Many were working class blokes of the left persuasion who signed on at the inspirational urging of Ronnie Kasrils, then a part of the underground and later South Africa's outspoken Minister of Intelligence.
Kasrils spoke to his "alumni association" of once young recruits, his "army" of infiltrators and preached the message of value of international solidarity. This was example of an initiative that worked.
He is now active on behalf of the Palestinian cause and increasingly critical of the current ANC leadership. He certainly earned the right to speak out.
On one of my trips to South Africa, I visited him in his spy shop that featured pictures of Fidel Castro on the wall, and gifts from visiting intelligence chiefs including high-ups in the CIA and FBI that once tracked him. (His first book was called "Armed And Dangerous.")
Unfortunately, the event was poorly promoted, some believe, even sabotaged by the LSE's current Administration that had been caught up in a scandal after it was revealed that the School took money from Gadaffy.
It is also possible that our gang of gray-haired old timers were just not aware that that our event was scheduled on the last day of the term with many students eager to leave town. A nasty London-style rain shower and freezing weather were not exactly conducive to drawing a crowd.
One Palestinian student, one of fifteen or more undergrads that came, because of sponsorship by the LSE Student Union, spoke up. Only 30% of LSE student body is now from the UK, probably because of unaffordable fees. (Ironically, the economists that the School graduated are now presiding over Britain's failing economy.)
The student asked if we had ever feared that our gesture of support could backfire and hurt the very people we went to help, a query reflective of the cynicism of these times, and an implied critique of the "white man's burden" that did so much to harm Africa in the guise of helping.it develop.
Some of the recruits responded by reminding everyone they were invited. But others admitted that they too were initially wary, but went ahead anyway--and are now proud to have done so.
The two recruits who were jailed have since won medals from the South African government.
Meanwhile, back at the LSE's Economist book store, the featured volume in the window speaks to a crisis that I am sure owes some of its origins to the conservative market-based capitalist doctrines taught in an institution founded by Fabian socialists.
The book is not by a Brit but by the American economist Paul Krugman who once taught here. Its title is more like demand with the moral urgency that we once brought to the fight against apartheid:
"END THIS DEPRESSION, NOW!"
News Dissector Danny Schechter continued to be engaged with South Africa He produced the weekly South Africa Now TV series between 1989 and 1991, and helped produce the album "Sun City: Artists Against Apartheid. He is finishing a 5 hour TV series as a companion the forthcoming movie Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom, due in theaters in December. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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