1st Edition

Mzala Nxumalo, Leftist Thought and Contemporary South Africa

Edited By Robert J. Balfour Copyright 2025
    407 Pages
    by Routledge

    Written as a tribute to the revolutionary intellectual and leader Mzala Nxumalo, this book discusses the significance of his work in the context of contemporary South African left politics. It explores the history and struggle of the apartheid era that preceded the advent of democracy to analyze a crucial aspect of the national question – that is, the quest for the establishment of a united South Africa to overcome racist and sexist policies that create and nurture divisions among black people.

    The subjects in this book deal with a wide range of topics, including the new social, economic and political challenges facing democratic South Africa; the need to reexamine the critique of capitalism in the 21st century; the relationship between race, class and community struggles; and the ecological challenges under capitalism.

    Print edition not for sale in Sub Saharan Africa

    Acronyms and abbreviations



    Introduction: Mzala Nxumalo’s ideas in post-apartheid South Africa

    Mandla J. Radebe and John Pampallis


    1. Radical Left Thought Revival: Mzala’s Views and Their Applicability in Contemporary South Africa

    Percy Ngonyama

    2. The National Question and Exile: Remembering Mzala in London

    Elaine Unterhalter

    3. Socialism is the Future: Comrade Mzala’s Thoughts on the National Question

    Mandla J. Radebe

    4. The First and Second Transitions and the National Question in South Africa

    Gregory Houston and Yul Derek Davids

    5. The EFF’s Perspective on ‘What is the Future of the Left in South Africa in a Global Context?’

    Sam Matiase

    6. The Dilemma of the Post-1994 Democratic Breakthrough: A Broad Survey of Community Struggles in South Africa

    Noel L.Z. Solani


    7. The Challenges of Economic and Social Development in South Africa: Left Perspectives

    Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo

    8. Global Economic Imperialism and the Politics of (Under) Development: Street Traders, Domestic Workers and Sex Workers

    Pat Horn

    9. Social and Economic Challenges from a Left Perspective

    Gunnett Kaaf

    10. After Revisionist Marxism: Reanimating the Critique of Capitalism in South Africa

    Bernard Dubbeld

    11. Emerging Powers and the Polycentric World

    Vladimir Shubin

    12. Ecocide or Socialism: Ecological Challenges and Neoliberal Capitalist Constrains on Radical Transformation

    Rasigan Maharajh and Sigfried Tivana

    Conclusion: The Future of Leftist Thought in a New Century

    Robert J. Balfour

    About the Contributors



    Robert J. Balfour is Deputy Vice Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) at North-West University, South Africa. He is a National Research Foundation-rated academic and has published frequently on language learning and literacy, rural education and postcolonial literature.

    ‘In a dispiriting present, these wide-ranging essays reinvigorate left analysis, with many drawing on the work of the communist intellectual and militant Mzala Nxumalo. This reaching back to engage the present means that this volume is an important contribution to sustaining a national left intellectual tradition, aproject in dialogue with the best ideas from around the world. Mzala, as he was and remains known, was committed to a nonsectarian approach to building a left project and these essays will be useful to people across the South African left, and elsewhere.’

    — Scholar, journalist, editor, teacher and activist; author of Writing the Decline: on the Struggle for South Africa’s Democracy (2016) and editor of Asinamali: University Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2006), Richard Pithouse