The National Education Union is producing a teachers' pack about the London Recruits. At the union's conference in Bournemouth this weekend, a fringe meeting was held to promote the project in advance of publication of the pack. Here is a report from Steve Marsling.
On Sunday we handed out some 500 flyers for the Recruits event, and on Monday morning handed out some 500 Morning Stars to delegates, which contained an eight page insert on the NEU Conference with an article on the Recruits written by myself. The meeting had 3 speakers: Mary Chamberlain, Chitra Karve, Chair of ACTSA, and Steve Marsling, Coordinator of the teachers' pack. The meeting also had a zoom message from Ronnie Kasrils. Gordon Main gave a short introduction and then showed 12 minutes of the film. Gordon told the meeting that the filming had finished and that the whole production would be completed by the end of June, ready for a first showing in July.
Pete Smith sent us this tribute to the outstanding struggle veteran Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim, who died on 6 December 2021.
It was a great honour to work with him in Swaziland during late 1985 and early 1986, sharing two safe houses with him. I will never forget arriving home from teaching to find him studying Kim Il-sung. Ebie had a clear understanding of Marxism in helping me to further understand the struggle of his people and was an outstanding internationalist. I am not surprised that he initiated the joint statement in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn having had the whip withdrawn by Sir Keir Starmer.
I first met him by accident. I was staying with June and Michael Stephen and arrived back early from teaching to see him smiling in talking to June and Michael around the dining table. They had just smuggled him in from South Africa in their Combi. Even then I did not know that I would spend the rest of my time in Swaziland working with him and Ronnie Kasrils never told me of his intention that should happen in sending me to Swaziland.
The last time I met him was in 1994 as his guest, him being an M.P., over tea and cakes in the Parliament canteen in Cape Town. He had, still having his familiar smile, already recognised the potential of corruption then and was of the firm opinion, as Ronnie Kasrils puts it, that it had to be challenged from inside.
He certainly deserves the epitaph quoting from the book How the Steel Was Tempered by Nikolai Ostrovsky:
“Man's dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying, he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world──the fight for the Liberation of Mankind”
STEVE MARSLING and CHRIS SMITH
This article first appeared in 2021 Volume 63 Number 2 of The Journal: Forum for Promoting Comprehensive Education published by Lawrence and Wishart FORUM 0963-8253 - Lawrence Wishart (lwbooks.co.uk)
This year sees the release of London Recruits, a film chronicling the anti-apartheid activism of young men and women volunteers who travelled from the UK to South Africa in the 1970s. The recruits were invaluable to the campaigning work of the African National Congress and the wider international anti-apartheid movement because as white tourists, which is all the South African authorities saw them as, they were free to travel unmonitored in ways impossible for black citizens. To coincide with the release of the film, an education pack, comprising the testimonies of the recruits as well as other source material has been compiled for use in schools. It was funded by the National Education Union and coordinated by Steve Marsling, a former recruit, who writes the first section of this article.
At one point she was made president of the BIAA – the Bureau d’Information sur l’Afrique Australe – until she discovered that it was being used as a cover for Okhela, an anti-ANC conspiracy. She immediately closed the BIAA and went to London to warn the ANC and SACP.
She was active with Alex to the end, jointly producing Editions Démocrite, an online, anti-imperialist, communist journal they brought out on their joint pensions.
May her life inspire us!