Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many political commentators have written about the significance of this event but one great political commentator, the Marxist, Chris Harman, sadly died only two days before the commemorations took place. The same Chris Harman who dedicated a good part of his life to understanding the true nature of the society that had lain behind it and its lessons for the left, and the same Chris Harman who documented the forces that would bring it to its end. Of course, Harman would have preferred to have seen a socialist uprising rather than a move sideways to an oligarchic capitalism, but would have, despite his humble predisposition, raised a wry smile to those who expected workers to rise in defense of it rather than participate in its demolition. The wall itself was nothing but a symbol of competition between two imperialist capitalist powers, keen to carve the world up between them. Unlike the Berlin Wall, and the “Soviet” empire that lay beyond it, Chris Harman, most certainly the greatest Marxist of his generation, will be so sadly missed.
For an obituary on Chris Harman, we strongly recommend Andy Wilson’s piece in the Commune rather than the somewhat over-reverential offering from his Party comrades in Socialist Worker. Wilson’s article combines a fitting tribute to the man and his ideas alongside an excellent discussion of the origins and relevance of State Capitalism as a theoretical tradition; a tradition we are proud to stand in. In the coming weeks, Marxist TEFL Group will finally publish a long awaited critique of the David Graddol’s theory of English and Globalisation, to which we are, as so often, in great debt to the works of Chris Harman. We console ourselves by the fact that our class will produce more in the mould of Chris Harman and that his writings, like the writings of other talented working class Marxists before him, will be (to borrow a metaphor from Harman’s friend and mentor, Tony Cliff) the giant shoulders on which they stand.