Obituaries

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...

Graham Hellawell 1964-2019

Graham Hellawell has died, aged 55. Supporters and members of Workers’ Liberty may well remember Graham from when he took an active and leading part in the Campaign for Free Education in the mid-1990s. As President of Huddersfield University Students’ Union, Graham helped to set up CfE. For a while the Campaign was a very large force inside the National Union of Students battling against the Blairites’ attempts to ditch free education policy. Graham was also active in Unison, in health campaigns and in the fight against racism and fascism. In the 2001 General Election he stood as a Socialist...

Immanuel Wallerstein 1930-2019

Immanuel Wallerstein died at the age of 88 on 31 August. He was one of the last great exponents of the 1950s-60s theory of imperialism known as “dependency theory”, and continued to write until only a few years ago. He was born in New York, the son of Polish Jews fleeing antisemitism, and worked almost all his life in US universities. He named Marx first among those to whom he “acknowledged a continuing intellectual debt”. He described himself as one of a “gang of four” with Samir Amin, Giovanni Arrighi, and Andre Gunder Frank, all also now dead. Gunder Frank was the most prolific and...

Ágnes Heller 1929-2019

With the death of Ágnes Heller on 19 July an era in Hungarian politics has come to an end. She was one of the last links to the Hungarian Marxist György Lukács and the so-called Budapest School of the 1960s, which consisted of a number of his former students, including Heller’s husband Ferenc Feher. Born to a Jewish family in Budapest, Heller survived the Holocaust. Her father – an inspirational figure who helped many Jews to survive – perished in the final months of the war. After 1945 she enrolled at university and joined the Hungarian Communist Party in 1947 after hearing Lukács give a...

Not the worst kind of renegade

Karol Modzelewski died on 28 April 2019. He was a well known personality on the western anticapitalist left in the 1960s, as co-author of the “Open letter to the Party”. After the collapse of “actually existing socialism”, he was treated as a moral authority by the liberal media in the Third Polish Republic, as one of the fighters for Polish democracy. Karol Modzelewski was born in Moscow in 1937 in a family of Communist activists. His stepfather, Zygmunt Modzelewski, became the foreign affairs minister in “People’s Poland” in 1947. In 1964, Modzelewski, who was then a lecturer at the...

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