Obituaries

Stephen F. Cohen, biographer of Nikolai Bukharin, dead at 81

By Clara Weiss, 10 October 2020

Cohen’s academic and political biography was bound up with his 1973 biography of Nikolai Bukharin, the first comprehensive English biography of the leading Bolshevik.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

By Tom Carter, 21 September 2020

With around-the-clock tributes, the American media is presenting the late Supreme Court justice as a “progressive icon” and a “trailblazing feminist.”

Toots Hibbert, ska and reggae giant: “Right now, someone else has that number”

By Paul Bond, 19 September 2020

Hibbert was widely respected and liked as a person, as well as admired for his work. That he was one of the most important international ambassadors for reggae owed much to his personal integrity.

Chadwick Boseman (1976–2020): A talented actor, now hailed as a “king”

By Carlos Delgado, 5 September 2020

Far from honoring his memory, the media’s over-the-top eulogizing demeans the actor’s work and serves reactionary political ends.

On the passing of musician Justin Townes Earle, 1982-2020

By Hiram Lee and Matthew Brennan, 27 August 2020

During the writing of the review of Ghosts of West Virginia, the recent album by veteran singer-musician Steve Earle, news reports indicated that his talented 38-year-old musician son Justin Townes Earle passed away on August 20.

Bernard Bailyn, historian of American colonial and revolutionary periods, 1922–2020

By Tom Mackaman, 13 August 2020

Bailyn leaves behind a significant body of work that broadened the understanding of the intellectual conceptions that found expression in the American Revolution.

Olivia de Havilland, star of Hollywood’s “Golden Age,” dead at 104

By Hiram Lee, 31 July 2020

From the middle of the 1930s until the early 1950s in particular, De Havilland distinguished herself as an intelligent and even elegant performer in a number of valuable films.

From Selma to the CIA

John Lewis, civil rights militant turned big-business politician, dies at 80

20 July 2020

The outpouring of tributes from reactionaries and war criminals demonstrates the class role that Lewis came to play, despite his youthful part in asserting the democratic rights of African Americans.

American comic writer and performer Carl Reiner, 1922-2020

Making “fun of the people higher on the totem pole”

By David Walsh, 2 July 2020

Reiner may not be a name known by many under a certain age, but his influence and impact on American comedy and performance in the postwar period was considerable.

British actor Ian Holm (1931–2020): Classical performance adapted for the screen

By Paul Bond, 27 June 2020

It is difficult not to see his subsequent representation of a character’s inner life as being drawn from his family background.

Twenty-five years since the death of Ed Winn

By Fred Mazelis, 26 June 2020

Twice the presidential candidate of the Workers League, Ed Winn fought for Marxist principles throughout the American and international working class. He was a New York City transit worker for 22 years.

British actress Honor Blackman dies at 94: “I have always been a daredevil”

By Paul Bond, 15 April 2020

Blackman’s feisty independence and intelligence were refreshing and even inspiring, and the product of her upbringing.

The death of singer-songwriter Bill Withers, 1938-2020: “I never tried to be a star, but to be an artist”

By Helen Halyard, 8 April 2020

Three-time Grammy award winner Bill Withers, who wrote and sang music that still resonates with millions of people around the world, died from heart complications on March 30 in Los Angeles at 81.

Max von Sydow (1929-2020): The long shadow of a great actor

By Paul Bond, 19 March 2020

For more than six decades, the Swedish-born von Sydow, who has died at 90, was a standard bearer for serious, thoughtful acting in a remarkable range of work.

Late New Zealand PM Mike Moore lauded as a “working-class hero”

By John Braddock, 4 March 2020

Moore’s glorification reflects concerns in ruling circles over widespread popular alienation from the Labour Party and the entire parliamentary set-up.

Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell: An important and largely unrecognized film

By Joanne Laurier, 4 March 2020

The film treats the persecution of a security guard for the 1996 Olympics bombing. It condemns the role of the US government and the American media, which, as one character points out, are “two of the most powerful forces in the world today.”

“What we think changes how we act.”

Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill dead at 64

By Erik Schreiber, 19 February 2020

Gill consciously broke with musical convention to develop his own style of guitar playing and to create a distinctive sound for his band. Similarly, he sought to understand the origins of social and political conditions, rather than accepting them as given.

American film actor Kirk Douglas (1916–2020)

By David Walsh, 10 February 2020

Douglas, one of the leading film actors in the post-World War II era, is also credited with helping to end the anti-communist blacklist by hiring blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo on Spartacus (1960).

The sudden death of basketball great Kobe Bryant produces shock and tributes worldwide

By Alan Gilman, 29 January 2020

The retired basketball star and his teenage daughter were among nine victims of a helicopter crash near Los Angeles.

Neil Peart, renowned drummer for rock band Rush, dead at 67

By Kevin Reed, 14 January 2020

Peart, the hard-driving drummer and lyricist of the Canadian progressive rock band Rush, died on January 7 at the age of 67.

The true legacy of US central banker Paul Volcker (1927–2019)

By Nick Beams, 11 December 2019

A full accounting would reveal that his policies, imposed on behalf of the American capitalist class, resulted in untold social misery and the premature death of millions of people, not only in the US but around the world.

Mariss Jansons, famed conductor, dead at 76

By Fred Mazelis, 10 December 2019

Jansons, who died November 30 at the age of 76, was one of the world’s greatest conductors, and at the same time one of the most beloved, by audiences and above all by the musicians he led.

Detroit Democrat John Conyers, long-standing fixture in Congress, dies at 90

By Patrick Martin, 30 October 2019

Conyers spent most of his political career using left rhetoric in an attempt to obscure the rightward evolution of the Democratic Party.

The death of Elijah Cummings: Democrats, media glorify a mediocrity

By Patrick Martin, 21 October 2019

The real purpose of the flowery tributes was to give a “progressive” gloss to the House Democrats' impeachment campaign, in which Cummings played a significant role.

Obituary: African-American novelist Toni Morrison dead at 88

By Sandy English, 7 September 2019

Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison wrote several significant novels, but as a public figure turned to the selfish racialist politics of the upper middle class.

Ground-breaking documentarian D.A. Pennebaker dies

By Richard Phillips, 10 August 2019

Pennebaker pioneered the use of handheld cameras and editorial comment to achieve an immediacy and closeness not previously achieved in documentary film-making.

H. Ross Perot, billionaire third-party US presidential candidate, dead at 89

By Fred Mazelis, 10 July 2019

The Texas tycoon won the biggest support for a third-party candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.

New Orleans pianist and singer Dr. John dies at 77

By Matthew Brennan, 29 June 2019

His early recordings spanned a remarkable musical range, from funk-driven pop songs and New Orleans jazz and blues to at least a half-dozen other musical styles and influences.

Director of Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning and other films focusing on the African-American working class and poor

Film director John Singleton dead at age 51

By Nick Barrickman, 29 May 2019

At his best, Singleton’s work shows warmth and concern for his films’ struggling and imperfect characters.

Israeli writer Amos Oz (1939-2018): A critical appreciation

By Clare Hurley and Clara Weiss, 24 May 2019

Oz published 40 books of fiction, collections of essays, speeches and letters that have been translated into 45 languages, including Esperanto.

Bob Hawke, former Australian Labor prime minister, 1929-2019

Ruling elites pay tribute to a favourite servant

By Nick Beams, 18 May 2019

Some of the most hated figures in world politics have come together to praise Hawke and laud his achievements.

Singer-songwriter Scott Walker (1943-2019): A gifted and intriguing artist

By Matthew Brennan, 22 April 2019

Best known as a member of the 1960s pop trio the Walker Brothers, Scott Walker became an elusive and yet influential figure in the rock and electronic music genres in later years.

Daniel Freeman, a founding member of the Workers League, dies at the age of 84

By Fred Mazelis, 13 February 2019

Danny Freeman joined the socialist movement in the mid-1950s and made a significant contribution to the fight for Trotskyism in the United States.

Halil Celik, a fighter for socialism (1961-2018)

By Peter Schwarz, 1 February 2019

On December 31, 2018, Halil Celik, founder and leader of the group Sosyalist Eşitlik, which supports the International Committee of the Fourth International in Turkey, died of cancer at the age of 57. This obituary presents an overview of his life.

Debra Ann Washington Miller–A fighter for the working class

January 18, 1952–December 1, 2018

By Helen Halyard, 8 December 2018

It is with great sadness that the World Socialist Web Site reports the recent death of Debra Ann Washington Miller, an active supporter of the Socialist Equality Party in Detroit who played a significant role in mobilizing workers against evictions in the downtown area.

Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci dies at 77

By Richard Phillips and David Walsh, 28 November 2018

Bertolucci will be remembered for valuable films he made in the 1960s and 1970s, including La commare secca (1962—English title, The Grim Reaper), Before the Revolution (1964), The Conformist (1970) and 1900 (1976).

Carl Cooley: 1927-2018

By Fred Mazelis, 12 October 2018

Cooley, a former autoworker and high school and college teacher, had considered himself a socialist for most of his adult life. He was the US SEP’s congressional candidate in Maine in the 2004 election.

Arsène Tchakarian (1916-2018): the Manouchian Group’s resistance struggle

Part 2: Who betrayed the Manouchian Group?

By Francis Dubois and Alex Lantier, 31 August 2018

There is no doubt that the Stalinists’ decision to sacrifice the Manouchian Group was bound up with their genocidal onslaught against Trotskyism and the Left Opposition.

Arsène Tchakarian (1916–2018): The Manouchian Group’s resistance struggle

Part 1: The political origins and military record of the resistance fighters

By Francis Dubois and Alex Lantier, 30 August 2018

Arsène Tchakarian, the last remaining survivor of the famed Manouchian Group of the French Resistance, died on August 4, 2018, at the age of 101.

Why the US ruling class mourns John McCain

By Patrick Martin, 27 August 2018

The late senator from Arizona represented a bipartisan consensus in support of militarism and the defense of corporate America.

“US autoworkers have to accept a culture of poverty”

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, global cost-cutter, dies

By Marcus Day, 28 July 2018

Marchionne, the Italian-born executive who collaborated with the trade unions in brutally attacking the jobs, wages, and working conditions of autoworkers throughout the world, died Wednesday.

Punk bassist Steve Soto dead at 54

By Josh Varlin, 10 July 2018

Soto was best known for his work with the seminal hardcore punk band Adolescents.

The death of Ed Sadlowski and the demise of trade union reformism

By Shannon Jones, 19 June 2018

The failure of the reform movement headed by Sadlowski in the United Steelworkers and similar efforts in other unions foundered on the conflict between the needs of workers and the pro-capitalist program to which the unions are wedded.

The late American novelist Philip Roth attacked as a “misogynist”

By David Walsh, 18 June 2018

In the wake of writer Philip Roth’s death May 22, numerous commentaries have appeared accusing him of misunderstanding or being hostile to women and related failings.

CIA terrorist Posada Carriles dead at 90

By Bill Van Auken, 24 May 2018

Protected by the US government until the end, Posada Carriles was responsible for the worst terrorist atrocity committed in the Americas in the twentieth century.

The death of rapper-producer Alias and the fate of “avant-garde” hip hop

By Nick Barrickman, 13 April 2018

Brendon Whitney (“Alias”) was a founding member of the experimental hip hop/electronic music label Anticon.

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

By Bryan Dyne, 15 March 2018

Hawking, who lived much of his life debilitated by Lou Gehrig’s disease, was one of the world’s most significant cosmologists and a renowned popularizer of physics.

Ursula K. Le Guin: Prominent science fiction and fantasy writer (1929-2018)

By Sandy English, 8 March 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the most significant and popular English-language writers of speculative fiction, associated with feminism and utopianism, died January 28 at the age of 88.

Veteran investigative reporter Robert Parry dies at 68

By Bill Van Auken, 5 February 2018

Parry, who won journalism awards for exposing CIA crimes in Nicaragua, founded Consortiumnews.com after confronting the corporate media’s impediments to serious investigative journalism.

Patricia Noonan Jukovsky (1947-2017)

By Fred Mazelis, 11 December 2017

Pat Jukovsky was an active member of the US Workers League in its early years, and the wife of Marty Jukovsky, a devoted supporter of the Socialist Equality Party.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky (1962-2017), one of opera’s greatest baritones

By Fred Mazelis, 11 December 2017

The Siberian-born singer, who was known especially for his Verdi and Tchaikovsky roles, had performed in nearly every major opera house in the world.

Remembering Fats Domino

By Hiram Lee, 4 November 2017

Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Fats Domino died October 24 at the age of 89. The gifted pianist was second only to Elvis Presley in popularity during the early days of the genre.

A remembrance of my sister, Cynthia Brust Moore

By Steven Brust, 12 September 2017

This remembrance of Cynthia Brust Moore was sent to the WSWS by her brother, Steven Brust. Cynthia, a lifelong supporter of the Trotskyist movement, passed away on September 1.

Cynthia Brust Moore (1944-2017): A steadfast supporter of the Trotskyist movement

By Fred Mazelis, 5 September 2017

Cynthia was the daughter of Bill and Jean Brust, who joined the revolutionary movement in the 1930s and were founding members of the Workers League, predecessor organization of the Socialist Equality Party.

On the death of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

By Peter Schwarz, 19 June 2017

The hymns of praise for Helmut Kohl, who served as German Chancellor from 1982 to 1998 and died Friday aged 87, have less to do with the real Kohl than with the current requirements of the ruling elite.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of the catastrophe in Afghanistan, dead at 89

By Bill Van Auken, 29 May 2017

“What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe?” the former national security adviser said of the CIA alliance with Al Qaeda.

The Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017) and the fate of the ‘60s generation

By Vladimir Volkov, 3 May 2017

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the best-known Soviet poet from the 1960s to the 1980s, died at 85 from cancer on April 1, 2017, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bob White, trade union bureaucrat who led Canadian split from UAW, dies aged 81

By Carl Bronski, 8 April 2017

White’s 1985 breakaway from the UAW was a nationalist maneuver, aimed at protecting the union bureaucracy and blocking a joint struggle of North American autoworkers against all concessions and job cuts.

Beryl Hood: 29 November 1938–21 March 2017

By Mike Head, 25 March 2017

A Trotskyist for four decades, Comrade Beryl was a fine and steadfast representative of the most advanced layers of the working class, attracted, above all, to internationalism.

The real legacy of Martin McGuiness: Sectarianism and austerity

By Paul Mitchell, 24 March 2017

McGuinness’s evolution from gunman to bourgeois politician was not a break from his republican principles, but the outcome of the petty-bourgeois nationalist perspective of republicanism.

Civil liberties lawyer Lynne Stewart dies at 77

By Fred Mazelis, 11 March 2017

The attorney was convicted in 2005 by the US government on fraudulent charges as part of an effort to intimidate anyone opposed to the “war on terror.”

Civil liberties attorney Jon Posner dies at 73

By Jerry White, 19 January 2017

A well-respected criminal defense attorney in Detroit, Posner defended the Workers League, the forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party, in dozens of cases in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Greg Lake, pioneer of progressive rock music, dies at 69

By Kevin Reed, 17 December 2016

Greg Lake was a founder, along with schoolmate Robert Fripp, of the British band King Crimson in 1968 and later the 1970s’ supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

The political legacy of Fidel Castro

By Bill Van Auken, 28 November 2016

Castro’s legacy cannot be evaluated solely through the prism of Cuba, but must take into account the impact of his politics internationally and, above all, in Latin America.

Janet Reno, attorney general who gave order for mass murder in Waco, Texas, dead at 78

By Fred Mazelis, 8 November 2016

Only two months after her nomination to head the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton, Reno presided over the horrific attack that killed more than 80 people, including 21 children.

Stylianos Pattakos (1912-2016): Leader of Greece’s CIA-backed military junta

By John Vassilopoulos, 7 November 2016

Pattakos was tried and convicted for his crimes during the military junta, but the Greek Stalinists and Syriza allowed him to return to political life.

Albert Dragstedt (1933-2016)

By Fred Williams, 2 November 2016

A long-time member of the Workers League, which he joined in the early 1970s, and a supporter of the Socialist Equality Party, Albert combined immense erudition with an unwavering dedication to Marxism.

Shimon Peres (1923-2016)

By Patrick Martin, 1 October 2016

The state funeral for Shimon Peres, former Israeli president and prime minister, brought leaders from around the world to pay tribute, not so much to the individual as to the rapacious, land-grabbing, militaristic state he did so much to construct.

On the death of German historian Ernst Nolte

By Christoph Vandreier and Peter Schwarz, 20 August 2016

Nolte is infamous for initiating the Historikerstreit (Historians’ Dispute) in 1986 with his downplaying of National Socialism and the worst crimes in human history.

The life and career of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami

By David Walsh, 14 July 2016

The Iranian director will be best remembered and long honored for the series of feature films, including documentaries, that he made between 1987 and 1997.

Michael Cimino, director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate, dead at 77

By David Walsh, 7 July 2016

Cimino is best known as the director of The Deer Hunter (1978), which won numerous Academy Awards, and Heaven’s Gate (1980), which was denounced by leading critics, lost a great deal of money and severely damaged Cimino’s career.

Oversaw 1979 Chrysler concessions

Former UAW official Marc Stepp dies

By Shannon Jones, 7 July 2016

The sweeping concessions Stepp and other union officials imposed on Chrysler workers were a milestone in the corporatist degeneration of the UAW and the American labor movement as a whole.

Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley dead at 89

By Hiram Lee, 6 July 2016

Ralph Stanley led one of the most remarkable groups in Bluegrass music and was among the genre’s greatest banjo players and singers.

Dr. Coley P. O’Doherty

June 6, 1969 - May 29, 2016

By Helen Hayes, 9 June 2016

Comrade Coley joined the Socialist Equality Party in 2005 and remained loyal to the fight for socialist principles until his death.

Who will follow the example of Muhammad Ali’s principled stand in our day?

By David Walsh, 6 June 2016

The former heavyweight boxing champion, who died June 3, made his chief mark on history and popular consciousness by his courageous opposition to the Vietnam War.

David King 1943-2016: Revolutionary socialist, artist and defender of historical truth

By David North, 14 May 2016

David King, who devoted his extraordinary gifts as an artist to salvaging the historical truth of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its aftermath from beneath the vast edifice of Stalinist crimes and lies, died suddenly in London on May 11.

Hans-Dietrich Genscher: Trailblazer for German great power politics

By Peter Schwarz, 2 April 2016

The former foreign minister and FDP chairman Hans-Dietrich Genscher died Thursday at age 89.

The death of Nancy Reagan

By David Walsh, 9 March 2016

The American political and media establishment has responded in predictably fawning and dishonest fashion to the death of Nancy Reagan on March 6.

The legacy of Antonin Scalia

By Tom Carter, 15 February 2016

Scalia has personified the rightward march of the American political establishment over the past three decades, as it jettisoned what remained of its commitment to democratic institutions.

Julian Bond, veteran of early civil rights struggle and pillar of establishment, dies at 75

By Fred Mazelis, 19 August 2015

The outpouring of official tributes illustrates the political trajectory of the leaders of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

E. L. Doctorow, 1931-2015: A novelist who tackled American history

By Sandy English, 27 July 2015

E.L. Doctorow, the prominent American novelist and author of Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and The March, among other works, died on July 21 at the age of 84.

Free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman dead at 85

By Hiram Lee, 18 June 2015

Saxophonist Ornette Coleman helped to define the free jazz movement during an often controversial career spanning half a century.

Blues musician B.B. King, 1925-2015

By James Brewer, 18 May 2015

The iconic American blues artist died May 15 at 89, after dozens of albums and decades of intensive touring.

Media tributes for Victor Gotbaum, union leader who saved banks in 1975 New York City fiscal crisis

By Fred Mazelis, 13 April 2015

Gotbaum’s precedent-setting surrender of New York City workers’ rights in the 1970s paved the way for the American ruling class’ offensive against workers throughout the US and the record inequality of today.

Malcolm Fraser (1930–2015): A political assessment

By Nick Beams, 25 March 2015

Fraser’s name is indelibly etched in history for his role in the ousting of the Whitlam government in the 1975 Canberra Coup.

Former German President Richard von Weizsäcker dies

By Peter Schwarz, 2 February 2015

The glorification of Weizsäcker has less to do with his actual role than with the current political situation, amidst a resurgence of German militarism.

Leading German historian Hermann Weber dies

By Wolfgang Weber, 10 January 2015

The World Socialist Web Site is reposting an interview it conducted with the noted German historian Hermann Weber in November of 2011.

Former Washington mayor Marion Barry mourned in US ruling class circles

By Fred Mazelis, 29 November 2014

Barry typified the layer that came to prominence in the ebb and decline of the mass civil rights movement.

Film and theater director Mike Nichols dies at 83

By David Walsh, 22 November 2014

Nichols, whose career spanned five decades, was undoubtedly an artistically gifted individual, known for his sharp wit and urbanity as well as his considerable skill with actors.

Australian Labor leader Gough Whitlam (1916–2014)

By Nick Beams, 31 October 2014

Nothing of value can be learned from the official outpourings that have followed the death of Australian Labor Party leader Gough Whitlam

Tatiana Ivarovna Smilga-Poluyan: May 22, 1919 – September 27, 2014

By Clara Weiss, 21 October 2014

Tatiana Ivarovna Smilga-Poluyan, daughter of the Left Oppositionist Ivar Smilga, dedicated her life to restoring historical truth about those who had been murdered and whose names had been besmirched by Stalinist reaction.

David Greenglass, star witness against the Rosenbergs, dies at 92

By Fred Mazelis, 16 October 2014

The Rosenberg case must serve as a warning in the current climate of preparation for war.

An evaluation of South African novelist Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)

By Sandy English, 30 September 2014

Writer Nadine Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature, died in Johannesburg at the age of 90 on July 13.

Robert Poli, blacklisted leader of PATCO union, dies at 78

By Tom Mackaman, 25 September 2014

Poli led the 1981 strike of air traffic controllers that was crushed by the Reagan administration with the connivance of the AFL-CIO

Condolences on the death of Guy Charron

12 August 2014

In the two weeks since Comrade Guy Charron’s tragic death, the SEP (Canada) has received many condolence letters from comrades around the world.

Guy Charron, 1962-2014: Canadian fighter for Trotskyism

By Keith Jones, 2 August 2014

It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of Guy Charron, a leader of the Socialist Equality Party (Canada) and a daily collaborator in the work of the WSWS.

American film and television actor James Garner (1928-2014)

By David Walsh, 24 July 2014

Over the course of nearly five decades, and for the benefit of several generations, Garner represented something generous, affable and skeptical of authority in film and television.

1928-2014: Maya Angelou, writer, performer and participant in the civil rights movement

By Isaac Finn and Sandy English, 18 June 2014

Angelou had an astonishingly varied and eventful life, residing in different parts of the world, taking up numerous professions and art forms, throwing herself into personal and intellectual relationships of all sorts.

Letter to Kathryn Davron from WSWS Chairman David North

9 May 2014

Below we republish the letter sent by David North, Chairman of the World Socialist Web Site, to Kathryn Davron on April 13, 2014—the day after she had been told that there was nothing medically that could be done to prolong her life after a four-year struggle with cancer.

Kathryn Davron: March 2, 1950—May 1, 2014

By Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland, 7 May 2014

Kath was a Trotskyist all her adult life. Her death follows a four-year struggle against cancer, throughout which she displayed her usual attributes of courage and determination.