Obituary: Jack Gormley

Jack Gormley was 18 when he first met the Socialist Party of Great Britain in the 1930s at outdoor meetings in Rushcroft Road, Brixton; it was not until 1946 that he joined our then Camberwell Branch. In the years between—as jack wrote in the November 1975 Socialist Standard (“Why I joined the SPGB”)—he had been attracted by reformists masquerading as revolutionaries, who boasting of their mass support imagined they were getting things done. Unemployment! Rents and Houses! Fighting Imperialism! The War against Fascism! Like many others who ignored the arguments of the SPGB, Jack was distracted by dozens of blind-alley issues. He went into the “lively” Norwood Labour Party, and was caught up in a Trotskyist cell. Every week there would be a fresh line to follow, supposedly spearheading the imminent workers’ take-over.

Jack began to question all the wasted time and effort. The sense of the SPGB’s argument about the paramount necessity to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism, had begun to have its effect. He refused to be conscripted during the war, and joining the Socialist Party went enthusiastically to its education classes. For the rest of his life Jack vigorously propounded socialism to everyone he met. His exposition was clear, well illustrated by the fund of experience from his early politically wasted years, also enriched with a wide knowledge of literature. He particularly like the works of Jack London and William Morris, and the poetry of Shelley. South London Party speakers have long been indebted to Jack Gormley for his example and guidance.

Over the years the South London Press and other local papers published many of Jack’s well written and pointed letters, frequently printed under the pen name: “Standard Socialist”. Many of us will not forget Jack’s passion for discussing politics and religion—he had dispensed with religion before meeting the Party. At every opportunity he went to opponents’ meetings. The writer of this notice well remembers a Carshalton Labour Party meeting we both attended. Barbara Castle MP and Sydney Silverman MP had given long, dreary speeches, and were supposed to take questions. Came the first tame question, then Jack got up and put his, it was well put, barbed and resounded throughout the hall. The MPs, hastily excused themselves, retreated back to the House of Commons. The local paper reporting the incident noted the speedy departure in the face of questions, recording Jack’s loud challenge: “You’re not socialists!” in the wake of the MP’s going.

Jack Gormley, troubled in recent years by poor health, died suddenly last month. With his passing, a powerful voice and pen is silenced. SW London Branch will greatly miss his political experience and valued contributions to discussion. His friends in the Party here and in Australia are sad at the loss of a staunch comrade. Our sympathy goes to his family; we share their loss.

Mike Sansum

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