JOE’S FIRST IMPRESSION of Ruth was that she and her intellectual friends at the University of the Witwatersrand were “just too big for their boots.” It was 1946, Joe was just returning from the army and the Second World War, and Ruth was in the midst of her social science studies at the university. They were both engaged in political protests and actions through the Communist Party of South Africa,already committed militants and engaged intellectuals, each looking toward a life of struggle for justice and equality.
RUTH FIRST IS BURIED in Llanguene Cemetery in a dusty Mozambican suburb. Her grave lies next to those of other members of the African National Congress who were killed by the apartheid government in a 1981 raid, referred to as the Matola Massacre, where South African soldiers in blackface committed cold-blooded murder. Ruth’s killing was no less brutal: the South African regime sent a letter bomb that detonated in her hands and sent shrapnel into the bodies of her colleagues at Eduardo Mondlane University. Joe Slovo is one of two white South Africans that lie in rest at Avalon Cemetery in Soweto, one of Johannesburg’s massive black townships. His funeral, a national event, took place before a crowd of over 40,000 people packed into Orlando Stadium, home of Soweto’s premier soccer club, where he was eulogized by among others, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Cyril Harris.
John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review and author, most recently, of The Endless Crisis (with Robert W. McChesney), gave an address at the closing plenary of the Left Forum on June 9, 2013, in New York City. He was joined by Alvaro Garcia Linera, Vice President of Bolivia; Catherine Mulder, John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY and CUNY’s Murphy Institute; and Tadzio Muller, political scientist, climate justice activist, and translator, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
Ruth First and Joe Slovo, husband and wife, were leaders of the war to end apartheid in South Africa. Communists, scholars, parents, and uncompromising militants, they were the perfect enemies for the white police state. Together they were swept up in the growing resistance to apartheid, and together they experienced repression and exile. Their contributions to the liberation struggle, as individuals and as a couple, are undeniable. This book, the first extended biography of Ruth First and Joe Slovo, is a remarkable account of one couple and the revolutionary moment in which they lived. Alan Wieder’s heavily researched work draws on the usual primary and secondary sources but also an extensive oral history that he has collected over many years. By intertwining the documentary record with personal interviews, Wieder portrays the complexities and contradictions of this extraordinary couple and their efforts to navigate a time of great tension, upheaval, and revolutionary hope.
Joe Slovo and Ruth First. We are entering their paths. Both grew up unbelievers in Jewish or any religious faith. They met when Ruth was at the University of the Witwatersrand, Joe just returned from the South African Army in the war against Nazi Germany. His motivation for volunteering, eighteen years old, unemployed, lying about being underage for military call-up—his early alliance with communism, and so to the Soviet Union under attack—was decisive in the act. But there remained the devastating racial dilemma in South Africa. He wrote: “How do you tell a black man to make his peace with General Smuts—butcher of Bulhoek and the Bondelswarts?”
One Day in December shows that Sanchez’s greatness was the greatness of thousands. Likewise, it recasts the other leaders in a similar light. Castro’s leadership role is obvious, but he depended on Sanchez and her networks to operate. Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos led famous guerrilla contingents, but they were dependent on the peasants who made up these columns, their guides, and the local underground networks that helped them establish new revolutionary structures as they liberated towns. This is the real strength of One Day in December … a book that should be read for all those who want to truly understand the Cuban revolution.
What happens when farm workers try to form unions? Bruce Neuburger in Lettuce Wars: Ten Years Of Work And Struggle In The Fields Of California has answers in a memoir of sympathy, solidarity, and wry humor. Upon losing a job as a cook in 1971, the author migrated to the Salinas Valley, a vast agribusiness area in the Golden State where the maltreatment of farm laborers—a tale of long, precarious hours for low pay—does not stop when the working day ends. Their national and racial oppression in the U.S. is 24/7.
Horace Campbell is the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. In this Op-Ed for Ceasefire, he writes: “When the New York Times and the Washington Post reported in early June 2013 that the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had discussed with President Obama the possibility of establishing a military training mission for Libya, it was one small indication of the massive breakdown of normal life that had taken place in Libya.”
This political memoir of workers’ struggles in the fields of California raises the key question of whether the ‘American Way of Life was, and is, only possible because the intense, cruel exploitation of some sustains the privileged lives of others’ (p.121). Neuburger’s book is part political memoir and part political analysis of the struggle for rights in the 1970s in the vegetable and fruit fields of California, and is a valuable contribution to the history of American political and economic radicalism.
Nancy Stout has treated the reader to an exhilarating biography of Celia Sanchez, recording her vital contribution to the revolutionary struggle and the socialist state in Cuba. This is long overdue. While many supporters of the Cuban Revolution will have heard about Celia and her close relationship with Fidel Castro, few will have understood or appreciated the role she played … With the captivating power of a good novel, but based on ten years of archival research and interviews, Stout first introduces us to Celia’s comfortable life in Pilón, a small rural town in sugar-plantation country.
Chip Smith is an economist and author of The Cost of Privilege. He was interviewed on Cumberland County Progressives TV (North Carolina) by host Nancy Shakir on the topic “Growing a Sustainable Economy.” In this video, Chip discusses the contributions made by Monthly Review authors and publications toward an understanding of monopoly capitalism, particularly The Endless Crisis by John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, The Great Financial Crisis by Foster and Fred Magdoff, and Monopoly Capital by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy.
Horace Campbell is the author of Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya: Lessons for Africa in the Forging of African Unity, new from Monthly Review Press. He was interviewed by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!, discussing his book, Obama’s trip to Africa, Nelson Mandela, and more.
If it weren’t bad enough that the U.S. has imposed an illegal embargo against Cuba for over 50 years, it has also tried to prevent those interested in learning about this embargo (more accurately termed a blockade because the U.S. aggressively enforces it against third countries to stop them from trading with the island) from reading Salim Lamrani’s new book, The Economic War Against Cuba. Thus, according to Opera Mundi, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Office Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) the government agency tasked with enforcing the blockade against Cuba seized the funds a British NGO, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, attempted to wire to purchase 100 copies of this book from Monthly Review Press.
In his book Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, Horace Campbell argues that Nato is “the instrument through which the capitalist class of North America and Europe seeks to impose its political will on the rest of the world, however warped by the increasingly outmoded neoliberal form of capitalism”. Within the peace and justice movement, the author argued that although Muammar al-Gaddafi should be opposed, “it was equally necessary to oppose the NATO intervention” (p. 10). For the author, Nicolas Sarkozy was the champion of the “uprisings” but at the end it has not paid off politically for him. Although colonialism has formally ended some decades ago, France is still considered the gendarme of Europe in Africa.
Now in its 15th year, Coachella is the highest-grossing festival in the world. For the region it’s a quarter-billion-dollar revenue generator, which outstrips Jamaica’s GDP on an annual basis. Tickets run up to $800, luxury Safari tents top out at $6,500, and everything costs: parking, water, showers, even charging phones. The dominant tribe is money-flush youth with the will to endure three sleepless days of being mashed in a delicious sound taco of Indie rock. But Coachella is also the modern incarnation of medieval carnivals that revealed “another way of life that stood in stark contrast to the austerity and fixed hierarchy of the official order,” notes Al Sandine in The Taming of the American Crowd.