Neville Alexander

Guest Post: Education before Liberation

via SAHO by Selim Gool: Neville Alexander (22.10.1936-27.08.2012)

August 28, 2012

I was informed of Neville´s cancer some time ago by close friends who knew our close friendship – but Neville was not only my friend (he was considerably older being born in 1936 and I in 1948) but also of many members of the Gool and Abdurahman family – who were closely connected to Cmde. Neville Alexander since he first come to Cape Town in the mid-1950s (1953?).

Neville was first was involved in the Cape Peninsula Students´ Union – with my Aunt Amina Gool´s elder daughter, my cousin, Nina Fredrericks – and the Teachers´League (TLSA) and in the study-groups and “groupuscules” (Society of Young Africa -SOYA) spawned by the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM), later called the Unity Movement (UM) in exile, during this period.

But Neville had come into contact with the Algerian NLF-students/workers clubs and unions based in Stuttgart, while in Germay and was also influenced by the Cuban Revolution. But another major catalyst must also have been the SDS “Students´ For A Democratic Society”, led then by Rudi Deutscher et al. He was a fighter, an activist an organiser – not a “drawing-room intellectual” that seemed to be the main occupation of the Cape Town Left intellectuals – and which gave rise to the critical hostility and venom poured on them.

My Mother Halima spoke highly of him to me, and my father Goolam, Vice-President of the NEUM till his death in 1962, had met him in the 1905s in the TLSA and Anti-CAD and especially in the New Era Fellowship – with such luminaries as Jane Gool, Saul Jayiya, Ali Fataar, Hosea Jaffe and R.O. Dudley. So Neville, was “politically active” in the various faction of the fractious “Left”-formations that appeared (and “disappereared”“) over the next decade in Western Cape Leftist politics.

This is a torturous history and full of contradictions and I need not dwell on this at length!

The dominanct faction of the NEUM, was controlled then by Benny Kies, a teacher turned advocate (who defended many of the BCM comrades post 1970 pro bono later), and in the TLSA and Anti-CAD, who had broken with my Uncle Issac B. Tabata (companion of my Aunt Jainup/Jane Gool), and who in 1961 formed the African Peoples´ Democratic Union of South Africa (Apdusa). The later New Unity Movement stems from O. R. Dudley´s attempt to “re-surrect” the old NEUM after 1985 (in opposition to the UDF) especially the “civic organisations” in the Western Cape (Federation of Cape Civic Associations).

But on his return from Germany after higher studies & research betwen 1958-61, Neville was involved in an underground “cell” with Kenny and Otillie Abrahams and Elizabeth van den Heever et al – the Yu Chi Chan Club (YCCC) and later the National Liberation Front (NLF) but without the “permission” of the Kies-faction and was subsequently “expelled” from the NEUM. He was sentenced to 10 years from 1964-74 charged with “conspiracy to commit sabotage” and planning the “violent overthrow of the White Supremacist State”.

Banished to Robbin Island in 1963, Neville and many of the post-Sharpville ANC/SACP and PAC people lived a hard life there but soon formed a “University” devoted to study and political discussion – joined by many of the Apdusa people (Bobby Wilcox et al) and later by the “Black Consciousness Movement” (BCM) younger generation in the early 1970s.

Neville had mant interventions with the latter political grouping (see his address: @ and on his release had close contact with the BCM and its affiliates – the formation of WOSA and the National Forum and the alliance with the Azanian tendency (Azapo) was however, seen as a threat to the political hegemony of the “Congress Tendency”, who had the backing of the SACP/Sactu and later by Cosatu after 1985.

Remember that in events AFTER the Soweto students´uprising (after 1976) there were clashes between the rival political tendencies and the formation of pro-ANC “com-tsotsi gangs” who physically liquidated (“necklacing”) their political opponents (the AZASM and AZAPO youth) in the townships around the Witwatersrand complex, as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela´s “Mandela Football Club” of thugs ruled in Soweto) – this is our history too! Now it is being hidden from history!

Now the ANC-government wants to “appropriate” the mantle of Neville Alexander and bask in his glorious radience! And the Director of the ANC-dominated South African History Online website Mr Omar Badsha now speaks of ” … and the need for change for the systems underpinning it was crucial to the ideas Neville proposed. ..” (sic!).

O,K. I did NOT always agree with Cmde. Neville, and I thought that the groupuscule-like WOSA, was really not so successfull (I had lived in Europe in the post-1968 era and got to know the Left there pretty well in our United Front Actions against Racism, Apart-Hate and Creepy Fascism).

And before my return from exile in1993, I had contacted Neville personally to ask if these was work ,or at lest the possibility of research, with his group (SACHED, where Neville was Director from 19890 as that was also in the frame then, and I eventually went to work at Khanya College, Salt River in1994) after carrying out a very interesting educational research project with Neville and Crain Soudin at the PRAESA at UCT in late 1993-94.

His book “One Azania, One Nation: The National Question in South Africa”, published by Zed Books in London (1979), published under the alias “No Sizwe” (sic) drew the heaviest and most hostile fire from the Congress “intellectuals” and the masters, the SACP, in exile! Especially the double-agent and apartheid spy Wellington Madolwana /”Dr Francis Meli” who wrote the atrocious history of the ANC “South Africa Belongs to Us: A History of the ANC” (James Curry, 1989), an alcoholic, who died in Johannesburg in 1990 and former editor of Sechaba, the official journal of the ANC (printed in the GDR) and a member of the ANCs National Executuve Committee. (NEC), and the SACPs Politbureau.

Meli (apparently derived from the initials Marx-Engels-Lenin-Institute !) was also the first political commisar at Nova Katenga camp in Angola from the end of 1976, in charge of “ideological and political indoctrination” of the young recruits of the Soweto genration of ´76. The roots of Stalinism in the ANC YL – find it here!

Also “Comrade Mzala”, a very popular polemicist with the young cadre in exile (but who died of AIDS before coming home), as well as Prof Kader Asmal, Prof Harold Wolpe and Z. Pallo Jordan (ex Minister of Farts-und-Kulur) all had a go at Neville – expounding at length on their Stalinist conception of the “Two-Stage”/National Democratic Revolution (NDR) of Menshevik pedegree (pre-1917 vintage note!) and chiding him for his conception of the “Uninterupted – or Permanent – Revolutionary” process, which they claimed was of “Trotskyite” (sic) origin!

Worth re-visting in light of the past 20 years of ANC in Government. Just take a look at their polemical style, folks, and see the spittle and venom dripping from the pages! No, Neville was “no friend” of the NDR or of the Congress Alliance!

No mention is made of the iMbokodo/the grindstone (the dreaded “Security Department” which had its heyday in the prison-camps in Angola, Quadro, Viana etc, between 1978-88 and the MK revolt – named the Mtatashinga (burden); of the ANCs Dept of Intelligence and Security or the NAT under SACP stalwart Jacob Zuma; no mention of the constant exortations from Lusaka on “Radio Freedom” (headed no less by Thabo Mbeki and deputy Pallo Jordan) – for the insurrectionary slogan “Liberation BEFORE Education!” – which SACHED and especially Neville had to counter (to no avail!) with the voice-of-reason slogan: “EDUCATION Before Liberation!”. The emergeant paedontocracy, government of the illiterate young, has its roots here friends.

Books like “Sow The Wind” and “Language Policy and National Unity in South Africa/Azania (1989), and “An Ordinary Country – Issues in the Transition from Apartheid to Democracy in South Africa, University of Natal Press (2002) gives an account of Neville´s political trajectory and personal viewpoints post-1994 on the “State of the Nation” (esp. the latter, he takes the ANC government to task for their “historic compromises” and “back-tracking” on many issues: “nationalization”, “language poicy”, their “class compromises” that has led to our present state of social stasis and even the lowering of the living standards of the masses, while the new black bourgeoisie and State klepocrats in the State Apparatus and NGOs “enrich themselves”. To see is to believe ….

But be that as it may, the attempt to “appropriate” Neville Alexander by the Congess Movement is patently dishonest and a political manouver – to evade their own complicity/duplicity with that of the police action in the murder/ assassination of the miners at Marikana – who were shot in the back!.

That there is now a Judicial Commission to “investigate” the killings is also a patent manouveur: see the postings @ “Justice Now for Marikana Strikers” – on the facebook pages, for a constant update on the “tragedy” at Marikana.

It is now clear that the ANC Government, the unions allied to it NUM/ COSATU are desperate and want a “cover-up” … We must not allow this to happen. And the pliant pro-business, pro-ANC media all go along for the ride.

Rest in PEACE Comrade Neville and be sure your memory not be “appropriated” by the counter-revolutionaries!

Instead, I urge readers to visit the fb FORUM: “Justice Now for Marikana Strikers” and the debates of Selims Blog, @



Classroom of the future

Guest Post:
Kids‘ Cognition Is Changing—Education Will Have to Change With It
written by Megan Garber

This morning, Elon University and the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report about the cognitive future of the millennial generation. Based on surveys with more than 1,000 thought leaders — among them danah boyd, Clay Shirky, David Weinberger, and Alexandra Samuel — the survey asked thinkers to consider how the Internet and its environment are changing, for better or worse, kids‘ cognitive capabilities.

The survey found, overall, what many others already have: that neuroplasticity is, indeed, a thing; that multitasking is, indeed, the new norm; that hyperconnectivity may be leading to a lack of patience and concentration; and that an „always on“ ethos may be encouraging a culture of expectation and instant gratification.

The study’s authors, Elon’s Janna Anderson and Pew’s Lee Rainie, also found, however, another matter of general consensus among the experts they surveyed: that our education systems will need to be updated, drastically, to suit the new realities of the intellectual environment. „There is a palpable concern among these experts,“ Rainie puts it, „that new social and economic divisions will emerge as those who are motivated and well-schooled reap rewards that are not matched by those who fail to master new media and tech literacies.“ As a result: „Many of the experts called for reinvention of public education to teach those skills and help learners avoid some of the obvious pitfalls of a hyper-connected lifestyle.“

This is not a new argument — it seems both entirely appropriate and entirely obvious that the Internet will engender a necessary revolution in education as a system and as an assumption — but it’s striking to see the idea expressed by so many experts, across so many different fields. The survey containing their thoughts is well worth a read; it offers a great overview of the general thinking about the Internet-cognition connection, not to mention some thought-provoking — if broad — suggestions about where we go from here.

It also offers its experts‘ predictions about what the most-desired life skills (for young people, but ostensibly for everyone else, too) will be in the year 2020. Among the skills they highlighted: public problem-solving through cooperative work — crowdsourcing and the like; the ability to search effectively for information online; the ability to distinguish the quality and veracity of online discoveries; the ability to synthesize, or combine facts and details from different sources into coherent narratives; the ability to concentrate; and the ability to distinguish between the signal and the noise as the information we’re exposed to gets bigger, and broader, and more plentiful.

All these skills can be taught. The question is whether kids will learn them in school, or outside of it.

Image: Lia Koltyrina/Shutterstock.

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Copyright © 2012 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.