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Excerpt from Nadine Gordimer’s Foreword to Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War to End Apartheid by Alan Wieder

Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War to End Apartheid“The end of Ruth First and Joe Slovo is not the end of what there is to discover,” writes Nadine Gordimer in the foreword to Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War to End Apartheid by Alan Wieder.

In an excerpt from the foreword, published in Guernica Magazine, Gordimer sketches a picture of the couple’s political lives together and, commenting on their different ideological views, she writes: “First and Slovo were assigned to different SACP groups; it seems cognizant of significances within them. Ruth not Stalinist. Joe was? Whatever, argumentative tolerance of thought, conviction in each—this is the ethos to be read of this marriage.”

Read the foreword:

Joe Slovo and Ruth First. We are entering their paths.

Both grew up unbelievers in Jewish or any religious faith. They met when Ruth was at the University of the Witwatersrand, Joe just returned from the South African Army in the war against Nazi Germany. His motivation for volunteering, eighteen years old, unemployed, lying about being underage for military call-up—his early alliance with communism, and so to the Soviet Union under attack—was decisive in the act. But there remained the devastating racial dilemma in South Africa. He wrote: “How do you tell a black man to make his peace with General Smuts—butcher of Bulhoek and the Bondelswarts? ‘Save civilization and democracy—must have sounded a cruel parody. And fight with what? No black man was allowed to bear arms…if you want to serve democracy, wield a knobkerrie [wooden club] as a uniformed servant of a white soldier.”

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