Socialist Worker

First tributes to Chris Harman

Issue No. 2177

Over the last 24 hours we have received hundreds of messages of condolence from groups and individuals from all over the world.

Below we have published just a few. We will put more tributes up over the coming days.

Martin Smith
SWP National Secretary

Please accept my deepest sympathy. I was very shocked to learn of Chris’s death, as I had seen him only last Sunday and he seemed very fit and full of life.

I had known Chris for forty-six years. The enormous breadth of his knowledge and the range and quality of his writing were extraordinary. He could certainly have been a very successful, and prosperous, academic, but I don’t thing such a thing interested him at all; he told me quite recently that he was glad he had been sacked from the only academic post he briefly held, at Enfield College of Technology (later Middlesex Poly). He was totally devoted to the socialist cause, a professional revolutionary in the very best sense of the term.

As an editor Chris commissioned a great many articles from me, and rejected a few. I learned a great deal from him about how to write for the revolutionary press and how to address an audience. He first encouraged me to write on Sartre, back in the early seventies, something I shall always be grateful to him for.

I had my disagreements with Chris (I remember him howling “disgraceful” at me at Marxism one year when I rejected his position on the dialectics of nature). But though he defended his ideas passionately, he was never personally antagonistic, and it was always a rewarding experience to discuss with him. The best memorial to him will be the fact that so much of his work will continue to be read for many years to come.

He will be greatly missed by all those of us who knew him, but our sympathy goes to you who were close to him and loved him.

All my very best wishes,


Dear Comrades,

I don't have the words to express my sorrow or what is in my heart today to hear that Chris has died – and that Talat and Seth and Sinead and all his family have lost him like this.

For me Chris was the greatest political influence and probably a big reason why I am still a revolutionary despite all the disappointments of battles lost and temptations to drop out and watch from the sidelines. You can't have worked even a week on the paper with him without learning something that would sink deep and give some depth to raw class anger.

To me Harman was like an endless store of knowledge and of perspective – he just knew everything from obscure facts about post war bus strikes to big impenetrable books. I must have heard the words, 'what you have got to understand Elane is…' Thousands of times and I’m glad for every time I did.

Mixed in with all that, his often eccentric habits and propensity to eat obscure green things that grew like weeds in his garden and give us a weekly lecture on the joys of shopping in the Dalston Waste market have been swirling around in my head along with joint horrified inspections of Seth's fridge and memories of Seth and he messing about together come to me today.

I know we say that we won't mourn we will organise, and we will but I feel so sad and I feel rage that ruling class people are still walking the earth today while we have lost one of our greatest when we still need him so much.

My love to all of you who loved and worked with him


We received this message in French from Francois Sabado of the NPA in France:

Dear comrades,

I’ve just heard the terrible and sad news.

I’ve spoken about Chris at the National Council of the NPA, which has paid tribute to him.

We are going to write articles about his life and his political struggle.

Rest assured that we are with you in spirit, with the SWP and all the militants in remembering Chris.

Please give our condolences to his family.

In friendship,


Je viens d'apprendre la terrible et triste nouvelle.

J'ai parlé de Chris au CPN du NPA qui lui a rendu hommage.

Nous allons écrire des articles sur sa vie et son combat politique.

Saches que nous sommes de tout coeur avec vous, avec le SWP et tous les militants en souvenir de Chris.

Reçois nos condoléances pour sa famille.

Amitiés François

Dear Comrade,

It is with deep sorrow and disbelief that we received the news of Chris Harman’s death.

Chris Harman, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party died 7th November 2009 as an effective revolutionary in Cairo, where he was speaking at a congress of socialist revolutionaries.

His death is a major loss for the British Socialist Workers Party, the International Socialist Tendency and for the international Marxist movement as a whole.

He was an intellectual, a writer and a theorist of the most extraordinary quality, but he had an ability to explain in simple terms what Marxism meant to him and how we could only change society from below. He had something much more. Harman took Marx out of the hands of academics. This explains why attending a public meeting when he was speaking was a great experience.

Chris Harman could write so well precisely because he had grasped the full wealth of Marxist ideas. He has produced numerous books, pamphlets and articles on a wide variety of topics: on the state capitalist tyrannies of the former Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, how the Russian revolution was lost, the failed German revolutions, the dynamics of modern capitalism, on the 1968 revolts, on political Islam, on Imperialism and many more. His writings comprised a valuable tool for revolutionaries wanting to intervene in the every day political and workers’ struggles with clarity of ideas, strategy and tactics.

Like Tony Cliff the founder of British SWP, Harman’s writings, his efforts and contribution have played a significant part in germinating the seeds of revolutionary Marxist groups and organizations in whatever part of the world, as was the case with our group in Cyprus.

Chris Harman will be very sadly missed but he will remain an inspiration to successive generations of socialists. The best tribute to him is building the struggles of workers and revolutionary organizations internationally.

Please convey our heartfelt condolences to his partner Talat and his family.

In comradeship,

Phaedon Vassiliades, Dinos Agiomamitis
Workers Democracy Group, Cyprus

Allow me to join the grieving family of the international left as we are mourning the fighter and the thinker Chris Harman. In my long years of hesitation among political winds blowing in all directions, International Socialism, the journal he edited was an indispensable inspiration. I was honoured when Chris and Talat visited me in Budapest to record a conversation that has subsequently appeared in ISJ, and has been since translated in many languages. Chris's solidarity, his understanding of the continental left, his refusal to forget the ravages of Stalinism has made him an excellent observer of European affairs. He had nothing insular. He had that trait of the real revolutionary that would not allow him or her to be indifferent to people's predicament wherever they may be confronting oppression and injustice. We'll miss him.

GM Tamás

My personal tribute to a great comrade, the revolution has lost one member

Fight will go on for him

NPA France

Dear comrades,

I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear about Chris Harman's sudden death in Cairo. He was a major intellectual of the revolutionary left, and an activist of many talents and significant merits. Please convey my deepest sympathies to his family and to his comrades.

Alfredo Saad Filho.

Dear Comrades

Although I never met Comrade Harman I read his books and listened to his lectures via the MP3s available. Even from afar he had the power to inspire.

He was a dedicated revolutionary and a fine Marxist historian. He will be greatly missed.

La lotta continua.

Phil Chilton
Perth, Western Australia

We were shocked to hear the news of Chris's death yesterday. It seems trite to say that he will be sorely missed, but he truly will.

Chris inspired our generation to be revolutionaries. His ability to explain complex ideas simply to those who were not familiar with abstract ideas set him apart from those who saw Marxism as an academic exercise. His commitment to the building of a revolutionary party internationally was unflinching. From his writings on Germany to riots and revolution, through to the chronicling of the events of 1968 and after, he has left us with a vast body of work that will guide ourselves and future generations in the bringing about of a democratic Socialist society.

He will be sorely missed but as Cliff was fond of reminding us – we stand on the shoulders of giants which allow us to see far. Chris was one of the giants of the revolutionary movement.

Our love and thoughts are with Talat, Seth and Sinead.

Sean and Suzanne

Dear Comrades,

It was with great sorrow we heard of the tragic death of our comrade and dear friend Chris Harman.

This terrible news reached us minutes before our annual conference began – an event that Chris had attended many times.

Chris was a point of reference for thousands of socialists throughout out the world and in particular for us here in Spain. He attended our very first conference in 1995 and most since then. Both when he came over and many times we had the chance to be with him in London during Marxism over the last 15 years he has been a constant source of advice and inspiration for us. En lucha would not have been the same without the constant support he gave us.

We ended our conference toady with a tribute to him and all he has meant to us. His death is an incalculable loss for En lucha and all socialists but as Miguel Sanz, a long-standing comrade from our Seville branch, insisted in his summing up the best tribute we can pay Chris is to continue with the work he dedicated his life to.

Hasta siempre Chris.
Por el socialismo y por la revolución

En lucha, Spain
8 November 2009.

Dear comrades,

We received the news on Chris’s death with surprise and sadness. We shared with him some moments of the popular revolt in Buenos Aires and The World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in Brazil.

Also, we were lucky to receive him in Montevideo twice (once he was accompanied by Talat) and you’ll be always in our memories. Like the conversations we had and his sharp ideas. On one occasion he told us we were very “diplomatic” to express our ideas. We first thought it was a matter of cultural differences, but later discover that it was Chris’ method to clarify ideas inside the party, the left and the class. To Chris we owe this lesson and many more that he was able to send to us at a distance. The best tribute to Chris is to take his struggle and ideas further than where he took them.

All of our solidarity is with his comrades in particular to Talat and his children

In comradeship

Javier Carlés
Socialismo Internacional

Dear friends of the SWP,

I am very sorry to hear news on the death of Chris Harman, a great intellectual of the working class and an author and researcher of astonishing productivity. I had the opportunity of meeting and having a chat with him in London a few years ago. He impressed me as a man whose depth and brilliance were inseparable from plainness, a curiosity for new social experiences he came in contact with, and a sense of humour.

In recent years he kept sending me articles by diverse writers and on a range of topics, which were of interest and useful for many of us in Puerto Rico. Especially useful was his analysis on the present economic crisis of capitalism. I had the privilege of translating the first two parts of his monumental A People’s History of the World into Spanish. This became a short book in 2007, which some of us now use in university courses of social sciences and humanities in Puerto Rico. Students actually like the book and express they learn a lot, given the simple terms in which complex issues are put without sacrificing depth and openness to further discussion.

We will remember you Chris Harman and your valuable contributions.

Hector Melendez
San Juan, Puerto Rico

As translator of several articles and books by Chris into German, I am very sad about his death. I have followed his politics for more than 20 years now and owe him a good deal regarding my own political life. He has made Marxist theory and history accessible and lively. I will miss his sharp analyses.

Rosemarie Nuenning,

It was a privilege to have worked with Chris on Socialist Worker for so many years. Chris was a brilliant theorist and a passionate class fighter. He was also a lovely man. He taught me so much on the paper – not only about Marxist theory, but also about how to write and how to convey socialist ideas in an accessible and engaging way. Chris was great to work with. He was always supportive and encouraging to unconfident and new writers – even when he felt the need to rewrite your copy. He was also always interested in what workers had to say and he often brought editorial meetings down to earth by insisting we cover the hardships, poverty and struggles faced by our working class readers.

Many of his comments in editorial meetings involved a story from Hackney or a reference to “the Waste”, his small local market. I was inspired by the way that he applied his Marxist understanding to every aspect of life – from the economic crisis to novels and TV detective shows. I still refer to a very long list he gave me of novels that he recommended I read. He did more than anyone else to inspire and encourage me to read a wide range of books, and to help me gain the confidence to write and give meetings. I owe Chris an immense amount personally and politically, and the party and the wider socialist movement owe him so much more.


I was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Chris. In 1974 it was speeches given by Chris, Cliff and Paul Foot that convinced me to join the then International Socialists. What impressed me about Chris was the depth of analysis he gave, he never over complicated things or patronised his audience.

Alongside Cliff’s, his books’ were a central part of my learning and practicing Marxism. Chris was the most rigorous of intellectuals, and he has provided a wonderful legacy for the party.

When I went to Manchester as organiser in the early 1980s, it was Chris’s theory and perspectives that helped guide me through what was a very difficult period for the movement, and the party. He was the finest editor that Socialist Worker ever had.

It was always a pleasure to meet up with him. I last saw him selling the paper on the Afghanistan demo and I can’t believe I will not see him again. But comrades will remain determined to complete the project that Chris was so dedicated to.

My deepest sympathy and condolences to Talat, Sinead, Seth, and his close friends and family.

With Love


I will always remember Chris Harman’s stirring speech at the World Social Forum in Mumbai in 2004. It made a lasting impression on me.

My sincerest condolences.

Vidyadhar Date,

Dear Comrades,

On behalf of York SWP I would be grateful if you could pass on our condolences to Talat and all Chris’s family.

I simply cannot convey adequately how important Chris was to myself and my comrades in providing incisive and clear explanations be it of history or economics. His revamping of the International Socialism journal was excellent and his summaries of recent events in the journal provided a clarity and sense of perspective that gave us so much more confidence. Above all he prepared another generation of Marxists who will mourn but continue to organise.

In comradeship


We feel very sad. It was thanks to Chris Harman that we understood crisis, Marxism, history and so much more… We’ll always continue to read him and popularise his ideas. And still fight for the power.

Marie and many NPA comrades

Dear comrades

We too are very touched by the untimely loss of this great revolutioary. How sad just a few days back we read a review of his recent excellent book Zombie Capitalism. Chris was an inspiration to us who always used his lucid rebuttal of neoclassical  economics to defend Marxist economics.

I will always remember the man and his flask of tea. May his family be comforted that his immense contributions resonates acrross the globe. Chris has not only won thousands to socialism but equipped all of us revolutionaries to go on – no matter how tough times are. In this context the giant will rest happily and assured that the struggle continues. More red fire will burn not the last time but forever. If possible may the comrades please send us Zombie capitalism (To: Motsomis Marobela, Po Box 70381, Gaborone, UB, Botswana)

Please pass our condolences to comrade Talat and Chris's family.

Motsomi Marobela
for International Socialists Botswana

 Dear All

 Chris Harman in one of Socialist Thinkers in this century, With our best condolence from Indonesia

 Meistra Budiasa

This is such awful, shocking news partly because it's so unexpected. I heard him speak at the Lenin day-school last weekend, and he was as clear, sharp and committed as ever. If anything, he seemed to have taken on a new lease of life over the last few years, both as a writer and as an activist.

His speaking and his writing helped tens of thousands around the world better understand Marxism and modern capitalism, and his legacy will be not just the books, articles and speeches, but also all those whose lives he changed – and in particular the party, whose intellectual coherence and political solidity he made such a huge contribution towards. I don't think that we would have negotiated the last difficult few years quite so well without his keen grasp of the essentials.

I first met him in 1974, and he's been a fairly constant presence in my life ever since. Every SWP member will remember an article or an argument of his that changed how we thought or what we did, and we'll all feel that as a huge loss. It must be worst for those of you who worked with him daily – the CC's loss is perhaps greatest of all, and lots of us are thinking of you all as well.

One of the things he's left us is the example of resilience – whatever the setback or defeat, there were new battles to prepare for, and giving up was never an option. Whatever capitalism has to throw at us next, we can build a resistance, and the memory Chris will be an inspiration in those battles. My deepest condolences to Talat, Sinead and Seth, and to all his family and friends. La lutte continue!


I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to Talat and the rest of Chris's family following their tragic loss. I attended Marxism this year following a long hiatus from the revolutionary struggle and quickly decided to attend some of Chris's meetings, in particular the one alongside David Harvey.

After all these years I felt shamed. Shamed by the enthusiasm and commitment that Chris still showed after all these years. As a fitting tribute to comrade Harman I would like to express this to his family: because of Marxism 2009 and Chris's brilliant meetings I am, once again, becoming active in my local SWP branch and muched better prepared to take the socialist arguments into the workplace. Chris's role in inspiring me to do this is considerable.

In solidarity at this sad time


Dear Comrades;

Tragic loss of Chris Harman shocked us. He was one of the leaders of real Marxist tradition. I will remember him as he spoke at Marxism 2008 in Turkey. He spent his life with struggle and he will be remembered as a beloved comrade.

As Cliff said, we will not mourn, we will organise.

In Comradeship,

Onur Devrim Üçbaş
Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party(DSİP)

I always regarded Chris Harman as someone who had an absolute command of the Marxist method a man who stood head and shoulders above the charlatans who pass for bourgeoise economic commentators. His loss is a loss to everyone who wants to put an end to this insane system. Every fight we win will be a victory built on his achievments.

His book on the German Revolution opened my eyes to what could have been, his insight into the lunacy of capitalism will guide us to what will be.

My deepest condolences to Talat and his family


Dear Comrades,

In the Portuguese Left Bloc we were really shocked when we heard the news of Chris's tragic death in Cairo. In late August I met with Chris at the first NPA summer univeristy at Port-Leucate in France. We both spoke at the Forum of the European anti-capitalist parties, where each of the participants gave his/her contribution for an anti-capitalist perspective to fight the crisis and, beyond that, the capitalist system.

On behalf of the National leadership of the Portuguese Left Bloc, I am sending our condolences to Chris's family and friends and to all SWP members

In comradeship

Alda Sousa
for the Left Bloc

As a committed revolutionary socialist and Marxist writer more than 40 years Chris's contribution to the development of socialist ideas was unequalled. At the time of his death he was, in my opinion, the foremost Marxist theorist in the world and his loss will be blow to socialists from Seoul to San Francisco.

But his prolific writings, above all, his amazing distillation of the whole story of humanity in his People's History of the World, and his profound analysis of the economic crisis of contemporary capitalism in many books and articles, culminating in his brilliant Zombie Capitalism, will remain an indispensible educational resource and guide to action for the whole international socialist movement for decades to come.

John Molyneux

Dear comrades, family and friends

It is with great shock that we received the news of the passing away of Comrade Chris Harman. He was a great socialist and fighter for the emancipation of the working class, not just in the UK but throughout the world. The fact that he died speaking in Cairo attests to this. 

We wish you strength and serenity during this time of bereavement. Our thoughts are with you. His contribution to the socialist struggle will remain indelible and be known to present and future generations of socialist fighters.

Thank you.
Yours in struggle

Trevor Ngwane
Member of the Socialist Group (South Africa)


See also » Tributes to Chris Harman

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