Joe Slovo

By: Rachel Widrig

Joe Slovo's Life

When he was nine, Joe Slovo was forced to flee his home town in Lithuania because of prejudices against Jews which existed in the Baltic Region. He moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, and as he grew older he pursued a career in law. Before earning his Bachelor in Law, LLB, Slovo joined the South African Communist Party, fought with South African forces during WWII, and displayed his leadership skills through his work with the National Union of Distributive Workers. Slovo married another anti-Apartheid activist, Ruth First, while continuing his education in order to become a defense lawyer. His involvement in the anti-Apartheid movement also increased. As part of the Congress of Democrats, he was able to assist in the drafting of the Freedom Charter. Although he was one of the accused in the Treason Trial, he was acquitted on appeal. After the Sharpeville Massacre, Slovo helped form the MK, and then proceeded to take his family and leave the country. While away, he continued to help in the fight against Apartheid, and also earned his Masters in Law, LLM. He then returned to South Africa, but unfortunately a few years later his wife was killed by a bomb. For the remainder of his life, Slovo held many important positions in different organizations dedicated to the anti-Apartheid cause.

Slovo contributed to the anti-Apartheid movement mostly through his leadership roles. His position on the Congress of Democrats allowed him to help draft the Freedom Charter, and when he was 'banned' by the Suppression of Communism Act, he continued to work against the country's oppressors. He also was one of the founders of the MK, and was the first white member of the ANC's national executive which shows the ANC's want for equality rather than black supremacy. He was also a valuable negotiator, and created the 'sunset clause' which enabled power sharing in the Government of National Unity. Slovo's dedication to the cause and his racial status helped to convey the fact that the organizations wanted equality between all races, and were willing to be led by a white man based on his merit, not his skin tone. He also was able to come up with beneficial ideas which helped the community in their struggle.

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Joe Slovo's Speech

In the further alternative, we are also told by those who constructively engage on the side of the regime, that their opposition to real sanctions is motivated by a desire to avoid inflicting suffering on the very blacks whom they wish to help. As we know, the objects of their so-called concern are overwhelmingly in favour of sanctions and, in any case, are heartily sick of being told yet again, what is good for them by those unable to shed an imperial mentality. Can there be any doubt that the people whom Reagan and Thatcher would really like to help are the Bothas? Their stance has nothing whatsoever to do with the balance of suffering, but everything to do with the balance of profit.

These, then, are the self-proclaimed champions of 'human rights'. They never stop whining about Soviet influence in our struggle. Let me emphasise (however much it might stick in their gullets) that we in South Africa share the experience of virtually every other liberation movement in the world, of the most consistent and generous support from the Soviet Union and the other socialist nations. Today our cause is becoming more fashionable and we are gratefully gathering more friends. But neither we nor our people will forget or allow themselves to be separated from those who have been consistently with them from the very beginning. This includes our African brothers who have sacrificed so much in support of our struggle...

Looking back on our 65 years we can be proud of the impact our Party has made. But this impact has not been just as a stimulant for the elaboration of theoretical perspectives for the South African revolution.

Our Party and individual communists have won their political place by dedication and sacrifice to the revolutionary cause in the actual arena of struggle. There is no phase of our struggle which does not have its communist heroes and martyrs; revolutionaries who watered the tree of freedom with their very blood. Today on our 65th Anniversary we dip our red banner for these communists and other revolutionaries who gave their all in the cause of freedom, in the cause of socialism.

-Joe Slovo's Speech at the 65th Anniversary of the South African Communist Party.


"Biography: Joe Slovo." Education. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

"Voices Education Project." Joe Slovo: What Room for Compromise? Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

"Joe Slovo." Anonymous. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

"Joe Slovo Biography." Joe Slovo Biography. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.