The Eye of the Needle: Towards Participatory Democracy in South Africa

Rick Turner

This book, by the South African philosopher and trade unionist Rick Turner (assassinated in Durban in 1978) was first published in 1972. It is an argument, written in opposition to the Stalinism of the South African Communist Party, for a participatory democracy in post-apartheid South Africa. The attached file contains the preface. The full text of the book is available at South African History Online.

The Eye of the Needle marks a particular moment in the political and cultural history of South Africa and more precisely in the history of the opposition to white supremacist rule in South Africa. It also marks a moment in the biography of Richard Turner.

Nothing quite like The Eye of the Needle had (or has since) appeared in South Africa. Perhaps most startling of all are the assumptions which are visible throughout the book....that this society, complex and cruel thought it is, rests finally on nothing more than men's choices and therefore, for that same reason, it can be changed. Most South African writing, both its fiction and polemic, assumes a powerful objective dominance in the social structure - men may protest and bewail their fate but little or nothing can be done to effect any change. Turner's writing breathes a different spirit. Men have made the society in a way that can be completely comprehended, and in the same way men can change the society.

In a society of obvious and pervasive oppression all lives are stunted and malformed. The criteria of human potentials and actions are obscured...In such a situation even the bravest of individuals are driven towards venal compromise in order to survive. The value of Turner's life lies in its triumphant demonstration of autonomous value-creating thought and action.

His life remains a triumph and a brilliant vindication of the human value inherent in the traditions of the Left.

(Transcribed from the back cover)

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