Ruth First and Joe Slovo, husband and wife, were leaders of the
war to end apartheid in South Africa. Communists, scholars, parents,
and uncompromising militants, they were the perfect enemies
for the white police state. Together they were swept up in the
growing resistance to apartheid, and together they experienced
repression and exile. Their contributions to the liberation struggle,
as individuals and as a couple, are undeniable. Ruth agitated
tirelessly for the overthrow of apartheid, first in South Africa and
then from abroad, and Joe directed much of the armed struggle
carried out by the famous Umkhonto we Sizwe. Only one of them,
however, would survive to see the fall of the old regime and the
founding of a new, democratic South Africa.
This book, the first extended biography of Ruth First and Joe
Slovo, is a remarkable account of one couple and the revolutionary
moment in which they lived. Alan Wieder’s deeply researched
work draws on the usual primary and secondary sources but also
an extensive oral history that he has collected over many years.
By weaving the documentary record together with personal interviews,
Wieder portrays the complexities and contradictions of this
extraordinary couple and their efforts to navigate a time of great
tension, upheaval, and revolutionary hope.