Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Photograph - University of Cape Town Seminar

This is from the book seminar in mid-July at the University of Cape Town.  The two people whose faces are visible are Sean Field (next to me) and Aslam Fataar.

Orca Bookstore - Olympia, Washington

Look forward to talking about the book Saturday afternoon, 3pm, at Orca Bookstore in Olympia, WA.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Broadway Books Launch

The first book event in the United States was Tuesday night at Broadway Books in Portland.  The event was again more than I could have ever expected.  Over 40 people came and I spoke for about 35 minutes and then people asked wonderful questions.  There were questions and comments from a number of South Africans who live in Oregon & the spirit was energized and thoughtful.  I have to thank Mike Munk and his list serve LastMarx, John Dougherty at Thirsters, Don Wardell of Wanderers, and Bill Bigelow from Rethinking Schools for helping to get the word out.  Finally, thanks to Broadway Books for hosting the event.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Book Event - Orca Books

Saturday, August 31st, 3:00pm -- Alan Wieder, Author of Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid

08/31/2013 3:00 pm
Orca Books is pleased to welcome Alan Wieder to the store on this August afternoon.  Alan Wieder is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina and the author of the new book Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid.
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. Ruth agitated tirelessly for the overthrow of apartheid, first in South Africa and then from abroad, and Joe directed much of the armed struggle carried out by the famous Umkhonto we Sizwe. Only one of them, however, would survive to see the fall of the old regime and the founding of a new, democratic South Africa. 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 deeply researched work draws on the usual primary and secondary sources but also an extensive oral history that he has collected over many years. By weaving the documentary record together 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.
 "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,

"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

Friday, August 16, 2013

Recent Interviews

Since coming home from Portland I have had the privilege to be interviewed locally on three different occasions.  Twice at KBOO -- first by Jan Haaken on The Old Mole Variety Hour and then Gene Bradley on Political Perspectives.  I was also interviewed today by Carl Wolfson.  Links for all three interviews are listed below:
(August 16 show -- start just after 15 end just after 51)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August 14, 2013 Counterpunch Article

At the Red Location Museum

Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

There were five South African launches for my new book on freedom fighters Ruth First and Joe Slovo – Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, two in Cape Town, and finally Port Elizabeth.  It was the latter that provided a political education for the present.  Earlier in our day in Port Elizabeth our host, Allan Zinn, had taken us to the northern campus of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in the Missionvale Township.  We witnessed over 500 high school students participating in a Nelson Mandela day workshop on conflict resolution and the difference between debate and dialogue.  It was both powerful and somewhat chaotic – possibly a foreshadowing of the coming launch.  Our next stop was the Zwide Township and the offices of the Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC), a non-profit that works in conjunction with community organizations and challenges the government from a non-sectarian, socialist platform.  AIDC publishes Amandla.  The evening’s launch was scheduled for a third township, New Brighton.

New Brighton was the location of the infamous murders of the Craddock Four by the apartheid regime.  A massive township, New Brighton is the home of the Red Location Museum, an incomparable hands-on institution that provides a detailed portrayal of the struggle against apartheid in the Eastern Cape.  I was scheduled to talk about Ruth and Joe at the Museum.  The launch was jointly organized by the Centre for the Advancement of Nonracialism and Democracy (CANRAD) and The Herald newspaper and scheduled for 7:00 p.m.  As at the other launches, a bookseller was present and there were approximately 50 copies of my book as well as other struggle histories displayed.  Just before seven I was asked if we could delay events for about 15 minutes because a number of taxis from other townships, Uitenhage, Zwide, and Missionvale, had yet to arrive.  At this point, I understood that this launch would be different.  In Bloemfontein, I had spoken with academics at the University of Free State about the methodology writing Ruth and Joe’s stories. In Johannesburg there were a mix of struggle veterans and other progressive South Africans who attended the Lilliesleaf launch and listened to me speak about why I wrote on Ruth and Joe and the journey of constructing the book.  The Cape Town launches were collective efforts with people that I had interviewed for Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid.  Port Elizabeth was a different scene.

I was to speak first and the respondent was Fieldmore Mapeto who had been an Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) commander and more recently the national organizer of the South African Security Forces Union.  In The Herald the next day, Shaun Gilliams wrote:
Wieder addressed a full house at the museum, while sharing a dialogue with the audience and Fieldmore Mapeto, who is the former regional head of the ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, and museum acting deputy director Mpumezo Ralo.  Wieder spoke at length on various important events in the lives of the late South African Communist Party stalwart and his wife, who was notoriously killed by a letter bomb dispatched by agents of the apartheid government in 1982. Following his address, Wieder opened the floor to questions, many of which revolved around Slovo’s views on socialism in the South African and broader context and the personal and ideological relationship between Slovo and First.
Gilliam’s report contrasts with my memories and reflections.  While he does not misrepresent my role, his article does not adequately portray Fieldmore Mapeto or the people who attended the launch – it was their show and because of that the evening was a mind-opening, political, educational experience.

150 people attended the launch.  Approximately 135 attendees were young, African, men.  One cannot help but ponder the gender disparity of the attendees.  Knowing that Mapeto had been an MK commander and a member of the SACP, I emphasized Joe and Ruth’s involvement in both the underground army and The Party.  I spoke for 15 minutes and Fieldmore responded for about 35 minutes.  This was all good.  When an American writes South African struggle stories, their
 obligation is to listen ruth-first-and-joe-slovo-in-the-war-to-end-apartheidand learn and Fieldmore Mapeto was my teacher.  Fieldmore knew Joe Slovo.  He praised the book but then talked about what he viewed as errors in my representation of Communist Party history in South Africa.  On that issue our debate continues.  But for this night, the platform clearly belonged to Fieldmore.  The people at the Red Location Museum responded.  This is not to say that I was silent and I did participate in the conversation.  For the most part, people made statements and asked questions and Fieldmore reacted to the majority of the queries.

As much as from Mapeto, education that evening came from the young men who spoke from the audience.  They came to participate – they didn’t board taxis to attend a lecture.  And speak they did with a mission to critique the ANC government as well as The Party.  Most of the people who spoke expressed themselves articulately.  Some of course did not.  A few young men quoted Marx or Lenin and I had questions about their citations.  Not about accuracy, but rather depth.  Were these memorized mantras?  Are there study groups where Marx and Lenin and Slovo and Hani are actually discussed, debated, reflected upon?  Also apparent was a bubbling, a tension, in the air.  The speakers clearly were not happy with the lack of services provided by the ANC government.  But when Julius Malema and his new Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party was mentioned, there was laughter and someone responded with the words “trite and shallow.”  That particular exchange was powerful because while there was something of a populist ethos to the meeting, the comment was quickly critical of what some fear in the supposed 42% of people under 26 who support Malema.  When the crowd challenged the SACP, Mapeto answered with a lecture that was somewhat inadequate.  He was speaking with people who viewed themselves as communists – but what they sought was not the party of Blade Nzimande.  Again, contradictions abounded and issues that myself, still an outsider in spite of working in South Africa for almost 15 years, couldn’t completely understand.  It wasn’t hard to understand one speaker, however, who bluntly spoke for many when he asked Fieldmore to denounce Blade.  Frustrations were obvious – was there a plan?

In spite of ANC, SACP, and COSATU denials, South African people are talking of the deep divides that exist today in the country.  References to the early alliances of the ANC with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund continue as foundation for a class divided society that gave the ANC political power but only allowed for a trickle down of black entrepreneurs who drive Mercedes Benz’s like upper class whites.  The South African capitalist reality, however, does not explain everything.  Yet, the trembles that I witnessed on 18 August 2013 at the Red Location Museum, while referencing government and private sector corruption, and apartheid like censorship; are more connected to the government not nurturing or providing services: jobs, housing, electricity, water and general human rights.  The issue for the young men, who came to the Ruth First/Joe Slovo launch, is the one that both Ruth and Joe fought against their entire lives, a class-divide that is growing rather than shrinking.

I have still not really defined what was learned.  I felt like I was in a 1980s UDF meeting and clearly experienced an Arab Spring spirit.  But what does that ethos mean in 2013 South Africa?  There’s excitement, there’s energy, but is there structure?  Are there plans, however small or large, for systemic change?  In the 1980s there were civic associations, there were study groups, there were both small and large organizations to change a racist, class disparate society.  Do those same types of configurations exist today?  The night of the Red Location launch, I understood the scaffolding but not the substance.  And after further conversations in the days that followed, I can only hope that there is more to the Arab Spring moment in New Brighton than just the framework that I observed.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Danny Schechter the Media Dissector-Progressive Radio Network

Had a wonderful conversation during the second half of Danny's show this evening.  Danny knew both Ruth and Joe well.  He met them in the mid-sixties when both he and Ruth were students at the London School of Economics.  His story of going into South Africa as part of the armed propaganda underground is told in the book London Recruits.

Book Tour

Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War against Apartheid Book Tour with Alan Wieder

"A truly remarkable work. Alan Wieder shows himself as a writer equal to their life story, their inspiring bravery in action and self-analysis."
—Nadine Gordimer, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature Join author Alan Wieder for a discussion of his new book, Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War against Apartheid, at one of the locations below. This engaging and richly detailed work recounts the extraordinary lives of First and Slovo, their contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle, and their sometimes tumultuous relationship.
390 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-58367-356-0
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58367-357-7
July 2013
e-book available!
Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook
Price: $23.95

Portland, OR – August 20
Broadway Books
7 pm
1714 NE Broadway
Portland, OR 97232

Olympia, WA – August 31
Orca Books
time TBA
509 E. 4th Ave
Olympia, WA 98501

Sacramento, CA – September 19
Marxist School of Sacramento
7 pm
at the Sol Collective
2574 21st Street
(1 blk south of Broadway)
Sacramento, CA

San Francisco, CA – September 20
7 pm
The Green Arcade
1680 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

Cleveland, OH – October 3
Mac’s Books on Coventry
7 pm
1820 Coventry Rd.
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Ann Arbor, MI – October 8
Literati Bookstore
124 East Washington Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Chicago, IL – October 9
City Lit Books
6:30 pm
2523 North Kedzie Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60647

Washington, DC – October 16
Busboys and Poets
6:30 to 8:30 pm
Busboys and Poets – 14th & V
2021 14th St, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
Sponsors: TransAfrica, Metropolitan D.C. Labor Council, Teaching for Change, Busboys and Poets

New York City, NY – October 17
7 pm
172 Allen St.
New York, NY 10002

Durham, NC – October 22
The Regulator
7 pm
720 Ninth St
Durham, NC 27705

Columbia, SC – October 24
University of South Carolina
details TBA

Seattle, WA – November 1
Elliot Bay Book Co.
time TBA
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle WA 98122

Cape Times Article -- August 8, 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Portland Launch - August 20 Broadway Books

Alan Wieder, Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid

08/20/2013 7:00 pm
08/20/2013 8:00 pm
Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid
Ruth First and Joe Slovo, husband and wife, were leaders in the war to end apartheid in South Africa. Communists, scholars, parents, and uncompromising militants, they were the pefect enemy for the white police state. Together they were swept up in the growing resistance to apartheid, and together they experienced repression and exile. Only one of them would survive to see the fall of the old regime and the founding of a new, democratic South Africa.
Alan Wieder's book is the first extended biography of Ruth First and Joe Slovo. The heavily researched work draws on primary and secondary sources, as well as an extensive oral history that he has collected over many years. Intertwining personal interviews with the documentary record, Wieder portrays the complexities and contradictions of this extraordinary couple and their efforts to navigate a time of great tension, upheaval, and revolutionary hope. Nadine Gordimer has contributed the foreword to this book.
ISBN-13: 9781583673560
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Monthly Review Press, 7/2013

  • 1714 NE Broadway St
  • Portland
  • ,
  • Oregon
  • 97232
  • United States