Tag Archives: leftists

A Radical Journalist Such as We Need Now!

Mary Heaton Vorse O’Brien (1874–1966) was an American journalist, labor activist, social critic, and novelist. She was outspoken and active in peace and social justice causes, such as women’s suffrage, civil rights, pacifism (such as opposition to World War I), socialism, child labor, infant mortality, labor disputes, and affordable housing.

vorse
Mary Heaton was born October 11, 1874, in New York City to Ellen Marvin Heaton and Hiram Heaton. She was raised in prosperity in Amherst, Massachusetts, in a 24-room house with half-siblings from her mother’s previous marriage. The money in the family came from her mother’s side. In 1852, Vorse’s mother married Captain Charles Bernard Marvin, a wealthy shipping magnate and liquor merchant, more than 20 years her senior, when she was a young woman of 18. Ellen Marvin was widowed at age 37 with five children. In 1873, she married Mary’s father, who, with his family, operated the Stockbridge Inn. The family traveled widely, spending over a year in Europe, where Mary attended kindergarten in Hanover and the first year of grade school in Dresden, learning the German language in the process. Later, the family had an apartment in Paris, where Mary learned French, followed later by a winter in Austria.

In her 1935 memoir, she dated her interest in the problems of politics and economics to the years of her youth, when her mother read to her aloud from a book by ethnographer George Kennan on the brutal Siberian penal system of Russia. An interest in classic Russian literature followed, complemented by directed reading with her father on topics of American history. She found her intellect stimulated by life in the college town of Amherst and discussions held in the family home between her father and several prominent friends from academia, including the president of Massachusetts Agricultural College, Henry Hill Goodell, and anthropology professor John Tyler.

She was allowed to leave the formal school system at a young age and subsequently spent several winters in Paris studying art. In 1896, Heaton began to study at the Art Students’ League, on West 57th Street in New York City. The League was established 20 years earlier by strong-minded young men in rebellion from the conservative nature of the instruction at the National Academy of Design. By the time that Mary entered, the school was booming, with over 1100 pupils studying in sex-segregated day and evening classes, studying sketch art, sculpture, and painting. While Mary found participation in the artistic avant-garde exhilarating, she unfortunately had rather mediocre talent. She wrote in her diary: “When I come into my room and see my work lying around, my sense of my own futility overwhelms me. After so much work, that is all I can do.”

She was young, intelligent, and athletic and was deeply influenced by the ideas of feminism that had begun to emerge as the 19th century came to a close. Many upper-class women such as Mary were in the forefront of the movement for women’s rights to economic independence, education, voting rights, and birth control.

Her first husband was Albert White “Bert” Vorse, a widely traveled journalist who had worked for a year in a Boston settlement house, run by Edward Everett Hale. They were married on October 26, 1898 after a brief courtship and had two children: a boy, Heaton, born in 1901 and a girl, Mary, born in 1907.

The couple began to take an increased interest in social problems of the day, spurred by the muckraking reformist politics of the day and a personal friendship with radical journalist Lincoln Steffens. The Vorses would frequently go sailing with Steffens and his wife on the Vorses’ boat, where they would be regaled with Steffens’s “epic stories” of “gigantic lootings and skullduggeries” by wealthy bankers and industrialists.

Bert was soon assigned to Paris as the correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger. It was in France that Mary, encouraged and instructed by her husband, began to try her own hand at professional writing. She began to create and sell romantic fiction to women’s magazines. Her stories often featured the motif of a rugged and energetic heroine who managed to win the affection of a coveted male over a more constrained and conventionally feminine rival. In 1904, the Vorses moved to Venice, where Mary was first introduced into the world of the working class and their labor struggles. Bert died on June 14, 1910, of a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1912, she married the journalist Joe O’Brien, a socialist from Virginia whom she met at the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike.

sept 1912_Lawrence_Textile_Strike_2Poster of the Lawrence, Massachusetts, strike

The couple had one child, a boy born in 1914 Joe O’Brien died in 1915.

Vorse was active in the fight against militarism and American entry into World War I and was a founding member, along with Jane Addams, of the Woman’s Peace Party in January 1915. She was chosen as the delegate of the New York Woman Suffrage Party to an International Women’s Peace Congress held in The Hague at the end of April 1915, traveling aboard the MS Noordam through mine-strewn waters to attend.

She wrote for the New York Post, New York World, McCall’s, Harper’s Weekly, Atlantic Monthly, The Masses, New Masses, New Republic, and McClure’s Magazine as well as various news services.

She participated in and reported on the Lawrence Textile Strike, the miners’ strike in Minnesota in 1916, the steel strike of 1919, the textile workers strike of 1934, autoworkers in Michigan in 1937,  and coal strikes in Harlan County, Kentucky. She was wounded by police gunfire while reporting on a strike in Youngstown, Ohio. She researched and wrote about Indian affairs in the mid-1930s and reported on post-war Europe from 1945 to 1947 for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration

Four years before her death in 1966, the 88-year-old Vorse entered the silver jubilee banquet of the United Auto Workers, accompanied by union leader Walter Reuther. There, she received the first UAW Social Justice Award, with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and novelist Upton Sinclair looking on to share her honor. Vorse  was feted for her work as one of the most important labor journalists of the 1920s and 1930s.

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Vorse died of a heart attack on June 14, 1966, at her home in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the extreme tip of Cape Cod, where she was buried.[28] She was 92 years old.

In addition to her memoir written in 1935, Vorse participated in an oral history project at Columbia University in 1957, an interview that was transcribed and microfilmed by the university.

Vorse also wrote several ghost stories, including “The Second Wife” (1912). The stories were later collected in the Ash-Tree Press volume “Sinister Romance : Collected Ghost Stories.” Her friend Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker, said Vorse  continued writing in order to aid her children and their children.

 

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An Instrument of Peace

On November 8, 1897, just a bit over a century ago, Dorothy Day was born in New York City. She became an activist for peace and social justice, a maverick whose left-wing views bothered Roman Catholic church authorities and whose religious faith puzzled many old-time Communists. Like other American activists such as Mother Jones, Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, she went to jail for civil disobedience.

I owe a personal debt to Dorothy Day. When I was an undergraduate in the late 1960s and trying to figure out my own faith and my stand on the Vietnam War, I found comfort, faith and direction in Ms Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness, and her monthly columns in The Catholic Worker. As a Lutheran I don’t need church bishops to tell me she is a saint, a title which always made her uncomfortable. Most likely she has now found reassurance of her own sainthood among those she admired from Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus and Benedict of Nursia whom historians credit as the father of peace movements in Western Christianity to Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest non-violent activist of the 20th century.

an icon of Dorothy Day

She gave a wonderful, concise statement of her faith and politics in a speech at Union Square on November 6, 1965, two days before her 68th birthday. Here is what she said:

Dorothy Day

“When Jesus walked this earth; True God and True man, and was talking to the multitudes, a woman in the crowd cried out, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast that bore you and the breast that nourished you. And he answered her, Yes, but rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.’ And the word of God is the new commandment he gave us to love our enemies,to overcome evil with good, to love others as he loved us that is, to lay down our lives for our brothers throughout the world, not to take the lives of men, women, and children, young and old, by bombs and napalm and all the other instruments of war.

Instead he spoke of the instruments of peace, to be practiced by all nations to feed the hungry of the world, not to destroy their crops, not to spend billions on defense, which means instruments of destruction. He commanded us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, to save lives, not to destroy them, these precious lives for whom he willingly sacrificed his own. I speak today as one who is old, and who must uphold and endorse the courage of the young who themselves are willing to give up their freedom. I speak as one who is old, and whose whole lifetime has seen the cruelty and hysteria of war in this last half century. But who has also seen, praise God, the emerging nations of Africa and Asia, and Latin America, achieving in many instances their own freedom through non-violent struggles, side by side with violence. Our own country has through tens of thousand of the Negro people, shown an example to the world of what a non-violent struggle can achieve. This very struggle, begun by students, by the young, by the seemingly helpless, have led the way in vision, in courage, even in a martyrdom, which has been shared by the little children, in the struggle for full freedom and for human dignity which means the right to health, education, and work which is a full development of man’s god-given talents. We have seen the works of man’s genius and vision in the world today, in the conquering of space, in his struggle with plague and famine, and in each andevery demonstration such as this one there is evidence of his struggle against war.

I wish to place myself beside A. J. Muste speaking, if I am permitted, to show my solidarity of purpose with these young men, and to point out that we too are breaking the law, committing civil disobedience, in advocating and trying to encourage all those who are conscripted, to inform their conscience, to heed the still small voice, and to refuse to participate in the immorality of war. It isthe most potent way to end war. We too, by law, myself and all who signed the statement of conscience, should be arrested and we would esteem it an honor to share prison penalties with these others. I would like to conclude these few words with a prayer in the words of St. Francis, saint of poverty and peace, ‘O Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love.’”

A J Muste with Dorothy Day right before their arrest for supporting young men who burned draft cards

Historical note: A. J. Muste was a Dutch-born labor organizer and pacifist, also present at this demonstration. At the time was 80 years of age.

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

 

1918 was quite a year!

It was the last bloody year of the Great War. The British poet Wilfred Owen, the American poet Joyce Kilmer and over 250,000 other soldiers died in battle between January 1st and November 11th. Tsar Nicholas II and his family were assassinated.

 The dancer Vernon Castle, the boxer John L. Sullivan, the composer Claude Debussy, and historian Henry Adams, died during the year.

 In my mind one of the key events in terms of long-range consequences for the continent of Africa and for world history in the last decades of the twentieth century was the birth of Nelson Mandela in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Chief Henry Mandela of the Tembu Tribe. Nelson Mandela was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and qualified in law in 1942. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was acquitted in 1961.

 After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labor. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela was brought to stand trial with them for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. His statement from the dock received considerable international publicity. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at the notorious Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town and from 1982 until his release in 1990, he was at Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

 

Mr Mandela in traditional outfit

Here is that famous speech from the dock, a wonderful statement of South Africa’s history and a revolutionary inspiration. Happy birthday, Mr Mandela–we are all in your debt!

 

I am the First Accused.

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and practiced as an attorney in Johannesburg for a number of years in partnership with Oliver Tambo. I am a convicted prisoner serving five years for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting people to go on strike at the end of May 1961.

Mr Mandela, c1937

At the outset, I want to say that the suggestion made by the State in its opening that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said. In my youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defense of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambata, Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the charges made against me in this case.

Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.

I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe, and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until I was arrested in August 1962.

In the statement which I am about to make I shall correct certain false impressions which have been created by State witnesses. Amongst other things, I will demonstrate that certain of the acts referred to in the evidence were not and could not have been committed by Umkhonto. I will also deal with the relationship between the African National Congress and Umkhonto, and with the part which I personally have played in the affairs of both organizations. I shall deal also with the part played by the Communist Party. In order to explain these matters properly, I will have to explain what Umkhonto set out to achieve; what methods it prescribed for the achievement of these objects, and why these methods were chosen. I will also have to explain how I became involved in the activities of these organizations.

I deny that Umkhonto was responsible for a number of acts which clearly fell outside the policy of the organization, and which have been charged in the indictment against us. I do not know what justification there was for these acts, but to demonstrate that they could not have been authorized by Umkhonto, I want to refer briefly to the roots and policy of the organization.

I have already mentioned that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto. I, and the others who started the organization, did so for two reasons. Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given to canalize and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the various races of this country which is not produced even by war.

Secondly, we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the Government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.

But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. We who formed Umkhonto were all members of the African National Congress, and had behind us the ANC tradition of non-violence and negotiation as a means of solving political disputes. We believe that South Africa belongs to all the people who live in it, and not to one group, be it black or white. We did not want an interracial war, and tried to avoid it to the last minute. If the Court is in doubt about this, it will be seen that the whole history of our organization bears out what I have said, and what I will subsequently say, when I describe the tactics which Umkhonto decided to adopt. I want, therefore, to say something about the African National Congress.

The African National Congress was formed in 1912 to defend the rights of the African people which had been seriously curtailed by the South Africa Act, and which were then being threatened by the Native Land Act. For thirty-seven years – that is until 1949 – it adhered strictly to a constitutional struggle. It put forward demands and resolutions; it sent delegations to the Government in the belief that African grievances could be settled through peaceful discussion and that Africans could advance gradually to full political rights. But White Governments remained unmoved, and the rights of Africans became less instead of becoming greater. In the words of my leader, Chief Lutuli, who became President of the ANC in 1952, and who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:

“Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all.”

Mr Mandela with President Clinton, 1993

Even after 1949, the ANC remained determined to avoid violence. At this time, however, there was a change from the strictly constitutional means of protest which had been employed in the past. The change was embodied in a decision which was taken to protest against apartheid legislation by peaceful, but unlawful, demonstrations against certain laws. Pursuant to this policy the ANC launched the Defiance Campaign, in which I was placed in charge of volunteers. This campaign was based on the principles of passive resistance. More than 8,500 people defied apartheid laws and went to jail. Yet there was not a single instance of violence in the course of this campaign on the part of any defier. I and nineteen colleagues were convicted for the role which we played in organizing the campaign, but our sentences were suspended mainly because the Judge found that discipline and non-violence had been stressed throughout.

This was the time when the volunteer section of the ANC was established, and when the word ‘Amadelakufa’ was first used: this was the time when the volunteers were asked to take a pledge to uphold certain principles. Evidence dealing with volunteers and their pledges has been introduced into this case, but completely out of context. The volunteers were not, and are not, the soldiers of a black army pledged to fight a civil war against the whites. They were, and are, dedicated workers who are prepared to lead campaigns initiated by the ANC to distribute leaflets, to organize strikes, or do whatever the particular campaign required. They are called volunteers because they volunteer to face the penalties of imprisonment and whipping which are now prescribed by the legislature for such acts.

During the Defiance Campaign, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act were passed. These Statutes provided harsher penalties for offences committed by way of protests against laws. Despite this, the protests continued and the ANC adhered to its policy of non-violence. In 1956, 156 leading members of the Congress Alliance, including myself, were arrested on a charge of high treason and charges under the Suppression of Communism Act. The non-violent policy of the ANC was put in issue by the State, but when the Court gave judgement some five years later, it found that the ANC did not have a policy of violence. We were acquitted on all counts, which included a count that the ANC sought to set up a communist state in place of the existing regime. The Government has always sought to label all its opponents as communists. This allegation has been repeated in the present case, but as I will show, the ANC is not, and never has been, a communist organization.

In 1960 there was the shooting at Sharpeville, which resulted in the proclamation of a state of emergency and the declaration of the ANC as an unlawful organization. My colleagues and I, after careful consideration, decided that we would not obey this decree. The African people were not part of the Government and did not make the laws by which they were governed. We believed in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that ‘the will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the Government,’ and for us to accept the banning was equivalent to accepting the silencing of the Africans for all time. The ANC refused to dissolve, but instead went underground We believed it was our duty to preserve this organization which had been built up with almost fifty years of unremitting toil. I have no doubt that no self-respecting White political organization woulddisband itself if declared illegal by a government in which it had no say.

In 1960 the Government held a referendum which led to the establishment of the Republic. Africans, who constituted approximately 70 per cent of the population of South Africa, were not entitled to vote, and were not even consulted about the proposed constitutional change. All of us were apprehensive of our future under the proposed White Republic, and a resolution was taken to hold an All-In African Conference to call for a National Convention, and to organize mass demonstrations on the eve of the unwanted Republic, if the Government failed to call the Convention. The conference was attended by Africans of various political persuasions. I was the Secretary of the conference and undertook to be responsible for organizing the national stay-at-home which was subsequently called to coincide with the declaration of the Republic. As all strikes by Africans are illegal, the person organizing such a strike must avoid arrest. I was chosen to be this person, and consequently I had to leave my home and family and my practice and go into hiding to avoid arrest.

Mr Mandela with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The stay-at-home, in accordance with ANC policy, was to be a peaceful demonstration. Careful instructions were given to organizers and members to avoid any recourse to violence. The Government’s answer was to introduce new and harsher laws, to mobilize its armed forces, and to send Saracens, armed vehicles, and soldiers into the townships in a massive show of force designed to intimidate the people. This was an indication that the Government had decided to rule by force alone, and this decision was a milestone on the road to Umkhonto.

Some of this may appear irrelevant to this trial. In fact, I believe none of it is irrelevant because it will, I hope, enable the Court to appreciate the attitude eventually adopted by the various persons and bodies concerned in the National Liberation Movement. When I went to jail in 1962, the dominant idea was that loss of life should be avoided. I now know that this was still so in 1963.

I must return to June 1961. What were we, the leaders of our people, to do? Were we to give in to the show of force and the implied threat against future action, or were we to fight it and, if so, how?

We had no doubt that we had to continue the fight. Anything else would have been abject surrender. Our problem was not whether to fight, but was how to continue the fight. We of the ANC had always stood for a non-racial democracy, and we shrank from any action which might drive the races further apart than they already were. But the hard facts were that fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer rights. It may not be easy for this Court to understand, but it is a fact that for a long time the people had been talking of violence – of the day when they would fight the White man and win back their country – and we, the leaders of the ANC, had nevertheless always prevailed upon them to avoid violence and to pursue peaceful methods. When some of us discussed this in May and June of 1961, it could not be denied that our policy to achieve a non-racial State by non-violence had achieved nothing, and that our followers were beginning to lose confidence in this policy and were developing disturbing ideas of terrorism.

It must not be forgotten that by this time violence had, in fact, become a feature of the South African political scene. There had been violence in 1957 when the women of Zeerust were ordered to carry passes; there was violence in 1958 with the enforcement of cattle culling in Sekhukhuniland; there was violence in 1959 when the people of Cato Manor protested against pass raids; there was violence in 1960 when the Government attempted to impose Bantu Authorities in Pondoland. Thirty-nine Africans died in these disturbances. In 1961there had been riots in Warmbaths, and all this time the Transkei had been a seething mass of unrest. Each disturbance pointed clearly to the inevitable growth among Africans of the belief that violence was the only way out – it showed that a Government which uses force to maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it.

Already small groups had arisen in the urban areas and were spontaneously making plans for violent forms of political struggle. There now arose a danger that these groups would adopt terrorism against Africans, as well as Whites, if not properly directed.

Particularly disturbing was the type of violence engendered in places such as Zeerust, Sekhukhuniland, and Pondoland amongst Africans. It was increasingly taking the form, not of struggle against the Government – though this is what prompted it – but of civil strife amongst themselves, conducted in such a way that it could not hope to achieve anything other than a loss of life and bitterness.

At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the Government met our peaceful demands with force.

This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because the Government had left us with no other choice. In the Manifesto of Umkhonto published on 16 December 1961, which is Exhibit AD, we said:

“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only

two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South

Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back

by all means in our power in defense of our people, our future,

and our freedom.”

This was our feeling in June of 1961 when we decided to press for a change in the policy of the National Liberation Movement. I can only say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did.

We who had taken this decision started to consult leaders of various organizations, including the ANC. I will not say whom we spoke to, or what they said, but I wish to deal with the role of the African National Congress in this phase of the struggle, and with the policy and objectives of Umkhonto we Sizwe. As far as the ANC was concerned, it formed a clear view which can be summarized as follows: It was a mass political organization with a political function to fulfil. Its members had joined on the express policy of non-violence.

Because of all this, it could not and would not undertake violence. This must be stressed. One cannot turn such a body into the small, closely knit organization required for sabotage. Nor would this be politically correct, because it would result in members ceasing to carry out this essential activity: political propaganda and organization. Nor was it permissible to change the whole nature of the organization.

On the other hand, in view of this situation I have described, the ANC was prepared to depart from its fifty-year-old policy of non-violence to this extent that it would no longer disapprove of properly controlled violence. Hence members who undertook such activity would not be subject to disciplinary action by the ANC. I say ‘properly controlled violence’ because I made it clear that if I formed the organization I would at all times subject it to the political guidance of the ANC and would not undertake any different form of activity from that contemplated without the consent of the ANC. And I shall now tell the Court how that form of violence came to be determined.

As a result of this decision, Umkhonto was formed in November 1961. When we took this decision, and subsequently formulated our plans, the ANC heritage of non-violence and racial harmony was very much with us. We felt that the country was drifting towards a civil war in which Blacks and Whites would fight each other. We viewed the situation with alarm. Civil war could mean the destruction of what the ANC stood for; with civil war, racial peace would be more difficult than ever to achieve. We already have examples in South African history of the results of war. It has taken more than fifty years for the scars of the South African War to disappear. How much longer would it take to eradicate the scars of inter-racial civil war, which could not be fought without a great loss of life on both sides?

The avoidance of civil war had dominated our thinking for many years, but when we decided to adopt violence as part of our policy, we realized that we might one day have to face the prospect of such a war. This had to be taken into account in formulating our plans. We required a plan which was flexible and which permitted us to act in accordance with the needs of the times; above all, the plan had to be one which recognized civil war as the last resort, and left the decision on this question to the future. We did not want to be committed to civil war, but we wanted to be ready if it became inevitable.

Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any other decision. In the light of our political background the choice was a logical one. Sabotage did not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Bitterness would be kept to a minimum and, if the policy bore fruit, democratic government could become a reality. This is what we felt at the time, and this is what we said in our Manifesto (Exhibit AD):

“We of Umkhonto we Sizwe have always sought to achieve liberation

without bloodshed and civil clash. We hope, even at this late

hour, that our first actions will awaken everyone to a realization

of the disastrous situation to which the Nationalist policy is

leading. We hope that we will bring the Government and its

supporters to their senses before it is too late, so that both the

Government and its policies can be changed before matters reach

the desperate state of civil war.”

The initial plan was based on a careful analysis of the political and economic situation of our country. We believed that South Africa depended to a large extent on foreign capital and foreign trade. We felt that planned destruction of power plants, and interference with rail and telephone communications, would tend to scare away capital from the country, make it more difficult for goods from the industrial areas to reach the seaports on schedule, and would in the long run be a heavy drain on the economic life of the country, thus compelling the voters of the country to reconsider their position.

Attacks on the economic life-lines of the country were to be linked with sabotage on Government buildings and other symbols of apartheid. These attacks would serve as a source of inspiration to our people. In addition, they would provide an outlet for those people who were urging the adoption of violent methods and would enable us to give concrete proof to our followers that we had adopted a stronger line and were fighting back against Government violence.

In addition, if mass action were successfully organized, and mass reprisals taken, we felt that sympathy for our cause would be roused in other countries, and that greater pressure would be brought to bear on the South African Government.

This then was the plan. Umkhonto was to perform sabotage, and strict instructions were given to its members right from the start, that on no account were they to injure or kill people in planning or carrying out operations. These instructions have been referred to in the evidence of ‘Mr. X’ and ‘Mr. Z.’

The affairs of the Umkhonto were controlled and directed by a National High Command, which had powers of co-option and which could, and did, appoint Regional Commands. The High Command was the body which determined tactics and targets and was in charge of training and finance. Under the High Command there were Regional Commands which were responsible for the direction of the local sabotage groups. Within the framework of the policy laid down by the National High Command, the Regional Commands had authority to select the targets to be attacked. They had no authority to go beyond the prescribed framework and thus had no authority to embark upon acts which endangered life, or which did not fit into the overall plan of sabotage. For instance, Umkhonto members were forbidden ever to go armed into operation. Incidentally, the terms High Command and Regional Command were an importation from the Jewish national underground organization Irgun Zvai Leumi, which operated in Israel between 1944 and 1948.

Umkhonto had its first operation on 16 December 1961, when Government buildings in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban were attacked. The selection of targets is proof of the policy to which I have referred. Had we intended to attack life we would have selected targets where people congregated and not empty buildings and power stations. The sabotage which was committed before 16 December 1961 was the work of isolated groups and had no connection whatever with Umkhonto. In fact, some of these and a number of later acts were claimed by other organizations.

The Manifesto of Umkhonto was issued on the day that operations commenced. The response to our actions and Manifesto among the white population was characteristically violent. The Government threatened to take strong action, and called upon its supporters to stand firm and to ignore the demands of the Africans. The Whites failed to respond by suggesting change; they responded to our call by suggesting the laager.

In contrast, the response of the Africans was one of encouragement. Suddenly there was hope again. Things were happening. People in the townships became eager for political news. A great deal of enthusiasm was generated by the initial successes, and people began to speculate on how soon freedom would be obtained.

Mr Mandela in public speech after his release

But we in Umkhonto weighed up the white response with anxiety. The lines were being drawn. The whites and blacks were moving into separate camps, and the prospects of avoiding a civil war were made less. The white newspapers carried reports that sabotage would be punished by death. If this was so, how could we continue to keep Africans away from terrorism?

Already scores of Africans had died as a result of racial friction. In 1920 when the famous leader, Masabala, was held in Port Elizabeth jail, twenty-four of a group of Africans who had gathered to demand his release were killed by the police and white civilians. In 1921 more than one hundred Africans died in the Bulhoek affair. In 1924 over two hundred Africans were killed when the Administrator of South-West Africa led a force against a group which had rebelled against the imposition of dog tax. On 1 May 1950, eighteen Africans died as a result of police shootings during the strike. On 21 March 1960, sixty-nine unarmed Africans died at Sharpeville.

How many more Sharpevilles would there be in the history of our country? And how many more Sharpevilles could the country stand without violence and terror becoming the order of the day? And what would happen to our people when that stage was reached? In the long run we felt certain we must succeed, but at what cost to ourselves and the rest of the country? And if this happened, how could black and white ever live together again in peace and harmony? These were the problems that faced us, and these were our decisions.

Experience convinced us that rebellion would offer the Government limitless opportunities for the indiscriminate slaughter of our people. But it was precisely because the soil of South Africa is already drenched with the blood of innocent Africans that we felt it our duty to make preparations as a long-term undertaking to use force in order to defend ourselves against force. If war were inevitable, we wanted the fight to be conducted on terms most favorable to our people. The fight which held out prospects best for us and the least risk of life to both sides was guerrilla warfare. We decided, therefore, in our preparations for the future, to make provision for the possibility of guerrilla warfare.

All whites undergo compulsory military training, but no such training was given to Africans. It was in our view essential to build up a nucleus of trained men who would be able to provide the leadership which would be required if guerrilla warfare started. We had to prepare for such a situation before it became too late to make proper preparations. It was also necessary to build up a nucleus of men trained in civil administration and other professions, so that Africans would be equipped to participate in the government of this country as soon as they were allowed to do so.

At this stage it was decided that I should attend the Conference of the Pan-African Freedom Movement for Central, East, and Southern Africa, which was to be held early in 1962 in Addis Ababa, and, because of our need for preparation, it was also decided that, after the conference, I would undertake a tour of the African States with a view to obtaining facilities for the training of soldiers, and that I would also solicit scholarships for the higher education of matriculated Africans. Training in both fields would be necessary, even if changes came about by peaceful means. Administrators would be necessary who would be willing and able to administer a non-racial State and so would men be necessary to control the army and police force of such a State.

Mr Mandela on the day of his release from prison–A Long Walk to Freedom

It was on this note that I left South Africa to proceed to Addis Ababa as a delegate of the ANC. My tour was a success. Wherever I went I met sympathy for our cause and promises of help. All Africa was united against the stand of White South Africa, and even in London I was received with great sympathy by political leaders, such as Mr. Gaitskell and Mr. Grimond. In Africa I was promised support by such men as Julius Nyerere, now President of Tanganyika; Mr. Kawawa, then Prime Minister of Tanganyika; Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; General Abboud, President of the Sudan; Habib Bourguiba, President of Tunisia; Ben Bella, now President of Algeria; Modibo Keita, President of Mali; Leopold Senghor, President of Senegal; Sekou Toure, President of Guinea; President Tubman of Liberia; and Milton Obote, Prime Minister of Uganda. It was Ben Bella who invited me to visit Oujda, the Headquarters of the Algerian Army of National Liberation, the visit which is described in my diary, one of the Exhibits.

I started to make a study of the art of war and revolution and, whilst abroad, underwent a course in military training. If there was to be guerrilla warfare, I wanted to be able to stand and fight with my people and to share the hazards of war with them. Notes of lectures which I received in Algeria are contained in Exhibit 16, produced in evidence. Summaries of books on guerrilla warfare and military strategy have also been produced. I have already admitted that these documents are in my writing, and I acknowledge that I made these studies to equip myself for the role which I might have to play if the struggle drifted into guerrilla warfare. I approached this question as every African Nationalist should do. I was completely objective. The Court will see that I attempted to examine all types of authority on the subject – from the East and from the West, going back to the classic work of Clausewitz, and covering such a variety as Mao Tse Tung and Che Guevara on the one hand, and the writings on the Anglo-Boer War on the other. Of course, these notes are merely summaries of the books I read and do not contain my personal views. I also made arrangements for our recruits to undergo military training. But here it was impossible to organize any scheme without the co-operation of the ANC offices in Africa. I consequently obtained the permission of the ANC in South Africa to do this. To this extent then there was a departure from the original decision of the ANC, but it applied outside South Africa only. The first batch of recruits actually arrived in Tanganyika when I was passing through that country on my way back to South Africa.

I returned to South Africa and reported to my colleagues on the results of my trip. On my return I found that there had been little alteration in the political scene save that the threat of a death penalty for sabotage had now become a fact. The attitude of my colleagues in Umkhonto was much the same as it had been before I left. They were feeling their way cautiously and felt that it would be a long time before the possibilities of sabotage were exhausted. In fact, the view was expressed by some that the training of recruits was premature. This is recorded by me in the document which is Exhibit R.14. After a full discussion, however, it was decided to go ahead with the plans for military training because of the fact that it would take many years to build up a sufficient nucleus of trained soldiers to start a guerrilla campaign, and whatever happened, the training would be of value.

I wish to turn now to certain general allegations made in this case by the State. But before doing so, I wish to revert to certain occurrences said by witnesses to have happened in Port Elizabeth and East London. I am referring to the bombing of private houses of pro-Government persons during September, October and November 1962. I do not know what justification there was for these acts, nor what provocation had been given. But if what I have said already is accepted, then it is clear that these acts had nothing to do with the carrying out of the policy of Umkhonto.

Mr Mandela in his boxing days

One of the chief allegations in the indictment is that the ANC was a party to a general conspiracy to commit sabotage. I have already explained why this is incorrect but how, externally, there was a departure from the original principle laid down by the ANC. There has, of course, been overlapping of functions internally as well, because there is a difference between a resolution adopted in the atmosphere of a committee room and the concrete difficulties that arise in the field of practical activity. At a later stage the position was further affected by bannings and house arrests, and by persons leaving the country to take up political work abroad. This led to individuals having to do work in different capacities. But though this may have blurred the distinction between Umkhonto and the ANC, it by no means abolished that distinction. Great care was taken to keep the activities of the two organizations in South Africa distinct. The ANC remained a mass political body of Africans only carrying on the type of political work they had conducted prior to 1961. Umkhonto remained a small organization recruiting its members from different races and organizations and trying to achieve its own particular object. The fact that members of Umkhonto were recruited from the ANC, and the fact that persons served both organizations, like Solomon Mbanjwa, did not, in our view, change the nature of the ANC or give it a policy of violence. This overlapping of officers, however, was more the exception than the rule. This is why persons such as ‘Mr. X’ and ‘Mr. Z,’ who were on the Regional Command of their respective areas, did not participate in any of the ANC committees or activities, and why people such as Mr. Bennett Mashiyana and Mr. Reginald Ndubi did not hear of sabotage at their ANC meetings.

Another of the allegations in the indictment is that Rivonia was the headquarters of Umkhonto. This is not true of the time when I was there. I was told, of course, and knew that certain of the activities of the Communist Party were carried on there. But this is no reason (as I shall presently explain) why I should not use the place. I came there in the following manner:

As already indicated, early in April 1961 I went underground to organize the May general strike. My work entailed traveling throughout the country, living now in African townships, then in country villages and again in cities.

During the second half of the year I started visiting the Parktown home of Arthur Goldreich, where I used to meet my family privately. Although I had no direct political association with him, I had known Arthur Goldreich socially since 1958.

In October, Arthur Goldreich informed me that he was moving out of town and offered me a hiding place there. A few days thereafter, he arranged for Michael Harmel to take me to Rivonia. I naturally found Rivonia an ideal place for the man who lived the life of an outlaw. Up to that time I had been compelled to live indoors during the daytime and could only venture out under cover of darkness. But at Liliesleaf [farm, Rivonia,] I could live differently and work far more efficiently.

For obvious reasons, I had to disguise myself and I assumed the fictitious name of David. In December, Arthur Goldreich and his family moved in. I stayed there until I went abroad on 11 January 1962. As already indicated, I returned in July 1962 and was arrested in Natal on 5 August.

Up to the time of my arrest, Liliesleaf farm was the headquarters of neither the African National Congress nor Umkhonto. With the exception of myself, none of the officials or members of these bodies lived there, no meetings of the governing bodies were ever held there, and no activities connected with them were either organized or directed from there. On numerous occasions during my stay at Liliesleaf farm I met both the Executive Committee of the ANC, as well as the NHC, but such meetings were held elsewhere and not on the farm.

Whilst staying at Liliesleaf farm, I frequently visited Arthur Goldreich in the main house and he also paid me visits in my room. We had numerous political discussions covering a variety of subjects. We discussed ideological and practical questions, the Congress Alliance, Umkhonto and its activities generally, and his experiences as a soldier in the Palmach, the military wing of the Haganah. Haganah was the political authority of the Jewish National Movement in Palestine. Because of what I had got to know of Goldreich, I recommended on my return to South Africa that he should be recruited to Umkhonto. I do not know of my personal knowledge whether this was done.

Another of the allegations made by the State is that the aims and objects of the ANC and the Communist Party are the same. I wish to deal with this and with my own political position, because I must assume that the State may try to argue from certain Exhibits that I tried to introduce Marxism into the ANC. The allegation as to the ANC is false. This is an old allegation which was disproved at the Treason Trial and which has again reared its head. But since the allegation has been made again, I shall deal with it as well as with the relationship between the ANC and the Communist Party and Umkhonto and that party.

The ideological creed of the ANC is, and always has been, the creed of African Nationalism. It is not the concept of African Nationalism expressed in the cry, ‘Drive the White man into the sea.’ The African Nationalism for which the ANC stands is the concept of freedom and fulfilment for the African people in their own land. The most important political document ever adopted by the ANC is the ‘Freedom Charter.’ It is by no means a blueprint for a socialist state. It calls for redistribution, but not nationalization, of land; it provides for nationalization of mines, banks, and monopoly industry, because big monopolies are owned by one race only, and without such nationalization racial domination would be perpetuated despite the spread of political power. It would be a hollow gesture to repeal the Gold Law prohibitions against Africans when all gold mines are owned by European companies. In this respect the ANC’s policy corresponds with the old policy of the present Nationalist Party which, for many years, had as part of its program the nationalization of the gold mines which, at that time, were controlled by foreign capital. Under the Freedom Charter, nationalization would take place in an economy based on private enterprise. The realization of the Freedom Charter would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African population of all classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society.

As far as the Communist Party is concerned, and if I understand its policy correctly, it stands for the establishment of a State based on the principles of Marxism. Although it is prepared to work for the Freedom Charter, as a short term solution to the problems created by white supremacy, it regards the Freedom Charter as the beginning, and not the end, of its program.

The ANC, unlike the Communist Party, admitted Africans only as members. Its chief goal was, and is, for the African people to win unity and full political rights. The Communist Party’s main aim, on the other hand, was to remove the capitalists and to replace them with a working-class government. The Communist Party sought to emphasize class distinctions whilst the ANC seeks to harmonize them. This is a vital distinction.

It is true that there has often been close co-operation between the ANC and the Communist Party. But co-operation is merely proof of a common goal – in this case the removal of white supremacy – and is not proof of a complete community of interests.

The history of the world is full of similar examples. Perhaps the most striking illustration is to be found in the co-operation between Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Soviet Union in the fight against Hitler. Nobody but Hitler would have dared to suggest that such co-operation turned Churchill or Roosevelt into communists or communist tools, or that Britain and America were working to bring about a communist world.

Another instance of such co-operation is to be found precisely in Umkhonto. Shortly after Umkhonto was constituted, I was informed by some of its members that the Communist Party would support Umkhonto, and this then occurred. At a later stage the support was made openly. I believe that communists have always played an active role in the fight by colonial countries for their freedom, because the short-term objects of communism would always correspond with the long-term

objects of freedom movements. Thus communists have played an important role in the freedom struggles fought in countries such as Malaya, Algeria, and Indonesia, yet none of these States today are communist countries. Similarly in the underground resistance movements which sprung up in Europe during the last World War, communists played an important role. Even General Chiang Kai-Shek, today one of the bitterest enemies of communism, fought together with the communists against the ruling class in the struggle which led to his assumption of power in China in the 1930s.

This pattern of co-operation between communists and non-communists has been repeated in the National Liberation Movement of South Africa. Prior to the banning of the Communist Party, joint campaigns involving the Communist Party and the Congress movements were accepted practice. African communists could, and did, become members of the ANC, and some served on the National, Provincial, and local committees. Amongst those who served on the National Executive are Albert Nzula, a former Secretary of the Communist Party, Moses Kotane, another former Secretary, and J. B. Marks, a former member of the Central Committee.

I joined the ANC in 1944, and in my younger days I held the view that the policy of admitting communists to the ANC, and the close co-operation which existed at times on specific issues between the ANC and the Communist Party, would lead to a watering down of the concept of African Nationalism. At that stage I was a member of the African National Congress Youth League, and was one of a group which moved for the expulsion of communists from the ANC. This proposal was heavily defeated. Amongst those who voted against the proposal were some of the most conservative sections of African political opinion. They defended the policy on the ground that from its inception the ANC was formed and built up, not as a political party with one school of political thought, but as a Parliament of the African people, accommodating people of various political convictions, all united by the common goal of national liberation. I was eventually won over to this point of view and I have upheld it ever since.

It is perhaps difficult for white South Africans, with an ingrained prejudice against communism, to understand why experienced African politicians so readily accept communists as their friends. But to us the reason is obvious. Theoretical differences amongst those fighting against oppression is a luxury we cannot afford at this stage. What is more, for many decades communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us, live with us, and work with us. They were the only political group which was prepared to work with the Africans for the attainment of political rights and a stake in society. Because of this, there are many Africans who, today, tend to equate freedom with communism. They are supported in this belief by a legislature which brands all exponents of democratic government and African freedom as communists and bans many of them (who are not communists) under the Suppression of Communism Act. Although I have never been a member of the Communist Party, I myself have been named under that pernicious Act because of the role I played in the Defiance Campaign. I have also been banned and imprisoned under that Act.

It is not only in internal politics that we count communists as amongst those who support our cause. In the international field, communist countries have always come to our aid. In the United Nations and other Councils of the world the communist bloc has supported the Afro-Asian struggle against colonialism and often seems to be more sympathetic to our plight than some of the Western powers. Although there is a universal condemnation of apartheid, the communist bloc speaks out against it with a louder voice than most of the white world. In these circumstances, it would take a brash young politician, such as I was in 1949, to proclaim that the Communists are our enemies.

I turn now to my own position. I have denied that I am a communist, and I think that in the circumstances I am obliged to state exactly what my political beliefs are.

I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African patriot. After all, I was born in Umtata, forty-six years ago. My guardian was my cousin, who was the acting paramount chief of Tembuland, and I am related both to the present paramount chief of Tembuland, Sabata Dalindyebo, and to Kaizer Matanzima, the Chief Minister of the Transkei.

Today I am attracted by the idea of a classless society, an attraction which springs in part from Marxist reading and, in part, from my admiration of the structure and organization of early African societies in this country. The land, then the main means of production, belonged to the tribe. There were no rich or poor and there was no exploitation.

It is true, as I have already stated, that I have been influenced by Marxist thought. But this is also true of many of the leaders of the new independent States. Such widely different persons as Gandhi, Nehru, Nkrumah, and Nasser all acknowledge this fact. We all accept the need for some form of socialism to enable our people to catch up with the advanced countries of this world and to overcome their legacy of extreme poverty. But this does not mean we are Marxists.

Indeed, for my own part, I believe that it is open to debate whether the Communist Party has any specific role to play at this particular stage of our political struggle. The basic task at the present moment is the removal of race discrimination and the attainment of democratic rights on the basis of the Freedom Charter. In so far as that Party furthers this task, I welcome its assistance. I realize that it is one of the means by which people of all races can be drawn into our struggle.

From my reading of Marxist literature and from conversations with Marxists, I have gained the impression that communists regard the parliamentary system of the West as undemocratic and reactionary. But, on the contrary, I am an admirer of such a system.

The Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of Rights are documents which are held in veneration by democrats throughout the world. I have great respect for British political institutions, and for the country’s system of justice. I regard the British Parliament as the most democratic institution in the world, and the independence and impartiality of its judiciary never fails to arouse my admiration. The American Congress, that country’s doctrine of separation of powers, as well as the independence of its judiciary, arouses in me similar sentiments.

I have been influenced in my thinking by both West and East. All this has led me to feel that in my search for a political formula, I should be absolutely impartial and objective. I should tie myself to no particular system of society other than of socialism. I must leave myself free to borrow the best from the West and from the East.

There are certain Exhibits which suggest that we received financial support from abroad, and I wish to deal with this question. Our political struggle has always been financed from internal sources – from funds raised by our own people and by our own supporters. Whenever we had a special campaign or an important political case–for example, the Treason Trial–we received financial assistance from sympathetic individuals and organizations in the Western countries. We had never felt it necessary to go beyond these sources.

But when in 1961 the Umkhonto was formed, and a new phase of struggle introduced, we realized that these events would make a heavy call on our slender resources, and that the scale of our activities would be hampered by the lack of funds. One of my instructions, as I went abroad in January 1962, was to raise funds from the African states. I must add that, whilst abroad, I had discussions with leaders of political movements in Africa and discovered that almost every single one of them, in areas which had still not attained independence, had received all forms of assistance from the socialist countries, as well as from the West, including that of financial support. I also discovered that some well-known African states, all of them non-communists, and even anti-communists, had received similar assistance.

On my return to the Republic, I made a strong recommendation to the ANC that we should not confine ourselves to Africa and the Western countries, but that we should also send a mission to the socialist countries to raise the funds which we so urgently needed. I have been told that after I was convicted such a mission was sent, but I am not prepared to name any countries to which it went, nor am I at liberty to disclose the names of the organizations and countries which gave us support or promised to do so.

As I understand the State case, and in particular the evidence of ‘Mr. X,’ the suggestion is that Umkhonto was the inspiration of the Communist Party which sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to enroll the African people into an army which ostensibly was to fight for African freedom, but in reality was fighting for a communist state. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the suggestion is preposterous. Umkhonto was formed by Africans to further their struggle for freedom in their own land. Communists and others supported the movement, and we only wish that more sections of the community would join us.

Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use the language of the State Prosecutor, ‘so-called hardships.’ Basically, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation which we seek to have repealed. These features are poverty and lack of human dignity,and we do not need communists or so-called ‘agitators’ to teach us about these things.

South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable contrasts. The whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery. Forty per cent of the Africans live in hopelessly overcrowded and, in some cases, drought-stricken Reserves, where soil erosion and the overworking of the soil makes it impossible for them to live properly off the land. Thirty per cent are laborers, labor tenants, and squatters on white farms and work and live under conditions similar to those of the serfs of the Middle Ages. The other 30 per cent live in towns where they have developed economic and social habits which bring them closer in many respects to white standards. Yet most Africans, even in this group, are impoverished by low incomes and high cost of living.

The highest-paid and the most prosperous section of urban African life is in Johannesburg. Yet their actual position is desperate. The latest figures were given on 25 March 1964 by Mr. Carr, Manager of the Johannesburg Non-European Affairs Department. The poverty datum line for the average African family in Johannesburg (according to Mr. Carr’s department) is R42.84 per month. He showed that the average monthly wage is R32.24 and that 46 per cent of all African families in Johannesburg do not earn enough to keep them going.

Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition and disease. The incidence of malnutrition and deficiency diseases is very high amongst Africans. Tuberculosis, pellagra, kwashiorkor, gastro-enteritis, and scurvy bring death and destruction of health. The incidence of infant mortality is one of the highest in the world. According to the Medical Officer of Health for Pretoria, tuberculosis kills forty people a day (almost all Africans), and in 1961 there were 58,491 new cases reported. These diseases not only destroy the vital organs of the body, but they result in retarded mental conditions and lack of initiative, and reduce powers of concentration. The secondary results of such conditions affect the whole community and the standard of work performed by African laborers.

The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and the whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites are designed to preserve this situation. There are two ways to break out of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages. As far as Africans are concerned, both these avenues of advancement are deliberately curtailed by legislation.

The present Government has always sought to hamper Africans in their search for education. One of their early acts, after coming into power, was to stop subsidies for African school feeding. Many African children who attended schools depended on this supplement to their diet. This was a cruel act.

There is compulsory education for all white children at virtually no cost to their parents, be they rich or poor. Similar facilities are not provided for the African children, though there are some who receive such assistance. African children, however, generally have to pay more for their schooling than whites. According to figures quoted by the South African Institute of Race Relations in its 1963 journal, approximately 40 per cent of African children in the age group between seven to fourteen do not attend school. For those who do attend school, the standards are vastly different from those afforded to white children. In 1960-61 the per capita Government spending on African students at State-aided schools was estimated at R12.46. In the same years, the per capita spending on white children in the Cape Province (which are the only figures available to me) was R144.57. Although there are no figures available to me, it can be stated, without doubt, that the white children on whom R144.57 per head was being spent all came from wealthier homes than African children on whom R12.46 per head was being spent.

The quality of education is also different. According to the Bantu Educational Journal, only 5,660 African children in the whole of South Africa passed their Junior Certificate in 1962, and in that year only362 passed matric. This is presumably consistent with the policy of Bantu education about which the present Prime Minister said, during the debate on the Bantu Education Bill in 1953:

“When I have control of Native education I will reform it so that Natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them . . . People who believe in equality are not desirable teachers for Natives. When my Department controls Native education it will know for what class of higher education a Native is fitted, and whether he will have a chance in life to use his knowledge.”

The other main obstacle to the economic advancement of the African is the industrial color-bar under which all the better jobs of industry are reserved for Whites only. Moreover, Africans who do obtain employment in the unskilled and semi-skilled occupations which are open to them are not allowed to form trade unions which have recognition under the Industrial Conciliation Act. This means that strikes of African workers are illegal, and that they are denied the right of collective bargaining which is permitted to the better-paid White workers. The discrimination in the policy of successive South African Governments towards African workers is demonstrated by the so-called ‘civilized labor policy’ under which sheltered, unskilled Government jobs are found for those white workers who cannot make the grade in industry, at wages which far exceed the earnings of the average African employee in industry.

The Government often answers its critics by saying that Africans in South Africa are economically better off than the inhabitants of the other countries in Africa. I do not know whether this statement is true and doubt whether any comparison can be made without having regard to the cost-of-living index in such countries. But even if it is true, as far as the African people are concerned it is irrelevant. Our complaint is not that we are poor by comparison with people in other countries, but that we are poor by comparison with the white people in our own country, and that we are prevented by legislation

from altering this imbalance.

The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of white supremacy. White supremacy implies black inferiority. Legislation designed to preserve white supremacy entrenches this notion. Menial tasks in South Africa are invariably performed by Africans. When anything has to be carried or cleaned the white man will look around for an African to do it for him, whether the African is employed by him or not. Because of this sort of attitude, whites tend to regard Africans as a separate breed. They do not look upon them as people with families of their own; they do not realize that they have emotions – that they fall in love like white people do; that they want to be with their wives and children like white people want to be with theirs; that they want to earn enough money to support their families properly, to feed and clothe them and send them to school. And what ‘house-boy’ or ‘garden-boy’ or laborer can ever hope to do this?

Pass laws, which to the Africans are among the most hated bits of legislation in South Africa, render any African liable to police surveillance at any time. I doubt whether there is a single African male in South Africa who has not at some stage had a brush with the police over his pass. Hundreds and thousands of Africans are thrown into jail each year under pass laws. Even worse than this is the fact that pass laws keep husband and wife apart and lead to the breakdown of family life.

Poverty and the breakdown of family life have secondary effects. Children wander about the streets of the townships because they have no schools to go to, or no money to enable them to go to school, or no parents at home to see that they go to school, because both parents (if there be two) have to work to keep the family alive. This leads to a breakdown in moral standards, to an alarming rise in illegitimacy, and to growing violence which erupts not only politically, but everywhere. Life in the townships is dangerous. There is not a day that goes by without somebody being stabbed or assaulted. And violence is carried out of the townships in the white living areas. People are afraid to walk alone in the streets after dark. House breakings and robberies are increasing, despite the fact that the death sentence can now be imposed for such offences. Death sentences cannot cure the festering sore.

Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the Government declares them to be capable of. Africans want to be allowed to live where they obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because they were not born there. Africans want to be allowed to own land in places where they work, and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which they can never call their own. Africans want to be part of the general population, and not confined to living in their own ghettoes. African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the Reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after eleven o’clock at night and not to be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed to travel in their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where the Labor Bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.

Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.

But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on color, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.

This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live.

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Mr Mandela with his family

 

Fortune’s Favor~June, 1862~the third week

Nurses working for the Sanitary Commission

As the war drags on into its fifteenth month women continue to feel its effects. Southerner Sarah Morgan laments the war’s increase of feelings of hate and anger in women. Varina Howell Davis receives the gift of a lead pencil from her husband, President Jeff Davis, who notes that such writing tools are in short supply. Just as many other women, North and South, a group of Roman Catholic nuns come to Virginia to provide nursing care for injured and sick soldiers. Among Quakers women lead in the adoption of a statement which recognizes that slavery is the cause of the war and immediate abolition of slavery the only cure.

Bitter fighting in South Carolina ends in a loss for Federal forces. General John Fremont resigns in anger from the Union Army while criticism of McClellan increases. New Englander Elisha Hunt Rhodes prays that God may cause men in the regiment to repent. New York City raises more money for the Sanitary commission. New legislation bans slavery in any U S territory, thus terminating the provisions of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and rebuffing the Southern assertion that slave-owners have a constitutionally protected right to bring slaves into any territory.

President Lincoln asks Congress for money to assist Mexico in paying its debts. The Harpers Weekly takes a decidedly pro-French position, asserting that Napoleon’s conduct is honorable.

In Europe, the recently elected prime minister of Romania is assassinated. Karl Marx, in exile in England, writes to Frederick Engels about Darwinian theory in human socirty,

Map of Secessionville battle

 

June 16– Monday– James Island [known as “Secessionville”], South Carolina– Outside of Charleston, Confederate soldiers repel a Union attack with a loss of 203 dead, wounded and missing, while inflicting a total of 683 casualties on the Federal force. Two immigrant brothers who came from Scotland in the 1850’s are both heroes in the fight, Alexander Campbell for the Union, James Campbell for the Confederacy. Both survive today’s fight and only learn later of the other’s presence. Pennsylvania soldier Christian Lobinger describes what he saw. “The battle raged furiously several hours and by scores here for the first time in my life I saw the terrible effects of War. Our boys made several bayonet charges . . . and finally with terrible slaughters and a loss of about 100 we were defeated and compelled to retreat.”

 June 16– Monday– Baton Rouge, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan confides to her diary. “This war has brought out wicked, malignant feelings that I did not believe could dwell in woman’s heart. I see some of the holiest eyes, so holy one would think the very spirit of charity lived in them, and all Christian meekness, go off in a mad tirade of abuse and say, with the holy eyes wondrously changed, ‘I hope God will send down plague, yellow fever, famine, on these vile Yankees, and that not one will escape death.’ O, what unutterable horror that remark causes me as often as I hear it! I think of the many mothers, wives, and sisters who wait as anxiously, pray as fervently in their faraway homes for their dear ones, as we do here; I fancy them waiting day after day for the footsteps that will never come, growing more sad, lonely, and heart-broken as the days wear on; I think of how awful it would be if one would say, ‘Your brothers are dead’; how it would crush all life and happiness out of me; and I say, ‘God forgive these poor women! They know not what they say!’”

 June 16– Monday– Isle of Wight, England– The Cowes and Newport Railway opens the first section of passenger line on the island between the two towns of its title, a stretch of 4.5 miles or 7.2 km.

June 17– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong takes the political temperature. “McClellan seems to make no progress. . . . I have a lively faith in old Abe Lincoln. There will be no personal intrigue in his Cabinet, ‘not if he knows it.’”

 June 17– Tuesday– Shenandoah Valley, Virginia– General John C Fremont, age 49, full of anti-slavery sentiment and angry at being placed under General John Pope, to whom he is senior, submits his resignation.

Karl Marx & his daughter Jenny, London, England, c1865

 

June 18– Wednesday– London, England– Karl Marx writes to his friend Frederick Engels. After lamenting his poverty and inability to earn money, Marx turns to an interesting analysis. “I’m amused that Darwin, at whom I’ve been taking another look, should say that he also applies the ‘Malthusian’ theory to plants and animals, as though in Mr Malthus’s case the whole thing didn’t lie in its not being applied to plants and animals, but only — with its geometric progression — to humans as against plants and animals. It is remarkable how Darwin rediscovers, among the beasts and plants, the society of England with its division of labor, competition, opening up of new markets, ‘inventions’ and Malthusian ‘struggle for existence’. It is Hobbes’ bellum omnium contra omnes and is reminiscent of Hegel’s Phenomenology, in which civil society figures as an ‘intellectual animal kingdom’, whereas, in Darwin, the animal kingdom figures as civil society.”

 June 19– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln signs into law a bill forbidding slavery in all U. S Territories.

 June 19– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis writes to his wife, Varina Howell Davis, who is with their children in the safety of Raleigh, North Carolina. President Davis is recently returned from visiting them. “Kiss my dear children whose sweet faces I last saw in sleep, and from whose door I turned reluctantly in the morning upon your announcing ‘all sound’ with a manner thatwarned me against waking them. I left a soft pencil for you on your mantel piece, having noticed you had none. I hope you found it as they are rare with us now.”

 

Wedding picture of Varina & Jeff Davis

June 20– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In the Liberator, a lengthy article recounts the tenth annual meeting of Progressive Friends, held at Longwood, Pennsylvania. In Quaker fashion the meeting, which included Lucretia Mott and John Greenleaf Whittier, issued a “Testimony on the Rebellion” which concludes that “The cause of this bloody civil strife, therefore, being the enslavement of four million of the inhabitants of the land, there is but one sure method of bringing it to an end, and making at least partial atonement for our great iniquity. It is to Abolish Slavery Without Delay.”

 June 20– Friday– Bucharest, Romania– As he leaves Parliament, Prime Minister Barbu Catargiu, age 54, is shot and killed by an unknown assailant. He has been in office less than two months.

Prime Minister Catargiu

 June 21– Saturday– New York City– Harper’s Weekly sizes up the turbulent situation in Mexico in a decidedly pro-French position. “The truth of the matter is simply this. Napoleon wants to see Mexico peaceful, and an active consumer of French wines, silks, and other manufactures. To achieve this end he is willing to lend the strongest and best party in Mexico the use of a few thousand French soldiers. . . . . Indeed, if we are not mistaken, the Government of the Emperor has already made known to Mr. Lincoln that the French expedition against Mexico has no other object than the restoration and protection of a stable native Government in that country, and that the Emperor seeks and ardently desires the co-operation of the United States.”

June 22- Sunday– Fair Oaks, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes describes the Sabbath observance. “Our Chaplain preached this morning from the word ‘Gospel.’ The sermon was excellent and I trust will do some good. We have Christian men in the Regiment, but there are many who take no interest in religious matters. I trust that God’s spirit will move upon their hearts and turn them to repentance.”

 

Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the Sisters of Charity

June 22– Sunday– Fort Monroe, Virginia–Thirty of Elizabeth Seton’s Sisters of Charity, Roman Catholic nuns, arrive to nurse Union sick and injured.

 June 23– Monday– New York City– In his diary George Templeton Strong records some good news. “Tonight to concert at Academy of Music. It was got up spontaneously by the young men of the Mercantile Society Library for the benefit of the Sanitary Commission. Tolerable house. Guess we shall net $1,000 and upwards.” [This would be about $23,100 today.]

 June 23– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln submits to the Senate for review and possible ratification a treaty with Mexico which would provide financial assistance in the amount of $11,000,000 to help Mexico pay its debt to European powers. The President includes correspondence from Mr Corwin, the American Minister in Mexico. [The amount would equal about $254million today.]

Happy Labor Day!!!

Remember these labor heroes, among so many others, and give thanks!

A Philip Randolph

 

Dorothy Day

 
 

Cesar Chavez

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dolores Huerta

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Victor Hugo

 

Sacco and Vanzetti

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Samuel Gompers

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn--the IWW's "Rebel Girl"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Frances Perkins--FDR's Secretary of Labor

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lawrence, Massachusetts--1912--Strikers confront troops--look who has the flag & who has guns

 

Lucy Parsons

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Eugene V Debs

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Joe Hill--IWW organizer

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

FDR at first inaugration-1933

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mary Harris Jones--a/k/a Mother JonesCrystal Eastman

 
I believe in the communion of saints–those through whose faith I now have faith.
 
 
 

Lincoln Veterans

Lincoln Battalion button

As I think back on it, I’m not sure when and where I first heard about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Civil War in Spain. Franco still lived and continued to rule Spain in my youth. My favorite uncle, who raised my political consciousness, spoke with venom about fascists in general and Franco in particular. A radio program introduced me to the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca and I learned of his death in the early days of the war in Spain in 1936.

The poet Lorca in 1934

In high school or college, on one of my albums by Pete Seeger, I heard him sing “Viva La Quince Brigada”–”Long Live the 15th Brigade”–”we fought against the mercenary and the fascist”–“on the Jarama front we have no tanks, no canon, no airplane”–”it was our only desire to defeat fascism.” In my baccalaureate history major I took a course on modern totalitarian states from a brilliant professor, a course which included a section on Spain, its terrible civil war and the rise of Franco.

Then life, work, family and other things kept that war and those soldiers out of mind. Until a Sunday in the late 1980’s or early 90’s when CBS Sunday Morning ran a piece on the elderly American veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade [actually a misnomer–it was the Lincoln Battalion, a part of several battalions which made up the 15th International Brigade]. I felt moved to tears as I watched those old soldiers tell their stories. “I left an arm in Spain but brought back so much more,” declared an amputee. Now I am rereading Chaim Potok’s Davita’s Harp, a novel which I find beautiful, deeply moving, and intensely thought-provoking. In this 1985 novel, Michael Chandal, greatly loved father of the main character, Ilana Davita Chandal, is a journalist and left-wing activist who goes to Spain to cover the war for his newspaper and dies during a bombing raid while trying to save a nun. And those Lincoln veterans have stepped to the front of my mind, their clenched fists raised in salute, their voices raised in singing the Internationale.

Internationale songsheet

In July 1936, right-wing military officers in the Spanish Army led by General Franco attempted to overthrow the newly elected government of Spain. Hitler and Mussolini quickly joined in support of Franco. The Spanish Civil War lasted until 1939. Over half a million people are believed to have died on all sides. Approximately 2,800 American volunteers took up arms to defend the Spanish Republic against Franco. They fought alongside 35,000+ volunteers from fifty-two countries In keeping with “Popular Front” culture, as the government’s supporters called themselves, the Americans named their units the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, the George Washington Battalion, and the John Brown Battery. Together with British, Irish, Canadian, and other nationals they formed the Fifteenth International Brigade. These U S citizens came from all walks of life and most all regions of the country. They included the unemployed, teachers, artists, dancers, students, seamen, mechanics, miners, lumberjacks, and salesmen They established a truly racially integrated military unit. The exact number of killed and injured continues to be a disputed matter. At least 750 died, perhaps more. Many suffered permanent injuries.

The 15th International Brigade

Nearly 80 American women joined their countrymen in defiance of their government to volunteer for what was known as the “Good Fight.” Most all of these women served with the American Medical Bureau as nurses, doctors, technicians, and ambulance drivers. In 2007 Julia Newman produced and directed a wonderful film called “Into the Fire: American Women in the Spanish Civil War.” Ms Newman said of her project, “They were extraordinary people, but they were ordinary people who had found their way to a cause that caught their heart. And this is part of my own background. My parents were supporters of the republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and they had friends who fought and died in Spain. And I realized that I knew nothing about the fact that there were eighty women who had gone to Spain as volunteers to serve, primarily as medicals, in support of the international brigades. And I wanted that history to be known.” Righteous work in my opinion, Ms Newman. You did a fine job.

Martha Gellhorn, a renowned war correspondent who was Ernest Hemingway’s third wife, said, “I was in Germany in 1936 and could not avoid seeing these headlines about the ‘red swine dogs’ in Spain. I had been in Spain, but I knew nothing about what had happened, that the king had gone, that there was a republic, but all I needed was to read in a German paper that it was the red swine dogs to know whose side I was on: theirs.”

Virginia Cowles, a reporter for The New York Times who covered the war in Spain, declared, “In spite of numerous and conflicting political terms used to classify the Spanish conflict, the fundamental issue lies neither between republicanism and fascism nor between communism and monarchism. Mainly and simply it is a war between the proletariat and the upper classes.”

About 1,200 Canadians formed a separate battalion named for William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau, who led the 1837 Rebellions in Canada. The battalion was under the command of Edward Cecil-Smith, a Montreal-based journalist and trade union organizer. The Canadians who made up the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion came from all parts of Canada. Unlike Britain and the United States, where a significant number of students and intellectuals enlisted, the Canadian group consisted almost wholly of working class laborers who had been driven to the political left by their experiences during the Great Depression.

Canadian volunteers in Spain

These volunteers included members of the CCF (a predecessor of the current New Democratic Party) as well as some Liberals and others with no political affiliation. A large percentage of those who enlisted had been born in Europe, the two largest groups being Finns and Ukrainians. Better than half these Canadians died in Spain. In 1975 the National Film Board of Canada produced an award-winning film called “Los Canadienses” about the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. The moving film includes many period photographs and film clips along with interviews of aging survivors.

American celebrities such as Albert Einstein, Dorothy Parker, Gene Kelly, Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, A. Philip Randolph, and Gypsy Rose Lee supported the Republican cause. In one of her newspaper columns, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “Three very interesting people came to dine with us last night: Miss Martha Gellhorn, Mr Ernest Hemingway, both writers, and Mr Joris Ivens, a maker of films. After dinner, the two men showed us a film which they made. The profits are going into the purchase of ambulances to help the sick and dying in a part of the world which is at present war-torn.”

In her interview in 2007 with film maker Julia Newman on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman noted that, “Eleanor Roosevelt disagreed with her husband. Eleanor Roosevelt was a close friend of Martha Gellhorn, the war correspondent.”

White House photo of Eleanor Roosevelt

Ms Newman replied, “Yes. She did everything she could to help convince FDR to go against the [arms] embargo [against the Spanish government]. Ultimately, he was too politically frightened I guess isn’t too strong a word. He was a consummate politician, and he did not want to alienate what he saw as a collection of powerful lobbies in this country who were primarily Catholic, but who were pro-Franco. There was a strong movement here that was pro-Franco, along with the fact that most Americans were not.”

Ms Goodman: “Led by a powerful radio talk show host.”

Ms Newman: “Named Father Coughlin, yes. Father Coughlin was the radio priest, and he was quite rabid in rallying his listener-ship to Franco.”

In November 1938, as a last attempt to pressure Hitler and Mussolini into repatriating their troops, the Spanish prime minister Juan Negrin ordered the withdrawal of the International Brigades. The German and Italian coalition refused to follow suit and Madrid fell in March 1939.The Lincoln veterans returned home as heroes of the anti-fascist cause but enjoyed no official recognition of their deed.

In the 1950’s many of these veterans suffered harassment or were forced out of their jobs by the FBI. Some were prosecuted under legislation like the Smith Act and state sedition laws, although over time all but a few convictions were overturned. Yet both in the United States and Canada the majority of the veterans continued to be active on the political left.

From 1937 through 1948, the FBI maintained files on these men. About 160 pages of this material was publicly released in 2008. I find the following from that file quite revealing: “The American people were misled. into thinking that the Spanish Civil War was only between the forces of darkness and light, ignorance and enlightenment, retrogression and progression, tyranny and freedom, Fascism and Democracy. This was precisely what the Communists wanted the American people to believe. As was indicated earlier in this memorandum the truth is there was no clear cut, black and white issue in the Spanish Civil War. Each side was made up of differing factions, and of men with varying social viewpoints. No one side had a monopoly on any virtues or vices pertaining to human relations. As the war progressed Communists under the guidance of Russia came to infiltrate and influence the Loyalist Government. And the one thing which did have the sound ring ot certainty to it was: Communists were not attempting to establish democracy in Spain. On the contrary they were opposed to democracy and sought to establish Communism; a dictatorship of the proletariat as a satellite of Soviet Russia. Judging from the evaluation made of public opinion in the United States the American people did not seem to fully understand or appreciate the fact, remaining contused about it all as so many Americans today appear to be confused and misled.” This from the agency that kept secret files on First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Rev Martin Luther King, Jr, Jane Addams and Dr Benjamin Spock.

Moe Fishman, a veteran of the Lincoln Brigade who died in August of 2007 at age 92, once said, “The International Brigade, of which we were a part, consisted of about 40,000 to 45,000 volunteers from fifty-two countries who came to the aid of the Spanish Republic, and I want to emphasize ‘came to the aid of.’ It was the Spanish Republic and their people who fought this war and deserved the major credit for the big fight that they put up, which gave the democracies a two-and-a-half-year window of opportunity to change from a policy of appeasing fascism, led by Chamberlain of Britain and subscribed to by [President] Roosevelt, to one of actively fighting fascism. If they had actively fought fascism in 1936-1939, we would have stopped Hitler.”

Thought-provoking. One of those “what-if” questions that make the study of history vibrate. Regardless of the apparent failure of the International Brigades, those women and men have things to teach us. At an address in New York City in April, 2007, the singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte declared so movingly, “I say to the Lincoln Brigade, thank you so much for what you have given all of us, me in my youth and the youth of today. Without your courage, without your vigilance, without your insight, America could never have hung on as tenaciously as we have done to the things hat are decent about this country. It is your example, it is that which you have given us, that has helped guide us through some of the darkest times in the history of this nation. We defeated Hitler, but we did not defeat fascism. We defeated McCarthy, but we did not defeat fascism. . . . We still have work to do. We must still be vigilant. And all we need to do when we have moments of doubt is to look back at what was given us by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the valiant sacrifices that were made by them to know what we have to do in our time.”

Preach it Brother Harry! As President Lincoln said about the dead of another war: “That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

Monument to the U S volunteers

 The final word I leave to a great historian, the late Howard Zinn. “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.”

Monument to the Canadian volunteers