An obituary too soon: Carl Hornsey (1977-2015)


I knew Carl during our student activist days. I can still recollect our intense political conversation in a noisy upstairs room of a London pub that led to him joining the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty in 1997, of which he was a member for around two to three years. His politics remained firmly on the Left throughout his life. He would later define as a social democrat. He vehemently opposed religion and US hegemony, and he thought deeply about capitalism, alienation, and the struggle to live an enriched life in a society laden with oppression. Carl was an internationalist who valued his connection (through his late mother) to Sweden, and to his second home of the Lebanon.

Carl was part of a wave of young people who joined Workers’ Liberty around the same time as me – as such, he formed an integral part of my close comradeship and friendship circle, which also included his best friend Fay, Daniella, and Helen. In an unusual ebb and flow, more ebb than flow, everyone who joined at that time eventually left, bar me. What we shared stays with me: the exuberance of finding political expression to our anger at oppression and exploitation, and the emotional vigour and drama of fighting the right-wing. Back then all was at stake vis-à-vis the right to free education. It was in 1997 that the Dearing Report came out, and the marketisation of higher education was hailed in. We were fighting against this, Carl was fighting against this – in the Campaign for Free Education, in the NUS against the New Labour students, and on street demonstrations.

I remember Carl as an emotionally and politically nuanced and sensitive, attuned and caring, and dynamic person. I remember Carl as someone who had the ability to make me feel like what I was saying was worthy of being heard. I remember Carl as someone with integrity, as someone who gave a damn about injustice and pain in the world.

When Carl died in December 2015 he had alcohol-related advanced liver disease. I hope that he didn’t feel alone. The world we live in can be so cruel and relentless in its suffering. I don’t think we talk about that enough, even those of us fighting to change it.