by Noor Nieftagodien in South Africa
Martin Legassick (20 December 1940 – 1 March 2016)
Comrade Martin Legassick passed away this morning, 1 March 2016, after a protracted and brave fight against cancer. Despite ill health and excruciating pain, he completed his final book project at the beginning of this year.
Comrade Martin was a revolutionary socialist, brilliant scholar, teacher and mentor. He was an outstanding scholar and a pioneer of radical revisionist history in South Africa. From the 1960s when he was a university student, Martin immersed himself in the struggle against apartheid, including mobilizing some of the first international student demonstrations in the United States. From the mid-1970s he became a founding member of the Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the ANC (MWT of the ANC) and left his academic post to work as full-time political activist. He served on the editorial committee of the journal, Inqaba yaBasebenzi, and newspaper, Congress Militant. For this, he was expelled by the ANC in 1985. On his return from exile, Martin continued to play a leading role in the MWT of the ANC and simultaneously became active in working class struggles in the Western Cape. When anti-eviction struggles exploded on the Cape Flats, he spent most of his time working with activists and contributing to build these new movements of the working class. Evenings and weekends were dedicated to meetings and political education classes. After the Marikana massacre, he immediately travelled to the platinum mines to show solidarity and to be part of the movement emerging there. Similarly, he stood by the farm workers under the leadership of CSAAWU. He lived for the struggles of the working class. From 2008 he also dedicated some time to efforts to rebuild the socialist left, especially in the form of the Democratic Left Front and was hopeful that the United Front and a new trade union movement would galvanise the working class in co-ordinated struggles against poverty, inequality and racism. When I met him on his birthday in December last year, he wanted to know about the new wave of students’ struggles and, despite physical weakness, was excited about the prospects of a new generation of activists emerging from this movement.
Hamba Kahle Comrade Martin
I met Martin in 1963 at the University of Ghana where he was studying and beginning to hone his early political positions on apartheid. This was after his time completed at Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, studying Physics. He was a wonder among men.