H amza Alavi, Pakistani Marxist thinker and democratic activist, passed away on December 1 at the age of 82. By training an economist and sociologist, he made a profound contribution to socio-political and economic thinking by applying his deep and comprehensive knowledge of Marxian theory to contemporary developments in Pakistan. He won international recognition for his thesis on peasant revolution. In Pakistan, his ideas on feudalism, nationhood, the salariat (a term he coined), the freedom movement, the role of the bureaucracy and army in politics were much admired.

As a young man, he left a State Bank job to take up farming in Tanzania where he lived among peasantry. Later in London, he blossomed as an activist. For five years he edited Pakistan Today in which various issues were analyzed from the Left’s perspective. The journal was circulated secretively in Pakistan, since the Pakistani establishment disapproved of it. He admired the tradition of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and argued for a rational, liberal interpretation of the Quran. He became a founder-member of CARD (Campaign against Racial Discrimination), an organization formed to fight racism.

The Left and democratic movement the world over and in particular those in India will mourn his loss deeply.