Remembering a Friend

— Mike Davis

Seymour Kramer’s longtime friend Mike Davis wrote the following tribute for the memorial meeting.

FOR SEVERAL YEARS in the 1970s Seymour and I were the smallest political party in the world. I forget whether he was Lenin and I was Trotsky; or perhaps it was Abbot and Costello; but in any event we considered ourselves to be the apostles of regroupment to the Trotskyist left.

As Seymour once said, it was “like St. Francis trying to preach to the crows.” But as thankless as our project was, we nevertheless had lots of fun, drafting manifestos and circulating tracts by a certain Belgian economist. Staying up all night arguing about the Portuguese Revolution or the politics of the New Left Review.

Along with various vagabonds and stray French Trotskyists, I frequently stayed in Seymour’s famous corner loft in the Mission. Once we went to a protest at the I-Hotel. Suddenly the demonstrators started kung-fu fighting amongst themselves. I was alarmed, but Seymour just shrugged. “Hit anyone you like,” he said. “They’re all Maoists.”

This was the period in which Seymour was writing a lot of poetry and composing his famous “Theses on Auerbach.” No, not Fuerbach — Red Auerbach, the coach of the Boston Celtics. It was a brilliant rant about basketball as dance and the NBA’s inability to repress the dialectic of freedom.

Talking about dance, Seymour often boasted that he was the greatest white dancer. It actually might have been true. He was a very graceful man. You couldn’t really take the full measure of his talents until you had seen him play ball or do the Flatbush Shuffle. And there was no better person in the world to go to the movies with, particularly if it was Kubrick or some classic noir.

I hope we will keep telling lots of anecdotes about Seymour and that they will grow into legends. He was outrageously funny and we should treasure his extraordinary wit. But at the end of the day no anecdote or remembrance can truly epitomize our comrade.

He was, as they say, an “incompressible algorithm,”’ one of the most complex people that I’ve ever known.  One of the kindest, one of the most tempestuous; one of the wryest, one of the most serious. So I loved him even if I didn’t fully know him. His death is simply a hole in the world.

May-June 2017, ATC 188

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