“Lionel Forman’s two outstanding characteristics were his immense foresight and his readiness to express critical views on political matters which were not always consonant with mainstream thinking. Had leftist intellectuals world-wide produced more people of Lionel’s calibre, history might well have taken a different course.“
Ahmed Kathrada, ANC National Executive
Lionel Forman died in Cape Town in 1959 at the age of 31. His death occasioned a massive outpouring of grief amongst both black and white opponents of apartheid. At his funeral, Albie Sachs referred to his ‘questing, penetrating mind… He stood way out front, beckoning us onwards.’ The author Lionel Abrahams wrote, ‘If any great number of men lived such lives, the world’s needed revolutions would be automatically accomplished.’
Despite lifelong ill-health, Forman fought apartheid ‘like a firework display’ and achieved prominence as a national and international student leader, a defence lawyer, a party activist, a newspaper editor, a Marxist theoretician and a popular historian. He left a prodigious collection of writings, much of it on two of his main intellectual concerns: rediscovering and rewriting South Africa’s history from a majoritarian perspective, and stimulating socialist debate, particularly on the controversial issue of the national question.
This volume will confirm Forman’s reputation as a pioneer of radical historiography in South Africa and as a dedicated but maverick socialist intellectual. In his last letter to his wife, he wrote, ‘I want it trumpeted from the housetops — Lionel Forman believed in communism with a burning passion till the day he died.’
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