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Nash, Andrew  (1999) The Moment of Western Marxism in South Africa.  : 1-16.

The Rise and Fall of “The Generation of the 1970s” Any attempt to build a South African left which is both militant and rational — capable both of engaging with the struggles of the oppressed majority and developing analyses and arguments which depend on argument and evidence rather than faith — had better be aware that history is against it. We build on an activist culture pervaded by sectarianism and dogma, and an intellectual culture in which the assimilation of radical ideas has reproduced patterns of intellectual dependence and fragmentation. This legacy will not be overcome except to the extent that we understand the forces that produced it. Indeed, to the extent that we do not understand those forces, the more vigorously we seek to distance ourselves from that legacy, the more likely we are
to reinforce it instead.

This is a real prospect for the South African left today, after the demise of the generation of Marxist intellectuals and activists that emerged in the 1970s. Their Marxism sought to overcome the dogma and reductionism of Stalinism and Trotskyism, to engage with history as a living process rather than a mechanical formula, to found a historical consciousness linking local struggles to global processes, and implant itself in a working-class movement which sought to control its own destiny, openly and demo cratically, rather than submitting to the authority of nationalism or pseudo-science.

Beginning with a few dozen intellectuals and activists in the 1960s, this generation came to maturity in the late 1970s, and were a powerful presence in South African political and intellectual life throughout the 1980s. Their ideas and analyses reshaped social and political studies at South African universities, established themselves at the heart of the curriculum of many academic departments, and gave impetus to conferences, journals and other publications. They played a crucial role in guiding student, women’s and civic organizations, and above all the trade union movement which they had helped to build — half a million strong at the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions in 1985, and a crucial force in a mass movement which drew millions of oppressed people into active struggle for the overthrow of the state. In a global context, this generation of South African Marxists played a vital role in interpreting for the Western left, in the terms of their own thought, a struggle which had come to be “crucial to the whole history of our time” (Sweezy and Magdoff, 1986).

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