There’s no Mao jacket, no Lenin hat and his iPhone ringtone is not – I’m slightly disappointed to notice – the Red Flag.

But there’s also no grave-dancing when we discuss the demise of Margaret Thatcher.

And the word ‘comrade’ only pops up once in all our conversation.

Communism, it seems, has moved on a bit from all the hackneyed clichés that tend to get associated with it.

Pete, who works as an artist in Weymouth, believes his socialism came through his schooling.

“It really came from being idealistic and studying history and the French revolution and the Chinese revolution, leading up to the long march and the civil war,” he says.

“The communists transformed an entire society.”

Did he declare himself a communist at a young age?

“I went to art college and I think my politics were much more left-wing than they are now,” he says. Like most people of a left-wing persuasion he is ferociously interested in politics as a transforming agent to bring about a better society. But despite his passion he is happy to admit that this kind of devotion to left-wing causes is very rare these days.

“I think it’s something that’s come about in the last 20 years,” he says.

“I suspect people have become de-politicised and also, in Dorset, you could easily lose track of anyone who isn’t actively a member of the left wing organisations.”

However, where you do find this devotion to the cause is in trade union activity; either in transport, the NHS or large factories, he says.

“With a little bit of looking it’s not too far away. I’ve actually only recently got into it during the past few years.”

He agrees that communism is ‘rare’ and people probably don’t know much about it any more. He wants people to know that it’s not just about going on marches, reading the Morning Star newspaper (although he does) and generally behaving like sitcom character Citizen Smith.

Why? “Because we’re not just saying we’re here as an organisation and are going to turn up at rallies,” he says. “There is a plan.”

Indeed there is. For the princely sum of £3, the Communist Party of Britain outlines the nation’s Road to Socialism.

The mischievous could use it for Marxist bingo (a point for every time they mention the words ‘capitalist’, ‘exploitation’, ‘monopoly’, ‘struggle’ and ‘class’ which is quite a lot).

But Pete sees it as a rallying call for decency, for not exploiting ordinary people, for not allowing bankers and non-payers of giant amounts of corporation tax to get away with it and as such, he believes, many people will agree with some of it.

Family and friends, of course, know his beliefs; his wife, Bobbie-Jo, is also a communist. But he doesn’t go round telling people.

“To be honest, not many people ask,” he says.

“I wear my Lenin badge but I don’t wear the flag on my sleeve.”

Once they do know most people are fine or actually interested and Dorset, he reckons, is a good place for those with socialist beliefs.

He’s not wrong. The entire trade union movement sprang from the courage of six farm workers at Tolpuddle, who banded together to demand better pay and were deported for their trouble.

Less heroically, perhaps, the county has also been home to several communist spies, including the notorious Melita Norwood. The sweet-faced granny was unmasked as Soviet spook ‘Hola’ in 1995.

She had been raised in the county in a home known as ‘The Russian House’ in Christchurch, so fervent was the Trotskyite activity there.

Communists like Pete acknowledge that spies, ‘reds under the bed’-style hysteria and the Stalinist purges have never helped their cause, as has the idea of enforced mass conformity.

But does he feel hopeful about the future? After all, perhaps, with the credit-crunch and the partial banking collapse, capitalism has been slowly imploding?

“It always seems pretty bad if you look at Sky news in the morning but maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it,” he says.

He talks about the ridiculousness of 0.1 per cent of Britain’s 29 million income tax payers accounting for five per cent of all the earnings, wonders why his wife has to travel to a private hospital to receive back pain care that used to be provided by an NHS clinic, and why we have to pay such inflated utility bill prices. And he uses the word comrade.

“You have to say comrade sometimes, it’s in the rule book!” he jokes.

There are just the 15 comrades in Dorset but their optimism is strong; they meet regularly and attend anti-austerity marches and in the meantime Pete is busy with his latest art exhibition at Poole Lighthouse, called Open House.

Running until July 25, the last two weeks of this event will be an exhibition of the work produced during the previous six weeks. Pete’s contribution is an event called Telling Tales which has a web log at: tellingtalesdorset. and an interactive installation in the gallery space.

As we leave he mentions he’s off to do the shopping.

Presumably you are required to do it in the Co-op, I ask him. But apparently not.

“Actually, we go to Asda,” he replies.

  • More on Pete’s art at