This volume grew out of an initiative of the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS). The NIHSS was established by the minister of higher education and training to re-invigorate the humanities and social sciences in South Africa. Launched in 2014, it has two goals. The first is to promote postgraduate studies and to contribute to the development of a new generation of academics. The second is to reinvigorate the humanities and social sciences through a series of catalytic research projects which aim to open up new avenues for scholarship and to assist in and promote the development of relevant research.
This edited volume, The Unresolved National Question: Left Thought Under Apartheid, is part of a broader catalytic project – Hidden Voices: Left Thought under Apartheid. That project's overall aim is to recover some of the lineages of knowledge production from 1950 to 1990. The project emerged out of an interest in left intellectual contributions towards discussions on race, class, ethnicity and nationalism in South Africa. Specifically, the idea is to look at Hidden Voices – academic voices suppressed by apartheid pressures, and organic intellectual voices outside of the university system, similarly silenced by apartheid.
A number of excellent publications have made available documents from the liberation struggle. In the early 1960s, for example, Gwendolen Carter, Gail Gerhardt and Thomas Karis started collecting documents to begin what is now a seven-volume series – From Protest to Challenge. The Democracy Education Trust has published its six-volume Road to Democracy in South Africa. Allison Drew has edited two volumes of South Africa's Radical Tradition: A Documentary History. Unisa Press has its Hidden History Series, Jacana Media has its Pocket Biographies, and HSRC Press has its Voices of Liberation Series.
None of these, however, is devoted specifically to publishing left thought under apartheid. The first phase of the Hidden Voices project examines the way in which various strands of left thought have addressed the National Question, especially during the apartheid years. We wanted to ensure that the volume represented the broadest possible range of left South African thought since 1950, so instead of imposing a particular understanding of the National Question we identified and selected a number of political traditions, and allowed the authors the freedom to define the question as they believe appropriate – in other words, to explain what they thought was the Unresolved National Question.