LOOSING THE BONDS by Robert Kinloch Massie


The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years
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 A joint history of the US and South Africa that captures the passion and triumph of the anti-apartheid movement but neglects many of the underlying issues. Massie, a historian who has taught at the Harvard Divinity School and the University of Cape Town, argues that the anti-apartheid movement, by mobilizing the world against the South African government, forced it finally to acknowledge the failure of its policy and, more profoundly, that ``acts of protest and conscience . . . can gradually accumulate into an irresistible force for change.'' He deals remorselessly with the cruelty of apartheid and the ruthlessness with which the South African government crushed resistance, although very recent revelations have been even more damning. He is particularly good on the changing strategy of the anti-apartheid movement as it sought points of weakness and moved, as opportunity offered, from the UN to Congress, to the corporations, to state and local governments, and to South Africa's trade. He is somewhat uneven on the response of successive US administrations to developments in South Africa: full on the cautious pragmatism of Kennedy, neglectful of Johnson and Bush, more comprehensive on Carter, Nixon, and Reagan. The most curious omission is his failure to discuss the implications of the Cold War on moderate opinion both in South Africa and the US, particularly in the light of the close alliance of Africanists and Communists in the upper ranks of the African National Congress prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. He almost totally neglects the significance of that event on the policies both of the South African government and of the ANC itself. The result is to reduce much of the opposition to the ANC outside the ranks of the South African government to a caricature. An able history of a stunningly successful grassroots movement that succeeded, as such movements must, by reducing the complexities of what they are fighting. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-26167-5
Page count: 928pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997