Workers’ Liberty is saddened to hear of the sudden death of Matthew Caygill, a Marxist historian, a left wing activist and trade unionist.
Matthew started out his political life in the anti-Apartheid movement and through that ended up joining the Socialist Workers Party. Eventually he and others left the SWP over their “anti-imperialist turn” in the late 80s and early 90s which Caygill criticised as a move away from the anti-Stalinist left tradition that the IS/ SWP grew out of. Some of his criticisms chimed with ours, and he retained an interest in the anti-Stalinist critical Marxist tradition that we as a group still publicise.
He purchased our writings on this subject and was willing to discuss these ideas with us. This was despite growing differences over issues like the Labour Party and reform or revolution. After leaving the SWP Caygill remained very active on the left for the rest of his life.
He co-edited the journal Historical Materialism for a while. He helped found and run the Ford Maguire Society, a socialist history group in Leeds and Leeds Soundings. His academic work focused on the links between 60s youth culture and the left. Caygill moved away from revolutionary socialism towards post-Marxist ideas. He wanted to build a new broad reformist party along the lines of Podemos in Spain, rather then fight in Labour which he saw as a dead end. It is hard to untangle how much this was down to pessimism or genuine enthusiasm for these projects. He was a key figure in the Socialist Alliance in Leeds.
After the fall of the Socialist Alliance, Matthew attempted to breath life into several unity projects before becoming an activist in Left Unity. Caygill was an active trade unionist and vice chair in his local UCU branch. He was due on the picket line on the day he died. Our sympathies, and solidarity go to Matthew's friends, family and comrades.