The Eye of the Needle, Towards Participatory Democracy in South Africa by Rick Turner

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The Eye of the Needle marks a particular moment in the political and cultural history of South Africa and more precisely in the history of the opposition to white supremacist rule in South Africa. Nothing quite like The Eye of the Needle had (or has since) appeared in South Africa. Perhaps most startling of all are the assumptions which are visible throughout the book….that this society, complex and cruel thought it is, rests finally on nothing more than men’s choices and therefore, for that same reason, it can be changed. Most South African writing, both its fiction and polemic, assumes a powerful objective dominance in the social structure – men may protest and bewail their fate but little or nothing can be done to effect any change. Turner’s writing breathes a different spirit. Men have made the society in a way that can be completely comprehended, and in the same way men can change the society.

In a society of obvious and pervasive oppression all lives are stunted and malformed. The criteria of human potentials and actions are obscured…In such a situation even the bravest of individuals are driven towards venal compromise in order to survive. The value of Turner’s life lies in its triumphant demonstration of autonomous value-creating thought and action. His life remains a triumph and a brilliant vindication of the human value inherent in the traditions of the Left.

Download the book here (0.8MB)

Here’s are links to the text on SA History Online:


Chapter 1 – The Necessity of Utopian Thinking

Chapter 2 – Human Models: Christianity and Capitalism

Chapter 3 – South Africa: Culture and Conflict

Chapter 4 – Participatory Democracy

Chapter 5 – The Politics of Socialism

Chapter 6 – Education for Freedom

Chapter 7 – Participatory Democracy for South Africa

Chapter 8 – The Impracticality of Realism

Chapter 9 – Postscript – South Africa: The Present as History