…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
When asked by the BBC to nominate his history hero, Ed Milliband could hardly say Stalin or Pol Pot, not yet anyway. Another female Communist activist Rosa Luxemburg might have done, but for the family connection: “I met her [ Ruth First ] when I was 12 years old and she came to dinner at my parents’ house with her husband, Joe Slovo, who I think was the chief of staff of the armed wing of the ANC, and a long-standing friend of my father Ralph.”
From Wikipedia: “Ruth First’s parents, Julius First and Matilda Levetan, immigrated to South Africa from Latvia as Jewish immigrants in 1906 and became founder members of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), the forerunner of the South African Communist Party (SACP). Ruth First was born in 1925 and brought up in Johannesburg. She too joined the Communist Party, which was allied with the African National Congress .”
“She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1946. … She was involved in the founding of the Federation of Progressive Students, also known as the Progressive Students League., and got to know, among other fellow students, Nelson Mandela, future President of South Africa, and Eduardo Mondlane, the first leader of the Mozambique freedom movement FRELIMO.”
Unkindly, one could say that she showed her affinity to violent males early, confirmed by her marriage to Joe Slovo in 1949. Ms First became the editor-in-chief of the radical newspaper The Guardian, and when that was banned, the editor of a radical political journal called Fighting Talk. In 1963 she was imprisoned for 117 days. In 1964 First went into exile and became active in the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. She held various posts at the University of Manchester, the University of Durham, at university in Dar es Salaam and the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique. She was killed there by the South African police in 1982.
Her husband Slovo (Yossel Mashel Slovo) was born 23rd May 1926 in Lithuania to a Jewish family who emigrated to South Africa when he was eight. He joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1942, becoming its leader in due course. He was a leading member of the African National Congress (ANC), and a commander of its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. Between 1963 and 1990 he was conducting terrorist operations against South Africa from the exile in United Kingdom, Angola, Mozambique and Zambia. ( Reading about Umkhonto we Sizwe – Spear of the Nation is not for the faint-hearted. “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that the use of torture by Umkhonto we Sizve was “routine” and was official policy – as were executions “without due process” at ANC detention camps, particularly in the period of 1979–1989”)
Ed Miliband admires First’s “courage and commitment to a just cause”. A just cause being an anti-apartheid one, presumably. He is rather coy about it, the same way he mentions Joe Slovo – “who I think was the chief of staff of the armed wing of the ANC”. Comrade Miliband remembers a passage from his father’s obituary for Ruth First: “When South Africa has had its revolution, hers will be one of the names on the roll call of martyrs which the new generations will honour…”
I do not intend to make an apology for the apartheid as practised in South Africa, but an open-minded person would ask – if the apartheid was so bad why so many black Africans from all those independent, mostly socialist countries wanted to go there? South Africa had the revolution old Miliband was pining for, the apartheid there no longer exists, but the wast majority of blacks is no better off under the kleptocratic rule of the people of the same skin colour.
That would be of no concern to our post-modern Miliband, the current leader of the British Labour Party, and, given the voters’ understandable apathy, a likely Prime Minister of the formerly Great Britain and dis-United Kingdom. He, and his comrades, move on; from the anti-apartheid struggle to the embracement of the global warming scarecrow, and soon perhaps to an impeding global cooling catastrophe. Anything to bamboozle the people on the march to the global, socialist, totalitarian rule. It is symptomatic that in 2005 the South African Ministry of the Environment named its first environmental patrol vessel the Ruth First.
P.S. The younger readers, and I hope there are some, may not understand the Thoroughly modern Milliband title. It alludes to a musical, and a movie Thoroughly modern Millie, starring Julia Andrews, where a small town girl Millie Dillmount goes to a big city in order to marry for money, and gets involved in white slavery and other shenanigans, as girls do in a big city. At the end, she marries the money, just as politicians do.