Remembering Richard Flint

This article was published in the University of Sussex alumni magazine Falmer in 2007

The University of Sussex has always flaunted its radicalism. It was inevitable that it would eventually attract to its student body someone who would challenge that radicalism and expose its limitations. Richard Flint was expelled in 1979, with his friend Shaun Fensom, the first undergraduate to be ejected on non- academic grounds, after a campaign Richard spearheaded as libertarian socialist Union President to abolish preliminary exams for science students spiralled into a campus insurrection. But by the time he left, he had already influenced many of his contemporaries, a kind of supernumerary Sussex tutor, augmenting our studies with a syllabus of mass meetings and situationist happenings, punctuated by parties without end in buildings occupied by protestors. At the centre of all this activity, this fearsomely bright man resisted the temptations that snare many natural leaders: he never took himself seriously or fell into the sectarian squabbling that weakened the left, even engaging in friendly dialogue with Tories during those polarised years.

Those of us lucky enough
to remain close to Richard – who completed his education at McGill University in Montreal and worked 
in Canada as a journalist, before returning to the UK to spend many years at the International Transport Workers’ Federation – found we had a teacher for life. He introduced us to the Internet. He drew our attention to forgotten conflicts. And he taught us, by his own example, that long, cruel physical decline – in his case inflicted by a neurological condition – needn’t be a cause for self-pity or surrender.

Catherine Mayer