Friday, 19 February 2021

Remembering Ed Rooksby

The awful news Ed Rooksby had passed away came as a shock. He was known as a brilliant tutor at Ruskin College and then, for too short a time, at York. I only knew Ed through his writings and the occasional Twitter exchanges, but he always came across as someone dedicated to his students, and underlined this by teaching a full semester in the Autumn while being unwell. He movingly wrote about his experience with long Covid at the beginning of this year.

Ed was serious about social theory, and understood it as a means to a political ends. He was interested in thinking through the problem of the state in Marxist theory, and in a three-part essay on Lenin's State and Revolution he subjects the text to a close reading, bringing out some of the fuzzy and metaphysical props ignored and overlooked by others. Particularly those claiming fidelity to "Leninism". Needless to say, Ed didn't think there was much there to help us with our strategic travails today.

He was also intereted in the viability of structural reforms. This was different to the idea of reformism handed down to us from Rosa Luxemburg's attack on Eduard Bernstein and countless Trotskyist educationals since, but were a theoretically viable set of strategies left governments might (or, to be more exact, must) pursue if they're serious about social transformation. For example, Corbynism's transgressive quality lay in its positions on economic democracy which, unsurprisingly, are ignored by the present incumbent of the Labour leader's office. Structural reforms struck at the root of capitalist relations in ways demanding tax rises on the rich and a properly funded NHS do not. In another memorable piece for the Graun from 2011, he took apart the bilge that is Blue Labour - a piece that repays reading now this is the party's Big Idea again.

At times over this last year, Ed had mentioned he was wrestling with a book on these themes. I hope what exists of the unfinished draft becomes available in due course. In Ed, we have lost a talented comrade and a militant thinker determined to put the materialist theory of politics on a firmer footing. It falls on us to continue with the work he left - there are plenty of tantalising leads for us to pick up.

This bibliography of Ed's work put together by Jonah Wedekind is a valuable and fitting act of remembrance. My deepest condolescences to Ed's family, friends, and everyone who knew him. Sleep easy, comrade.

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