[OPE-L:8682] Michael Kidron, 1930-2003

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Mar 28 2003 - 08:33:07 EST

MICHAEL KIDRON, former editor of _International Socialism_  and
for Pluto Press and a leading figure in the debates among Marxists
about political economy in the 1970's and beyond,  has died.

-- Who on the list knew and/or was influenced by Michael?
-- Which writings of his deserve a second reading now?
--  Is there anything that should be added (or subtracted) to the "The
     Guardian" obituary?

In solidarity, Jerry

> To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site,
go to http://www.guardian.co.uk
> Michael Kidron
> Publisher, writer and socialist whose life's project was to understand,
and help replace, capitalism
> Wednesday March 26 2003
> The Guardian
> Michael Kidron, who has died aged 72, was an economist, a Marxist
theorist, an agitator, an editor, a publisher and the co-author of the
bestselling State Of The World Atlas (1981) and The War Atlas (1983). Both
books transformed the way people look at maps and the realities they reveal
and conceal. In the 1950s and 1960s, he made revolutionary ideas of social
change into common sense for a generation coming of age around the
non-Communist party left. He had infectious optimism, razor sharp political
insight and, above all, warmth, energy and love of life.
> Kidron played a key role in developing a theory, that of the permanent
arms economy, to account for the west's long postwar boom and the strength
of working class reformism. But as a critical Marxist he recognised all
theories as provisional - even his own.
> His sympathy with the peoples of the so-called third world shone through
his biting criticism of theories which romanticised their struggles. An
internationalist, he always placed the peoples of the world above the
interests of their states.
> He was born in Cape Town into an ardently Zionist family. The youngest of
seven children, he was an adored but sickly child, further weakened by
rheumatic fever at the age of 13. He left South Africa just after the war to
join his parents, who had already emigrated to Palestine. There he went to
the Tichon Hadash progressive school in Tel Aviv - where he rejected Zionism
almost immediately - then on to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to study
> A brilliant mind and a free, rational and open thinker, he clearly enjoyed
the heady days of early 1950s Jerusalem immensely. But Israel was a
backwater for anyone not tied in to the Zionist project. So, in 1955 Kidron
went to Oxford as a doctoral student. Knowing nothing of Oxford colleges, he
applied to the two colleges at the top of the alphabet and was accepted by
> He promptly clashed with his supervisor Thomas Balogh, which did not help
his career much. But he thrived in the Oxford political world, carving out a
role as oppositionist within the opposition, becoming a fiercely independent
libertarian Marxist, clashing vigorously with Communist party hardliners
(before the 1956 Hungarian revolt had shaken their certainties). He also
developed a close working relationship with his brother-in-law Ygael
Gluckstein who, under the name of Tony Cliff (obituary, April 11 2000), was
trying to chart an independent Marxist course in the Trotskyist-infested
waters to the left of the Communist party.
> Academic work provided a base for research and independent thinking, but
also for political activity in the Socialist Review (later International
Socialism) Group. Unlike others who looked to the Soviet bloc or the third
world for salvation, this tendency argued for the centrality of the working
class of developed capitalist societies as the agency for social change.
This meant jettisoning the shibboleths of both communism and Trotskyism and
looking reality squarely in the face, recognising and accounting for the
success of postwar capitalism.
> This Kidron did in some inspired writings, notably in a brilliant critique
of Lenin - Imperialism: Highest Stage of Capitalism But One (1962) - on what
he labelled the permanent arms economy, and in Western Capitalism Since The
War (1968). The latter book appeared just in time, he noted, since after
that year, capitalism's long-denied vulnerability to crisis and upheaval was
no longer in doubt. In this period, too, Kidron threw himself into (unpaid)
political organising, campaigning and lecturing, acting with charm and
panache in a movement often noted for its solemnity and dourness.
> He also edited the quarterly International Socialism, which first appeared
in 1960. The journal broke with the far-left style in its attempt to be
clear, jargon-free and relentlessly honest.
> He was an academic at Hull University in the late 1960s and gave his
wholehearted backing to the wave of student protest which washed over the
country. When the vice-chancellor accused him of being impertinent, he was
honoured by student placards on their next demonstration which affirmed:
"Yes, we are all impertinent."
> In 1972 he and his wife Nina joined Pluto Press, helping to make it one of
the most influential socialist publishing houses of that time. His main
contribution was as an editor and a visionary, but he made his own special
mark as an author and editor in the Atlas series, which produced The State
Of The World Atlas and The War Atlas. And there was also The Book Of
Business, Money And Power (1987).
> His lifelong project was to understand modern capitalism, to help replace
it. Already in the mid-1970s he had questioned the central pivots of the
theory he had been so instrumental in developing in a brief but devastating
critique called, in typically self-deprecatory fashion: Two Insights Don't
Make A Theory.
> Disliking the way the International Socialists - who were transformed into
the Socialist Workers party later in that decade - had turned to orthodox
Leninist forms of   organisation, he drifted away in the mid-1970s, throwing
his enormous energies into political publishing.
> While a fellow at Chatham House, he wrote Foreign Investments In India
(1965). Pakistan's Trade With Eastern Bloc Countries was published in 1972.
His book of essays in political economy, Capitalism And Theory, was
published in 1974.
> In the early 1990s, Kidron returned to that central project of his life -
his attempt to understand (and write about) capitalism. It was becoming a
vast intellectual project. Now that his conception of capitalism had
broadened, he wanted to address it - not just as an economic system, but in
its political, social and psychological aspects as well - capitalism as a
truly total system. Alas, his planned book remained fragmentary, despite
three-quarters of a million words in draft.
> Dogged by illness, Kidron found it increasingly difficult to give the
focused attention the subject demanded. But his conviction that an
alternative was possible, indeed was being nurtured within the heart of the
system, remained undimmed as new networked forms of communication and
relationships undermined the command and control relations of earlier
> He received the news of last Saturday's demonstration against the war in
Iraq with quiet joy and was delighted that his two youngest children were on
it. He loved his family, and although he separated from his wife Nina in the
early 1980s they remained very close. Together they had three children,
Adam, Beeban and Cassia. From 1991 Mike lived with Polly and they had twins,
Petra and Ruby, in 1995. He loved them all, as he did his seven
>  Ronald Segal writes: I collaborated with Michael Kidron on successive
editions of The State Of The World Atlas and on The Book Of Business, Money
And Power. They involved a great deal of drudgery, and only Michael could
have made them so much fun. He had the sharpest of minds and the most gentle
of natures. He was a revolutionary and an intellectual who never discarded
people for ideas. He was wholly without pretentiousness. He will be
remembered and mourned by more people than he would ever have suspected.
There was no one like him.
> ·Michael Kidron, revolutionary socialist and thinker, born September
20 1930; died March 25 2003
> Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

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