Dear Editors,

I have just come across on your website the (undated) obituary of Wally Preston [it was in the November 2000 issue – Eds]. I had not heard of Wally’s death, and was saddened to learn of it. I met him several times when he was a member of the International Socialists in the 1970s, and he once stayed the night at my home. He was a splendid speaker, a genuine working-class intellectual and a very likeable human being.

However, I must correct your obituarist on one point. He quotes my short history of the IS/SWP and deduces that the comrade who told an IS Conference that a document was so bad it must have been written by a sociologist was Wally. It was not. That speech was made by the late Terry Barrett, a London docker. Barrett was a man of great courage and principle (he publicly opposed the dockers’ march in support of Enoch Powell in 1968), but he was on occasion given to a certain demagogic anti-intellectualism of a sort that I think Wally would not have indulged in.

Ian Birchall, London, N9

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