Wolpe, Harold


Wolpe, Harold
(?–1996)
   Wolpe was a leading member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and a radical lawyer and academic active in the underground movement to resist and overcome apartheid. He joined the SACP while studying for his LL.B. at Witwatersrand University. On graduating he was called to the Side Bar, representing activists other lawyers were unwilling to take on, for example Nelson Mandela. Wolpe’s underground political activities made him a target for the government, and he was arrested soon after the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, and then again in 1963 as he attempted to flee the country following the arrest of SACP leaders at Lilliesleaf Farm. Wolpe’s flight allowed him to escape a lengthy sentence at the Rivonia trial, a show trial that saw other leaders in the resistance to apartheid ruthlessly dealt with. Having arrived in Great Britain, Wolpe worked for both the African National Congress (ANC) and the SACP, and taught sociology in a number of British universities. Following the end of apartheid and the resultant amnesty for previously banned political activists, Wolpe returned to South Africa in 1991.
   Perhaps Wolpe’s greatest legacy to Marxism was his assistance in the foundation of the journal Economy and Society. In 1972 he penned an article entitled Capitalism and cheap labour power in South Africa from Segregation to Apartheid, which inspired a rethinking within the black consciousness movement, as Wolpe argued that apartheid was not a response to racism, but a response instead to the exploitation of cheap labor that capital required.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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  • Harold Wolpe — (1926 1996) was a South African political economist and writer who was involved in anti apartheid politics. He was arrested and put in prison in 1963 but escaped and spent 30 years in exile in the United Kingdom. He returned to South Africa in… …   Wikipedia

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