I have spent a lifetime of fighting discrimination and oppression while giving little attention or sympathy to my life and the life of my family.
I was born Jewish in South Africa, my mother from the country town Kimberley. I don’t know how or why her parents settled there. Her parents Fay and Joe Herman possibly Europeanised names, had one other child a son, who’s name I don’t know, he would have been my uncle. They moved to Johannesburg, my grandfather ‘pop’ had been a shoe salesman who used to travel a lot. By the time I met him he was old had round glasses, and died before I got to know him. He seemed nice. Joe and my mother’s mother, ‘gran’ came to live with us after s period in a rented flat in Hillbrow. I was too young to know but I think they struggled.
Jack (Cyril) my father was said to have been a very good looking man in his youth, typically patriarchal, he had strong views. He was the youngest in a family of 8. and followed the Jewish faith in their own way, the major holidays, but my father worked on Saturdays, so they did not obey the laws in a ‘frum ‘ way, yet our fridge strictly had no non-kosher food. We did not have butter or milk when we ate meat. Lighting the Friday night candles and saying the prayer was a weekly affair, though I don’t know the meaning I can still recite the words to the prayer so many years after, in my 66th year. Food was important as a cultural memory Eastern European Jewish food,chopped liver and herring, borscht, the Breaking the fast at Yom Kipur, and the honey and apple at New Year. But my father was a patriarchal man struck, insecure, kind. Though as racist as most white South Africans of his time, he was a very generous man, I was always aware that he would stop his car and give hitch hiking black people lifts. Racism was not a part of our household. I remember as a young girl going to a friend’s house, I had met her at a ballet class, – Hillary. I was shocked at how they spoke to and treated their servants calling them by the unacceptable term “kaffirs”. I guess my parents were more “liberal”. They were not progressive but never treated anyone badly though they had bad ideas. My father though had a temper and once only once hit me, I fell back and cut myself and had to have stitches. I think he was mortified.
My mother was an incredibly intelligent woman, she could answer quiz questions easily and quickly. Exceptionally beautiful her photos of herself before I was born show her as a sparkling young woman, an actor, a period of her life I missed. She met and married my father gave up her acting career then had Martin my brother 8 years before me.
Our house was a beautiful Art Deco double story on a busy corner, I remember once an accident a black man run over and the lack of ambulances for him. That memory takes me to the distance I had from other children , how I always felt the system of apartheid was wrong from my earliest days. I was close to Elizabeth, Cuddy I called her, she showed a lot of affection towards me but also use to tickle me relentlessly and chase me around the house. Shamefully my parents had another two servants Rebecca and Meshack. Their children were in other towns, Elizabeth’s daughter eventually went to England and became a nurse.
At University in the early 70s I was a lonely girl. I had friends but not friends but not solemates. I did meet Vaughan and Andrew, and Cynthia remained a good friend, but the politics of the time. Was my best friend. I chose to study industrial sociology where class and class oppression was introduced and where I saw for the first time why exploration and capitalism, particularly the mining system, was the driving force of South Africa its police and its institutions. I began to disentangle myself from liberalism and saw for the first time how capitalism is a world system and South Africa’s gold was important in the world economic system. So it was not only white South Africans who benefitted from the mistreatment jailing and bad pay for black South Africans, but the global stock market.
My family was still conservative frightened, when I started to explore my ideas even on the conservative Progressive Party, my father showed his patriarchal interest in my not going in that direction. Part was genuine fear for me, ANC supporters and particularly the Communist Party of South Africa were targeted with letter bombs. But that was not it. My fathers interests as a dentist and as part of the benefited white middle class, were opposed to mine as a young activist anting to know what was really driving human society and our minds.
I was training to be a Social Worker but gave it up, i then saw it as band aid when there were gaping wounds.
I had never heard of Trotsky and had none of the resources I later found to understand history and oppression. When I did come to Australia and managed to stay it was for me a
Commitment to always be an active fighter for human rights. To do this I had to study Marxism and how workers are explored and how most of the capital they produce is used by capitalists for their own pleasure and indulgence, workers don’t get back the amount they make in a day.
And because resources are limited and fought over capitalist leaders of various nations which only represent capitalist interests are inevitably at war over resources and sales. China/USA today. Australia as the big imperialist power in South East Asia. And it breaks my heart that so many peoples lives are diminish d, cheapened, thrown out when in the inevitable competition of capital factory against capitalist factory, lives are thrown out and the unemployed are useless valueless.