Chris Harman (1942-2009)

Chris Harman

I was at an ISO meeting in Seattle on Saturday, when Lee Sustar got up and announced that Chris Harman had died the day before. Harman was a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party of Britain and an influential figure on the British Left. He wrote a number of important books on Marxist economics and on history. I highly recommend his A People’s History of the World. Alas, I lent my copy to someone and never saw it again. (I also lent my copy of Harman’s How Marxism Works to someone and never saw it again. I guess it’s just as well. His writings deserve to be widely circulated.)

I never met Harman, but I did hear him speak once. It was in Chicago in 1996. I’m afraid I don’t remember much about it except that Harman had the most intense gaze I have ever seen in my life. There were several hundred people in the auditorium, and I was sitting all the way in the back. Yet, throughout his entire talk I had the distinct impression that he was looking directly at me. My sense of this was so vivid that it actually made me feel uncomfortable. I can’t recall ever having a similar experience. Looking at some pictures of him on the Internet lately, I could see how I was able to get that impression.

Harman’s death is a great loss for the international Left. My sincere condolences to his family and to his friends.

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