[first published on the Shiraz Socialist group blog]
RIP Norman Geras,
25 Aug 1942–18 Oct 2013
It shouldn’t have come as any surprise: after all, he’d warned us in so many words, that he was headin’ for the last round-up. But it was still a shock today, when the news came through – it felt like losing a a best friend or even a family member with an illness that you’d known all along could only have one ending. This despite the fact that we’d never properly met and only ever corresponded by email or via his occasional BTL comments here.
I will be writing more in days to come about this complex, inspiring human being. His pioneering blog, brim-full of gentle humour and searing honesty, remains as a permanent memorial. But for now, I’ll simply recommend Nick Cohen’s heartfelt tribute at the Spectator‘s website…
… and play some jazz (a shared enthusiasm, though Norm loved all sorts of music, including – to my horror – country ‘n’ western):
This version of ‘Ghost of A Chance’ recorded by tenorist Illinois Jacqet in 1968 was Norm’s gift to me, when I had the honour of being the subject of one of his many ‘profiles’ of fellow-bloggers. I’m playing it now, and thinking of him.
NB: http://normfest.org/ – well worth a visit, and you can leave a message there as well.
[first published at Harry’s Place]
Professor Norman Geras has left us too soon and his daily contribution to political debate will be sorely missed by those who appreciated his warm personality, sharp intellect, humane spirit and his ability to argue a case thoroughly, elegantly and stridently without ever resorting to the cheap shots which characterize far too much of modern debate.
As with that other great left-wing thinker and writer who was taken by cancer, Christopher Hitchens, it is not hyperbole to note that Norm is irreplaceable. There is no-one else who is producing comparable material to Norm on such a frequent basis and from such a unique perspective.
[first published on Martin’s blog]
It must have been some time in 2003 that I came across an article in a Sunday newspaper, about a Marxist professor who supported the Iraq war. Although it had been a long time since I’d called myself any kind of Marxist, and at the time I was sceptical of the rationale for invading Iraq, I was intrigued. Perhaps it was because I’d been having my own internal debates with conventional Left thinking and was increasingly disappointed and depressed by my fellow progressives’ failure to condemn (and in some cases their tendency to find apologetic ‘explanations’ for) terror and tyranny, as long as it was directed at the ‘imperialist’ West. To my shame, I hadn’t heard of Norman Geras before then, despite the fact that he was a recently retired professor at Manchester, where I’d been a postgraduate student.
The newspaper article mentioned that Geras wrote something called a ‘blog’ – the first time I’d come across this neologism. Curious, I looked up the eponymous normblog and was immediately hooked. I found myself nodding in frequent agreement with Norm’s concise but elegant posts and reading his disquisitions soon became a daily habit. From normblog, I branched out to read the bloggers and commentators that he linked to, many of them associated with the Euston Manifesto, of which Norm was one of the key authors, and the broader anti-totalitarian, liberal-interventionist Left. As well as finding myself in immediate sympathy with many of Norm’s political opinions, I’m happy to acknowledge that he was also influential in changing my mind on a number of important issues, most notably Israel. In fact, as time went on, I came to see Norm as one of the key influences on my political thinking, on a par with figures like Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall at earlier stages in my life. Of course, it wasn’t all about politics: Norm was just as stimulating and entertaining when writing about Jane Austen, country and western music, John Ford movies, cricket or his beloved Manchester United.
[first published on Charles’s blog]
We’ve all seen these before: a list of 100 books. But this one is different:
Now, in all my experience of such book lists, this one has a unique feature. Which is that I’ve read all the books on it. Yup, every single one — 100%. That’s because I compiled the list from … the books I’ve read (choosing titles, as well, that I liked enough that I’m happy to recommend them). Why should I let other people make lists to browbeat me with? If I make the list myself, I get to have read everything on it. Enough bullying is what I say. You, too, can make your own list and rebel against the tyranny of the book-dictators. I suggest you do it.
That paragraph speaks volumes about blogospheric mainstay Norm Geras, who passed away this morning at 70. A recognized expert on Marx, he’d written a dozen books on political theory and practice, and was a signatory to the 2006 Euston Manifesto.
In the online community, however, he may be best remembered for the normblog profile, in which he sent four dozen or so questions to leading bloggers and asked them to answer any thirty of their choice. (The definition of “leading” is occasionally flexible.)
James Joyner remembers this aspect of Norm Geras:
The vagaries of life have lately decreased both my blogging and my reading of blogs, and so I missed Norm’s announcement this past May that the prostate cancer that he’d first been diagnosed with in 2003 was spreading and taking a toll. He was characteristically stoic about the matter, which he posted about only by way of apology for an anticipated decline in posting.
The book list quoted above, incidentally, was his last post, which came out on the 9th of October.
[first published on Max’s blog]
I was shocked and saddened to hear, on thumbing through my Facebook newsfeed while waiting for a bus, that Professor Norman Geras had died. I never met the man, although I was a fan of his writing for some years, and we corresponded a little—I was even honoured to be featured in one of his Normblog profiles. The retired professor emeritus of politics at the University of Manchester more or less kickstarted a wave of 2000s political blogging, and in his writing on 9/11, Iraq and terrorism provided an essential counterpoint to some of the crazier stuff in the mainstream media and in liberal social circles at the time and since. Norman’s writing, and that of others, had a direct impact on my own thinking about what was going on in the world, which underwent a slow but dramatic change as I read more and more and began to grow up a bit intellectually. But Norm was never purely a political writer, and wrote prolifically about literature, philosophy, travel, relationships, anything that crossed his wise and gentle mind.
Put it this way: he could make cricket sound interesting.
[first published on the Rosa Luxemburg blog]
The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg, 1976
The respected writer, thinker and groundbreaking blogger, Professor Norman Geras has died in Cambridge. Geras contributed greatly to the study of Rosa Luxemburg in the UK and internationally, most notable with his ‘The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg’
(UK: New Left Books, 1976), but also since then in numerous articles, reviews and blog posts.
Just a few months ago, Professor Geras appealed to readers of his blog to donate money in support of the effort to publish Luxemburg’s Collected Works in English, writing:
“Rosa Luxemburg wrote that ’Freedom is always… freedom for the one who thinks differently’. She was a partisan of the idea of democratic pluralism within the socialist movement. Her ideas on this topic also had their limitations, but hers was a humane and powerful voice, within the Marxist tradition, for taking the values of freedom and democracy seriously.”
In tribute to Professor Geras and to his work, here is a selection of his vast contribution to the study of Rosa Luxemburg:
[first published on The Scroll, The Tablet‘s news commentary blog]
There is one memory of Norman Geras—the distinguished academic, prolific author and blogger, and doughty fighter against anti-Semitism and racism, who passed away in England earlier today—that has stayed with me for the last twenty-five years. It was a dreary afternoon in the northern English city of Manchester, late in 1988. About twenty students, nearly all of us professed Marxists, had gathered for Geras’s weekly university seminar on Marxism. As we discussed how class interests manifest in politics, one participant, who clearly wasn’t a Marxist, opined that not every owner of the means of production was hellbent on class warfare. Could we not accept, in his inimitable phrase, that there were “cuddly capitalists?”
[first published on Jane’s blog]
This morning the Twittersphere and all the other ‘spheres have had plenty to say about the late Norman Geras. I can’t say as much or as well as they did, but I have my own tribute to pay.
[first published on Colin’s blog]
Marx And Human Nature, 1983
Norman Geras died today. Many people will never have heard of a retired politics professor from Manchester, who wrote books on obscure German revolutionaries (Rosa Luxemburg) or human nature in Marx. Some may have seen his more recent normblog or maybe even heard about his support for the Iraq war. But Norman’s influence has been profound on many people, including me.
I met Norman back in the early 1970s when I joined the International Marxist Group (IMG), the British section of the Trotskyist Fourth International. The Manchester branch of the IMG was a revelation to a working class boy from Barrow—full of powerful intellects like Norman and Ian Gough, and teeming with debate and ideas.
I haven’t seen Norman in many years, although we did exchange some emails when I came back to Manchester a few years ago. He’d retired by then and was writing Normblog and I was busy with my academic and domestic life, with a new son to look after. We said we should meet up, but it never happened.
When I found out Norman had died this morning my first reaction was to find my copy of one of his books, from 1983. Here’s why:
Author and politics professor was best known for influential ‘Normblog’, which he used to voice opinion on invasion of Iraq
[first published in the Guardian]
Norman Geras disclosed to readers of his blog that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of 2003. Photograph: Graeme Robertson
The political writer Norman Geras has died, his daughter said on Friday.
Geras, 70, professor emeritus in politics at the University of Manchester and author of eight books, was one of the first writers to embrace the web, launching Normblog, which went on to become one of the most influential left-of-centre blogs in Britain, in July 2003. In May, he used his blog to disclose to readers that he had prostate cancer, which was first diagnosed at the beginning of 2003 but had spread.
His daughter, Jenny Geras, wrote on Normblog on Friday: “I am very sad to announce that Norm died in Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge in the early hours of this morning. Writing this blog, and communicating with all his readers, has brought him an enormous amount of pleasure in the last ten years.
“I know that since writing here about his illness earlier in the year he received a lot of support from many of you, and that has meant a great deal to him, and to us, his family.”