From Apartheid South Africa to Socialist Budapest and Back: Communism, Race, and Cold War Journeys
Tal Zalmanovich Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Stichproben - Wiener Zeitschrift für kritische Afrikastudien / Vienna Journal of African Studies
This article reveals the communist transnational infrastructure that connected South African communists with socialist regimes in the early 1950s. Before the establishment of a global anti-apartheid movement after Sharpeville, this network enabled the circulation of people and ideas outward from South Africa. Communist education and institutions in the country opened up avenues for protest, mobility and community for political dissidents. When state persecution of communists increased in 1948, activists used this infrastructure to escape the country, procure employment or continue their political engagement abroad. I demonstrate this by tracing the journey of the South African communists Pauline Podbrey and H.A. Naidoo who were forced to leave the country in 1951 due to their political activity against the regime as well as apartheid legislation that outlawed interracial marriages such as theirs. Once in Britain, the couple were sent by the British Communist Party to Hungary to participate in the Cold War battle over hearts and minds as radio broadcasters. This case-study demonstrates how the intersection of Cold War politics, apartheid and race shaped the escape routes and future trajectories of communist anti-apartheid activists. Reconstructing the couple's itineraries between dissent and disillusionment, it questions the dominant post-apartheid narrative of the struggle as a heroic tale of survival and triumph, and highlights the fragmentation and failure of political lives.
This work is licensed under a
CC BY 4.0 - Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
CC BY 4.0 International