The Cape Radicals
Intellectual and political thought of the New Era Fellowship, 1930s to 1960s
In 1937 a group of young Capetonians, socialist intellectuals from the Workers’ Party of South Africa, embarked on a project they called the New Era Fellowship (NEF). In doing so they sought to disrupt and challenge not only prevailing political narratives but the very premises – class and ‘race’ – on which they were based. In different forums – public debates, lectures, study circles and cultural events – the seeds of radical thinking were planted, nurtured and brought to full flower. Taking a position of non-collaboration and non-racialism, the NEF played a vital role in challenging society’s responses to events ranging from the problem of taking up arms during the Second World War for an empire intent on stripping people of colour of their human rights to the Hertzog Bills, which foreshadowed apartheid in all its ruthless effectiveness. In subsequent narratives of liberation their significance has been overlooked, even disparaged, and has never been fully understood and acknowledged. By shining a contemporary light on the NEF and locating its contribution in current sociological and political discourse, educationist Crain Soudien shows how its members were at the forefront of redefining the debate about social difference in a racially divided society.
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