I knew an honest man once.
He was my Uncle.
He was born in the thirties in the UK and his family was very poor because his Father died from the effects of mustard gas, after he came home from the First World War and Flanders' Fields.
There was next to nothing to aid the family prior to or after the death of his Father. The one concession from the Board of Guardians was the pint of milk which his Father had a right to, due to his damaged lungs.
On the morning of his death - my Uncle was but a babe in arms with his twin - someone from the Board came to retrieve that pint of milk. The widow, with four children, three of them under the age of four, was not considered worthy to receive this.
Growing up as the Labour League of Youth flourished, my Uncle learned much and became a part of it. He was extraordinarily well-read, well-educated and worked, having served in the British Army in the fifties, ultimately in the British Ropes Factory using his engineering skills.
He knew all that there was to know about the origins of the Labour Party, continued to read much, was politically highly aware and was a Shop Steward Union representative. He was well skilled and well known and well liked by management and workers alike. He had no personal ego to feed, however, as he never desired advancement based on his intellectual capabilities. He was genuine, quiet, observant and he looked after his wife and his child.
He lived in a council house and never wished to purchase it. He was a true socialist. When the opportunity came to purchase the house he had lived in since the sixties, he decided not to take that opportunity, because he did not believe that this was for the good of the whole of society. He stood by his principles.
Years later, when redundancies were being announced in the British Ropes Industry, my Uncle was not even on the list, having a well established role and longevity. Being an observant man, he was well aware of everyone who worked around him; their families, their needs, their likes and dislikes and he served them well as their union representative. Always quietly, without fuss and I never, ever heard him once claim victory or boast reputation. He would always know the surrounding issues and complexities and speak knowledgeably about them all.
There was a younger man in the factory who, given his lack of longevity, was on the list of redundancies. He was a very worried man. He had a family and a mortgage and he was very, very concerned about the effects that being made redundant would have upon him. It was the eighties.
My Uncle decided to put himself forward for redundancy so that his man would not have to go. It would mean a much reduced income for my Uncle. He, too, would need to find another job. He made the choice, not on the basis of personal gain, but on the basis of putting himself in the position of his co-worker and deciding that his co-worker would suffer more deprivation than he, himself would. He did not tell his wife about this decision at all; he just took redundancy and implied it was a given to her.
In fact, none of us knew. Uncle took all kinds of bit jobs and worked his way through to pensionable age. Some years later on, he was walking in town with his son. A man came through the crowd towards my Uncle. He embraced him and said how happy he was to see him and how much he still thought about him and how he had been so grateful for him having taken redundancy, on his behalf. His son stood aghast, wondering what this was all about.
My Uncle told his son the story and insisted that he did not tell his Mother, ever. Of course, eventually, we all got to learn of the truth. Uncle died when he was in his late seventies; he took his quietness and his humbleness and his selflessness to the grave; unsung, unrecognised, unheralded.
But I knew what a good man he was and, not only that, that his intellect and his capability of arguing any political stance with anybody in the Houses of Parliament would actually never be known in the public sphere.
He is the only true socialist that I have ever known and I am so proud to have known such an honest and selfless person - living an ordinary life and being content within it, with his super developed intellect and wisdom - as my Uncle.