Maurice Brinton - 1922-2005 - Red and Black Notes obituary

Maurice Brinton - 1922-2005 - Red and Black Notes obituary

Red and Black Notes Obituary of British libertarian socialist Maurice Brinton.

I never met nor had any direct contact with Maurice Brinton; however, it's fair to say that without him and the Solidarity group, there might not be a Red & Black Notes. If that sounds overly dramatic, let me justify it.

I first came across Brinton's work in 1982 when I found a copy of The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control in a second-hand bookshop in St. Catharines Ontario. I thumbed through it, but it sat on my shelf for a decade and a half.

In 1985, I became a Trotskyist and remained one until 1995. I then returned to some of the books that had sat unread including Brinton's. Suffice to say, it was a revelation, which was to unlock many other doors. Several other people I know have recalled similar journeys. In clear impassive prose, Brinton exposed the Bolsheviks' role in the eliminating of Soviet power. Even the Spartacist League, no friend of Brinton's politics, conceded that the book was "well researched and fairly objective." (Why the U.S.S.R is Not Capitalist)

Maurice Brinton, the pen name of Chris Pallis, was born into a respectable Anglo-Greek family and was a medical professional for most of his life. During his studies at Oxford, he had briefly been a member of the Communist Party before being expelled. He then became a supporter of the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party. In the late 1950's, Brinton was a member of the Trotskist group led by Gerry Healy, but quickly parted ways.

After leaving Healy's group, Brinton met with other ex-members to examine various leftist organizations. The one which most impressed them, and with whom Brinton was already familiar, was the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie led by Cornelius Castoriadis. Drawing inspiration from many of S ou B's conceptions, Solidarity and Brinton were the main English language publicists of Castoriadis' thought, but they were much more than that. In a crisply written journal, Solidarity presented a sophisticated critique of Leninism and the vanguard party, incisive industrial coverage, clear international coverage devoid of the usual leftist sycophancy, together with a solid emphasis of workers as the agents of their own liberation. Mixed together with a cutting sense of humour, Solidarity produced an impressive magazine and a series of pamphlets, leaflets and books.

To over-emphasize Brinton's role is to denigrate the contributions of other talented comrades within the organization, but for a sample of his best work see the AK Press collection For Workers Power

Maurice Brinton died March 10, 2005 aged 81, after suffering from Parkinson's disease for many years. Certainly aspects of his and Solidarity's politics seem old fashioned now, but his words continue to echo through the revolutionary movement.

First Published in Red and Black Notes #21, Spring 2005, this article has been archived on libcom.org from the Red and Black Notes website.