A. Sivanandan 1923 – 2018


A. Sivanandan 1923 – 2018

A. Sivanandan, the Director Emeritus of the Institute of Race Relations and founding editor of Race & Class has passed away.

The Institute of Race Relations would like to thank everyone who has sent tributes and messages of condolences following the death of A. Sivanandan on Wednesday 3 January. As his family and friends mourn his passing, we invite you to leave tributes and personal memories below.

Related links

Read about A. Sivanandan here

Race & Class: The A. Sivanandan Collection (free to download)

Soundcloud: An interview with A. Sivanandan by Avery Gordon for the 2013 Historical Materialism conference

Race & Class: On ‘lived theory’: an interview with A. Sivanandan by Avery Gordon (subscription only)

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

95 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Saqib Deshmukh
Saqib Deshmukh
2 years ago

My condolences and solidarity to Jenny and Siva’s family. Over the decades he meant so much for me and as a young working class Pakistani man my encounters with him both in person and in his writings so meaningful and powerful. From being taken to IRR as a youth to working with the staff over the years all of this took place with him being there. Even when he hasn’t been there in recent years his influence was persuasive and you felt that his presence was always there. He was always one of the bravest of our elders and the wisest as he foresaw many of the problems that we are grappling with today. We owe him a massive debt but it is through the work of IRR that he and his legacy must live on and I’ll try my best to play my part in this.

Paul Crofts
Paul Crofts
2 years ago

A courageous fighter for racial justice and for the interests of all working people. An intellectual of great capacity to educate, stimulate and challenge. A great loss to the movement. Condolences to family and friends.

tariq mehmood
tariq mehmood
2 years ago

A great teacher and a friend has sadly gone. Sometimes his words kept me going through the darkest moments in my life – he helped me understand, that us being here didn’t Britain did us any favour – it had stolen our past. To those it gave a grant here or there, was like someone giving a crutch to those whose legs it had broken, and expecting them to say thank you. I learnt from Siva, I was here because they were there, but me being here was not the same as them being there – they came on the backs of gunboats, and my family to work in their mills and factories. Thank you Siva, for so many lessons, especially for providing a theoretical framework for us during our time in the Asian Youth Movements – and though I drifted somewhere, in the passage of the years, you were always there, somewhere, guiding.

Ryan
Ryan
2 years ago

Siva was an educator in the best sense. He let a hundred flowers bloom, wildly. He always said that the purpose of life was to grow; not only did he expect this of his comrades, he helped them to achieve it. Do not go gentle, boss.

Daniel Renwick
Daniel Renwick
2 years ago

Siva is my hero. No greater influence on my political thinking. He should be remembered as we think of people like Stuart Hall, but he wasn’t as easy to accept in academic and cultural circles. He never flirted with the new times. He didn’t bend the knee. He was a polemicist, he was brutal in his interventions and he never stopped a militant, third worldist, non-dogmatic Marxism that based itself on global solidarity. I will make a film on his legacy, I have to, now more than ever. Heart goes out to those who knew and loved him.

Sonia Mehta
Sonia Mehta
2 years ago

A tragic loss indeed. He awakened a huge conciousness through his detailed and yet accessible analysis. His legacy and teachings carry through us all through action he inspired. For now, heartfelt condolences. Rest in Power.

Smina Akhtar
Smina Akhtar
2 years ago

Sivanandan helped to form me intellectually and politically, the passion in his writing shone and raged out in a way no one else’s writing was able to do. I’ve read most of his writing which will always stay with me and influence my activism as well as my academic work. Rest in peace. We will miss you.

Paul Coleman
2 years ago

I am saddened to hear of Siva’s passing. My sincere condolences to his family and to all connected with the IRR. I only met Siva on a handful of occasions in the early 1990s but his wise advice, intellectual strength and passion for justice have long since influenced and guided my writing and thinking on race, class, London, colonialism, neo-imperialism, globalisation and humanity. Many of Siva’s Race & Class essays continue to profoundly influence my thinking, from his ‘The Hokum of New Times’ (1990) to ‘Globalism and the Left’ (1998/9). In the latter, Siva cuts through the bull to clarify the moment, as he so often does, when he writes ‘businesses are in the business of government and governments are in the business of businesses and, together, they are killing off whole populations’.
Later, much later, in ‘The Market State vs the Good Society, in 2013, Siva defines the ‘market state’, which we now see using real estate speculation in the guise of ‘regeneration’ to devour working class communities across London. Siva also exposes the ‘gradual denationalisation of the NHS’, devolution as stripping ‘power from local government to private enterprise’ and the faux ‘feel-good voluntarism’ that people are forced to swallow as a replacement for ‘true collective action or social movement’.
So when I think of Siva, I think of this saying as very apt: ‘Inside him burned the flame of anger against injustice
– and the flame of hope that we could build a better world.’
I will light a candle today as a means of thanks and tribute.

Amrit Wilson
Amrit Wilson
2 years ago

Siva shaped the thinking of a generation of Black (and I mean politically Black – though that term is now unfashionable) activists, including myself. He was one of us, full of humour and warmth and without a trace of pomposity and he was always up for an argument with those of us who took him on! He laid out for us the essentials of what Black Left politics meant. His encouragement and invaluable suggestions when I was completing my first book Finding a Voice – Asian women in Britain meant a lot to me, as did his delight when the book was finally published. This feels like the end of an era for many of us but his ideas and analysis are still as fresh and incisive as ever. We must keep them alive! My deepest condolences to Jenny and to Siva’s children and grandchildren.

Olufemi Ijebuode
Olufemi Ijebuode
2 years ago

When I needed help against racism and injustice in Britain, he and the IRR supported me. They were the only ones.
He had this incredible personality where he came across as a father, a friend and a teacher – all at the same time. I will always remember him – who he was, what he stood for and how he treated people. Pops was an excellent model for any man and an admirable human being. He will be missed. Badly. Very badly.

Avery Gordon
Avery Gordon
2 years ago

My condolences to Jenny, Siva’s family, Colin, Liz, Harmit and the entire IRR family. In the early hours of the morning, as I sit thinking on this awfully sad news, I’m remembering my last visit with Siva. Frail yet still a bit cantankerous, he was patient with the bla-bla catch-up news but at the kitchen table over tea and home-made biscuits, his eyes were alight with fire and passion for the discussion of what to do about the terrible state of the world. This love for the struggle to know and to act to make the world as it should be I both adored and deeply admired in Siva. All honour to him!

Jas
Jas
2 years ago

Siva’s writings, talks, and overall activism shaped me as a person in ways that words cannot express. He left us with so much, and for that I’m forever grateful. My condolences to all at the IRR, and to all who are indebted to his intellect. RIP Siva.

Hubert Murray
Hubert Murray
2 years ago

Dear Jenny and all those whom Siva has left behind, my love and condolences. As one who travelled in an outer orbit of Siva’s influence I of course endorse what others have said about his politics and writings – including his semi-autobiographical novel. Content aside, however, the form and grace of his writing was superlative, informed by a deep and intelligent understanding of political theory and poetry, transformed into prose that was elegant and so thoroughly intelligible. In addition to his insistence on the fusion of theory and practice, thinking and doing, Siva’s wide reading and political engagement and the intelligent distillation of all this material is what made him so exceptional as writer, speaker, activist. Not least was his mischievous, scurrilous, outrageous sense of humour. It is my hope and belief that strands of the man will continue to live on in the activism, teaching, writing and living in each one of us who were lucky enough to have known him.

Bill Rolston
Bill Rolston
2 years ago

In 1999 I was privileged to be asked to write something for A World to Win: Essays in Honour of A. Sivanandan. In it I recounted something that had happened to me eight years earlier. I was attending a planning meeting for the annual conference of a criminological group to which I belonged. Over time, people in the group had become close friends and the annual conference was a chance to catch up on news of personal and political developments, compare notes on common issues and share insights. The tenor of the discussions in 1991 was set by the times – the fall of the Berlin wall, the implosion of the Soviet system, the identity crisis of the Left in Europe, as well as the academic popularity of post-modernism. Fierce arguments erupted at the meeting, ranging over issues of socialism, feminism, nationalism, etc. Eventually people began to state why they continued to belong to the group. I emphasised the sense of belongingness and solidarity I got from the group, adding that I really looked forward to meeting comrades annually. At that, one of the post-modernists present savaged me for referring to him as a comrade. I returned to Belfast dejected, and then read Siva’s ‘All that melts into air is solid’. If only I had read it before the meeting! It gave me a deep understanding of the clash of ideologies which I had just experienced; it would have provided the words to retaliate in a situation where I felt paralysed. And it confirmed that the ideals at the heart of socialism, feminism and national liberation were anything but outmoded.
I wrote to Siva, recounting this story, and a short time later was invited to join the Editorial Working Committee of Race and Class.
Siva’s passing is a great loss. But I am comforted by something he wrote in ‘All that melts into air is solid’:
‘But there are still the values and traditions that have come down to us from the working-class movement: loyalty, comradeship, generosity, a sense of community and a feel for internationalism, an understanding that unity has to be forged and reforged again and again and, above all, a capacity for making other people’s fights our own – all the great and simple things that make us human.’
Farewell comrade!

Asad Rehman
Asad Rehman
2 years ago

Deepest condolences to Siva’s family, Jenny and everyone at the Institute. Siva was one of the true giants of radical black and anti-racist politics in the UK. His legacy is not even possible to comprehend – he was the voice of our ‘communities of resistance’ and politicised countless generations of black activists. His writings have been the beating heart of a black politics that united all people of colour in the UK and connected our struggles to the struggles of our people against colonialism and imperialism. Before the term ‘inter-sectionality’ had been coined he was talking about how our struggles connected and shaped a politics of the black left that was anchored in a race/class/gender analysis and that was both local and global. His analysis is as relevant today as it has been since the 1970’s and even more so now when so much of black politics has been reduced to crude identity politics and is unsure of how to deal with the rise of the new right. I count myself lucky that I was able to sharpen my politics because of his wisdom. He was always generous with his time, and keen on listening and learning as much as he was sharing his own thoughts. If the true worth of someone is the legacy we leave behind … then Siva lives on in all the activists who continue to fight for a better world because he helped inspire them. For those of us associated with Newham Monitoring Project he will always remains our dear comrade and brother in struggle. Rest in Power Siva!

Musurut Dar
Musurut Dar
2 years ago

In his passing, Siva has taught me another lesson. One of regret. In recent times, I had always planned to go back and visit but never got round to it. And now he has gone. I was fortunate to have spent a year with Siva, Jenny, Liz, Francis and the IRR extended family in 1991. I was a young student and it was the time of the Gulf War . I remember how the IRR was a hive of activity from collating political analysis for ‘Race and Class to monitoring and reporting on the racist bscklash as a result of the war, to publishing ‘Black Deaths in State Custody’ and relaunching CARF magazine. We would talk endlessly, plan meetings and go on demonstrations. Those times were so important to my political development. Siva’s ‘From Resistence to Rebellion’ and ‘A Different Hunger’ became the handbook for young black activists. His writings were exhilarating, invigorating and passionate and we were left inspired and with a sense of duty to resist. Siva directed and steered a ship that inspired a whole generation of activists. As well as remembering Siva as one of the most inspiring black thinkers and writers that I was fortunate enough to have met, I will also remember his playfullness and how he would make time to invite me to sit by his lap and read poetry to me… and on leaving I gifted Siva with a poem. R.I.P and thank you Siva x

Nancy Murray
Nancy Murray
2 years ago

With my deep condolences to Jenny and everyone at IRR. Of course I knew this day had to come, but when I last saw Siva at the end of November I was so happy to experience once again both his passionate engagement and his mischievous sparkle that I left hopeful that there would be more visits in the years ahead. I started working at the IRR 35 years ago, and such was the intensity of friendships formed in its unique culture where Siva presided as an intellectual mentor and guiding light, that I feel as if I have never left. Thinking now of Siva I vividly recall the worlds that opened up around the IRR lunch table as he challenged us to wrestle with his anaylsis of the changes wrought by new productive forces or read to us segments of his Sri Lanka trilogy as it was taking shape. He remained a personal lodestar after I moved to the US, where I have tried to remain true to his insistence on combining thinking and doing, analysis with activism on the streets. We will greatly miss Siva as we grapple with these bleak times, but he has ‘put gas in our tanks’ and inspired us to carry on – and so we will.

Mukhtar Dar
Mukhtar Dar
2 years ago

It is with great sadness that I heard the passing of one of our greats. Siva has to be the single most important Black elder that awakened my Black consciousness and shaped my political perspective and worldview. In the midst of inner-city rebellions of the 1980s, whilst petrol bombs ignited the streets, Siva’s writings were photocopied and distributed amongst the street fighters. As members of the Sheffield Asian Youth Movement, our minibusses full of our members frequently drove to London to hear Siva address Newham 7 campaign meetings. His speeches were duplicated on cassettes and played on our ghetto blasters alongside speeches of Malcolm X and the songs of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. He galvanised a generation of activists with his firebrand oratory and we eagerly awaited his incisive analysis in each twist and turn of our struggle for racial justice. He was a brilliant writer, always accessible and creative, coining new words, which articulated the language of struggle and was eagerly and proudly adopted amongst our ranks. His seminal essay ‘From Resistance to Rebellion: Asian and Afro-Caribbean struggles in Britain’ had a huge impact when it was published in the 1981 edition of Race and Class – it was a must-read for all Black activists. We will remember you Siva for your contribution – Rest in Black Power!

My heartfelt condolences to Siva’s family and friends and all the colleagues at the Institute of Race Relations.

David Edgar
David Edgar
2 years ago

Having known, admired, argued with but most of all learnt from Siva for more than 40 years, it’s very hard to imagine not seeing him again.
Siva’s legacy is not just his analysis of what was happening in the world (prescient as it so often was), the internationalism of his approach, the depth of his thought or the breadth of his knowledge. It was and will remain his influence and his impact, often unnoticed or unacknowledged, but to be found most obviously at the Institute, in its work, its culture, its generosity of spirit and its contribution to the common sense of the age. Perhaps the two most obvious examples are the concept of institutional racism and the character of globalism (the Silicon Age piece published in 1979). Over the last few years, in particular, the Institute’s work on killings in custody and racist violence in general has continued that tradition of research which arises out of campaigning action and contributes to it. The quality of the research and the analysis in Liz Fekete’s new book (Europe’s Fault Lines) is a wonderful example of how his rigour and method will survive him.
Personally, I have the happiest memories of Siva, at meetings and parties, in all of his many modes of interaction (from challenge to affection, and everything in between). I thought When Memory Dies was a wonderful novel, from which I learnt much about Siva’s country and his life.
I imagine the feeling at Leeke St is very sombre today. But I hope it’s also proud, of what Siva and the Institute achieved, how they carried that on and built on it, and what they will achieve in the future.
Memory won’t die.

Herman Ouseley
Herman Ouseley
2 years ago

The remarkable Siva will be a profound loss to Jenny and the family, The IRR, his followers, supporters, and friends. He taught, challenged, shared information and knowledge, mesmerised with brilliant oratory and visionary writing and demonstrated a warm personality in his care about people, especially the oppressed . He inspired me always, as he did others, but above all, I treasured his love. His legacy is to be treasured, utilised,and advance the struggle for justice, equality, inclusion and fairness.
Thanks for the memories Siva.

Poornima Karunacadacharan
Poornima Karunacadacharan
2 years ago

The loss and grief I feel has robbed me of words. So “as my heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains”…I bid farewell to my Siva Mama with the same words I wrote to him a few years ago:
“Dearest Siva,
Although I now am given the great privilege of addressing you as mama (uncle), I hope you don’t mind that today I take the liberty of addressing you as Siva with the same affection as I would address Siva Himself. Being named after gods and goddesses we strive to embody the same energy and qualities after which we were named. You Siva, in your dance of rage and passion in life inspired by that eternal Love, have done just that.

Sometimes the soul knows before the senses experience. This is why I have longed to know you and the experience of knowing you gives meaning to your favourite quote by Keats – “The truth of the imagination and the holiness of the heart’s affection” – because you Siva are just as I imagined you to be.”

You are my ‘exemplar’ and your words, life, and love will guide me all the days of my life…

Jenny Mami, all my love is with you at this time and always. Without you I would have never had the greatest privilege in my life of knowing Siva Mama. I will never forget the love with which you invited me and then my husband in to your home, and drove me to and from the station to your home so that I may see Siva Mama. The time spent with you and Mama at your kitchen table will remain the fondest of memories.

David Rosenberg
2 years ago

Very, very sad to hear of the death of a brilliant writer, theoretician, and activist,
Long before an all too frequently superficial version of “intersectionality” came into vogue, he insisted on a materialist analysis of race issues and the absolute importance of their conjunction with class issues.
He provided really sophisticated understandings of immigration controls in terms of their economic function as well as the racism they relied on and deepened in practice. He powerfully challenged the self-imposed divisions based on misunderstandings of identity politics that some anti-racists created, and was able to contribute to integrated anti-racist projects that brought different exploited, oppressed and persecuted communities together in real solidarity and mutual respect. He had no time at all for narcissistic hierarchies of oppression.
Siva had a very sharp mind and a sharp temper – he could be abrasive with those expressing political differences – but none who met him or worked with him could dispute his spirit of resistance and his absolute and lifelong commitment to overcoming race and class oppression.
Honour his memory!

Ra Hendricks
Ra Hendricks
2 years ago

Sincere condolences to my IRE Comrades.
‘The rôle of a true leader is to create future leaders!’ Ralph Nader

By example, Siva created the platform of research scholarship and active engagement which served to mobilise our minds and bodies in the global struggle of the poor and powerless for liberation from oppression. His light will continue to shine! A luta continua

Frances Webber
2 years ago

I was a confused drop-out living in an Earls Court hippy commune, doing odd bits of cleaning and office work, in 1969 when I went to the old IRR in Jermyn Street as a temp and met Siva, then the librarian. He revolutionised my life, making sense of the world for me in order that I would help to change it. I stayed as a member of the library staff for a year, during which he read us poetry (Dylan Thomas, TS Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins) and short stories he’d written on the tube, delighted in mischievous pranks and silly jokes, tried to teach us the value of anger, the glory of Beethoven and the paramount importance of relationships, which informed his politics. After a year he made me go to university (‘You must get the tools of the system to fight the system!’) , but 49 years later he still thought at the speed of light and always bested me in argument. His analysis was always fierce and brilliant, his passion for justice never wavered, and his insistence that we live our lives in accordance with our politics – the personal is political; we are what we do, we must connect, and communicate; and at the same time the pricking of pomposity, the refusal to be solemn, created and sustained the new Institute after his mobilisation of the membership to topple the old guard in 1972.
He has given us so much. The analysis, always ahead of its time; the aphorisms; the poetry and humanity of When Memory Dies; infinite time for us and our problems, and that voice which will stay in my head for the rest of my life, challenging, teasing, fighting, teaching, always with love.
Finally, time to rest in peace, dear Siva.

Sujata Aurora
Sujata Aurora
2 years ago

There aren’t really the words that can do justice to Siva’s writings and their influence. Like so many others of my generation almost every bit of my political consciousness has been shaped by his ideas. He stood uniquely at the intersection of theory and practice helping us as young black activists to make sense of our world. His writings still stand as the sharpest articulation of the black experience in Britain ever published. Recently I had cause to go back to his piece on the Grunwick strike and it was notable how his essay, written in the midst of the strike, proved prescient.

I was honoured to be able to spend so much time with Siva after initially visiting IRR as a student. Among my many memories is him attempting to berate me one of the first times we met after he asked if I wanted a copy of A Different Hunger and I shamefacedly admitted that I had stolen a copy from a library (it was the only book I ever stole). And I’ll never forget the magic that happened in a room when Siva spoke. Although it was often persuasive oratory I always said that he could read out a telephone directory and still captivate an audience – such was the timbre of his voice. Aside from the body of work, I think what I will remember most is his great sense of fun – he was never so preoccupied with the state of the world that he couldn’t cause some mischief.

This week we have suffered a huge loss but his legacy remains in all of us who read his work and were privileged to know him.

RIP Siva (and sorry if I messed up the commas in this post).

Rizu Hamid
Rizu Hamid
2 years ago

As so many of the above people have commented – Siva was an intellectual giant, visionary an unwavering revolutionary. He struggled throughout his life – through his writings and encounters – for a world in which race, class and gender would not be divisive factors but powerful forces to unite struggling people across the globe. None of us can alleviate the pain his family and loved ones are feeling but we can give them solace in the fact that they were related to someone who fought relentlessly to bring about meaningful change and ultimately justice for all. May his soul rest in eternal peace and may his writings live on in the hearts and minds of generations to come.

Marika Sherwood
Marika Sherwood
2 years ago

I used to attend meetings at the IRR in the 1970s and learned so much! Siva, thank you. I trust you passed away peacefully and not in pain. We all owe you much. Thank you, THANK YOU!
Marika Sherwood

Cathy Bergin
Cathy Bergin
2 years ago

I read Siva’s essay ‘All melts into air is solid’ in Dublin in the early 1990’s and its impact on me and my politics was profound. It was just so incisive, and witty and exasperated. It was a peerless political intervention and I have read Race & Class ever since. Siva’s work and the work of the IRR has been seminal for race/class politics. I know that Jenny and Siva’s family, and Hazel, Liz, Colin, Harmit and the IRR team are devastated at his loss. The loss that we who knew him only through his work feel is incomparable. But there are countless people who, like me, find the world a lesser place today and have been shaped in a myriad of ways by his writings and activism.

Reem
Reem
2 years ago

I remember how nervous I would be each time I was lucky enough to visit Siva, and how when the time came, I would be sad to leave. Siva brought clarity on any issue, whether to do with political developments globally & nationally, or to do with personal housing problems.
Siva will not cease to be a force to be reckoned with. My deepest condolences to Jenny, his family, friends and to the IRR.

Wayne
Wayne
2 years ago

Siva’s to me was the single most important Black man of the 20 century in the UK. His legacy is both massive and profound, and will continue to guide all of us who were lucky enough to have known him, wherever we are engaged in the struggle for justice and equality today. In this moment, I remember his wicked sense of humor, our shared love of Paul Robeson, and his ability to tell you off, set you straight and lift you up all in one sentence. My condolences to Jenny, his family and the team at IRR, I hope they can draw some small comfort from the tributes that will flow over the next days.

Anita Rupprecht
Anita Rupprecht
2 years ago

I ‘found’ Race & Class when I was a politically naïve but desperately hungry undergraduate student in the very late 1980s. It was a revelation. Looking back now, I know how much it has shaped the ways in which I try to understand the world, how it has framed my teaching and inspired my research. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Siva, I have learned from his work and commitment in the most profound of ways. I send my sincere condolences to Jenny and Hazel and Liz and Colin and all at Race & Class.

David Rose
David Rose
2 years ago

He is, simply, irreplaceable. My sense of loss is heartfelt and profound. I thought of calling my him over Christmas because I wanted to catch up after far too long. I wish I had. The warmest, funniest, fiercest and most brilliant man I’ve known.

Professor Gus John
Professor Gus John
2 years ago

Gus John
Deepest condolences to Jenny, Hazel, Harmit, Frances, Colin and all at the IRR. I am in Nigeria and have just heard the sad news of Siva’s death.
In my experience, no one arrested, analysed, confronted and debunked the hypocrisy and hubris of the British state in the post-war period better than Siva. I became a member of the Council of the Institute of Race Relations in its Jermyn Street days in 1971, along with the Reverend (later Bishop)Wilfred Wood and the late John La Rose, poet, publisher and political activist. Siva disrupted the attempts of descendants of former plantation owners to recolonise the descendants of enslaved Africans in Britain and disconnect them from the struggle against neo-colonialism in the countries from which they had migrated. Who of us associated with the Institute at the time could forget the spectacle of an unbroken line of Rolls Royces and Bentleys along Jermyn Street, each with their becapped and bedecked drivers, on the days when the IRR council met. The successful coup to dislodge that group of plantocrats and their belief in their entitlement to determine how Britain should deal with its growing population of ‘coloured immigrants’ was to represent a sea change in how we situated ourselves in the society and its politics.
Siva’s challenge to the way the state conned the white working class, dispossessed, neglected and exploited for generations, into seeing black newcomers as their problem and as responsible for the social malaise that had characterised their districts for at least a century was instrumental in underscoring the link between race and class. His relentless and passionate praxis in holding the state and its institutions to account, especially for its failure to stem the rise of the organised Right and their murderous exploits in Asian and African communities gave direction not just to an antiracist and antfascist movement, but to a growing black working class movement in schooling and education. He identified with the struggle against the scandalous and illegal practice of placing excessive numbers of black children into schools for the educationally subnormal. With others of us in that movement, he took on the eugenicists such as Hans Eysenck, Cyril Burt, Philipe Rushton and others and their scientific racism on which many of the intelligence tests applied to black children were based.
For me, though, one of Siva’s greatest contributions to shaping the future of radical and revolutionary thought and practice in post-war Britain was the work he led at the Institute which set out in the clearest of terms the ‘Legacy of Empire’ and its implications for politics and government, for schooling and education, for class struggle and for the safeguarding and extension of human rights and civil liberties in Britain. Latterly, he was to extend that to helping us understand the rise and the implications of globalisation and the need to understand globalism. He was as sharp as a razor in his political and historical analysis and uncompromising in his intolerance of ‘gradualism’ and its subtext: ‘business as usual for as long as possible, irrespective of the human cost’.
Siva devoted his life to the cause of human liberation and the humanising of society globally and for that the world owes him a great debt. May his spirit not so much ‘rest in peace’ as continue to mingle amongst us and inspire our continuing struggle as he shines as a light to the world.
Love to all at IRR…., we have so very much to celebrate!

barbara ransby
barbara ransby
2 years ago

So sad to hear of Siva’s passing. He showed us what it meant to be a people’s intellectual: unbought and unbossed. I met him nearly 30years ago when, as a part of a group of radical Black activists in Ann Arbor, we found a copy of Race and Class. WE loved it. We wrote (yes an actual letter) to Siva asking him to come to the U.S. to speak and meet with us. On blind trust, he agreed. I later joined the editorial board of Race and Class, after a fine curry dinner at Siva and Jenny’s. I have always thought of Siva and IRR as a kind of political lodestar, anchoring and re-centering me over the years. WE did not always disagree, especially on issues of feminism and gender. But that was the beauty of it. We did not have to. We were on the same side. We were political family. I remember with my own family traveled to London and me Siva. It was an important introduction. Siva, my dear friend and teacher, you will be dearly missed on both sides of the pond. We will try to do the work in a way that would have made you proud.

victoria
victoria
2 years ago

My deepest condolences to Jenny and to all Siva’s family on this very sad day for all of us who had the privilege of knowing Siva and listening to him as well as reading him, for decades. His kindness and his relentless intellectual energy were for me his greatest gifts, and over the years they never changed, even as his life slowed down.
The many beautiful tributes today show how many different ways he touched and supported so many people. All of us, I think, were changed by his example of a life lived without compromise and he lives on in many lives which he helped to shape for the better.
Thank you for everything dear Siva.

Jeremy Hawthorn
Jeremy Hawthorn
2 years ago

Our paths did not cross for long – which has been my fault. He used to call me Nathaniel (for obvious surname reasons) and never embarassed me with the depth of his learning. I will remember best the launch of the ‘Police Against Black People’ submission to a Royal Commission which turned the debate. I will also remember him speaking here in Liverpool about the growing war in Bosnia (1992) and offering insights that no one else had. No doubt there will be a collected works, but please let’s also have a shorter collection of the pithy one-liners: “We are here because you were there” and many, many more.

Rosie Wild
Rosie Wild
2 years ago

I first came across Siva when I read ‘From Resistance to Rebellion’ as part of my PhD research. It wiped the floor with all the other political analyses and histories I had read: it is still, in my opinion, the best analysis of British race relations ever written. I later had the honour of getting to know Siva at the IRR and his judgment that I had ”a visceral hatred of injustice” remains a badge of honour. Siva’s appearances at the IRR were always so eagerly anticipated: would he read us poetry? Would he shout at us like wayward children? Would he make us laugh with some unrepeatable story? Just being around Siva was enlivening.
David Rose and Frances Webber have expressed what I feel about Siva and his passing better than I can, so I’ll stop there. I’ll miss him terribly and send my love and deepest condolences to Jenny, Hazel, Liz, Harmit and all at the IRR past and present.

Luk Vervaet
Luk Vervaet
2 years ago

I wish to thank Siva and pay my respect to a man who influenced the thinking and engagement for a better world of a whole generation, worldwide. You succeeded where others failed : you left us an organisation that continues the fight. Thanks for this. Rest in peace, comrade.

Cilius Victor
Cilius Victor
2 years ago

Siva was a Colossus amongst us and it is so hard to covey the sadness of his passing and the chasm that his absence has created among his family and friends. Solidarity and love in this bitter moment. But this Colossus was not static, he moved and left wonderful huge footprints your mind through his writings, through his piecing dissections of policy offered as aid and protection but to enact the mirror opposite. When you heard Siva in discussion, the temper of his speech was often poetic. Rapier sharp humour was often deployed to expose what needed to be exposed, to cut through hypocrisy or to light up a warning beacon. It was my good fortune to first meet Siva while still relatively young, I remember that face to face in a basement room bursting at the seams with people, many of us sitting on the floor pressed up to the table of speakers. From the get go Siva had a profound influence on myself, shaping the way I would travel politically and just as important, the constant pricking of my thoughts regardless of what campaign I was in, what new grouping I was joining – who was I to serving and why? By other routes Siva asked those same questions of many others like myself who ran here and there in the name of others, it’s uncomfortable, it’s supposed to be, because our task is far from complete.

To all at the IRR, thank you for Siva.

Suresh Grover
2 years ago

I wish to offer my deepest condolences and support to Jenny and her close friends and colleagues at the IRR, especially Liz, Frances and Hazel who shared care for Siva in his last years of ill health and ofcourse to Colin, as the Chair of the IRR. I also wish my respect to his family in this moment of grief.

Siva’s death represents a defining end of an era in race and class politics. He was the original master; a rare force of nature defined by history that conquered the present through the method of his analysis – the collection of his concise and seminal writings and gripping analysis is a testament to his intellectual originality and vigour. He thought not only to think but more importantly to think & act and thus redefined the role of a political thinker. For me, Siva is the greatest political thinker that our communities have produced in this country whose essence was to remain deeply connected to actual struggle and thereby shape it. He was the embodiment of a people dispossessed who created the essential tools to accomplish victories, not simply by grasping for hope but through relentless exposure of injustices and fearless audacity. He was revolutionary without a country; an internationalist who forced the first world left to refocus their political lenses on racism, class, globalization, imperialism, solidarity and resistance.

I was drawn to Siva not simply because of his custodianship of the Institute of Race Relations but because I believed in him as a person. I was baptized into political activity by the murderous intent of violent racism in the 1970’s. We were forced into street fights and battles to defend ourselves against so-called ‘Paki-bashing’. Usually we were always outnumbered. We survived those confrontations because we learned collectively not to flinch and stand our ground together regardless of the consequences. I always felt Siva was battle ready, He felt our nerves, our fears, our anger, our defeats and our victories. Only, he could separate the wood from the tress and see further than us. His pen would create a political storm by offering a context to our resistance and its impact; and in turn his analysis would make me think of the next steps. If one read his work during those moments of struggle, it would take one beyond being just being an angry young man and thrust you into the realm of political culture and its infinite potential.

Over the years, since the mid 70’s, I have been fortunate to have spent time with Siva to discuss struggles and issues occupying my time and energy. The numerous conversations on Southall race & police murders and trials, Bradford 12, the Lawrence Inquiry and more recently on the Rotherham 12 campaign and the Grenfell carnage were serious reflections on the strategies that were being adopted. But the meeting always contained laughter including silliness as well as dread for the future.

I treated Siva like my brother. It was a joy to be in his company. He has my love and respect. I know death is final but at the risk of sounding ridiculous, I wish I could meet him once again simply to embrace and bid him farewell. Rumi reminds us that ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there’

His politics and compassion transformed an ordinary bank clerk into an extraordinary political thinker and intellectual. That legacy is in the Institute, in his thinking and writings and in his method. These are our arms of the new struggle. There is no time to lose but build on this solid foundation. .

Marix
Marix
2 years ago

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
Rabindranath Tagore

thank you Siva x

Revolutionary Communist Group
Revolutionary Communist Group
2 years ago

Sending our condolences and solidarity.
Revolutionary Communist Group

Timothy Brennan
Timothy Brennan
2 years ago

Siva, whose acidic turns of phrase never descended into irony (which would have been too bookish) opting instead for sarcasm and a kind of boxer’s sincerity, deployer of wordplays (“All that Melts into Air is Solid”), waiting for the counter punch. “Unlike you, I don’t write my speeches,” he once told me. “I just speak,” boyishly sticking a finger in my belly to see if the muscles could meet it like a wall. And so it was with the hyperactive, acerbic, acute, annoyingly perceptive, pugnacious, kind, literary, and finally very romantic Siva, who loved things almost as much as he hated others. Always planning the next move, alert to the media, a nimble engineer of his own theatrical personality, the warmest possible friend and confidant who kept his comrades on edge, fearing the embarrassing comeback when the wrong word slipped, Siva was a terror to his foes but to those who knew him, lovable, and tortured by injustice. His fight was not the will to power but a cosmic case of hurt feelings. Inequality was an almost personal affront. A poet with (surprisingly) classically modernist literary tastes (not social realism), a novelist of Sri Lankan landscapes, love affairs, and the scent of fruits, Siva wanted to be granted the status of theorist of the concrete, applied rather than speculative, a Marxist who did not read Marx but understood him through his pores, a man whose honesty was intrepid enough to call defeat by its name, probing wounds, but never with self-pity or an indulgent demoralization. The last time I say him (about two years ago at his home), I came upon a frail man, older than I thought possible, beleaguered by his dizzy spells. But within moments, his face lit up, and he roused himself, and the featureless weary face sprang to life, laughing, denouncing, mocking, appealing, and — as always — playing with words. Love to you, Siva

Janaki Ramachandran (nee Jano Mylvaganam)
Janaki Ramachandran (nee Jano Mylvaganam)
2 years ago

He was shaken by the race riots and events of 1958 in Sri Lanka and he then shook the world through his work within and outside the Institute of Race Relations ensuring that deep imprints are left ‘When Memory Dies’.
Beloved niece Jano
Sydney, Australia

Priya Thamotheram
Priya Thamotheram
2 years ago

Following my return to Gatwick yesterday, I was really saddened to hear that Siva had finally called it a day in his long and glorious struggle to help so many people and communities to better understand and counter their oppression.
I’ll certainly miss his sharp wit and humorous asides, as well as his ready support in our various struggles over the last four decades. From my very first contact with him at the old IRR building in the early 70s, he has remained a huge political mentor and lodestar in the subsequent struggles we’ve engaged in and always willing to offer his support and thoughts on the matters which needed to be grappled with at those particular times.
Thank you for all what you’ve done for him Jenny and please pass on my deepest condolences to his family, as well as to Colin and to the other IRR comrades.
To paraphrase Siva, your memory will never die Siva and we will always cherish and continue to be guided in our actions by your incisive writings and fearless drive to understand and conquer our variegated oppressors!
With fondest memories,
Priya Thamotheram.

jane shallice
jane shallice
2 years ago

While acknowledging the comments of so many I can only write ….

Siva, you were a man who undoubtedly influenced me greatly. Over the years I have seen little of you, yet constantly read you and felt you shaping my understanding of the world. A Marxist who was throughout so clear about capital and the centrality of class whilst you were constantly analysed the changing nature of capital’s extending arms. One who was always prepared to fiercely argue your position, often with humour always with eloquence. You who could be relied on utterly in your clarity, your preparedness to act and to support those who needed these frames of understanding.
You did what many in your position failed to do. Having seized and built the Institute into such a fount and locus of ideas and practice you also permitted Liz and others to take their own course, of course with your support and debate when needed – probably always critically.
Personally you were crucial for me on the occasion many years ago when I had been denounced as a racist by a fellow worker. I was devastated and angry. You rang me, listened, talked and persuaded me to return and confront the madness of the accusation. I was then, and still am now, deeply grateful for your care, your wisdom and the timely support that you gave me to stand up with confidence.
And I loved your passion for Man U. I am only sorry that we never watched a match together.

Love to you Jenny, and to Liz and all who are and were part of the Institute. We know he will live on in our memories, in his ideas and in the way he impacted on so many.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
2 years ago

Sympathies to Jenny and the rest of the family and all at the Institute; many vivid memories of someone deeply vital and passionate about racial and economic justice.

Professor David Milner

Siva and I were close friends between 1967 and 1973. He was, unquestionably, a Great Man, a man of all the talents. I will not rehearse them here, so many have done so with eloquence and passion and awe on these pages, I will simply join with them in that appreciation. After following different paths for 40 years, we were reunited a couple of years ago and found our affection bridged the long gap. With some anxiety I had sent him a copy of my autobiography. A little later the phone rang:
“Milner!” (mock gruff)
” Siva! I sent my book in the hope that you would like what I wrote about you – and because I think good friends should meet at least once every 40 years!”
(laughing)”Come and see us, you bastard!”
I did several times, feeling like the Prodigal Son, and the warmth and love and sheer pleasure of re-connecting round that kitchen table will stay with me for good. I will simply reproduce what I had written about him in my book, long after we had met and well before we had come together again
“Siva, as he was known, was the librarian of the Institute of Race Relations in Jermyn St, SW1. It was a street full of gentlemen’s outfitters, of the kind that make bespoke shirts and are bedecked with school, military and club ties. If it sounds like an unlikely revolutionary territory, then that would be right. And if ‘the librarian’ in a stereotypical way conjures up a bespectacled gentleman in a grey suit, with a hand-knitted green cardigan, worn as a waistcoat, then that would be wrong, in this case. The gentleman in question was a Sri Lankan Marxist firebrand who terrified anyone who crossed him (including his staff) though could also be a large cuddly toy when appropriate. In the course of a few years the Institute was transformed from a colonial hangover, the preserve of scholars and liberals who had either interest in or experience of life in the colonies, to a radical force of committed intellectuals and others who saw it as their role to support the new settlers in Britain in every aspect of their lives, including becoming a powerful pressure group. Siva did not achieve this on his own – quite – but he gathered and marshalled a committed coalition which took control of the Institute, with him as Director, and its BBC-like balance wavered and fell, and it became a weapon for the black community.
Siva was not ‘just’ a librarian, he was a force of nature, specifically a kind of permanent meteor that powered its way through the atmosphere without ever burning up. He had one of those great intellects which are sharpened and focused by an ideology and a practical purpose, the achievement of racial justice. The rhetoric was powerful, always extempore even to large audiences, and no different when one-to-one, when he would prod the listener into submission with his words and his finger, and his pipe. He was, in a way, too powerful for me: I lacked the gifts to resist him, to argue my corner and felt myself being drawn too much to his political stance, which was not mine.
I was overwhelmed when I first met him, aware of his uniqueness and special gifts, (he was a gifted novelist and poet as well as an ideologue and activist) and that he was conferring on me a kind of friendship and comradeship I had not known before. He had disciples and that was on offer. We remained very close for a long time, spent time at his house in Finchley (that well-known ghetto of revolutionary cadres) even watched football together (strange how these revolutionaries turn out to have feet of clay with Achilles heels – Manchester United in his case). Going to Bristol and doing a PhD pulled me away from him inevitably; however sincere your revolutionary beliefs and political goals, you can’t do a PhD on them: they are antithetical. So at the same time as I was starting to tug away from Siva, to be my own man and carve out a career away from the theoretical barricades, I was being suborned by another guru, who wanted me to be the purest kind of academic researcher and writer. He never succeeded, not entirely, but at least he did equip me with a trade, which Siva never could. On the other hand, Siva offered a mind-set, a heart and a conscience that could not be found in academic text books, and would sit on my shoulders for ever.”
Thank you, Siva, you gave me so much more than I gave you, but that was the only kind of inequality you were prepared to sanction and embrace, with everyone.

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
2 years ago

I met Siva briefly at the Transnational Institute in the mid-70s and he made an indelible impression of fortitude and intelligence. He was fiercely aware of the patronising and subordinating nature of official British tolerance and would have none of it. I learnt from him about the pain and nature (yes I know it is obvious but it is true) of race and class. We were there with John Berger who died a year ago while the TNI was in part inspired by Mark Raskin the radical American thinker and activist who died just a few days ago. The three of them were shapeshifting figures of their generation who resisted creatively and without cease. I can’t imagine what our world would have been like without them.

Luke Hodgkin
Luke Hodgkin
2 years ago

My sister Liz and I were lucky to know Siva, through my father’s happy, warm if sometimes stressful collaboration with him on the board of ‘Race and Class’ in the 70s. (The occasional noisy board meeting over a country weekend.) He was thoughtful, generous and accepting, a real friend. We lost touch later, but I’m glad that his career has been so fruitful and that ‘Race and Class’ has continued to flourish.

95
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x