An Appreciation of Mike Marqusee (1953-2015)
By Michael Letwin
May 16, 2015
[The following was presented at a celebration of the life of Mike Marqusee, held at Conway Hall, London, on May 16, 2015.]
Mike and I didn’t know each other all our lives, but we could have. He was just a few years older than me, we both from leftwing Jewish families in the US, in our teens involved with the black freedom and antiwar movements of the Sixties, high school revolutionary journalism, the anti-apartheid movement, Palestine solidarity, Marxism, and we both ended up in Britain, me in 1970, he in 1971.
Despite these parallels, we didn’t meet until the dark days after 9/11, when Mike sought out those of us from New York City Labor Against the War. We were so glad to find each other. At his invitation, I came over to speak at the November 2001 antiwar rally in Trafalgar Square, and for a tour of American antiwar activists in this very room, as the Iraq war began in 2003. He sent us Jeremy Corbyn to speak at the first national US antiwar protest in April 2002, and we brought Mike himself to speak at the massive NYC antiwar rally on 15 February 2003.
Central throughout were common efforts against Zionism, including defense of Gaza, the BDS movement, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, and an unshakeable belief in one democratic, secular state throughout historic Palestine, from the river to the sea, with equal rights for all.
To all this, Mike brought not only brilliant analysis, but an unshakeable hope, as reflected in a message he sent me on February 19, 2013, so strikingly reminiscent of Trotsky’s words shortly before his own death so many years earlier:
“One thing I feel more certain of than ever is this: that the greatest privilege in my life, apart from the love of those who love me, has been taking part in the global movement for social justice (or whatever we want to call it). For a long time I was very hung up on the various political failures and disappointments I’d experienced. But whether it’s thanks to cancer, or just the turning of the world all those seem pretty minor (though not painless) compared to the scale of our struggle, the scale of the forces lined up against us and the scale of our goals (human emancipation). I wouldn’t have missed this for the world and I feel sorry for those who have missed out.”
I was always inspired by Mike, and am very thankful to know he and Liz, who so generously welcomed me to their home.