Obituaries

The Norman joke

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The death of billionaire landowner and Duke of Westminster George Grosvenor was announced on 10 August. John Newsinger reminds us where the wealth of such parasites came from in the first place.

The sad death of George Cavendish Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster, has left the nation – or at least Prince Charles – distraught.

He leaves an estimated fortune of £9.35 billion (a billion down since Brexit) upon which the family is expected to pay absolutely minimal death duties. One could almost say that the British tax system seems to have been designed around the principle of rich toffs like Grosvenor having to pay as little as possible whether alive or dead.

David King: The man who rescued the avant-garde

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Graphic designer David King, who died last month, was inspired by the art produced in revolutionary Russia. Roger Huddle looks back on a pathbreaking artist and his contribution to political struggle over five decades.

The news of his death came as a shock. We had come through the same history, but together for only a short period.

As times were changing during the two decades from 1965 young socialists began to discover the cultural upheavals during Russia’s revolution, hidden by Stalinism and ignored in the West. As the new left reconnected with Trotsky, those involved in cultural production discovered Constructivism, Agit-prop, the poetry of Mayakovsky and the photography of Rodchenko.

A gift of sound and vision

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Salvador Dali is alleged to have proclaimed, when asked if he took drugs, “I am drugs!” And so, for some of us in the mid-1970s, David Bowie was music.

Bowie was a glamorous break with a music scene that had become dominated by the ponderous dinosaurs of rock music. The uniform of long hair and double denim had become stale and the music had become overblown, no longer reflecting the life of kids on the street.

Staying human in the belly of the beast

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Grace Lee Boggs, who died last month, was an important figure on the US left. Working with CLR James and others she helped to rescue revolutionary socialism from the dead weight of Stalinism, as well as becoming a notable activist in the Civil Rights movement, writes Christian Høgsbjerg.

That the passing of Grace Lee Boggs, a remarkable Chinese American author, activist and humanist philosopher should merit a statement of condolence from President Barack Obama was quite fitting. Grace had been an inspiring and courageous organiser for the Civil Rights and Black Power movement in the US and had worked alongside Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.

In 2008 she championed Obama for “providing the authentic, visionary leadership we need in this period”, even comparing him to Martin Luther King, and so it was only right that Obama returned the compliment.

Assia Djebar (1936 - 2015)

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 Assia Djebar

Assia Djebar, one of Algeria's most gifted writers, died on 6 February. Sheila McGregor celebrates her life and her part in the struggle for independence.

Born as Fatima-Zohra Imalayène in Cherchell in 1936, Assia Djebar took her pen name to save her parents from embarrassment when she wrote her first novel, La Soif (Thirst).

A life in the struggle: Bob Cox (1944-2014)

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Bob Cox

Bob Cox was an organic intellectual who used his technical skills to aid the struggle for a better world. Jeff Jackson collects together the memories of Bob's friends, family and comrades.

“One must require from each one the duty which each one can perform. Accepted authority rests first of all on reason” — The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Bob Cox, who died on 25 November after a protracted fight with cancer, was a longstanding member of the Socialist Workers Party. Along with his many years of consistent activity as a revolutionary socialist in the workplace and community, he was a major contributor to Socialist Review’s web presence in the early days of the internet, creating a website indexing the magazine.

Leslie Feinberg, 1949-2014

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A rich and passionate life dedicated to struggle and the fight for transgender liberation

Next to me on a bookshelf is a book which has had a profound influence on my life and thousands of others. Leslie Feinberg’s Transgender Warriors, published in 1996, is a unique piece of work — an examination of gender variant expression by people from the dawn of history to the present, written by a Marxist and setting out a materialist explanation for transphobia and homophobia.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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The death of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez at the age of 87 marks the end of an era that transformed Latin American literature.

Marquez is renowned for a style of work known as Magical Realism, where the supernatural and the mundane merge. His books are a metaphor for imperialism, dictatorship and struggle.

Marquez, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, popularised a style that was steeped in Latin American artistic traditions at a time of deep social change and dashed hopes.

Pete Seeger: A song for every struggle

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Pete Seeger died in January aged 94. His life was dedicated to making music for left wing progressive movements. He was a principled brave musician who always stood by his beliefs, whatever the cost.

Seeger composed famous protest songs like "If I Had a Hammer" and helped make "We Shall Overcome" an anthem of the civil rights movement. He sang at the 2012 Occupy Wall Street protest just like he had at anti Vietnam War and civil rights rallies.

Lessing's legacy

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For a writer as prolific as she was - she wrote more than 50 books - that's not surprising. This unevenness was also, to some significant degree, the product of her political choices over nearly 70 years.

Lessing grew up in the profoundly racist society of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and her early reaction to that was to explore the complexities of inter-racial relationships in her first novel, The Grass is Singing, and then to join the tiny and secretive Communist Party (CP).

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