Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ed Rooksby (1975-2021) - socialist, blogger and political theorist

The tragic and shocking death of British socialist intellectual Ed Rooksby at the young age of 46 after suffering from Long Covid has prompted me to return to this blog after a hiatus. For I had the great privilege of first meeting Ed Rooksby in person probably around the time that I began this blog back in 2005 - and he had also launched his blog International Rooksbyism back in 2004. He later than me realised the potential risks and drawbacks for being too open about his politics online, and soon changed the name of his original blog from the strident sounding name it had originally to the rather more cryptic 'I.R'. to avoid it coming up in search engines too much when he was busy teaching students and trying to get a permanent academic job - which he eventually succeeded at with Ruskin until the managers there decided to 'restructure' and drive through redundancies which left him returning to York University where he was teaching when he died. His blog - both in its original form and then later from 2011 onwards in his own name give a good sense of his talents as a political writer and thinker - while he also made important interventions in various scholarly and the likes of the Guardian against things like Blue Labour (which still refuses to die).

In person, Ed was as witty, unsectarian, self-depreciating, kind, generous, principled and smart a socialist as those who only knew him online can imagine he would be, and it was always great whenever our paths occasionally met, often at some Marxist conference or other. We obviously had a long-running gentle disagreement between us about reform or revolution - both in person and online as bloggers - (and I remember I once wrote a tongue in cheek post critiquing his politics entitled ''International Rooksbyism at the Crossroads...Or, a case study in twenty-first century 'centrism'?'' but he was such a nice guy he always forgave me such slippages into sectarianism. I will treasure the memory in particular of our last meeting, a glorious evening spent in a pub in May 2019 in Oxford, which allowed me the privilege and opportunity to mull over the travails of Corbynism and the general state of the left with him.

Ed would have shaped the lives of hundreds of students through his teaching, and his passing - so sad and shocking - represents a huge loss to the entire British Left. Only a couple of weeks before he died we had corresponded by Whatsapp, and he described his condition - perhaps because it was me, and so knowing I would appreciated the reference to Lenin - as 'two steps forward and one back all the time'. Sadly Ed never made it to the Finland Station. My sincere condolences to all who knew him - and particularly to those friends, family and comrades who were much closer to him than me.

RIP Comrade Rooksby - Viva International Rooksbyism!

Edited to add: A Bibliography of Ed Rooksby's writings



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