Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brian Bunting - Outstanding South African Communist- 1920-2008

I return from abroad and am saddened to hear that Comrade Brian Bunting has died in Cape Town aged 88. I had the pleasure and honour of meeting Brian Bunting on a couple of occasions in London in the early 1980's, he was the epitome of the many deeply committed and highly developed political activists which characterised the cadres of the South African Communist Party (SACP) . I first encountered the SACP in the GDR when I was lucky to meet a number of SACP comrades in Berlin, one recommended that I should contact some of their comrades in London, and eventually I attended a number of the SACP's memorable New Years Eve party's which were notable for the high degree of organisation and the great atmosphere of commitment and sheer exuberant fun which made it such an appealing place to usher in the New Year. I had a long and enlightening comversation with Brian Bunting , and his unparalleled analysis of the struggle against apartheid and the crucial role of the ANC-SACP-Trade Union alliance as a political counterpart to the armed struggle of Umkhonto We Sizwe was intriguing and a privilege to hear. Brian Bunting never wavered in his support for the Party and the international communist movement. He had been elected to the South African parliament from November 1952 to October 1953 as a 'natives' representative in the days when white people could be elected by Africans in the Western Cape. Prevented from taking up his seat, due to the banning of the old CPSA in 1950. When re-elected as an ANC MP in 1994 following the collapse of Apartheid Bunting's first words to his fellow MP's were "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted". Bunting graduated from the University of Witwatersrand in 1939, commencing a career in journalism before enlisting in the South African army, seeing action against the Nazis in North Africa. On demob he became a leading figure in the anti-fascist ex-services organisation the Springbok Legion editing its jourmal 'Fighting Talk'. In the subsequent years Bunting and his SACP comrades (the SACP filled the political vacuum created by the banning of the CPSA) , notably Govan Mbeki, and Ruth First, were the driving forces behind a series of publications famous for their investigative journalism. As each was in due course banned, another sprang up. From 'The Guardian', to 'Advance', to 'The Clarion', 'Peoples World', 'New Age' and 'Spark'. Finding that banning the publications was insufficient, the Apartheid authorities resorted to banning the people producing them. Bunting and First were put under house arrest and held in detention, before they were sent abroad by the movement. Mbeki was sentenced to life imprisonment with Nelson Mandela, and Ruth First later settled in post-liberation Mozambique where she was murdered by a South African security services parcel bomb. Brian Bunting settled in London with his wife Sonia, where they were active in the Anti-Apartheid movement and produced the respected SACP quarterly 'African Communist'.

His wife Sonia, a leading activist and defendant in the 1956 Treason trial died in 2001. Bunting remained a member of the SACP's central committee until last years SACP Congress which he missed due to ill health. Brian Bunting, a committed communist and internationalist to the end, is survived by three children, Stephen, Peter, and Margie.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Listowel in North Kerry held the summer horse fair last Thursday, there was an unusually large number of horses and ponies for sale this year. The fair takes place in Market Street, the street closest to the site of the 'old mart'. I do not wish to indulge in a dose of bucolic sentimentality, but one could not help feel that here was a form of economic interaction which has probably not significantly altered since pre-medieval times. The Irish people have a huge psychic connection with all things equine. They have been a feature of life in Ireland since time immemorial, being in times past a key source of power in agriculture, transport, and of course a limitless reservoir of sport through horse racing. The racing takes on many forms in Ireland from the more conventional well known racing of thorough-breds at the major race courses such as Leopardstown, but also including a wide variety of other meets, ranging from bi-annual or annual race meetings in particular provincial towns. Listowel for example has a fine course and hosts a couple of meetings a year, the biggest being the traditional 'Listowel Races' in September, traditionally timed to coincide with the end of the busiest time in the farming year. Another form of racing is 'sulky racing', basically the racing of lightweight chariot like gigs on the public roads in quiet times. The latter form of racing is particularly well supported by the travelling community, but it is by no means a sport pursued by the 'travellers', one of the photographs shows a 'sulky'. I hope readers enjoy the photographs, showing as they do a uniquely human interaction, which has an economic basis, but also provides a meeting point of the sort which are increasingly under threat these days in this era where face to face human social interaction is sadly becoming rarer.

Two images above a trade completed the halter changes hands...below that horse and owner, below sulky and piebald pony, below, heading for home.