Everyone knows the best place to discuss politics is around the dinner table. In the current environment where moderate politicians have steadily been replaced by demagogues of left and right, these partisans could learn a lesson or two from the Leninist wing and Trotskyite faction of my family during the reign of the Iron Lady in eighties Britain. Not to mention the eighties are now back in style.
There are as many ways to cause a family rift as there is diversity in species. Kith and kin can fall out over money. They can refuse to speak to one another for years for the wrong word said in the heat of emotion. They can squabble over a will. They can be at each other’s throats after an older aunt is discovered sleeping with a younger cousin. Or, the worst case of all, they can, as was the case with my family, come to blows over politics. Lines were drawn in the sand when the Leninist wing of my family butted heads with the Trotskyite faction during the reign of the Iron Lady in eighties Britain.
It happened over Sunday diner. My grandfather was slicing the roast beef when he said, “Now, if only Lenin had tempered his Bolshevik politics with a bit of British beef.”
“What the hell are you talking about Edward,” countered my Uncle Ivor, my grandmother’s brother who had always been a Trotskyite ever since he joined Mensa. He even wore round spectacles that Trotsky was rumored to wear in his days in Mexico. “Everyone knows that Lenin stole the mutton from Leon.”
“Oh, what a bunch of Bolshy,” chimed in my Aunt Florence, my grandfather’s spinster sister who loved to dabble in the antagonistic. “If we’re talking revolution and socialism, where’s the liver of Marx’s ideas in all of this?
“Roasted potatoes anyone?” asked my grandmother, who has always been apolitical unless the butcher sells her a bad cut of meat and then she turns into a right wing extremist. “You do that one more time Mr. Jones, and I’ll have your balls in one of my pies.”
“It’s all foul and fish,” interrupted Erol, my grandmother’s nephew who was known as the butcher of Ammanford. “A true revolutionary is like a kidney. He should purify the ideologies of the masses by removing the material waste products and excreting them in the name of the people.”
“Bloody rubbish,” chanted a distant cousin called Cyril who kept chickens. “The Soviet Union was nothing but a chicken factory where Lenin made sure the eggs of socialism got laid under his own oligarchy.”
“Can someone pass the salt please?” asked my mother, a devout Dallas watcher who had never missed an episode and considered the most political question of all to be who shot JR.
“Problem with Lenin,” said Brother John, our family Franciscan monk, “is that he sucked on the black pudding of Marx’s theories but didn’t have the trotters to see it become an actuality.”
“Could it have been,” began my grandmother’s spinster sister Mary, “because Marx didn’t know his goose liver from his duck fat that he resorted to a totalitarian regime?”
“Can I have another helping of parsnips?” asked my father who considered the double helix of every person’s DNA the real meaning of politics.
“I’ve never heard anyone say that mint sauce ever helped a dictator,” said my elderly Aunt Gloria who when she had heard about the Yalta Conference had wanted to book a holiday there to help her with her arthritis.
“Trotsky only wanted to salt the bacon of what he saw as the Russian aristocracy’s snout that had escaped the trough of human suffering,” added my cousin Blake who’d gone to prison for some petty crime.
“The Oppression of any nation is the equivalent of eating veal,” piped in another cousin who had received his philosophy degree from Open University.
“Now, who’d like some rice pudding?” asked my grandmother.
“But who’s responsible for putting that egg custard Thatcher in power?” I asked, adding a good dollop of strawberry jam into my pudding.
It was then that all hell broke loose.