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Chris Harman 1942-2009

This article is over 12 years, 9 months old
The news that Chris Harman had died of a suspected heart attack in Cairo is shocking. This loss will be felt by all of us who have worked with him, who have read his articles and books and heard him speak.
Issue 341

Chris was a formidable intellectual, Marxist theoretician and writer, but most importantly he was an activist. For him ideas were never to be separated from action. He was fearless in argument but generous with encouragement. His talent was to make even the most difficult ideas clear and when explaining something he would always say, “Do you follow?” If you didn’t he would happily start from beginning and go through it again.

Chris was the editor of International Socialism after having been editor of Socialist Worker for over two decades. Throughout all this time, however, Chris has been a key contributor to Socialist Review magazine, since the first issue in 1978.

He wrote innumerable major features over the decades. But in recent years his regular column (previously “Thinking it Through” and over the last two and half years “In Perspective”) was a source of debate, analysis and comment on the world and the struggle to change it.

Chris was a model columnist. He was always brimming with ideas, and in reality could have written two or three completely different columns each issue. And though he would often grumble about the impossibility of meeting the deadline he never missed them, even if it meant writing on a dodgy laptop on a train.

Next month’s issue of Socialist Review will feature a full obituary and tributes, but in the meantime we have dipped into the archive to highlight just a few pieces that show the sheer range and breadth of the issues he addressed.

Chris wrote on topics as diverse as the debate over “high” culture and socialism (Hitting the High Notes, 1995), New Labour’s decision to give independence to the Bank of England (Brown and the Bank, 1997) and capitalism and climate change (Climate Change and Class Conflict, 2007).

He also wrote extensively on the “war on terror”, from George W Bush’s threat of war in revenge for the World Trade Centre attacks (Bush Fires on all Fronts, 2001), to his premature declaration of “victory” in Iraq (Only the Beginning, 2003).

Over the years, Socialist Review also featured reviews of books written by Chris, such as Alex Callinicos’s review of the seminal The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918-1923 (1982) (scanned from the original – parts 1, 2 and 3), John Molyneux’s review of A People’s History of the World (1999) and Jonny Jones’s review of Zombie Capitalism (2009).

His final column for Socialist Review was a reflection on the roots of the SWP tradition to coincide with the anniversary of the 1989 revolts which brought down Stalinism in Eastern Europe, State capitalism – the theory that fuels the practice, which is in this month’s issue of the magazine.

Read Alex Callinicos’s obituary to Chris Harman in Socialist Worker, tributes to him, and a selection of his articles on the International Socialism website.

Below is footage of Chris at his final meeting, in Cairo on 5 November, 2009.

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