My father was a communist. As is often the case, what attracted the father repelled the son. Of course, I don’t mean to imply that my anticommunism was merely the consequence of a conflict of generations: I read a fair bit and went to see for myself. The latter was something my father never did: reality didn’t interest him. Indeed, he resigned as a member of the British Board of Trade’s Anglo-Soviet committee when it became clear that, at some point, he would actually have to go to the Soviet Union, rather than merely pontificate about it. But the generational conflict gave the whole question of communism a personal edge that perhaps it didn’t have for others of my age and situation.

I remember the day my mother threw out the Little Stalin Library (I wish now that she hadn’t). My father was by then, if not less firm in the faith, at least less vociferous in it. The Little Lenin Library went out too, more for...