Friday, 6 May 2016

Thank you David Beresford

Dear Colleagues,

This is just a brief/short piece as I am now on sabbatical leave attempting to complete key parts/stage of my doctoral thesis. But I need to comment on my deep appreciation for the journalism of the Guardian journalist, David Beresford, who died on 22nd April in Johannesburg.

Here is the link to Beresford's obituary:

Although I was going to skip this post because of workload, it was reading Gary Young's beautiful, reflective piece on his relationship with Beresford that moved to writing a few words. Here is a link to that article:

David Beresford: "An eloquence that defined his humanity".
As a young, black trade unionist in Manchester in the mid 1980's it was the journalism of David Beresford and John Carlin of The Independent that helped me develop a critically important grasp of the politics of South Africa, and of how the apartheid regime reflected a political ideology manifest in a variety of ways in the political economy of the UK under Thatcher, the US under Reagan and elsewhere

This body of journalism supplemented a radically important, formative period of my life as a trade union representative for what was then the CPSA (now PCS) and as a member of what was then Labour Party Young Socialists. The experience of, for example, campaigning against Thatcher's ban on trade unions at GCHQ (tiny URL), of working with LGBT organisations against Section 28 of the Local Government Act and experiencing the gradual industrial decline on Manchester, all needed to be understood within a wider, political framework. Beresford's consistent, sharp analysis was a constant source of help and understanding.

The political and social backdrop to my life then though wasn't just events in South Africa, it was those closer to home in Northern Ireland. Although I didn't read it immediately on publication (instead waiting until it arrived in Manchester Central Library many months later) Beresford's seminal book Ten Men Dead is considered to be one of the best exposes of those factors behind the 1981 hunger strikes which led to the deaths of Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Keiran Doherty, Thomas McElwee and Michael Devine.

The period known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the era of Apartheid were slowly, subtly and irrevocably unmasked, and ultimately diminished by a combination of political protest and the unstinting determination of people like David Beresford to speak truth to power.

You can still track down examples of Beresford's journalism online and in various archives and libraries. If the politics of South Africa interest you, and you'd like an insight into his writing at its very best, critical and sharpest, I wholeheartedly recommend his 2010 book Truth is a Strange Fruit, which can still be purchased from the original publishers:
Despite the best intentions of apartheid to separate groups by racial category this book reveals that, above all else, South African history was never as easy to understand as the difference between black and white. Here, for example Beresford unmasks the perverse collaboration between the apartheid regime and the Israeli state, as well as the more sinister activity of the ANC in exile as it sought to maintain power whilst in waiting.

The book, alongside Beresford's journalism is a profound legacy, that I hope finds its way into the curriculum of students of politics, history, journalism etc. It is purposed, political writing at its very best. I'd like to think of myself as a student of David Beresford and that somehow my own teaching encourages student to engage, critique and write in the same way and for the same purpose that he did.

In Solidarity


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