Monday 9 November 2009

Chris Harman, SWP leader dies

by David
I’m very sad to hear that Chris Harman, one of the leaders of the British Socialist Workers Party has recently died. Chris Harman has always been my favourite among the many fine authors in the SWP. His writing, as editor of the British Socialist Worker newspaper until 2004 and as the author of many books and longer articles have had a profound impact on my own political thought, and I’m sure that is true of many other Socialist Worker members and our organisation as a whole. For several years we reprinted and sold his How Marxism Works, a collection of short, accessible articles on the basics of Marxism. Economics of the Madhouse was a popular introduction to Marxist economics. We also turned his article ‘Anti-capitalism: theory and practice’, written in the wake of the 1999 Seattle protests, into a pamphlet which sold well. Harman’s best work, in my view was his histories, which brought alive key moments in history by explaining how the struggles of ordinary people to liberate themselves from oppression and exploitation arise from and clash with the contradictory developments of capitalism. The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918-23 (1997) showed just how close the German workers came to making a revolution that could have saved the USSR from isolation and Stalinist counter-revolution and stopped Hitler’s rise. The pamphlet Russia, how the revolution was lost (1969) offers a brief account of what went wrong in Russia. While Class Struggles in Eastern Europe, 1945-1983 (1988) detailed the struggle of workers against the Stalinist regimes. Best of all are The Fire Last Time, 1968 and After (1988), an inspiring classic, and has the honour of being recommended by Rage Against the Machine in their Evil Empire album. And A People’s History of the World (1999). Over the next month or so I’ll post links to some of Chris Harman’s work. An appropriate one to start with, given that he died on the 92nd anniversary of the October Revolution is ‘Russia: How the Revolution was Lost’.

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