S

Sayle Alexei

Alexei Sayle

 

Actor, comedian, scriptwriter, singer, and novelist, Alexei David Sayle  was born on 7th August 1952 and raised in Anfield, Liverpool. He is the son of Molly, a pools clerk, and Joe, a railway worker born in 1907, both of whom were long-term members of the Communist Party and who married in 1950. Molly’s real name was Malka Mendelson. She was born into a Jewish family in 1915 to a mother who was of Lithuanian Jewish descent. Before the war, Molly worked as a seamstress and later was, for a long time, a clerk for a local football pools firm. 

Alexei’s father, Joe, was at first a Labour Party member, who joined the Communist Party during the General Strike. In the pre-war period, he kept up his Labour Party membership but his CP membership secret. As late as 1938 he stood as a Labour candidate for Kirkdale ward. This veneer soon faded with the onset of war and, in the post war era, since he and Molly became inveterate holiday travellers in eastern Europe, they were well-known as stalwarts of the Merseyside Communist Party. The Liverpool and North Wales District Secretary of the NUR (now RMT) until the early 70s, Joe died in 1983. 

Alexei attended Alsop Grammar School in Walton from 1964-1969. After leaving school, Sayle took a foundation course in art at Southport from 1969 to 1971, before attending Chelsea College of Art and Design in London up to 1974. For four years, he was more or less unemployed before attending Garnett College, Roehampton, for a year to do a course on teaching in further education.  A short career in education began but was truncated by success as a stand-up comedian.

 

It is probable that his parents either had signed him up, or tried to get him signed up, as a member of the Young Communist League. But, in his last year at school, as he has written, he “rebelled by becoming a different kind of Communist”. In 1968, Sayle joined Reg Birch’s (see separate entry) pro-Chinese Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and was a member and activist for the best part of a decade.

 

Sayle has often made it seems as if he does not respect his political background. (His memoirs are entitled “Stalin ate my homework”!)

A common joke is that he had trouble sleeping as a child since there were 20,000 unsold copies of the Daily Worker/Morning Star under his bed. Yet, despite much sarcastic rendering in his comedy over his and his parents’ political commitments, and the bizarreness – seemingly now well understood by Sayle - of the CPB (M-L)’s drift from a pro-Chinese, then pro-Albanian, and, briefly, a pro-Soviet position, he appears to have maintained a broadly left political stance, albeit marked by an oddly non-ironic complaint that the left seems so fractious and divided!

 

Aside from this, Sayle seems increasingly intent on bringing leftism mainstream. Aside from his three-part TV airing on the delights of Liverpool, more straightforward material has emerged from him. On the 3rd November 2006 he presented `Chopwell Soviet’, a 30-minute programme on BBC Radio 4. Seemingly sympathetic, the programme  reviewed the experiences of a village famous for being dubbed Little Moscow some 80 years before.

 

Sayle has also in recent years marked out a space for himself as a serious campaigner for the rights of the Palestinian people. In 2007, he led a lobby of parliament to mark the UN day of solidarity with Palestinian rights. Whilst on the 3rd January 2009, Sayle took part in a protest in London along with thousands of others in opposition to Israel's ground attack on Gaza.