Mourning Lisa

Chris Burford 100423.2040 at
Wed Sep 18 18:53:54 MDT 1996

I have been trying to avoid writing about Lisa in the past tense.

I knocked into another car while parking
at work, setting off the alarm, which did not seem to matter at all,
found myself, drifting off at times during the day, did not eat anything
till 3pm.

All people must die but death can vary in its significance. And for
reasons that Lisa would probably ridicule as accidental, it feels significant
her death occurs at a critical time in the development
of the marxist culture at spoons. It is good to read the testaments
of many others. They transcend differences. It feels a definitive
time when marxism has become a community.

I first met her when several of us subbed in as outside
subscribers to Hans E's Capital reading class, less than two years ago.
As so many others have said, the contact felt totally honest and
totally personal. I remember her explaining the mid-USA expression
"I'm toast", and she was interested in my explanation of "bloody".
She was brave, undogmatic and honest in discussion and argument with
other classes members, some of whom were quite hostile, and despite
not thinking of herself as a marxist, increasingly, as I thought,
came out on the side of the angels.

I had to struggle not to feel proprietorial,
that I suggested to Jon, when he was calling for other moderators,
that Lisa should not only be invited to join the marxism list, but
be invited to moderate it. Her honesty, and also her specialist
knowledge of anthropology was a major contribution.

I remember talking with a South African communist about her, and
he said, how good he also found her contributions, and how they used to
say, the best people become communists without realising it.

Reading some of the mourning posts today, suddenly the phrase also
flashed through my mind, of one of the leaders of the Munich
revolution, that "Communists are dead men on holiday". Lisa I guess
would have been far less likely to call herself a Communist than
a marxist, and she was certainly no Leninist. But presumably she
knew that her life expectency was short, and seems to have tried to
pack everything in, and to have tried to engage with warmth, candour
and without recrimination with everyone, personally.

Real relationships have their graininess, and like Hans (?) I had a sense of
holding back at times. I was both enchanted and amazed to get rung up by her
at 3am London time. In my heart I wished it could have happened more often.
She had an attractive voice.

I felt let down by her decision that the marxism list was finished, which
she took despite the fact there was a group of moderators, but we stayed in
communication, and I appreciated her warm "Welcome aboard" when I subbed to
M2, several months after it started. No one was completely right in that
dispute and IMO no-one was completely wrong. We have transcended that, and Lisa
was active in summing up the experience and developing creative ideas about
moving ahead. It is entirely right that her death should be mourned on M1, to
which she made a great contribution, as well as on M2.

I would second Jeff's suggestion that tributes are collected together. If
anyone goes to a memorial meeting, (because many people must have been touched
by her), perhaps they can forward a report to us.

It might be technically much more difficult to organise on a non-stop 24 hour
mailing list, but a period of silence, properly announced and explained,
at a suitable time, can be a way of marking respect with all the words that
cannot be said.

In mourning Lisa, I feel we are lucky that her path and ours intersected.
We are fortunate that she wanted to give so much of her last months, to this,
as well as to picking berries or scuffing leaves. I hope her
family can understand in their loss that it was important to her.
But I think there is reason for pride and confidence in her decision,
that whether it is called communism, or marxism, or socialism, or just
justice, a better world may yet be in birth.

With acknowledgements to Hans, I would like to quote from an
exchange early on in the Capital reading class, when Lisa was encouraging
others to join in:-

people prefer directness, some prefer very gentle carefulness  There
may be no obvious place to meet, but I suggest the idea that each can
cut another at least as much slack (benefit of the doubt) as one
would wish to receive.

The best classroom discussions in my experience happen when
 1) members are committed to critically examining ideas, not
criticizing people,
 2) members try to remember that criticism of their ideas is not
necessarily the same as a personal attack, even when they feel
personally attached to their ideas,
 3) members are interested in serving a larger goal of participating
in the education process for all members.

I'm glad to see more people starting to use the list, and I want to
invite everyone, Come on in, it's not that bad! "

[Lisa Rogers, Mon, 30 Jan 1995]

     --- from list marxism at ---

More information about the Marxism mailing list