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Recruits Meet At The LSE: Reliving The South African Struggle In London

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London: Thomas Wolfe wrote "You Can't Go Home Again" year ago,  and its core truth keeps popping up in my life even as I tend to retrace some of my life journeys, in an endless walk down memory lane.

I am back in London, cold and wet as I remember it, to attend an event honoring those of us who went to South Africa on underground missions at my mid 1960's alma mater, The London School of Economics and Political Science. I was one political side of the College's split personality back in 1966-68.

This event marked my real "major" in what the Rolling Stones called "street fighting years:" imagining world revolution.  

Our group of solidarity stalwarts are now called The London Recruits. There is now a book out from Merlin Press telling our story in the words of many participants, including myself.  

Yes, I was an activist in those pre-journalism years, blamed by some in the then Fleet Street press for sparking the LSE's student "troubles" that soon morphed into an occupation and dramatic student protest. They dubbed me" Danny The Yank," in the spirit of the French Press that labeled Dany Cohn-Bendit, a student activist in Paris who sparked a real revolution as "Dany le Rouge (Danny the Red)."

In the mid l960's the African National Congress (ANC) was all but smashed by the Apartheid state. Mandela began his life sentence on Robben Island in 1964 along with his fellow leaders , all convicted of  sabotage in the infamous Rivonia Trial. They all expected to be hung and then to die there. He would not be released for 27 years.

Thousands more were later brutalized and rounded up. The resistance movement seemed crushed although top leaders like Oliver Tambo and Joe Slovo and many militants escaped into exile in Africa and London where they spent decades plotting their way back.

With their movement on the run, the ANC decided to recruit non-South Africans, mostly British Communists Socialists, anti-apartheid activists and this one American civil rights worker, to go on missions into South Africa to distribute flyers  promoting the ANC, through the use or leaflet bombs to stir the local press and public

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I was one of the first to take part in this scary and desperate effort to keep the ANC visible at a low point in its 100 nyear history.  This effort went on for five years while the ANC rebuilt its internal structures and armed wing,  uMKhonto wi Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation.)

Later,  some of these recruits got into weapons struggling by setting up a safari company that could cross borders. Some 40 tons of weapons were moved that way,, we were told at the event.

Two of my colleagues, unknown to me at the time because of secrecy and compartmentalization, were arrested and jailed. I was naïve about the dangers at the time.

As we were meeting at the LSE preaching about people from one country acting on behalf of people in another: there was a news flash. Israel, a country known for chauvinism and arrogance was apologizing and promising compensation for the killings of 9 Turks intercepted on the high seas by the Israeli Navy which boarded and stopped a humanitarian flotilla to Gaza some years back.

At the time, Tel Aviv's propaganda machine blamed the victims for the crime, and Israel insisted it would never apologize.

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Turkey, considered one of Israel's friends denounced their intervention, and broke relations. Now, to re-establish trade and diplomatic links, Israel has done what it swore it would never do---reversed itself in an act of contrition, reportedly brokered by a then visiting Barack Obama.

In some ways it was like apartheid government finally succumbing to world pressure and negotiating with the ANC, a movement that it had denounced for years as terrorists.

Back at the Little Theater at the LSE where I held forth in many a fierce debate back in the day, there were  moving stories from the recruits  about their adventures and fears. Only a few had ever left their country. Some had never even flown in planes before.

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at Amazon.com. See Newsdisssector.org/store.htm.

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