Obituary: Professor Jack Simons

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Paul Trewhela [19 August] is wrong when he writes that Jack Simons had a "long and uncritical devotion to the Soviet Union", writes Sadie Forman [further to the obituary by Albie Sachs, 3 August].

As a student of Simons's at the University of Cape Town in 1963 I learnt from him of the forced removal of some 4 million Russians from their homes and land by Stalin in the 1940s. He was as critical of the upheaval of people in Ukraine as he was of the destruction caused by forced removals in South Africa.

Nor was Simons uncritical of the Communist Party in "all his years of association" with it. Trewhela has but to read Class and Colour in South Africa, a seminal text, to know that.

As to Trewhela's statement that Simons was "thoroughly steeped in Stalinism", Simons did not support the invasion of Hungary in 1956 or that of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Simons's strength as a teacher was that he made his students think for themselves. Those ANC soldiers who attended his classes in Angola tell how they learnt from him to distrust received ideologies and to look at all sides of the enemy's arguments. He taught that slogans were adverts for articles of faith.