The Cape Radicals

Intellectual and political thought of the New Era Fellowship, 1930s-1960s
Author(s):
  • Publication Date: June 2019
  • Dimensions and Pages: 229 x 156mm Extent: 240pp Black & White illustrations
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-77614-317-7
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 320.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 30

This very readable book is an important contribution to discussions about intellectuals and theories of identity in racialised societies.
— Allison Drew, Honorary Professor, University of Cape Town and Professor Emerita, University of York

This is a seminal text on seminal thought. It tells of dissidence infused with a rare quality: consistency between what one thinks and the way one lives.
— Zimitri Erasmus, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand

In 1937 a group of young Capetonians, socialist intellectuals from the Workers’ Party of South Africa and the Non-European Unity Movement, embarked on a remarkable public education and cultural project they called the New Era Fellowship (NEF). Through public debates, lectures, study circles and cultural events a new cultural and political project was born in Cape Town. Taking a position of non-collaboration and non-racialism, the NEF played a vital role in challenging society’s responses to events ranging from the problem of taking up arms during the Second World War for an empire intent on stripping people of colour of their human rights, to the Hertzog Bills, which foreshadowed apartheid in all its ruthless effectiveness.

The group included some of the city’s most talented scholar-activists, among them Isaac Tabata, Ben Kies, A C Jordan, Phyllis Ntantala, Mda Mda and members of the famed Gool and Abdurahman families. Their aim was to disrupt and challenge not only prevailing political narratives but the very premises – class and race – on which they were based.

By the 1950s their ideas had spread to a second generation of talented individuals who would disseminate them in the high schools of Cape Town. In time, some would exert their influence on national politics beyond the confines of the Cape. Among these were former minister of justice, Dullah Omar, academic Hosea Jaffe, educationist Neville Alexander and author Richard Rive. This book is a testament to how the NEF was at the forefront of redefining the discourse of racialism and nationalism in South Africa.

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Chapter 1 A Battle of Ideas
Chapter 2 Planters of the Seed
Chapter 3 ‘Anything Under the Sun’ – The Formation of the NEF
Chapter 4 Honest, Sincere and Fearless – 1937-1940
Chapter 5 The Road to Emancipation – 1940-1953
Chapter 6 A Cauldron of Conflict
Chapter 7 Legacy
Notes
List of Illustrations
Bibliography
Index

Crain Soudien is an educationist and sociologist, Chief Executive Officer of the Human Sciences Research Council and an Honorary Professor at Nelson Mandela University. He is the author of Realising the Dream: Unlearning the Logic of Race in the South African School (2012).

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