A. Sivanandan pays tribute to Basker Vashee of the Transnational Institute who died on 18 July 2005.
He has gone too soon, but his smile remains. All his life he was suave, elegant, charming – and he brought those gifts to his politics and made radicalism appear the most natural thing in the world.
I came to know Basker in the early ’70s when he was setting up the Counter Information Services (CIS) to investigate the depredation caused by multinational corporations in the Third World, and especially Africa. It was a time when the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) itself was undergoing a radical transformation and had made racism, institutional and corporate, the object of its concerns. It was only natural we should come together to produce one of the most incisive booklets on racial exploitation to be published in the UK, ‘Racism: who profits?’.
And when the IRR’s arid, academic quarterly Race was being transformed into the activist-oriented scholarship of Race & Class, Basker joined the new Editorial Working Committee and helped us to chart fresh perspectives and analyses on African struggles for liberation.
Basker left the Editorial Committee when he moved to Amsterdam, but our working relationship continued under the auspices of the Transnational Institute of which I was a fellow Fellow for a while.
We had lost touch with Basker since then, but suddenly a few months ago he turned up at the IRR to take up again the threads of our friendship and of political discussion as if he had left London for Amsterdam just days (rather than twenty years) before.
Friend, comrade, Zimbabwean patriot – I honour Basker for these and for the quiet, unassuming, almost diffident way he went about being them.