July 18 2004 will be remembered by all those associated with Socialist Review magazine as the day when we heard the shocking news of the death of our comrade Paul Foot.
He had suffered a fatal aorta rupture at Stansted airport as he was travelling to Ireland with his partner Clare Fermont and daughter Kate.
Paul was a member of the Socialist Review editorial board for over 17 years and a regular contributor to this magazine. For a lot of this time our editorial meetings would take place in Paul and Clare's kitchen. The discussions were always friendly and fraternal, often polemical and occasionally heated, but they shaped the political content and direction of this publication and Paul's contribution was hugely significant.
Often the meetings were chaotic. People would arrive early and late, the tea would be made, the crisps and biscuits would come off the shelf from where they sat alongside Paul's 'Journalist of the Decade' trophy, there was always a hunt on to find the necessary chairs and Kate would check out who was visiting. Our meetings were always stimulating, lively and politically demanding. They brought together comrades involved in different struggles who ensured a freshness and vitality that are essential in any publication.
We would often come to the meeting with a list of ideas that Paul would sit patiently listening to, until the point that you thought he was bored with the discussion, and then he would say, 'No, no no, that's not the way to do it - this is what the mag should cover.' Then he would proceed with some ideas, or an angle on a story that no one would ever have imagined. Paul was sometimes stubborn, occasionally wrong, but always helpful, enthusiastic and encouraging.
He was tremendously proud of his contribution to this publication over the years. For us there was no finer honour than to be in the company of one of the finest journalists and political writers. 'There are more people walking the streets of Britain who have been freed from prison by Paul Foot than any other person,' was how one of his editors at the Daily Mirror described him. Or as the Economist's obituary said, 'The tradition of radical journalism goes back a long way in Britain, to William Hazlitt, William Cobbett, Tom Paine, John Wilkes and beyond. These 18th and 19th century essayists and pamphleteers were not self-described neutral observers who meticulously separated facts from opinions, discarded the opinions and then left readers to form their own judgments. They were committed campaigners who had a point of view and made no apologies for expressing it. Mr Foot was in that tradition.'
Much of this found its way into the pages of Socialist Review, and when we thought about how to pay tribute to Paul we were confronted with a vast range of writings. From his accounts of the sell-outs of Labour to the works of Marx, Engels and Trotsky, his work on injustice, culture, history or any of the various crimes of capitalism Paul was campaigning against at the time, there is such a huge array of articles that we felt we were not able to do him justice in one of our regular issues.
Therefore we have decided to produce a special tribute issue which will be out in mid-September. It will include a large selection of Paul's writings as well as many of the tributes that we have received. We are also very pleased to announce that we will be printing the introduction to his forthcoming book The Vote: How It Was Won and How It Was Undermined, which Paul finished shortly before his death. This is done with kind permission from the publishers, Viking, and the Guardian, which will be serialising the book when it is published early next year.
We hope the special issue will properly reflect the immense contribution that Paul made in the struggle against capitalism. His commitment to the ideas of Marxism, revolutionary socialism and political organisation were central to his life and work, and we aim to get this across in our tribute issue.
Isaac Newton once said that you can see further when you stand on the shoulders of giants. Paul allowed us to see what was wrong with the world and what to do to change it. We send our deepest sympathies to his partner and fellow Socialist Review board member Clare and their daughter Kate, as well as to Paul's sons John, Matt and Tom.
Peter Morgan on behalf of all those involved in the production of Socialist Review.