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by Peter Charleton

What is Socialism? I can think of three definitions. To most people it means the welfare state and voting Labour. To Communists it means Communist dictatorship, as in the Soviet Union, as it was. The most radical definition is: EVERYTHING FREE.

I was a Socialist in the 1970s, and in 1979, having some free time and a bit of money, I went off in search of Socialism.

I took a trip to Russia. Oh dear! It seemed great at first, fantastic public transport, friendly people and good food. But underneath it was something sinister. People were afraid of the State. When I almost missed the train from Leningrad our guide was terror-stricken. If I'd got lost she would have been in serious trouble.

When I came back to the UK I suffered an acute psychiatric reaction. I thought I was a robot with a computer inside my head. In hospital I was very ill. But when I got better I found the psychiatric ward offered full-blooded socialism. Free food, free medicines, free board and lodging, even free clothes. Believe it or not there was occasionally free beer and tobacco. And of course lots of good company and a little job provided in Industrial Therapy.

It was very nice while it lasted. It's a pity you have to go through terrible illness to get it.