Chris Harman: He never thought of himself as too important

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All Chris's publications are important, but two in particular stand out for me. One is a pamphlet called Is a Machine After Your Job? It deals with the way employers use new technology to get more work out of fewer people without giving them more leisure time.

The other is The Lost Revolution - his history and analysis of the German Revolution. Chris's book explains why it was crucial to spread the revolution beyond Russia and why the eventual defeat of the German Revolution spelled catastrophe for the working class throughout the world.

In 1984 Chris wrote an article for International Socialism about women's liberation in which he insisted that it was class society, and in particular capitalism, that was responsible for the oppression of women, and not some conspiracy by all men of all classes. He argued that working class women had to struggle as part of the workers' movement together with working class men. He helped to change my mind about the way to tackle it.

Chris helped to produce a style book for Socialist Worker. He stressed the dangers of using jargon which readers might not understand and pointed out that not everyone would know where in the world different towns and cities were. He said it was vital to write simply and clearly.

Chris was always ready to accept criticism. He and I once had an argument about the class nature of dinner time. Chris had written in the style book that journalists should not assume workers had their dinner in the evening. His family were all working class "and they all ate their dinner in the middle of the day". I pointed out that my son-in-law was a building worker and could not have his dinner until he got home in the evening. Chris did accept that, though somewhat reluctantly.

If I found anything Chris had written obscure and asked him what it meant, he was always ready to explain difficult concepts. Indeed he frequently rewrote the offending passage so that it was easier to understand.

To me, Chris was not just a political commentator. He was a good friend. When my younger son was in hospital in Cambridge after a bicycle accident Chris did everything in his power to fit my shifts working for Socialist Worker round my schedule travelling between Cambridge and London.

Chris seemed to have taken on some responsibility for my cultural development. He told me about a satellite television channel, Performance, which showed arts programmes, drama and opera. He would draw my attention to particular films he thought I ought to watch.

Chris never saw himself as too important to take part in practical political activities and took piles of Socialist Worker wherever he went, even if he did not always succeed in selling many. And I do not remember him ever asking anyone to do anything he was not willing to do himself. I will have lasting memories of Chris as a friend and comrade and will miss him very badly both personally and politically.


Mary Phillips is a longstanding member of the SWP who worked on many of Chris's writings.