JAN 2014 Monday 27TH
A new book on Joe Slovo and Ruth First pays due tribute to an inspirational couple in the struggle for liberation in South Africa, says JOHN HAYLETT
Ruth First And Joe Slovo In The War Against Apartheid by Alan Wieder (Monthly Review Press, £14.50)
Alan Wieder has put his oral history expertise together with already existing material on Ruth First and Joe Slovo to construct a remarkable record of these two heroes of South African emancipation.
When Nelson Mandela went to Camden Town’s Lyme Street to unveil a blue plaque on the house where they lived in exile from 1966 to 1978, he noted their description as freedom fighters.
“This means they were Communists,” he explained to his audience, for some of whom this bluntly positive assessment of a political current that was supposed to be over and done was a little disquieting.
Communist politics brought this couple together and provided the material for fierce discussions, often played out in company.
Both had their Jewish roots in the Russian empire – Slovo being born in Lithuania while First’s parents found their way to South Africa from Lithuania and Latvia.
Working class, he became a despatch clerk at a pharmaceutical firm, where he helped unionise the African workforce and was elected a shop steward…