Obituaries

Obituary: Ousmane Sembene

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Ousmane Sembène was one of those rare people whose death feels like a personal loss even to those who did not know him. We have lost a great mind.

Sembène had an extraordinary life. Born in 1923, he was sent by his father to an Islamic school in the Casamance - the poor southern region of today's Senegal, then part of the huge French West African colonial empire. Expelled from the school in 1936 for indiscipline, he worked as a fisherman before leaving to find work in the capital, Dakar.

Criticising Capitalism in Order to Save It

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John Kenneth Galbraith, who died last month aged 98, received very mixed obituaries. This was because he challenged some of the conclusions of mainstream capitalist economics while continuing to accept many of its assumptions.

Karl Marx divided the history of mainstream economics into two stages. The first he called "classical political economy". It was the product of thinkers, most notably Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who identified with the capitalist model of society when it was battling to establish itself in place of the feudal society that preceded it. Their desire to push capitalism forward led them to investigate its fundamental features-especially sources of value in productive labour and, by implication, profits in exploitation.

Obituary: 'In the Tail of Trotsky's Comet'

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Susan Weissman pays tribute to the Mexican artist and son of Victor Serge, Vlady Kibalchich, who died recently.

Vlady Kibalchich, born in Petrograd in June 1920, died on 21 July 2005 at home (in his studio) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, after a difficult battle with cancer which began as a melanoma but spread to his brain. He was 85. It is customary to say that someone of that age had a 'full life', but in Vlady's case it is an understatement. The 20th century was his life. La Jornada headlined his death by saying 'a subversive creator and critic of power has died'.

Obituary: A Miller's Tale

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Arthur Miller lit up the darkest days of the 20th century.

When I heard that Arthur Miller had died I felt a pang which I normally only feel for people I knew personally. I have known of his work since I was a teenager. My school play in 1967 was Death of a Salesman, generally recognised as Miller's masterpiece. And we knew that Miller's other most famous play, The Crucible, used its subject of the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts in the 1690s to attack that modern US witchhunt, the McCarthy hearings.

Obituary: The Infinite Search

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There is much to celebrate in the work of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, says Alex Callinicos.

The death last month of Jacques Derrida at the age of 74 removed the last of that succession of great French intellectuals whose writings decisively shaped avant-garde thinking in the west during the second half of the 20th century. Derrida first burst onto the philosophical scene in 1967, with the publication of no less than three books.

Obituary: A True Leveller

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Alex Callinicos pays tribute to the life and work of Brian Manning.

The last time I saw Brian Manning was at Marxism 2003 last July. He was speaking, together with John Rees, at a memorial meeting for Christopher Hill, the great Marxist historian of the English Revolution of 1640-60. Now we must mourn Brian himself, another outstanding Marxist student of that revolution, after his sudden and tragic death on holiday in Italy in April.

Obituary: Arrested Development

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Tom Hickey examines the key works of veteran left wing economist Paul Sweezy.

Consider the position of socialists at the end of the Second World War. The Cold War between East and West was congealing. It would devour millions in its bloody consequences in the decades to follow, in Vietnam and Indonesia, in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, across Africa and in Latin America. This could be avoided, many believed, because the system of capital that would spawn this barbarism could not survive. But survive it did. Indeed it flourished, growing faster in the next two decades than at any time in its history hitherto. How was this to be understood?

Edward Said: A Culture of Resistance

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John Rose pays tribute to a scholar who fought a lifelong war against imperialism.

Socialists don't usually like to use the word 'charisma'. It pays too much attention to the individual and not enough to the circumstances that create those individuals who compel the attention of others. But it is tempting to make an exception for Edward Said.

Powerful

Obituary: How It Would Feel to be Free

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Mike Hobart pays tribute to the black singer and songwriter Nina Simone who died last month.

Nina Simone, who died recently aged 70, was one of the most compelling of the many innovative musical figures that were thrown up by the US civil rights movement in the 1960s. Like many black musicians of the time she believed music had a clear political purpose. Contrary to many of her obituary notices, it was a belief she carried throughout her adult life, and her deeply soulful voice, theatricality and often playful approach to music was allied to an uncompromisingly public political commitment to human emancipation.

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