Obituaries

David Graeber's anarchism and the Occupy movement

The news that David Graeber had died so young, at only 59, was shocking and saddening. He had one of those inherently lively, energetic personalities that seems to contradict the concept of death itself. He earned respect as one of the few modern anarchist thinkers who tried to really apply anarchism systematically as a total worldview: anarchist principles informed his anthropological and historical research, his economics, and his interventions into real world politics. Graeber’s anthropological work is fascinating and valuable; his major book, Debt, is thought-provoking, though basically...

Tim Hales: a tribute

On Sunday 6 September my good friend and comrade Tim Hales passed away several months after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Tim will be known to many readers of Solidarity for the colourful and vibrant cartoons he produced regularly for the paper over recent years. He had been an art teacher since the 1980s, first in Barnsley and then Leeds, and was able to devote more time to his own artwork after retirement. He took the responsibility for producing cartoons very seriously and was always proud to see his work published in the paper. I first met Tim as an activist in the Leeds division...

Jiři Menzel: 1938-2020

One of the great European “auteurs”, Jiři Menzel, has died aged 82. He is one of the last of a generation of film directors the likes of which will never be seen again. They included his fellow Czechs Miloš Forman and Vera Chytilova, the Hungarians Miklós Jancsó, Marta Mészáros and István Szabó, and, from Poland, Andrzej Wajda. From the Soviet Union, Andrei Tarkovsky and Elem Klimov. From other parts of Europe: Theo Angelopoulos from Greece, the doyens of the French New Wave such as Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Agnes Varda, Germany’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Margarette von Trotta...

Herman Benson (1915-2020): no socialism without democracy

Herman Benson, veteran socialist activist and fighter for rank-and-file democracy in the labour movement, died on 2 July, aged 104. Herman was the last survivor, at least to my knowledge, of the “first generation” of “third camp” socialists – the Trotskyists who, in the late 1930s, had broken with the orthodoxy that the Soviet Union still represented some kind of “workers' state”, worthy of defence, and founded the political tradition summarised by the slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow, but international socialism”, and which, since the mid-1980s, Workers' Liberty has increasingly come to...

Memories of Tony Reay

Tony Reay, who died on 23 April, was a campaigner, trade unionist and socialist. For most of his adult life he worked closely with Workers’ Liberty comrades in the civil service trade unions, first the CPSA and then the PCS. He was based in Lewisham for the past 30 years and was hugely respected in the Lewisham labour movement. I first met Tony 27 years ago, just after I moved to London. The then AWL industrial organiser discovered I was now living across from the road from Tony, and sent me to visit Tony with the instruction to recruit him. I still don’t know if that was the organiser’s sense...

Reminiscences of Ted Knight (1933-2020)

I am saddened by the death of Ted Knight (30 March 2020). I knew him well long ago in the Orthodox Trotskyist organisation of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

McCoy Tyner, 1938-2020

The jazz pianist, composer and bandleader McCoy Tyner has died aged 81. Best known as a member of the “classic” John Coltrane Quartet between 1960 and 1965, in a career of over 50 years Tyner developed one of the most influential styles of modern jazz piano and produced a wide range of varied yet distinctive music. Tyner grew up in Philadelphia where there was a thriving jazz scene in the 50s. He started learning piano when he was 13 and had some classical training. He first met Coltrane in 1957 and they developed a friendship and musical understanding despite more than ten years age...

Michel Lequenne, 1921-2020

“The last Trotskyist” — so Michel Lequenne, who died on 13 February 2020 aged 98, sometimes described himself, according to a tribute by Antoine Artous and Francis Sitel. Arguably he was indeed the last surviving Orthodox Trotskyist with an unbroken political thread from the early 1940s. There are other Orthodox Trotskyists — the more-or-less theory-free network around Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party, the “Morenist” diaspora, those post-Mandelites who still call themselves “Trotskyist” — but they scarcely attempt to offer a systematically-developed ideological tradition. In the introduction to...

Bob Sutcliffe 1939-2019

Bob Sutcliffe, a well-known Marxist economist for over fifty years, and at one time a comrade of ours in the Workers’ Socialist League of 1981-84, died on 23 December 2019, aged 80. I last talked with Bob about 10 years ago, when I was seeking interviews and discussions with Marxist economists about the 2007-8 crisis and its aftermath. Bob explained that his health was bad, and he couldn’t contribute, but he was, as ever, friendly, helping me with introductions to other economists. He was then, and had been for some years, working as a university teacher in the Basque country of Spain. When I...

Andy Shallice 1952-2019

Andy Shallice, a comrade from Sheffield Heeley Labour Party, died suddenly last Saturday, 14 December. Andy returned to the Labour Party with the Corbyn victory in 2015 and led local campaigning in the constituency. He was warm, funny, optimistic and politically switched-on. He fought for accountability and revelled in asking difficult questions of the local labour bureaucracy. Previously as a Unison activist. he had been key to the local rank and file, Unison Unleashed. He had been active on the left in the North West and Sheffield since the 70s, including with Workers’ Fight (a forerunner of...

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