Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Mike Marqusee

Five Leaves is sorry to read that Mike Marqusee has died, aged only 61, after being ill for several years with cancer. He was a great supporter of the NHS and in his writings often talked about the number of people who'd kept him alive and the way the NHS is being abused by this government.
Mike could be correctly described as unique in that he was the only London-based American Jewish Marxist who wrote about cricket, including for the Indian newspaper The Hindu.
Though I knew of his political, music and sporting writing I'd never met him until he rang to ask if I could put together a team of people to help him leaflet Trent Bridge announcing the formation of an anti-racist cricket organisation. I was happy to help as long as nobody asked about cricket! Later Mike came to Lowdham Book Festival, then jointly organised by Five Leaves, to talk about Bob Dylan, the subject of two of his books.
His other books included the important If I Am Not Myself: journey of an anti-Zionist Jew and, recently, The Price of Experience: writings on living with cancer.
Mike was a committed socialist activist, involved in the anti-war movement who went public on how the Socialist Workers Party abused their position within the Stop the War group. His socialism was ethical, inclusive and visionary. I was pleased, then to include his essay Let's Talk Utopia as the editorial essay in the Five Leaves publication Utopia. In that essay he wrote "We need to find ways to connect to the utopian yearnings that move millions of people, and which the right-wing and the advertising industry know too well how to exploit. We have to offer something more participatory, concrete and the same time more dynamic, more of a process, a journey than an end product polished by the intelligentsia. In doing that, we can draw on a rich tradition going back to the Biblical prophets and found in almost every society." In a sentence he summed up his argument "We need the attraction of a possible future as well as a revulsion at the actual present. ... we don't 'talk utopia' nearly enough."
Mike helped make the left more inhabitable and his influence was widespread.
Typically he asked for contributions in his memory to go to Medical Aid for Palestine and to St Joseph's Hospice which looked after him towards the end.
Our condolences to his partner, comrade and co-thinker, Liz Davies.

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