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Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid Paperback – July 1, 2013


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Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid + Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography--The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa + Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press (July 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583673563
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583673560
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,492,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Demonized by apartheid, Joe and Ruth were revolutionary heroes for black South Africans. They were formidable opponents in word and deed. This absorbing account does them justice and illuminates the complexity and richness of their often stormy relationship and extraordinary times.”-Ronnie Kasrils,Anti-apartheid leader and solidarity activist; former Minister of Intelligence in South Africa; auth

“Wieder’s book enlarges and enriches our understanding of the lives of First and Slovo, their intense and turbulent relationship, their personalities and impact on others, and their various roles as lawyer, journalist, underground operative, researcher, teacher, author, political and military leader, negotiator and cabinet minister. The evocation of the Johannesburg left during the 1950s—Gillian Slovo called them her parents’ Camelot years—is vivid and well-observed.”-Colin Bundy,Former Principal of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford

“Ruth First and Joe Slovo emerge from this book as flesh and blood human beings facing monumentally difficult decisions…This book evokes a vital period which became a focus of myth-making rather than the kind of clear-eyed, honest history Ruth and Joe would each have ultimately have deemed essential.”-Dan O’Meara,Author, Volkskapitalisme, and coauthor, The Struggle for South Africa

“Focusing on the lives of the colorful and contradictory revolutionaries Ruth First and Joe Slovo, Wieder provides detail and context, personality and character to one of the epic struggles of all time. This book is a gripping social history, a love song to the revolution, and a passionate and enlightening portrait of a partnership, a love-affair, and two extraordinary activists who cast their fates with the dreams of people everywhere for justice and freedom.”-Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn,

“Alan Wieder has plunged into their past of domestic and political struggle to share their story with the scope, context, and detail that it deserves. And we all will appreciate his commitment and style in critically respecting their contributions and bringing this dynamic duo alive as the complex, loving and caring people they were.”-Danny Schechter,Founder and Director of “South Africa Now”, Director of six films on Nelson Mandela

From the Author

Though I clearly do not own the truth on Ruth First or Joe Slovo, this book represents my description and interpretation of their stories in the struggle against apartheid. Ruth First and Joe Slovo were both leaders among leaders. They had different styles. They had different roles in the struggle. Their complex and vital places in the fight for a democratic South Africa need to be portrayed for the people that knew them, and more important for those who have come after
them, both in South Africa and throughout the world.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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While there are more detailed accounts of SACP politics and the broader politics of the ANC's struggle against the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa, Wieder has managed to provide deep insight into their roles as Communists and strugglers for national liberation, using the oral history techniques for which he is rightly famous. The book could have been made authoritative by consulting SCAP and ANC archives more fully, but that probably would have made a 2-3,000-word work of authoritative history. All in all it is a sound introduction to the subject which I would highly recommend.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Susan Gzesh on September 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fascinating inside view of the development of the struggle against apartheid and the role two Jewish communists played in it. The narrative traces the paths taken by Ruth First and Joe Slovo as wel as their lifelong friendships with Mandela and other ANC leaders from their years as university students together through Mandela's election and the first years of the post-apartheid period.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Constant Reader on December 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the days after Nelson Mandela's death I began searching for some in-depth histories of South Africa's long struggle against apartheid and was lucky to find Alan Wieder's remarkable book about Ruth First and Joe Slovo, two white South African revolutionaries and the leading lights of that country's Communist Party. So many people gave their lives to a revolution that sadly remains unfinished. Ruth and Joe were among the principal players who must be remembered for their supreme dedication, their daring actions, and their own political evolution over the decades. Wieder has given us an astonishing story, skilfully told.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great telling of the lives of two true revolutionaries, Joe Slovo and Ruth First, who were married. They fought all their lives for a humane just society in apartheid South Africa. Unfortunately Ruth did not see the eventual triumph of the ANC-SACP alliance in 1994, as she was hideously murdered by the brutal Afrikaaner regime. Wieder's history touches on the politics as well as personal lives of both, and he does not shy away from recounting their blind spots and personal prejudices, as well as their evident failings as parents. Many sacrifices had to be made in the struggle against institutionalized racism, though the US media makes Nelson Mandela appear to be the only person who suffered for his beliefs. The fact that both First and Slovo were white Jews who espoused communism probably explains why Americans are kept ignorant of their contributions to ending apartheid, since we're brainwashed into believing communism only did bad things during the Cold War. The fact is America's hero Reagan actively supported racist apartheid while true heroes like Castro and Gorbachev supported the anti-apartheid forces.
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More About the Author

Alan Wieder is an oral historian who lives in Portland, Oregon. Since 1999 he has worked on oral histories of political resistance in apartheid South Africa. He spent over twenty years on the faculty of the University of South Carolina and has also taught at the University of Western Cape in South Africa. His forthcoming book is on South African freedom fighters Ruth First and Joe Slovo.

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