Red Road to Freedom: A History of the South African Communist Party 1921 – 2021 [Hardback]

Tom Lodge(Author)

ISBN: 9781847013217 | Published by: James Currey | Year of Publication: 2022 | 636p, H9.25 x W6.25, 10 b/w illus.
Status: In Stock - Available

Red Road to Freedom


Renowned historian Tom Lodge has written an immensely readable and compelling sweep of history, spanning continents and the last hundred years, producing the first comprehensive account of the South African Communist Party in all its intricacies. Taking the story back to the party's pre-history in the early 20th century reveals that it was shaped by a range of socialist traditions and that their influence persisted and were decisive. The party's engagement in popular front politics after 1935 has been largely uncharted: this book supplies fresh detail. In the 1940s the author shows how the party became a key actor in the formation of black working-class politics, and hitherto unused archival materials as well as the insights from an increasingly candid genre of autobiographies make possible a much fuller picture of the secret party of 1952 to 1965. Despite its concealment and tiny numbers, its intellectual impact on black South African mainstream politics was considerable. On the exile period, the author examines the activities of the party's recruits and more informal following inside South Africa, as well as the scope and nature of its broader influence. In 1990, a year in which global politics would change fundamentally, South African communists would return to South Africa to begin the work of reconstructing their party as a legal organisation. Throughout its history, the party had been inspired and supported by the reality of existing socialism, state systems embracing half of Europe and Asia, in which the ruling group was at least notionally committed to the building of communist societies. With the fall of Eastern European regimes and the fragmentation of the Soviet Union, one key set of material foundations for the party's programmatic beliefs crumbled and its most important international alliances in the global socialist community in Eastern Europe and Russia would end. Finally, Lodge brings the story up to date, assessing the degree to which communists both inside and outside government have shaped and influenced policy in successive ANC-led administrations, particularly during the popular resistance to apartheid during the 1950s, which was underpinned by the party's systematic organisation in the localities that supplied the ANC with its strongest bases.

Jacana: Africa, India

Table of Contents


1. Just like Russia: Revolutionary Socialists in the Cape and the Transvaal, 1890-1921

2. CPSA: Early History, 1921-1926

3. Native Republic, 1927-1932

4. Factions and Fronts, 1932-1939

5. Patriotic Unity: The Communist Party of South Africa during the 1940s

6. Secret Party: South African Communists between 1950 and 1965

7. Out of Africa, 1965-1977

8. Mayibuye iAfrika, 1977-1990

9. Post-Communism and the South African Communist Party

Reviews & Quotes

"Red Road is a fascinating and dispassionate history of "the party" and its role in the South African liberation struggle. Lodge tackles the big questions without flinching, while also capturing the nuances of a complex context. He presents a detailed and integrated narrative of a century of struggle, which does not shy away from the many controversies involved."

Professor Janet Cherry, Nelson Mandela University ()

"A magisterial account, not just of the South African Communist Party, but of a current of thinking and acting that did so much to shape political struggles in South Africa
for a century."

Jonny Steinberg, Yale University ()

"Lodge provides a richly detailed history of the party's vicissitudes and victories; individuals - their ideas, attitudes and activities - are sensitively located within their context; the text provides a fascinating sociology of the South African left over time. Lodge is adept at making explicit what the key questions and issues are for different periods; and he answers these with analyses and conclusions that are judicious, clearly stated and meticulously argued. Without doubt, this book will become a central text for students of communism in South Africa, of the party's links with Russia and the socialist bloc, and of the Communist Party's changing relations with African nationalism - before, during and after three decades of exile."

Professor Colin Bundy, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford ()

"A master of the historical yarn, Tom Lodge tells the amazing story of the enigmatic, resilient and chameleonic South African Communist Party. Detailed, meticulously researched and a page turner, the book effortlessly navigates the twists and turns of the red road travelled by idealists and realists who found themselves members of a party that sought to build a society run by workers. Why was the party leadership unable or unwilling, over a century of political activity, to fly the red flag consistently high and instead chose to tie
the fate of the vanguard of the working class to that of a nationalist movement, the African National Congress? What are the chances of the party realising its supreme goal of a socialist society given the current situation? These are the questions that Lodge deftly and incisively addresses through a close and critical study of all the scholarly sources and his own independent research. This book is arguably the definitive history of the SACP to date. A must-read for all militants, historians and those interested in understanding the continued influence of the party in South African politics."

Dr Trevor Ngwane, University of Johannesburg ()

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