Christopher Agamemnon Pallis (2 December 1923, in Bombay - 10 March 2005, in London) was an Anglo-Greek neurologist and libertarian socialist intellectual. Under the pen-names Martin Grainger and Maurice Brinton, he wrote and translated for the British group Solidarity from 1960 until the early 1980s. As a neurologist, he produced the accepted criteria for brainstem death, and wrote the entry on death for Encyclopædia Britannica.
Chris Pallis was born to a prominent Anglo-Greek family, "of whose intellectual achievements he was always extremely proud". The poet Alexandros Pallis was a great-uncle, and so the writers Marietta Pallis and Marco Pallis were also relatives. His father Alex was general manager of the family firm of merchant bankers, Ralli Brothers; when he retired, he returned from India to settle in Switzerland. Educated there, Chris Pallis became fluent in French, English and Greek.
In 1940 the family managed to take the last boat out of France, and settled in England. Pallis went up to study medicine at Balliol College, Oxford in 1941. Joining the Communist Party of Great Britain, he was quickly expelled for criticising its policy on the Second World War, and became a member of the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party.
In 1947 he married Jeanne Marty, a working-class French university student, and for a decade he dropped out of politics to pursue his medical career. In 1957 he joined the Trotskyist group led by Gerry Healy, the Club, which in 1959 became the Socialist Labour League. He was expelled by Healy in 1960 and with a group of other ex-members of the SLL immediately set up Solidarity. Like a number of other former members of the SLL he was also involved with the journal International Socialism in the early 1960s.
For the next 20 years, he combined a distinguished medical career under his real name with pseudonymous revolutionary socialist writing and translation. When he was outed for his use of the name Martin Grainger in such left wing journals as the New Statesman, he changed his pseudonym. Subsequently his boss, Christopher Booth, defended him from further press criticism, saying he was a fine neurologists entitled to his own political views.
His work includes several eyewitness accounts of key moments in European left politics (the Belgian general strike of 1960, Paris in May 1968, Portugal's Carnation Revolution in 1974-75), a substantial body of English translations of the work of Cornelius Castoriadis, the main thinker of the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie, and two short books - one (The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control, 1970) on the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution, and one (The Irrational in Politics, 1974) on sexual politics.
The publishers of a recent online edition of The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control describe it as follows:
The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control is a remarkable pamphlet by Maurice Brinton exposing the struggle that took place over the running of workplaces in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution. In doing so not only does it demolish the romantic Leninist 'history' of the relationship between the working class and their party during these years (1917-21) but it also provides a backbone to understanding why the Russian revolution failed in the way it did. From this understanding flows alternative possibilities of revolutionary organisation and some 26 years after the original was written this is perhaps its greatest contribution today. For this reason alone this text deserves the greatest possible circulation today and we encourage you to link to it, download the text or otherwise circulate it.
Chris Pallis died in March 2005.