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Nadine Gordimer, in the foreword of the book, Ruth First & Joe Slovo in The War Against Aparthied by the oral historian, Alan Weider, quotes Joe Slovo when he visited Palestine in the early 1940s:

looked at in isolation, the kibbutz seemed to be the very epitome of socialist lifestyle. . . . it was populated in the main by young people with the passion and belief that by the mere exercise of will and humanism you could build socialism as one factory or one and the power of example will sweep the imagination of all ... worker or capitalist ... on this kibbutz, as well on others, was the biblical injunction that the land of Palestine must be claimed and fought for by every Jew, and this meant the uprooting and scattering of millions whose people had occupied this land for over five thousand years (no mention of the collusion of the Balfour Declaration of 1917).”

What did Joe Slovo mean by collusion here, did he make this clearer in any of his later writings? Also where was this quoted from, the book itself does not make this clear.

  • The text you cite isn't by Alan Weider, but is actually from the foreword to the book, and was written by Nadine Gordimer. That foreword is available in full here – sempaiscuba Mar 30 at 11:41
  • sempaiscuba: The book is by Alan Weider - I didn't bother mentioning that the quote was from the introduction. I figured that anyone familiar with the work would know. – Mozibur Ullah Mar 30 at 11:46
  • So why did you say that Weider was quoting Joe Slovo in your question? – sempaiscuba Mar 30 at 11:47
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    Yes, and we don't have copy editors. However, claiming a quote from an author of fiction was actually by an historian is a significant change of emphasis. It might even be seen as deliberately misleading, which is why it is important to quote accurately and cite correctly. – sempaiscuba Mar 30 at 12:49
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    It is significant because Slovo didn't actually say it. It is substantive because one might be expected to assign greater credibility to a quote from an historian than from someone better-know as an author of fiction. See my answer below which includes a link to the original source by Joe Slovo. – sempaiscuba Mar 30 at 12:53
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Firstly, the text you cite isn't by Alan Weider, but is actually from the foreword to the book, and was written by Nadine Gordimer, who wasn't an historian but is best known as a

" South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature"

  • Wikipedia

That foreword is available in full on the website of Monthly Review.

Secondly, your editing of the text in your quote is unfortunate, in that it masks some rather strange use of "quotations" by the author. The passage should actually read:

From Turin to Cairo he went, and with other decommissioned soldiers somehow got to Palestine although travel was restricted because of Zionist resistance to British occupation; on to a kibbutz where “looked at in isolation, the kibbutz seemed to be the very epitome of socialist lifestyle. . . . it was populated in the main by young people with the passion and belief that by the mere exercise of will and humanism you could build socialism as one factory or one kibbutz and the power of example will sweep the imagination of all . . . worker or capitalist.” Social theory aside, the dominating doctrine “on this kibbutz, as well on others, was the biblical injunction that the land of Palestine must be claimed and fought for by every Jew, and this meant the uprooting and scattering of millions whose people had occupied this land for over five thousand years (no mention of the collusion of the Balfour Declaration of 1917).”

That irregular use of quotes in the passage should raise some concerns. However, in fairness Gordimer never expressly states her source for the quotes or claims that the words quoted were from Slovo (nor did she claim to be an historian).


What Slovo actually wrote (in his book, Slovo, the unfinished autobiography) was the following:

Looked at in isolation, the kibbutz seemed to be the very epitome of socialist lifestyle. It was populated in the main by the idealistic sons and daughters of rich Jews who had amassed their fortunes in the Western metropolis. They were motivated by an Owenite passion and the belief that by the mere exercise of will and humanism you could build socialism in one factory or one kibbutz and the power of example will sweep the imagination of all men in society, worker or capitalist. Social theory aside, the dominating doctrine on this kibbutz, as well on others, was the biblical injunction that the land of Palestine must be claimed and fought for by every Jew. And if this meant (as it did eventually mean) the uprooting and scattering of millions whose people had occupied this land for over five thousand years, more's the pity.


As you can see, there is no mention of collusion. That was, presumably, an addition by Nadine Gordimer (or perhaps just her opinion, mangled by the poor use of quotes). You'll notice that the text is far easier to read, and makes significantly more sense, without the mangled attempts at "quotation" in Nadine Gordimer's foreword.


More generally, this question highlights the importance of accuracy when quoting and citing sources. The question stated that the oral historian, Alan Weider was quoting Joe Slovo. That was not, in fact, the case. One might expect a higher standard of accuracy in a quote from an historian, than from many other authors. Nadine Gordimer was primarily a writer of fiction.

Of course, it is possible that the poor formatting of the quotes in the foreword was introduced by the publisher (although one would probably expect better from NYU Press). However, once again, even if that were the case, one might expect that an historian would take greater care to ensure that such errors were rectified before publication than another author who had simply been asked to provide a foreword to a book.

When quoting a source (in a question or an answer) that source should always be quoted correctly and be properly and accurately attributed.

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