Red Wedge lost a friend and supporter this past week when Matthew Caygill died. Matthew was a longtime fixture in the British socialist movement and most recently was involved in Left Unity. He was a keen thinker and well-known as a warm and dedicated comrade. His nearest and dearest have our sincerest condolences.
Matthew was also someone fascinated with the intersection of arts and radical politics. When those of us with RW first encountered him, it was on panel at the Historical Materialism conference in London where he spoke on the connections between the Beatles and the left of the 1960’s, a topic far too often unacknowledged past the most general discussions of John Lennon’s post-Beatles days. In fact, it was the topic of the culture and the Left in the Sixties to which he was dedicating his PhD studies.
He was also someone who had intended to contribute to Red Wedge. Back in May he had agreed to write a review and critique of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, the film based on J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same name. His last communication with us was regarding his contribution to a panel on the popular avant-garde that RW was submitting to this year’s London H.M. conference. Matthew’s paper was to be titled “The Radical Imagination of the British Left in the 1960’s: Confronting the Popular Avant-Garde.” That we won’t know what exactly he would have said in either piece is just a small illustration of what has been lost with his passing.
The video above was taken this past February, and features Matthew speaking on a topic somewhat adjacent to that of his H.M. paper. (Those outside the U.K. may have to let their ears acclimated to the Leeds accent a bit.) It highlights the deep, complex relationship between culture and radical politics. Moreover, it illustrates how culture is a battleground the Left should be contesting, one in which the idea of a radically different world can be itself illustrated vividly. Matthew believed wholeheartedly in this, and that there was a whole history to be reclaimed in service of it. – The Editor
Matthew Caygill was a longtime socialist activist, writer and Marxist historian based in the U.K. He was a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University was for a time an editor at Historical Materialism journal.