Joe Slovo

Joe Slovo

Joe Slovo (May 23 1926 – January 6 1995) was a South African Communist politician and long time leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and leading member of the African National Congress. He was born in Obeliai, Lithuania to a Jewish family who emigrated to South Africa when he was eight. His full name was Yossel Mashel Slovo. His father worked as a truck driver in Johannesburg.

Slovo left school in 1941 and found work as a dispatch clerk. He joined the National Union of Distributive Workers and, as a shop steward, was involved in organising a strike. He joined the SACP in 1942.

Inspired by the Red Army's battles against the Nazis on the Eastern Front of World War II, Slovo volunteered to fight in the war joining the Springbok Legion.

Between 1946 and 1950 he completed a law degree at Wits University and was a student activist. In 1949 he married Ruth First, another prominent Jewish anti-apartheid activist and the daughter of SACP treasurer Julius First. They had three daughters, Shawn, Gillian and Robyn.

Both First and Slovo were listed as communists under the Suppression of Communism Act and could not be quoted or attend public gatherings in South Africa. He became active in the Congress of Democrats (an ally of the ANC as part of the Congress Alliance) and was a delegate to the June 1955 the "Congress of the People" organised by the ANC and Indian, Coloured and white organisations at Kliptown near Johannesburg, that drew up the Freedom Charter. He was arrested and detained for two months during the Treason Trial of 1956. Charges against him were dropped in 1958. He was later arrested for six months during the State of Emergency declared after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960.

In 1961, Slovo and Abongz Mbede emerged as one of the leaders of Umkhonto we Sizwe - a military body formed in alliance between the ANC and the SACP. In 1963 he went into exile and lived in Britain, Angola, Mozambique and Zambia. Slovo was elected general secretary of the SACP in 1984.

He returned to South Africa in 1990 to participate in the early "talks about talks" between the government and the ANC. Ailing, he stood down as SACP general secretary in 1991 and was succeeded by Chris Hani who was soon murdered. Slovo was given the titular position of chairperson of the SACP.

Slovo was a leading theoretician in both the party and the ANC. In the 1970s he wrote the influential essay "No Middle Road" which stated that the apartheid government would be unable either to achieve stability or to co-opt significant sections of the small but growing black middle class - in other words the only choice was between the overthrow of apartheid or ever greater repression. At the time the SACP's orthodox pro-Soviet and "stage-ist" view of change in South Africa was dominant in the ANC-led liberation movement and figures such as Thabo Mbeki were leading SACP members.

Being Jewish and a Communist, Slovo was a demonised figure on the far right of Afrikaner society.

In 1989, he wrote "Has Socialism Failed?" which acknowledged the weaknesses of the socialist movement and the excesses of Stalinism, while at the same time rejecting attempts by the left to distance themselves from socialism. Slovo died in 1995 of cancer. In 2004 he was voted 47th in the Top 100 Great South Africans.

It was he who in 1992 proposed the breakthrough in the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa with the "sunset clause" for a coalition government for the five years following a democratic election, including guarantees and concessions to all sides.

After the elections of 1994 he became Minister for housing in Nelson Mandela's government, until his death in 1995.

Joe Slovo appears as a character (played by Malcolm Purkey) in the 2006 film Catch a Fire, for which Shawn Slovo wrote the screenplay. A song in his tribute was written by Scottish singer-songwriter David Heavenor appearing in 1993 on the album Private The Night Visitors. He is also depicted as "Gus Roth" (played by Jeroen Krabbe) in the award-winning 1988 movie "A World Apart".


* Harrow Road in Johannesburg has now been renamed Joe Slovo Drive.
* Shack settlements in both Durban and Cape Town were named after Joe Slovo by their founders. Residents of both settlements now face apartheid style forced removals in 2007. [ [ Abahlali baseMjondolo | Sekwanele! ] ]


External links

* [ Joe Slovo] – biographical sketch at the homepage of the ANC
* [ "Has Socialism Failed?"] – article by Joe Slovo, first published January 1990
* [ "Old Marxist Returns, With Hope for South Africa"] – article by Chris Hedges, The New York Times 17 October 1990
* [ "Joe Slovo: Ode to a mensch"] – eulogy by friend Linzi Manicom

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Joe Slovo — (nacido el 23 de mayo de 1926 y fallecido el 6 de enero de 1995) fue un destacado miembro y dirigente del Partido Comunista de Sudáfrica (PCSA), y líder por muchos años del Congreso Nacional Africano (CNA). Gran combatiente del apartheid, nació… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Joe Slovo — Yossel „Joe“ Mashel Slovo (* 23. Mai 1926 in Obelai, Litauen; † 6. Januar 1995 in Johannesburg) war ein südafrikanischer Politiker und Gegner der Apartheid. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Biografie 2 Familie …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Slovo — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Gillian Slovo (* 1952), südafrikanische Schriftstellerin, Journalistin und Filmproduzentin Joe Slovo (Yossel Joe Mashel Slovo; 1926–1995), südafrikanischer Politiker und Apartheid Gegner Diese Seite ist… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • SLOVO, JOE — (1926–1995), South African politician. Slovo was born in Lithuania and taken to South Africa when he was eight. After war service, he graduated in law at Witwatersrand University. In 1942 he joined the Communist Party, but after it was outlawed… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Slovo, Joe — (1926–1995)    Slovo, born in Lithuania, was a principal figure in South African politics throughout the struggle to end apartheid, serving as general secretary and then chairman of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and as the first white …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Slovo, Joe — ▪ 1996       (YOSSEL MASHEL SLOVO), Lithuanian born South African lawyer and political activist (b. May 23, 1926, Obelai, Lithuania d. Jan. 6, 1995, Johannesburg, South Africa), as spokesman, chairman (1984 87 and 1991 95), and general secretary… …   Universalium

  • Slovo — Slọvo,   Joe, südafrikanischer Politiker, * in Litauen 23. 5. 1926, ✝ Johannesburg 6. 1. 1995; Rechtsanwalt; 1935 mit seiner Familie nach Südafrika ausgewandert, wurde 1942 Mitglied, 1986 Generalsekretär der südafrikanischen KP (SACP). Durch… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Slovo — Slo|vo, Joe (1926 95) a white South African lawyer, born in Lithuania, who had an important part in opposing the system of ↑apartheid in South Africa. He was the leader of the South African Communist Party, and a leading member of the ANC. In the …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Gillian Slovo — Gillian Slovo, born in 1952, is a South African novelist, playwright and memoirist, and the daughter of South African political activists Joe Slovo and Ruth First.Her novels were at first predominantly of the crime and thriller genres, including… …   Wikipedia

  • Shawn Slovo — (c. 1950) is a screenwriter, best known for the film A World Apart , based on her childhood in South Africa under the apartheid. She is the daughter of the late South African Communist Party leaders Joe Slovo and Ruth First. She also wrote the… …   Wikipedia

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