with you
It had happened so quickly but it was oh so true
Ronda had been having a bath when I returned to the hotel and she had not heard me knocking on the door. My reaction, with my conscious mind, in thinking that she had escaped out of the window (from a room that was quite high up) with my belongings was extremely irrational. Even if she had considered robbing me, which would have been completely against her very kind nature, I didn’t have anything particularly valuable with me and I was insured. When I have had such irrational thoughts with my conscious mind, as I quite often have since, I can usually come up with an explanation as to the subconscious thoughts I must have been having at the time, and I strongly believe that those thoughts about Ronda were prompted by processes in my subconscious mind recognising that a relationship with Ronda in the US (and from talking to her, I established that she didn’t want to move to the UK) would have been a very bad move.
After a very emotional conversation with Ronda in the hotel room, during which I explained how strongly I felt about her, she decided she had to leave. The Marriott was coincidentally (or perhaps arranged due to the actions of conspiratorial organisations) a Mormon business, and I found out from Ronda that Mormons believe in looking after each other. She asked an elderly couple in the lobby of the hotel whether they could put her up, and they agreed.
This was a very important lesson for me much later in my life, when I was wandering the streets of Glasgow unable to find a place to stay having been turned away by two hotels – half way through a Scottish Socialist Party conference when it would have been a very bad move to spend a night on the streets due to the danger of being picked up by the police. I spotted the Glasgow Marriott hotel and realised that they would want to look after me, especially after I explained that I had stayed at one of their hotels before.
You left me and I didn’t know what to do
I phoned your brother and kept searching for you
Until you turned up at the hotel cleaning shoes
I had allowed Ronda to make some phone calls using the phone in the hotel room, and, after she left me, I asked to see it so that I could get the phone number of her brother. He was very friendly, telling me that it would be very good for her if we had a relationship.
I tried to find her, looking around Portland, in the area around the hotel, and visiting the market and what was claimed to be the biggest second hand bookstore in the world. When you bought something, they asked you for your name and address; you could presumably lie when asked, but this data could well have been used by conspiratorial organisations on the side of big business to find out who had bought particularly radical books! I tried to buy the book Vida by Marge Piercy, a copy of which a lodger of mine called Dylan Murphy had given me, since I thought it was very appropriate for Ronda since it was about a woman who was on the run after escaping from a psychiatric institution, but I couldn’t get hold of it or any other books by the same very left-wing author.
On the final evening of the conference, I came across Ronda downstairs in the hotel, where she was working cleaning shoes for hotel residents (as she had been doing elsewhere in Portland to earn a little money to get by). It was good to see her again, but she soon travelled up to her sister’s house further up the west coast of the USA. I can’t remember if it was Ronda or her brother who told me her sister’s address and phone number, but I spoke to Ronda on a few occasions during the rest of my US visit.
I travelled up to Seattle, where I saw the sights and spoke at a Labor Militant meeting in that city (which had a branch consisting entirely of male trade unionists) on British perspectives. Ronda seemed reasonably interested in going to a musical festival with me in Seattle but eventually decided against it; I travelled across by train to the Rockies for some walking and cycling in the mountains before returning to Seattle for the festival and my journey home.
After returning to England, I received from you a nice letter
You had rejoined the Mormon church and were much better
I’ll never forget my time with you
I wish you well with whatever you have decided to do
I loved you!
I sent Ronda a letter, via her sister’s house, shortly after returning home, to which she sent me a nice reply saying that she was much happier having got involved again in her Mormon religion. It seemed that the FBI had stopped harassing her. I sent her another letter, but she didn’t reply, which I think was due to her not wanting to encourage my romantic interest in her since it was not in the interest of creating a better world.
I am sending a printout of this chapter of the book to her, with a CD containing my recording of The Fugitive, via her sister’s address. I have tried without success to locate her on the internet, and I want to let her know what I have been up to and my plans for the future. I owe her the opportunity to move to Glasgow and be in my band; I don’t think she will, but she has played a very important role in my life and want to offer her a chance to make use of her radical politics in a very positive way.