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No, no Rica, not that again!

8 August 2010

Foot soldier for freedomFoot soldier for freedom by Rica Hodgson

No, this isn’t a review yet, because I haven’t read the book. It’s only just been published , and what I caught was an interview with the author Rica Hodgson on the radio.

Karabo Kgoleng was interviewing Rica Hodgson on SAfm Literature, which was appropriate because tomorrow is Women’s Day, which celebrates women’s resistance to apartheid, and Rica Hodgson was undoubtedly one of those women who resisted, and I’ve put her book on my “to read” list.

It’s Rica Hodgson’s autobiography. She was born in 1920 in Johannesburg, a child of emigrant Jews. She was a member of the Springbok Legion, the Communist Party and the African National Congress, working full time for the movement. She was married to communist Jack Hodgson. Harassed, banned and house arrested by the apartheid government, in 1963 the couple were instructed by the ANC to escape into Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and lease a farm in Lobatse for the training of MK cadres. Soon deported by the British authorities the couple arrived in London, where Rica worked with Canon Collins in the Defence and Aid Fund. Jack died there in 1977. In 1990, after twenty seven years in exile, Rica returned to South Africa to become Walter Sisulu’s secretary and to assist Nelson Mandela.

So far, so good. But then Karabo asked Rita: Why Communist? Why the Communist Party?

And Rica replied that it was because only the Communist Party was non-racial; the Communist Party and the Springbok Legion.

And Karabo then asked, what about the Liberal Party, and Rica replied that the Liberal Party did not allow blacks to join, and it was only for intellectuals.

And that is the old communist lie again. Why repeat it? Why now?

Yes, in the period she was talking about, immediately after WW II, the Springbok Legion and the Communist Party probably were the only non-racial political organisations in South Africa, but not because the Liberal Party did not allow blacks to join. It was rather because the Liberal Party was not formed until 1953.

And even the Progressive Party (formed in 1959) had black members. I remember having an argument with one of them, a fellow by the name of Peter Sekhuhkune; I was trying to convince him that the Liberal Party policy of “one man, one vote” was better than the Progressive policy of allowing only the rich and educated to vote, and he accused me of “preaching Congoism”.

And the Liberal Party disbanded in 1968 precisely because the Prohibition of Improper Interference Act made the existence of multiracial political parties illegal.

Liberals and Communists had their differences, but having black and white members was not one of them. And the bit about the Liberal Party being only for intellectuals wasn’t true either.

At one point the Liberal Party organizer for the Natal Midlands, Chris Shabalala, was detained for questioning by the Security Police. The highest school standard Chris had reached was Standard II (Grade 4). The SB said to him “The Liberal Party stands for ‘one man, one vote’ and the Communist Party stands for ‘one man, one vote’, so they are really the same thing.”

And Chris replied, “Cat’s got two eyes, dog’s got two eyes. Same thing?”

Chris Shabalala, the Natal Midlands organiser of the Liberal Party, speaking to a group oif "white intellectuals" at a Liberal Party meeting at Stepmore, near Underberg, shortly before he was banned in August 1965

Chris Shabalala, the Natal Midlands organiser of the Liberal Party, speaking to a group of “white intellectuals” at a Liberal Party meeting at Stepmore, near Underberg, shortly before he was banned in August 1965

And of course, they weren’t the same thing. The Communist Party (at least in those days) had a pretty clear economic policy based on Marxism-Leninism. The Liberal Party had no economic policy, partly because its members couldn’t agree on one. Members had all kinds of different views on economics, on which they agreed to differ. The priority, as they saw it, was to get rid of the racist oligarchy form of government, and establish a democratic nonracial society. Then would be the time to argue about economics.

So please Rica, don’t repeat the old lies. There were plenty of real differences, and areas of disagreement without trying to focus on false ones.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 August 2010 3:45 am

    Just a small claification, the author’s name is Rica Hodgson, not Rita Hodgson

    • 19 August 2010 9:51 am

      Thank you! And I’m supposed to be an editor, and didn’t catch that!

      Must have been thinking of lovely Rita, meter maid or something.

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