HARRY Selby has died at the age of 70. He was Labour MP for Govan from 1974 to 1979 and a Trotskyist for many decades.
Most Marxists of Selby's persuation have zig-zagged inconsistently in their attitude to the Labour Party over the decades, but not Harry Selby.
He belonged to the Labour Party oriented Revolutionary Socialist League, which was the British Section of the Fourth International when the Fl was set up by Trotsky in 1938. In 1944 the RSL fused with the larger Workers International League, to form the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Led by Ted Grant, of Militant, and others, the RCP had many merits, but its majority was sectarian towards the Labour Party. Selby belonged to the 'Left Faction' of the RSL, and this group separated from the RCP in the mid '40s. It still existed in the 1 960s, as an organised but highly clandestine group in the Labour Party.
They published a duplicated~ paper, 'Politics'. and had highly distinctive positions, especially on the Labour Party. They insisted on a standard of Labour Party discipline practised by no-one else in the Party. For example, they would not sell their paper to non-Labour Party members.
Britain. they thought, had been in a state of 'dual power' shared between the bourgeoisie and the working class, fom the '40s to the '60s.
I remember an impassioned debate in perhaps 1964 in Liverpool between Selby and his comrades on one side, and the Liverpool supporters of Militant on the other, about whether or not Marxists should become councillors. Militant said yes, or the Marxists would be discredited. Selby said.
After he became an MP he told me there was no contradiction. Perhaps, but I never understood, anyway...
By the time Selby got to the House of Commons he was too old and tired to do very much. He was very critical and contemptuous of the Left there. Disillusioned, he chose to retire from Parliament in 1979.
By John O'Mahony