Obituaries

Karen Lewis lit the spark

Karen Lewis, leader of the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike, died of cancer on 7 February 2021. An obituary in Labor Notes here describes her role in building a rank-and-file caucus in the Chicago Teachers’ Union and then leading the CTU.

Mick Brooks and expropriating the banks

Longstanding socialist and Labour Party activist Mick Brooks (1948-2021), who died in January as a result of complications from Covid-19, was co-author with Michael Roberts of the Fire Brigades Union’s 2013 pamphlet on public ownership of the banks and high finance, It's time to take over the banks. (The two also ran regular Karl Marx walking tours in London.) In the face of multiple convulsive social crises, the demand for public and democratic control of finance is more relevant and urgent than ever. Mick continued to vocally and actively make the case for it. For those who did not know him...

Leo Panitch, 1945-2020

Leo Panitch, an assiduous and important Marxist writer on political economy and an active socialist, died on 19 December 2020, from Covid-19 contracted after being admitted to hospital with cancer. His biggest book, The Making of Global Capitalism, written with Sam Gindin, is essential reading, and summarised a vigorous programme of research into post-1945 capitalism. I first met Leo Panitch, I think, at an "International Marx Congress" at Nanterre University, near Paris, in 2004. He was off-hand, and I guessed he had the typical attitude of a famous university professor (at York University...

Mike Perkins, 1932-2020

Mike Perkins, a long standing supporter of Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty, died on 9 November aged 88. Mike joined shortly after his retirement from work, some 20 years ago. Through his union, Unison, he was on the trade union education course at Southampton College. Run by a socialist tutor, the course was lively, relevant and political, rooted in the class struggle and related political issues. It was 1997. The Labour Party had won the election, but were led by pink-Tory Blairites who had captured control. These issues were discussed on the course, with a number of members continuing that...

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.

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