The Red Road to Freedom by Tom Lodge
This book is the product of many years’ research by Lodge, whose Black Politics in South Africa since 1945 established him as a leading commentator on South African politics, past and present.
2021 will mark the centenary of the foundation of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and today’s South African Communist Party will be extremely fortunate to have the milestone marked by a scholarly work of this calibre.
Since 1994, many memoirs have been written by communists, and private archives have been donated to university and other collections. Significant official archives have been opened to scrutiny, particularly those of South Africa and the former Soviet Union. It is as if a notoriously secretive body has suddenly become confiding and confessional! While every chapter draws upon original material of this sort, such evidence is supported, amplified, illuminated and challenged by the scholarship of others: the breadth of secondary sources used by the author reflects what may well be an unrivalled familiarity with the scholarly literature on political organisations and resistance in twentieth century South Africa.
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.