I FIRST met Morry some time in 1948, when he joined the Revolutionary Communist Party. Although living in East London, he joined the North London Branch which met in the Co-op Hall in Seven Sisters Road. Apparently, he had applied to the East London Branch, but had been refused entry by Sam Bornstein. The party centre, in its mercy, sent Morry to us in North London. I never broached this matter with Sam — and now it is much too late to do so! — and so failed to learn the reasons behind Morry’s rejection. However, I suspect Morry’s lack of vociferousness and silence at a time when fierce faction fights dominated the party, persuaded Sam against him. In fact, perhaps, Morry’s inoffensiveness came as almost a reproach! I had also heard that Morry had intended or had at one time begun studying to become a Rabbi, and Sam would not have viewed a predilection towards religion in a good light. Happily, Morry never appeared to bear a grudge against the East London comrades.
At about the time I met him, Morry applied to the Post Office for a job, and as in those days to be accepted for a government post it was necessary not only to have been born in the UK oneself, but to have UK-born parents, it was necessary for Morry to claim that his immigrant parents had been born in Canada. In the Post Office, he was not only a conscientious worker, but was very active in the union.
Before the shut-down of the RCP in 1949, the North London branch was equally divided between the supporters of Haston’s Majority, and those of Healy’s Minority, with two or three Shachtmanites thrown in for good measure. Morry remained a quiet supporter of the Majority.
Morry was a lifelong bachelor. On one occasion when he saw a girl to her door, I am told he tried to sell her a copy of Socialist Appeal on the doorstep. In the early years, Morry shared a house with his brother Angel, who sadly died in early middle age. I can remember visiting Morry’s sister and her daughter in Stamford Hill, and found the family most welcoming and hospitable. Over the years, I spied Morry at marches and demonstrations, but the last time I met him he was at Sam Levy’s memorial meeting. Morry, at that time in his late 70s, looked much the same as when I first met him in 1948.
Morry was never a theorist, but was a stalwart foot soldier, and the revolutionary movement needs many more of his kind.
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I FIRST met Morry in 1958 or 1959 selling the Socialist Current at Speakers Corner. Quiet, intensely loyal and decent, Morry was the paper-seller and trade union activist rather than the writer in the little Current collective. Kind, thoughtful and never bearing a grudge, he always got on well with everybody. As evidence of this, he had served in a Welsh regiment during the war, and 20 years later an Evening Standard seller near Charing Cross who had been in the same unit remembered him and always tried to give him a paper free of charge, to Morry’s embarrassment. He must have been known as a good comrade. In the Post Office at Mount Pleasant, he was an iron-hard anti-racist, which was not always easy in the 1950s and 1960s. I was told by Frank Rowe that he nearly always sat among the ethnic minority workers for his lunch and tea breaks, and was dubbed a ‘nigger-lover’ by the sympathisers of the National Front and other Fascists. He was well known as a keen union activist. When describing their annual conference, the union paper often had a comic bit about Morry, the extreme left-winger lurking on its fringes. ‘Where is Sollof?’ was the subheading. He was a far more productive paper seller than anyone else in our small group. I think that his adherence to the Majority in the RCP must have sprung from a moral distaste for Healy rather than any intellectual arguments, and in this his instinct and decency served him well.
I saw very little of him after I broke with the Current in January 1968, and, like Sheila, the last time I met him was at Sam Levy’s memorial meeting. I never met Angel, but I am told that Morry was very grateful to the Anglican order that looked after his brother in a hospice in the East End during his last days. On Judaism, however, Morry was unrelentingly harsh. I am told that the final break-up of the Current hit him hard. Morry was someone whose enormous personal integrity and genuine decency shone through. We need more like him, but we are never going to get enough as such people do not often come up with the rations.
MORRY was 50 when I first met him in 1968. I met Morry and the Socialist Current organisation at the same time, and the two ran together — meals and (lots of) wine and political chat on Saturday nights, and selling the paper together on Sunday mornings. The worst you can say about Socialist Current, which peaked with a membership of 10, was that it got nowhere in its 32 years. The best is that it introduced a few people to Socialist ideas.
And Morry was the comrade who could reach out. He was no theoretician, and his writings were idiosyncratic — he had a great fondness for acrostics — but they could ring bells, as when commenting on the bottomless purse of the state when it comes to repression, Morry said: ‘They won’t fix meters to water cannons.’
Morry had been active in what was then the Union of Post Office Workers. A few people told me that he had led the first ever postwar unofficial strike at the Mount Pleasant branch. He was active in the long, doomed strike of 1970, arguing that the strike should be spread: ‘Stop messing about: get the engineers out.’ After that he more or less gave up on the union bureaucracy, but he carried on selling the paper and arguing the toss at work. Morry could sell the paper to the most sales-resistant people in the Post Office and on the streets of Newham.
Morry’s anti-racist commitment has been mentioned. Just before I met him in 1968, he had helped to foil a possible postmen’s march for Enoch Powell. He let it be known that he, the black postmen and the left in general were arranging a counter-march. The boot of his car was filled with anti-racist placards which were shifted around ostentatiously to make the story credible. Management panicked, as they were intended to, and the would-be marchers for Powell were warned off, on pain of the sack.
Morry’s life revolved round Socialist Current, the Post Office and, especially after he retired, his holidays in Spain (Benidorm). He also saw members of his family regularly, but his comrades never heard much about them; Morry regarded them as lost causes politically. He never married, but in his early 70s he had a girlfriend of the same age whom he met in Spain; he wrote acrostics for her, and visited her in Scotland.
Morry sold his last Socialist Current at the age of 70. He was far away at the end, but whilst he had his mental faculties he never lost his faith in the workers and revolution.
Morry did not agree with ‘eulogising’ — his word — departed comrades. So I will just say that he was a good comrade and a good friend.