[Marxism] John Devere Severn (1935-2019)

Alan Ginsberg ginsberg.alan1 at gmail.com
Tue Dec 31 13:21:43 MST 2019

John joined the Young Socialist Alliance in Seattle and was part of the
Kirk-Kaye tendency which left the Socialist Workers Party in 1966, and
formed the Freedom Socialist Party (for more on the Kirk-Kaye tendency, see
"Why We Left the Socialist Workers Party" at

As Trotskyist splinters tend to do, the Freedom Socialist Party split into
two parties, each named the Freedom Socialist Party. For a time, John
remained with the FSP that was led by Clara Fraser and still exists. The
other FSP, led by Frank Krasnowsky, was pro-China and Trotskyist-Maoist. It
never reached the critical mass necessary to become a micro-vanguard.

John was a wonderful guy; I feel blessed to have know him and to consider
him a friend.

Here's the obit:

John Devere Severn, born March 19, 1935 in Hunters WA, died December 4,
2019 at his home in Shoreline WA due to complications from COPD. John was
the only child of Justin and Sylvia Severn, who at that time ran a farm
near Corvada WA.

In 1943, they moved to the big city of Spokane and from there to Richland,
where his parents went to work for Hanford, which John always referred to
as the death machine. He graduated from Richland High and went on to the
University of Washington, where he earned a Master’s in History
specializing in the French Revolution.

Not surprisingly, John's basic decency and caring nature—and his
appreciation of logical, fact-based argumentation—led him to the political
left. When called before his draft board in the early fifties, he insisted
that he'd be pleased to serve as long as he could participate in completing
the work of the Civil War by helping integrate the Jim Crow South.

He was won to the idea that, in order to make the world a better place, it
would be necessary to engage the working class; and he joined the Young
Socialist Alliance, youth group of the Socialist Workers Party (at the time
the largest Trotskyist organization in the US).  As the Seattle
correspondent for the YSA's monthly newspaper, John saw himself as a
proletarian intellectual and spent much of his life working on the shop
floors of a series of industrial concerns in the Seattle area.

John was extremely well-read, broadly knowledgeable and happy to share what
he knew. One always left a conversation with John being better informed
about early country music or paleontology or electric power generation or
double-entry bookkeeping—not to mention Marxism, social and political
history, and a raft of other subjects.

For a period following his involvement with the Seattle radical left, John
regarded himself as an anarchist. Subsequently Episcopalianism and, later,
Orthodox Christianity took the place of revolutionary politics in John’s
life. During this time, religious study became the vehicle for John’s
humanity and intellectual curiosity, but John remained a man of the left
with wide-ranging interests.

In 1974, he married Kathy Ingalls of Seattle and they remained together for
45 years, bearing two children between them. John continued to cultivate a
comprehesive knowledge of cooking and gardening. Over the past decade, he
traveled to Barcelona on numerous occasions to visit old friends, make new
ones, and to study the Spanish language and culture. He always relished
good food and coversation with family and friends.

He is survived by his wife, Kathy Ingalls-Severn, his daughters, Thea and
Anna Severn, and by his sons, Joshua Baker and Jacob Severn, as well as
four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in 2020, date and location to be determined.


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