Joe Slovo needs very little introduction. However, it is necessary to describe his legacy so that we may collectively draw wisdom and strength from it.

JS, as he was affectionately known, was born on May 23 1926 in the village of Obelai, Luthuania in the former Soviet Union. His parents immigrated to South Africa when he was only eight years old.

He died on January 6 1995, almost a year after the 1994 democratic breakthrough to which JS dedicated his entire life.

Slovo occupied a number of strategic positions in the national liberation movement, among other things, as MK chief of staff, SACP national chairperson and later the SACP general secretary.

He was a member of the ANC NEC and, at the time of his death, Minister of Housing in the Government of National Unity under President Nelson Mandela.

The most critical theoretical contribution JS made to the characterisation of colonialism of a special type, the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and the struggle for socialism in South Africa are two seminal works entitled "The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution", written in 1988, and Has Socialism Failed? written in January 1990.

Limited space in Numsa News does not allow for a thorough analysis of these articles.

However, a google search of the SACP website will provide the full text of these masterpieces that continue to inspire revolutionaries and communists around the world.

The triple crisis in South Africa of unemployment, poverty and inequality 17 years after the 1994 democratic breakthrough may suggest that our NDR as the shortest route to socialism might be on track.

The very deep global crises of capitalism suggest that socialism is the future and we need to build it now. I am certain that Joe Slovo, from where his spirit now resides, would agree.

Karl Cloete is Numsa’s Deputy General Secretary


Numsa News No 1, April 2012