By Professor Mammo Muchie, his former MPhil student
I heard of the passing away of our truly beloved Robin Murray from my long-time friend, Gwen Sullivan, to whom Gordon White had introduced me when I was a DPhil student in 1984. I was unable to speak upon hearing the tragic news, several days after Robin had passed away. Upon hearing the pain in my silence, Gwen gently asked: “Mammo, you didn’t know?” How I wish I had known about his illness and kept in touch with him. His spirit has always been with me, though I have not seen him physically for a long time. The sadness in my heart and soul still remains deep. Why had no one told me?
How I wish I had seen him one last time: It would surely have helped me to learn how to cope with my continued feeling of hurt about the loss of this vigilant, unique, critical, organic intellectual, who stood fearlessly for the wellbeing of humanity, with justice for those who continue to be exploited by the unjust capitalist system that still dominates the global economy today.
Robin Murray has always stood for the un-served, for those at the bottom of the pyramid. He has always found thoughts and ways to enable, entitle, empower and anchor them in an economic system that multiplies their wellbeing, rather than subtracts from it.
Robin stood firmly and unequivocally for social justice and humanity throughout his life. To take one illustrative example: the amount of resources Africa has can make all Africans millionaires, but a huge amount of Africa’s resources continues to be stolen. Robin Murray was a towering intellectual, who stood for arranging social-economic, value, and knowledge systems to stop such massive theft of Africa’s natural resource wealth.
I have been truly lucky to have found him to be my mentor. I learned a lot when I not only read Marx’s Das Capital, but also had the opportunity to teach IDS Masters students who were studying this classic work. Robin was my MPhil supervisor, and with his creative guidance, I was able to write a thesis that earned a triple first. The main argument, both theoretical and empirical, was to do transactions without making money a tyranny over the entire trade and market value chain. Later, Robin joined the Municipality of the City of London as the Chief Economic Director under Mayor Ken Livingstone. At that time, he informed me of creative ways that he had applied some of my ideas. That was Robin: He would listen to your ideas and see possibilities for transforming policies, systems and our world.
Robin was to be my DPhil supervisor, but when he went to work at the City of London, he asked Chris Freeman from SPRU to be my supervisor and Raphie Kaplinsky to be my co-supervisor. It is Robin who introduced me to Chris Freeman. That was the best gift, as Chris Freeman was truly unusual in the way he supported and cared for me. Raphie Kaplinsky has been also very supportive and I sincerely appreciate all his positive encouragement all along throughout.Through Robin, I was also able to access Ken Livingstone, who then gave the keynote address in the Science, Technology and Society Programme I led at Middlesex University.
Robin facilitated my entry into IDS in 1979. When Worku Gebeyehu was in Khartoum, Robin helped the radical students, who were fleeing from the military regime in Ethiopia, to find support. When we started the Committee to Help Ethiopian Exiles and Refugees (CHEER) in Brighton, Robin, Gordon, and over 50 IDS staff and students became members. We raised funds, books, clothes and all sorts of resources to support young people who faced red terror and therefore fled from Ethiopia. We facilitated ways for them to move out of the danger zone from the Horn of Africa area. This would not have happened without the great and committed support of our beloved Robin. We started with CHEER to found the Ethiopian Community in Britain with Getachew Alemayehu, who continued to help Ethiopians who were forced to migrate and settle in Britain.
Truly, Robin has played a special role in my life and without his contribution I would not be the professor I am today. I owe very much to Robin the work I have been doing for many years by producing high quality post-graduates by founding the post-graduate academy, doctoral colloquiums, post-doc mentorship and graduating many doctoral students in South Africa and the rest of Africa.
Robin, for me, is still alive as long as all of us are here, and afterwards, his enduring legacy will continue to live on through the young people we mentor and through the readers of our work. The African rich humane value of Ubuntu keeps Robin alive. He is us and we are him, when we continue without fail to appreciate and celebrate how his life and inspiring intellectual journey influence and shape our lives. His physical absence does not remove his presence: his enduring legacy that we cannot forget, a legacy that beats the fear of time remains forever strong and radiant. Robin lives on, as what he did is forever memorable and unforgettable. There is a Robin in all he touched and influenced deeply, and we all that he touched deeply are also in Robin. Let us continue to treasure his extraordinary legacy in all spheres of life. Let us find inspiration in his original, critical, reflective, analytical, and creative insights and knowledge; his rich engagement; his curiosity, scepticism and sense of wonder. Robin will live forever so long as what he left behind endures in all of us.