Extracts from ‘The New Radicals, A Generational Memoir of the 1970s’ by Glenn Moss

13 May 2014

Extracts from ‘The New Radicals, A Generational Memoir of the 1970s’ by Glenn Moss

The imposing figure sitting at the fire had a laugh that came from deep within his chest. He had consumed as much cheap red wine as the rest of us, maybe more. Chortling, he moved over, put his arms around my waist and lifted me up. ‘This one,’ roared Steve Biko, ‘this one understands.’

It was April 1970, and we were huddled around a fire at the Redacres Mission, near Howick in Natal. Blankets helped to protect us from the icy winter. A large flagon of Tassenberg, now nearly empty, rested on the ground. The group included the University of Natal political philosopher Rick Turner; Neville Curtis, president of the National Union of South African Students (Nusas); and his sister, Jeanette, the Transvaal regional director of Nusas. Biko was president of the South African Students’ Organisation (Saso), which was increasingly challenging the multi-racial liberalism that Nusas had championed over many years.

I was 17 years old, having recently finished school in Pretoria and then registered as a student at the University of the Witwatersrand. The journey which had brought me from the administrative capital of apartheid to this fireside gathering had been short in time, but of tumultuous intensity.

- From The New Radicals. A Generational Memoir, by Glenn Moss. Published by Jacana Media, 2014.

Short extracts from ‘shouts’

‘In the dark days of the early seventies, when the news filtered through to Robben Island of a campaign to release political prisoners, waged by a small group of left-leaning, white students, it buoyed our spirits immensely. This book provides invaluable and illuminating insights into how the next generation of activists took up the struggle against apartheid under very difficult conditions, a story that has not often been told.
Ahmed ‘Kathy’ Kathrada was a Rivonia trialist and Robben Island prisoner.

‘A much-needed and engrossing personal account of the embryonic student and black trade union movements of the early seventies, and how this younger generation of activists, both black and white, battled to wage struggle at a time when apartheid was at its height , and the liberation movements at their weakest. Through their actions, the radicalism of this generation defined a new politics of opposition.’
Barbara Hogan was Minister of Health and Minister of Public Enterprises, and a political prisoner.

‘Fascinating and important insight into the emergence of a brave young radicalism of the early 1970s embracing white campuses, black consciousness and trade unionism which raised questions and challenges for not only for the apartheid-capitalist nexus but also for the mainstream liberation movement.

Those in exile and in prison strove then to discern what was new and possible. Whilst hope for change was reinforced by these developments, there was also a degree of concern and prejudice. This was compounded by lack of clarity from afar, as to whether such emergent forces would be loyal to the ANC-SACP alliance and how to provide leadership to them.

Looking back there is much need for honest reflection and the author does us a service with his well worked research and writing. It leaves one with tantalising thoughts as to whether the incipient democratic left challenges from civil society and trade union circles in South Africa today might fundamentally change our political landscape.’
Ronnie Kasrils was Chief of Intelligence for Umkhonto we Sizwe and a government minister from 1994-2008.

‘This book provides invaluable and illuminating insights into how the next generation of activists took up the struggle against apartheid under very difficult conditions, a story that has not often been told.
Ahmed ‘Kathy’ Kathrada was a Rivonia trialist and Robben Island prisoner.

‘A much-needed and engrossing personal account of the embryonic student and black trade union movements of the early seventies … Through their actions, the radicalism of this generation defined a new politics of opposition.’
Barbara Hogan was Minister of Health and Minister of Public Enterprises, and a political prisoner.

‘Fascinating and important insight into the emergence of a brave young radicalism of the early 1970s …Looking back there is much need for honest reflection and the author does us a service with his well worked research and writing.
Ronnie Kasrils was Chief of Intelligence for Umkhonto we Sizwe and a government minister from 1994-2008.

Some of the people who walk through the pages of the book (most have biographical entries on the SAHO website)

Steve Biko
Neville Curtis
Rick Turner
Jeanette Curtis
Pindile Mfeti
Steven Friedman
Geoffrey Budlender
Helen Joseph
Cedric de Beer
Gerry Maré
Barbara Hogan
Eddie Webster
Charles Nupen
Karel Tip