Edward Roux (1903 - 1966)
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Profile of Edward Roux
Edward Roux was born to an English mother and an Afrikaner father in 1903, in the Northern Transvaal. He spent much of his life in Johannesburg as his family relocated to the city in 1907, where his father opened a pharmacy.
Roux’s interest in politics was influenced by his father, who was regarded as a “free-thinker” and a socialist. In 1921, while still a student, Roux helped form the Young Communist League. Two years later, he joined the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and was immediately taken under the wing of one of its leaders, Sidney Bunting. Bunting favoured the recruitment of black workers into the CPSA, and under his leadership, Roux began recruiting black people into the CPSA.
At this time, black people were still a minority group within the CPSA, and Roux and Bunting worked tirelessly in spreading the message of communism among the black working class, thus fuelling the resistance struggle by providing an appropriate platform for organised resistance.
In 1926, after having completed an honours degree at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Roux was awarded a scholarship. This took him to Cambridge University where from 1926 to 1929 he completed his PhD in Plant Physiology.
In 1928, he attended the sixth congress of Communist International as the South African representative. During the deliberations of the conference, Roux was encouraged to espouse the party line by advocating the Native Republic Doctrine. Despite his staunch disagreement with the doctrine, Roux’s commitment and loyalty to the party remained unflinching.
In spite of his prestigious qualifications that held the prospect of an illustrious career in the sciences, Roux’s interest in communism and the politics of the age continued to be his passion. After he returned to South Africa on completion of his studies in 1930, Roux took on full-time employment as the editor of the CPSA’s weekly publication, Umsebenzi. He continued to edit the publication until 1935 when he was removed from the CPSA’s political bureau through a party-initiated purge allegedly comprising right-wing elements.
Following his expulsion from the party, Roux was forced to consider a career outside of politics, and outside of the CPSA. For the next 20 years he took up a career in science, staying completely away from active politics.
After his stint in the Second World War, Roux returned to South Africa to take up a teaching post at Wits. Although he remained removed from active politics during this time, Roux continued to be a prolific writer, having penned various articles and pamphlets. He is most renowned, however, for his account of the freedom movement of blacks in South Africa in his book called Time Longer than Rope.
Roux rejoined the political fray in 1957 when he joined the Liberal Party (LP) and canvassed for its support. Despite the fact that he was named as a former CPSA member, he was still permitted to operate, unencumbered by restrictions from the government.
However, this reprieve didn’t last long as he was forced to resign from the LP in 1963 for having been named as an ex-CPSA member. His expulsion was followed by a barrage of banning orders in 1964 which prohibited him from teaching, publishing, attending gatherings, being quoted or leaving Johannesburg. Edward Roux spent his life striving for the equality of all South Africans. His seminal contributions in the arena of South African political literature impacted on the impetus of the resistance struggle against the apartheid regime.
Roux passed away in 1966.