George Shriver 1936 – 2020

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George Van Bibber Shriver, Junior
December 5, 1936 – April 24, 2020

Obituary by JENNIFER SHRIVER

George Van Bibber Shriver Jr. passed away in his sleep on April 24, 2020. His loss is felt by many.

George’s life traversed continents, physically and conceptually, from his birthplace in India, to his professional work in Russian and Soviet politics and history, to his commitment to international solidarity and fundamental social change in the United States.

He was born in India on December 5th, 1936, in Singareni Collieries — now Andhra Pradesh, India — to Catherine Tallmadge Humphreyville Shriver and Rev. George Van Bibber Shriver, Sr. George and Katie were born in India as George’s father, Shriver Sr., was an Episcopalian missionary.

With his parents and his older sister Catherine Tallmadge Shriver (Scott), George moved to Maryland from India in 1945, largely in response to India’s uprising movement for independence. He spent his youth in Maryland, where he attended and graduated from the Gilman School for Boys in Baltimore in 1954. As an undergraduate, he attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. During this time, he met and fell in love with his future wife, Ellen Preston Robinson (Shriver). He transferred to Harvard University in 1957 and graduated with a major in Russian and Eastern European Languages in 1960.

In his college years, George travelled with friends to Portland, Oregon, a transformative journey where he worked as a Longshoreman, explored his dreams of becoming an actor, and became active in socialist politics. Returning to the East Coast, George and Ellen were married December 30, 1959. The young couple then moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where George pursued a Master’s Degree in Russian and Eastern European Studies. Their daughter Jennifer was born in Bloomington in April 1962.

George had a deep calling for justice and wished for a fair and kind economic system that would uplift the spirit and condition of humanity. He followed this calling throughout his life.

During his time in Bloomington, George organized a chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, seeking to discourage U.S. aggression against the new people’s government in Cuba. He and his wife, Ellen, were so involved that they became known as “Mr. and Mrs. Fair Play.”

In the early 1960’s, George and his family moved to New York City, where he wrote for the Militant newspaper and Intercontinental Press, and was an active member of the Socialist Workers Party. Over the next decades, with his colleagues and comrades, George was part of a team that translated the diaries and letters of Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Russian (Soviet) Revolution of 1917.

During the 1960’s, George worked as an editor for Macmillan Publishing, contributing to several English-language dictionary projects. In the early 1970s, he began his career as a self-employed Russian translator, working from his family home on Cape Cod in Sandwich, Massachusetts. During this time, George and his family were active in the movement against the Vietnam War.

While his primary contributions were made in writing and publishing, George was active in progressive movements, protests, and demonstrations throughout his life.

During the 1970s and 80’s, George was also active in the Sandwich Men’s Tennis League, enjoyed swimming, canoeing, ice-skating, and family gatherings featuring Indian curries at his mother’s home on Wakeby Lake in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Friends from “the city” often came to visit the family house at 7 Liberty Street in Sandwich.

In the early 1990’s, following his divorce from Ellen, George moved to Tucson Arizona, where he continued to be active in political action locally, and worked for a national Labor Party, while continuing his professional translation work. During his time in Tucson, George enjoyed time in the outdoors, especially Sabino Canyon. He served as the president of his cooperative housing organization for several years, and was also active in his 12-step recovery community.

His survivors include his daughter, Jennifer Marie Shriver, his son-in-law Eric Browder Blough, and his grandchildren Sean and Sage of Boulder, Colorado; his ex-wife Ellen Preston Robinson Shriver, of Boulder, Colorado; his friends and 12-step community in Tucson, Arizona, and many beloved cousins, family, and friends.

George was known for his scholarly and exhaustive attention to detail, his depth of knowledge of 20th century Russian, Soviet, and Eastern European history, and his care for faithful translation and accuracy of language. His work was published by Columbia University Press, Pathfinder Press, and others. Due to his father’s rejection of George’s values and protectionist approach to the family name, for many years George wrote under the byline and pseudonym George Saunders.

Through his life, George continued to seek justice and cared deeply for people and human goodness.

His family, friends, comrades, and community look forward to sharing stories about him for years to come.

A celebration of life is being planned, probably to take place in early June through the online platform Zoom. Contact Jennifer.M.Shriver@gmail.com to contribute or to participate.

In recognition of his life’s work and family history, we ask that donations be made in his honor to Socialist Action, for publication of an issue of the magazine including a recognition and celebration of his life and work. We also gratefully appreciate donations in George’s honor to the charity of your choice. Please let us know of these donations so that we can recognize and appreciate them.

His political and professional writings and translations include:

  • Articles and editing for the Bulletin In Defense of Marxism, Labor Standard, Socialist Action, the Militant, and Intercontinental Press.
  • Samizdat, Voices of the Soviet Opposition, ed. by George Saunders (Shriver), (Monad Press,1974)
  • Writings 1930-31 (Writings of Leon Trotsky) G. Saunders (Shriver), Sarah Lovell, George Breitman, (Pathfinder Press, 1974)
  • The Challenge of the Left Opposition 1923-25, by Leon Trotsky, ed. by G. Saunders (Shriver), N. Allen, (Pathfinder Press, 1975)
  • Leon Trotsky, “Deportation from the Soviet Union,” in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1929, ed. George Breitman and Sarah Lovell, trans. George Saunders (Shriver) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1975)
  • Portraits, political & personal, by Leon Trotsky; edited by George Breitman and George Saunders, (Shriver), (Pathfinder Press, 1977)
  • The Challenge of the Left Opposition 1926-1926, by Leon Trotsky, ed. Naomi Allen and George Saunders, (Shriver), (Pathfinder Press, 1980)
  • An End to Silence, Uncensored Opinion in the Soviet Union, From Roy Medvedev’s Underground Magazine ”Political Diary,” Edited and With Introductions by Stephen F. Cohen, Translated by George Saunders (W.W. Norton & Co. 1982)
  • Let History Judge, the Origins and Consequences of Stalinism, Roy Aleksandrovich Medvedev, translated by George Shriver, (Columbia University Press, 1989) How It All Began – The Prison Novel, Nikolai Bukharin, Introduction by Stephen F. Cohen. Translated by George Shriver, (Columbia University Press 1999)
  • Khrushchev, in Power: Unfinished Reforms, 1961–1964, Sergei Khrushchev Trans. George Shriver, (Lynne Reinner Publishers 2014)
  • The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, Volume II.
  • Economic Writings 2, Edited by Peter Hudis and Paul Le Blanc, Translated by Nicholas Gray and George Shriver, (Verso, 2016)
  • The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg. VolumeIII:
  • Political Writings 1: On Revolution 1897-1905. London, Verso, 2019. Edited by Peter Hudis, Axel Fair-Schultz, and William A. Pelz. Translated by George Shriver, Alicja Mann, and Henry Holland. Pp. 557 + xxvii. ISBN: 9781786635334.
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