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End of an Elite

R.W. Johnson, 21 March 1996

SlovoThe Unfinished Autobiography 
by Joe Slovo.
Hodder, 253 pp., £18.99, February 1996, 0 340 66566 1
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... When Joe Slovo died in 1995 his body was carried on an army gun carriage through Soweto in post-apartheid South Africa’s first state funeral. Forty thousand people sat through the long tributes in Orlando Stadium, the ANC high-ups arriving in Nyala armoured cars. Impala jets – developed by sanctions-struck South Africa to fight the likes of Slovo – flew overhead in salute ...
... objective,’ and Gwala himself has publicly reiterated his defence of Stalin. To be fair, Joe Slovo, the SACP General Secretary, issued a statement in which he described events in the USSR as ‘very disturbing’ and expressed the hope that ‘the fresh winds of reformed socialism, which President Gorbachev so courageously unleashed ... will not ...

South Africa’s Left

Martin Plaut, 8 March 1990

... finds itself legal once more, much to its own amazement. ‘I am completely dumbstruck,’ said Joe Slovo, the SACP’s general secretary, when the news was broken to him in the VIP lounge of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. The Left is in remarkably good shape for a movement that has been hounded for decades. The red flag is now an indispensable part ...
... and Ruth First (‘a tremendously able woman but very arrogant – and very tough’). He also met Joe Slovo, today the SACP leader and the dominating figure on the ANC’s team in the early negotiations with de Klerk. Joe used to go everywhere with Ruth First [whom he married] and my brother-in-law, Barney ...

Magical Socialism

R.W. Johnson, 5 August 1993

... have allowed their party membership to lapse, while others, notably the party chairman, Joe Slovo, have given priority to non-party work within the ANC or Cosatu. Slovo stands at the very heart of the ANC-SACP relationship. He is the ANC’s chief strategist and the architect of all its major policy ...

An Unreliable Friend

R.W. Johnson: Nelson Mandela, 19 August 1999

Mandela: The Authorised Biography 
by Anthony Sampson.
HarperCollins, 500 pp., £24.99, May 1999, 0 00 255829 7
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... makes no mention of these fronts. When it comes to the drafting of the Charter itself we get Joe Slovo’s famous line about how ‘tens of thousands of scraps of paper came flooding in,’ as if the Charter was really put together on that basis. Initially, Sampson suggests that its author was the black academic, Z.K. Matthews, but he goes on to ...

Getting together

Heribert Adam, 14 June 1990

... opposed to ANC hegemony. The leader of a past Stalinist party as Mandela’s right-hand man – Joe Slovo, that is to say – obsesses white South Africa. In fact, dedicated, bright SACP members occupy most of the influential positions in the ANC and the Unions as a separate vanguard underground. Disclosure of its secret membership, which would be ...

The Logic of Nuremberg

Mahmood Mamdani: Nuremberg’s Logic, 7 November 2013

... meeting of negotiators appointed by all parties. As the ANC prepared to make historic concessions, Joe Slovo, the general secretary of the Communist Party, wrote an article in the party journal, the African Communist, proposing a power-sharing arrangement. As part of the deal, the bureaucracy of the ancien régime (including the police, the military and ...

Apartheid’s Apocalypse

R.W. Johnson, 3 July 1986

South Africa without Apartheid 
by Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley.
California, 315 pp., £15.25, July 1986, 0 520 05769 4
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Move your shadow: South Africa Black and White 
by Joseph Lelyveld.
Joseph, 390 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 7181 2661 0
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Capitalism and Apartheid: South Africa 1910-1984 
by Merle Lipton.
Gower/Temple Smith, 448 pp., £18.50, September 1985, 0 85117 248 2
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The Militarisation of South African Politics 
by Kenneth Grundy.
Tauris, 133 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 1 85043 019 5
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... states to be surprised by.The real conundrum is the ANC. There is no doubt that Communists such as Joe Slovo do play a powerful role within the exile leadership. Nor is there any doubt that men like Slovo are old-style Leninist-Stalinists: Slovo, for example, has no time for ...


R.W. Johnson, 20 October 1994

... until eventually Dullah declared that he had never actually made the offending speech. Similarly, Joe Modise, the Minister of Defence, denounced Israel, announced the purchase of corvettes for the Navy, and tried to censor a newspaper, all without Cabinet consent. The Ministry of Administration ceded control of the country’s water resources to the provinces ...

Could it have been different?

Roger Southall: R.W. Johnson’s South Africa, 8 October 2009

South Africa’s Brave New World: The Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid 
by R.W. Johnson.
Allen Lane, 701 pp., £25, April 2009, 978 0 7139 9538 1
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... histories of the ANC might have saved him from such egregious errors as his assertion that Joe Slovo and Ruth First, leading members of the then underground SACP, catapulted their ‘protégé’ Nelson Mandela to the leadership of the ANC, thereby ensuring that the armed struggle and the Communists would dominate the party for the next three ...
... party of the ANC crown prince, Thabo Mbeki. There, glass in hand, stand the Communist leader, Joe Slovo, the billionaire hotel king, Sol Kerzner, and sundry other captains of finance and industry. The most interesting thing about the photo is that, quite clearly, none of those in it feels embarrassed by the company he now keeps. More than ever one ...


Jenny Diski: On Not Liking South Africa, 3 July 2008

... government to conceal the hostels from passing white eyes. And there were the tin shacks of Joe Slovo informal settlement (the government-approved name for ‘shanty towns’), where, by arrangement, I was invited to look around while a young woman sat on a bed texting as her mother stood outside with a small stall of bracelets and beads to sell to ...

Lions, Princes, Bosses

R.W. Johnson, 15 August 1991

... of tribute is going to seem pretty silly. The leadership strode onto the stage. The SACP leader, Joe Slovo, took up the chairman’s position in the middle of the front row – an astonishingly confident gesture for a white man in such a black conference. Next to him sat Trevor Huddleston, who opened the conference with a prayer: ‘Comrades, let us ...

Mandela: Death of a Politician

Stephen W. Smith: Mandela, the Politician, 9 January 2014

... unity for the five years following democratic elections – proposed in 1992 by the SACP leader, Joe Slovo. In this regard, the outrageous decision by the jury in Oslo to award the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 jointly to Mandela and de Klerk, the forgiving victim and the penitent perpetrator, made perfect political sense. The apartheid regime was ...

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