Every so often I read a book that reminds me that things weren’t at all what they appear to have been in hindsight. James Zug‘s wonderfully written The Guardian: The History of South Africa’s Extraordinary Anti-Apartheid Newspaper (Michigan State UP, 2007) is one such book. For years I studied and wrote about Russia and the Soviet Union. In that time, I came to think of communists as at best horribly misguided and at worst positively malevolent. Zug reminded me that in fact communists were on the right side of many issues that I hold dear. One of them, and the focus of The Guardian, was racism generally and Apartheid in particular. With a novelist’s skill, Zug chronicles the activities of a remarkably brave group of South African leftists, fellow-travelers, and Party members who, through the pages of their newspaper and with their very lives, fought racism in South Africa when so many ‘right-thinking people’ stood by in silence. He doesn’t sugar-coat the story, and never fails to point out when The Guardian‘s editors and writers were on the wrong side of an issue. But Zug saves them from being written out of history all together by broad-brushed dismissals of mid-century communism. Not only that, he tells a ripping tale. Please read this book.
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