Lives invisible to power – an interview with Victoria Brittain

ROAPE’s Leo Zeilig interviews the radical journalist, campaigner, and writer Victoria Brittain. Brittain has spent a lifetime exposing the lies and destructions of Western imperialism and celebrating the resistance and hope of those who fight back. For decades, Brittain worked and lived in Africa, and struggled to get the voices of the oppressed heard, and their lives seen.


Leo Zeilig: We are delighted to be able to interview you on Speaking personally, your journalism and writing on Africa was a revelation to me in the late 1980s and 1990s, as I became aware of the world – providing extraordinary and radical coverage of the plunder and resistance on the continent, amid the narrative of coups, war, famine on Africa presented by most media outlets.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you started writing, and your own politicisation? How did you become the radical writer and campaigner you are today?

Victoria Brittain: Thank you, Leo, for your interesting questions and for pushing me to take time to think about the past and to explain things I didn’t expect to.

Actually, it is all about luck, and the kindness of strangers. I was helped too by being an outsider, as a woman reporter then was, plus the timing of working in a period of journalism on a small canvas, unimaginable in todays’ transformed media world with the huge commercial pressures, plus the mass output in social media, blogs, podcasts etc.

My first job was in a weekly magazine, The Investor’s Chronicle – not a very likely place for someone no good at maths and with no interest in The City, but it happened because it was the only paper that replied to my many random letters to editors asking for a job. I think the editor gave me the job out of pity when he saw me for an interview – I was on crutches after a bad riding accident. In Tehran my horse slipped and fell with my foot still in the stirrup and I could barely walk for a couple of years. It was by chance and in desperation to find an independent life that I tried journalism – I had never read newspapers and had no knowledge of politics or the wider world.

Can you take us through your political background, and explain some of the formative moments in your work, writing and activism? I am thinking of the time you spent in Vietnam, reporting – along with others – on American imperialism, and resistance to it.

In fact, I had no political background. I was the under-educated product of a poor boarding school and a silent home life. It was my good luck to arrive in Washington DC in 1968 and to find myself in an unimaginable new world of high drama as anti-Vietnam war demonstrations and violent police reactions played out on the streets of the capital and in cities and campuses across America. I shyly joined the crowds in Washington.

Gradually I learned new names of academics, poets, priests, and others who I heard speak out against the war: Professors Noam Chomsky and Richard Falk, Dr Spock (already my guru as a new mother with a baby), the Berrigan brothers Daniel and Philip, Jesuit priests and poets.  I found the New York Review of Books with its elegant, scathing articles on the war, and I F Stone’s wonderful weekly newsletter with its extraordinary exposures of wickedness in US domestic politics. I was surprised by the emotion which hit me at the assassination of Martin Luther King, just a year after his blistering speech in Riverside Church condemning the immorality of the Vietnam war. Exposure to the issues of the Vietnam war and the US civil rights movements had opened doors of curiosity that my rural conservative background had kept sealed.

By chance the well-known New Statesman correspondent, Andrew Kopkind, who I didn’t actually know, asked me to cover his weekly column for a few weeks or months for reasons even then unclear to me. Had I perhaps met one of his friends in a demonstration? In early 1969 for the New Statesman, I found myself sitting on a bench in the street outside the White House with Ron Ridenhour, the young helicopter door gunner who had tried unsuccessfully to get US authorities and major media to report and investigate the US soldiers’ massacre of an entire Vietnamese village of women, children and old men at My Lai, or Pinkville as the US soldiers called it. He finally got Seymour Hersh, then of Pacific News Service to publish the first incendiary story, which Hersh followed with much more research in articles and books for many years.

Listening to Ridenhour it seemed that hours went by, and I was overwhelmed by the unimaginable horror of the scenes he described. I was out of my depth and staggered at the scale of the official coverup as he explained it all to me and I put it in my notebook for the Statesman. I was frankly clueless (I certainly didn’t know the word imperialism). But I really wanted to go to Vietnam and see this extraordinary world of America in Asia. I read and re-read Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, and I still didn’t understand it, but I was hooked.

A little later, back in London, the ITN News editor decided on the then radical idea of hiring a woman reporter, in fact two, and, oddly, he came to my house and asked me to do it. I didn’t like the camera and I was too shy to be any good, but I needed a job. One day he sent me on a three-week stint in Vietnam – my old dream. I went, entirely guided on the ground into soft short stories by my experienced and kind cameraman – he was Canadian and markedly different in his attitude from the patronising and hostile reactions I got from some of the British contingent. I wanted to stay in Saigon.

Another outsider, Louis Heron, foreign editor of The Times whom I knew slightly from Washington days gave me a chance when I approached him hearing his staff man was leaving. Louis took me to lunch, offered me a small monthly retainer and told me, “Remember, no story is worth dying for.”

I left London, with my small son and one-way tickets to Saigon. Two things made my Vietnam a different experience from other Western journalists, who were nearly all men. Living with my son meant I was with Vietnamese and French mothers and children at school and at the swimming pool – another world away from the male journalists’ social life.

Then, in the greatest stroke of luck, Mark Frankland, the distinguished, long-time Observer correspondent, passed on to me his exceptional translator and fixer, Mr Loc, to show me a Vietnam far from Western military and diplomatic briefings. Mark told me later that Mr Loc was hard to please, he would not work for a French or American journalist, he spoke French but no English, and he really only wanted to work with quiet, discreet, knowledgeable Mark Frankland. Mark promised Mr Loc I had the first two qualities and he, Loc, could work on the last.

Behind Mr Loc, riding pillion on his motorcycle, Vietnam’s people, not just the war, opened up for me. I sat and listened to Vietnamese villagers and farmers, schoolteachers, monks, ousted politicians, displaced widows with their families, lost and wounded children and their carers. I had found what I wanted to hear and write about – oppressed people, the majority, whose lives were invisible to those in power. Later, the struggle to get those voices themselves heard unmediated was central to my work.

Everywhere I saw great natural beauty and America’s unthinking destruction of place and people. I heard despair and what I would later learn to think of, in Southern Africa, as Dennis Brutus’s Stubborn Hope.[1]

You were a direct witness, and fellow traveller, to some of Africa’s liberation movements, not least the struggles in Angola against Portuguese colonialism (but also, of course, South Africa). Can you tell us about this period, and your experiences? What did reporting and writing over these years teach you about the role of British and American imperialism on the continent, and the experience of national liberation – not least the ways this liberation was terribly constrained?

I came to Africa in the late 1970s and spent two years in Algiers in the time of President Houari Boumédiène when Algeria was a central player in the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of African Unity. After what I had seen of American horror in Vietnam, I was ready to embrace the steep learning curve of Cold War politics in Africa, where America and its allies – notably neighbouring Morocco, busy with a military takeover of Western Sahara from Spain – were always in the wrong. The Polisario delegation in Algiers liked to perch in the Reuters’ office where I often was too, to watch the news ticker-tape for news of the World Court ruling on Morocco’s claim to their territory. We became friends, and when their declaration of independence of the Saharoui Arab Democratic Republic (RASD in its French acronym) was announced in Addis Ababa at an OAU summit, it was my birthday and their delegation insisted on a touching joint celebration. Visiting the desert refugee camp in Tindouf in southern Algeria, ignored beyond the Global South, later was an experience that combined the Saharoui inspiration at miraculous creativity in making a dignified life for those in the camp, with shock at the overwhelming injustice they faced. The thought came to be familiar to me among the Southern Africa liberation movements: MPLA, FRELIMO, ANC, and SWAPO.

When we left Algiers one Algerian minister, hearing we were moving to Nairobi said, with a sly smile, “perhaps you will enjoy life more in the perfect neo-colonial setting.” He was right – five years in Kenya was privileged living, and between the beauty of the place and exceptional new friends cemented my love of the continent. The work, in the nearby countries of Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and even the Seychelles, covered coups, wars, famine and dramatic U turns in geo-political alliances of the Cold War which were huge changing stories with so much to try to understand.

I was lucky again after Nairobi with a part time dream job in London at the Guardian in the 1980s editing an experimental page called Third World Review (TWR) where almost all the writers were from the Global South. I have written elsewhere (Radical Moments at the Guardian) about that unique experience which educated me on other continents beyond Africa and Asia, by people who lived, or were exiled from, them. As in Saigon, my, by then two, children gave me a different pattern of work from most journalists. I was at home in the evenings and many of these people came to talk to me there, long talks, not formal interviews. Some, like Mohamed Babu the Zanzibari Marxist, insisted on doing the cooking, others, like Abdul Minty, then leading the World Campaign against Military and Nuclear Cooperation with South Africa from exile in Norway, brought me a cooking pot.

It was a historical moment when revolutionary movements flared in countries of the Global South such as Nicaragua, Grenada, Ghana, and Burkina Faso and found resonance beyond the South in TWR. Ambitious US covert interventions, notably in Ghana in the Rawlings era, were revealed, and, obviously, denied. The experienced Cuban ambassador in Ghana, Niel Guerra, once warned me that there is a price for disturbing imperialism, but it is worth paying. He arranged an invitation to Cuba, among other things to see the various schools in the Island of Youth for children from the liberation movements, and newly progressive countries such as Ghana and Ethiopia.

At the same time, I was educated about a Britain beyond the small bubble of my past experience when the ANC in London and the Anti-Apartheid Movement sent me, reluctantly, to speak about Angola’s grim realities to small audiences in British cities I wouldn’t have known where to place on a map. There I met and listened to trade unionists and activists, often, and still sometimes today, people told me they were keen readers of TWR. And on cold nights of demonstrations outside the South African embassy in London I listened to a cross section of people I had never seen before and discovered how solidarity was built.

For the first time, because of who and what came to me through TWR’s open door, and what I knew from Angola visits, I felt at home in London as a city of radical exiles and their politics.

It was a decade when in the Global South neo-liberal dominance, austerity and repression fired revolt against dictatorship, oppression, and economic crisis. Political prisoners, academics, opposition politicians, journalists, guerrilla fighters and writers like Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Mohammed Babu from countries I knew became my friends. The modest Committee for Kenyan Political Prisoners produced small pamphlets and leaflets in late night work sessions in the Finsbury Park home of Caribbean activist, poet and publisher John La Rose’s New Beacon Books.

A host of South African household names, some resident exiles, others passing through, were my world to listen to: Adelaide Tambo worked in a care home in Hampstead; Frene Ginwala (later First Speaker of Parliament) was assistant to Oliver Tambo; the unknown heroine of early underground action Eleanor Kasrils confided her terror as Conservative politicians publicly demanded the expulsion of her and her sons because of her husband, Ronnie Kasrils’ leading role in the ANC’s armed struggle against the apartheid regime. I met him in Angola and decades later we became, as we still are, close colleagues and collaborators on many projects, including Palestine.

Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, and other Arabs came to TWR as the first Intifada and then the first Gulf War upended their world. Unsurprisingly, and following the Cuban ambassador’s warning in Accra, TWR came under constant attack from the Israeli, South African, Kenyan, American and other diplomats in London and their many friends in the media, including inside the Guardian. The editor Peter Preston finally decided the page was “dated” and had to go.

Luckily, I had by then a link with AfriqueAsie the radical magazine in Paris, close to liberation movements. They published all my articles, initially under the more suitable name Alexia Ahmed, and gave me an intellectual and political home from home and the dear friends and colleagues who have been central to my life ever since.

Given that some of your work was in Lusophone Africa, can you talk about the colonial legacies in that part of the continent, and how these legacies were a handicap for post-independence politics, and continue to be? Many of us, including in ROAPE, had high hopes for liberation in Portuguese ex-colonies – the continent’s great second wave of ‘radical independence’ – and have been bitterly disappointed with the experience. Can you also speak of these disappointments, and how we can explain them?

Portuguese-speaking Africa, and Angola in particular, was the most intense part of my work in the 1980s. But for me it was not the appalling dehumanising colonial legacies of Portuguese settler economies, racism and fascism that were central, but rather the ruthless US-led war to control independent Angola’s future, and with it apartheid South Africa’s future. The US military project of the Reagan years in Africa, supported by Margaret Thatcher, was to use its client state Zaire, mercenaries from Western countries and South Africa’s army to install Jonas Savimbi as a client leader in oil rich Luanda in 1975 as the Portuguese left. The goal was to safeguard Western economic interests in South Africa in particular, keeping apartheid alive, and Namibia maintained under South African occupation. A blind eye was turned to South Africa’s military campaign of targeted assassinations, economic destruction, and destabilization of the FLS (Frontline States) and the death of the high hopes of independent states across the continent. Without Cuba’s historic intervention and its people’s enormous sacrifices and courage beside the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in Angola, Washington would have succeeded.

Western journalists were not often welcomed in Luanda, but in an act of kindness and trust, the radical historian of Africa Basil Davidson, who did not then know me personally, but knew some of my work, wrote letters to three Angolan leaders introducing me as someone who should write about the US/South Africa devastation being unleashed to cripple Angola’s independence.

Lucio Lara was one of the founding members of the MPLA (Augusta Conchiglia, Soyo, 1976).

Those letters gave me extraordinary access to remote places and, in time, to friendships with remarkable people. I was able over the years to visit towns and cities besieged by UNITA, the rival movement supported by South Africa and the CIA. They were scenes of battered hospitals full of legless peasant victims of landmines, with infrastructure bridges, dams, roads, schools, blocks of homes built by the Cubans all reduced to rubble, and hundreds of thousands of hungry despairing people on the move. Think of more recent images of Faluja, Raqqa, Aleppo, Grozny and giant refugee camps in Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon.

In remote Angola I saw handfuls of Cuban and sometimes Vietnamese school teachers, doctors, nurses alongside the MPLA keeping humanity alive as the West tried to crush it. I met Angolan doctors and scientists later assassinated as UNITA targeted the local intellectual leadership. In Luanda I listened to MPLA leaders and Cuban generals talk of the shape of the social, economic, military, and diplomatic challenges aimed at the progressive advances of the post-independence years were targeted.

After months of fighting around Cuito Cuanavale in south-east Angola from October 1987 a 40,000 Cuban and Angolan and SWAPO [South West Africa People’s Organisation] force, with Soviet supplies, confronted and defeated the South Africans in March 1988. Cuban engineers and Angola’s new generation of army officers laid down two airstrips towards the border with Namibia, giving Cuban pilots air superiority. The epic battle around Cuito Cuanavale and in the neighbouring province of Cunene was won against the most powerful army on the continent. It changed African history.

This is the context that was followed by the political disappointment you talk about – decades of struggle for life against years of utter destruction, death and loss imposed by apartheid South Africa and the West. Angola and Mozambique opened their countries to the resistance of the ANC, SWAPO, and ZANU and ZIPRA from what was then Rhodesia; Mozambique implemented Commonwealth sanctions on Rhodesia to the total detriment of the economy. Heroism and principle came with an incalculably high price.

Your work, books, and journalism highlight the role of imperialism. Can you talk about imperialism today, and how it manifests itself in Africa and elsewhere in the Global South? Are we correct to identify other imperialist players, including China, alongside the United States?

I don’t think of my work as ‘highlighting’ the role of imperialism. That sounds too purposeful and theoretical. I would say rather that I was for a long time living and reporting from inside countries being systematically wrecked by US imperialism’s drive to maintain world control.

In Vietnam and Angola, the military aspect was then the most obvious. But control of financial systems, of science and technology, of communications, of information wars, of the systems of influence and funding which operate through NGOs, think tanks, diplomacy both inside the countries of the Global South and well beyond, all shaped, and continue to shape, the history, which has so disappointed you, and so many others, in the context of Southern Africa’s political outcomes. (It could of course have been very different, as the examples of Cuba and Vietnam’s social welfare systems of education, health and care of the elderly illustrate today.)

I believe these Western systems aim to keep most of the Global South in labour intensive production – and poverty. Let’s remember that resistance across the Global South continues despite defeats – see Latin America and India, for instance. China, with its extraordinary successes in poverty reduction, can rightly be criticised for many things, but for me, it is not “an imperialist player” as you suggest.

Working on the continent, and meeting some of the giants of political struggles and liberation, can you tell us of these experiences and personalities? Who stands out, and what characteristics did you note specifically, in some of these political activists and politicians?  

It was my great privilege to know Julius Nyerere, Lucio Lara, Thomas Sankara, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o as political activist in London, and to meet others, like Oliver Tambo and Namibia’s Toivo ya Toivo, with the same characteristics. What stood out was their integrity, their modesty, their habit of listening to the powerless, and their ceaseless hard work.

I remember watching President Nyerere once in his garden standing for a long time intently listening to the gardener who was sweeping the path. (And on his visits to London in the mid 1980s there was always an invitation to breakfast, and he would ask me for every detail of my visits to Luanda, so crucial for the Frontline States to understand through the language barrier.)

Similarly with Lucio, at his house in Luanda there were always humble people sitting waiting to talk to him. He always had time for everyone. Once, in two days spent travelling with him in Malange in 1984, driving round cooperative farms with local MPLA officials and seeing how South Africa and UNITA were encroaching on this rich agricultural province I noted: “through hours of sitting in farm courtyards Lara barely spoke, but listened as the complaints came thick and fast with no fear of the man in authority. The peasants were angry and asking for more military action against UNITA, against the South Africans….it was a vision of what the party meant to people. Here the MPLA was the centre of people’s lives, their security, their entry into a new world of organised farming, and their faith in the leadership was touching and unmistakeable.”

I knew the private Lucio and his wife Ruth too. Pictures in my mind are of Lucio feeding his pet monkeys in Luanda or walking on the beach with his dog, Lucio on rare visits to London reading Le Monde for hours, walking for miles on Hampstead Heath and wanting to go to the ballet.

And sitting in his house in Ouagadougou with Sankara, at a different stage of life, I witnessed the energy and optimism, his thirst for knowledge, the piles of books he was reading, his torrent of questions, his urgent requests to have his speeches translated into English and given to Nyerere, to the ANC in Robben Island, Lusaka and London.

I knew Sankara because he had met Maurice Bishop of Grenada at the Non-Aligned summit in Delhi in 1983 and despite having no common language the two men had bonded, recognising the parallels in their bold projects of transformation for their tiny countries. Maurice’s assassination in October of that year horrified Sankara, and mutual friends who knew that I had been in Grenada as the coup unrolled, and that I spoke French, invited me to Ouagadougou to explain to Sankara the treachery of a long-time close colleague – which would then be his own fate. In the four febrile years of social revolution until the same scenario ended his life Thomas invited me several times – always with his agenda of work, translations, and discussions, plus presents of hand printed Indigo dresses.

Recently, in the last twenty years, your work has focused on Palestinian liberation and justice. Please tell us something about your current work, activism, and writing.

Nowhere better illustrates the power of imperialism than Palestine’s shameful betrayal over more than a century. It was inevitable that after leaving Africa and coming back to live in London I would be drawn to Palestine’s escalating drama. Palestinian writers and photographers were prominent in TWR, and Palestinian artists and filmmakers were central in my London world of exiles. I first went to Gaza at the invitation of its first and leading psychiatrist Dr Eyad Saraj who wanted me to write a pamphlet on his organisation, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP), for fundraising in the Gulf. I had interviewed him in London when he had talked in particular about his work with adolescent boys traumatised by witnessing their fathers’ humiliation and impotence in the face of violent arrests, house demolitions, disappearance into Israeli prisons.

It was 23 July 2002 and Hamas military leader Salah Shehadeh had been assassinated the day before by a 1-ton bomb dropped on his home in a crowded neighbourhood of Gaza City. Fifteen people were killed, including eight children and infants, more than 100 wounded, the area devastated. I spent the following days shadowing Eyad’s staff in homes of the traumatised near the massive crater. Several were social workers who were veterans of Israeli prisons, quiet men bringing practical aid with food, water, clothes and above all emotional empathy in the horror they knew so well. Palestinian experience of injustice could never then be an abstraction for me.

After that terrible night 27 Israeli pilots signed a letter refusing to take part in such “illegal and immoral” targeted killings in civilian areas in the West Bank and Gaza. International condemnation went as far as a case brought under international jurisdiction in 2005 in Spain for Israeli war crimes by the New York based Centre for Constitutional Rights. In the end, as with the US soldiers in My Lai village, or the CIA and South Africans who devastated the lives of Angolans and Mozambicans (along with their own majority) over decades, there was largely impunity, forgotten history, indifference.

But Palestinians’ resistance has only grown stronger, more visible, internationally supported over these decades. One of my activities on this front was 11 years of running the Palestine Book Awards from their inception. It was a period when more and more books came to us every year, new small publishers emerged, and the winners became overwhelmingly Palestinians – academics, poets, novelists, cooks, artists, photographers and writers of children’s books. Nothing gives me more pleasure and optimism than the strength and creativity of young Palestinians. I am still close to GCMHP and other Palestinian projects and individuals. And I still study Arabic.

Palestine overlapped with my work during the years of the “war on terror”. Post 9/11 in the UK the jailing or putting under house arrest of Muslim men, deportations of some to US prisons, collaboration with US torture and detention in secret prisons across the world, and Guantanamo, I was writing and speaking in protest meetings constantly. It was my privilege to become close to many of the families involved in this tragedy, several of whom were Palestinians. I co-wrote Moazzam Begg’s Guantanamo memoir Enemy Combatant, plays, other books, notably Shadow Lives on wives and daughters of men imprisoned in the US and UK in which the Palestine connection emerged clearly for me. Those women and their now grown children are still in my life, as are political prisoners in many places, including those still in Guantanamo.

But I have never lost sight of Africa, which has a special place in my heart, and I am happy today to be part of the editorial collective of Afrique XXI where we publish exceptional articles, interviews, video, and audio testimonies in French. One day we hope to publish in English too, like our older sister, Orient XXI which appears in French, Arabic, English and Persian.

Obviously, a life of activism, campaigning and investigative journalism never ends, but can you tell ROAPE readers some of the lessons you have learnt from a lifetime of radical engagement? What are some of the immutable(s) you have found, and that a new generation need be aware of, for example?

Given how very much better educated and generally informed today’s generation such as ROAPE’s readers are, this is hard to answer. Let me give you words of others who inspired me decades ago, and whose historic actions still have unending resonance. And of course, actions of resistance, organising, tangible solidarity behind every popular struggle for justice, education, health, and food are obligations that can never end.

Ron Ridenhour, the Vietnam vet who exposed My Lai, wrote this in March 1993 in the Los Angeles Timeslooking back 25 years. “There were several important lessons in this for me, personally. Among the most important and disappointing of them was that some people – most, it seems – will, under some circumstances, do anything someone in authority tells them to. Another is that government institutions, like most humans, have a reflexive reaction to the exposure of internal corruption and wrongdoing: No matter how transparent the effort, their first response is to lie, conceal and cover up. Also, like human beings, once an institution has embraced a particular lie in support of a particular coverup, it will forever proclaim its innocence.”

Other words reverberate from Martin Luther King speaking in New York’s Riverside church in 1967 (just replace Vietnam with Palestine): “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

Let me end with a last quote, from a conversation with Lucio Lara in Angola in the mid 1990s. He said: “I don’t have illusions about many things anymore. In the Angolan struggle perhaps, we didn’t have philosophers or sociologists, but we had these words of Neto’s, ‘the most important thing is to solve the people’s problems’. Once in the Council of Ministers I heard someone say that we should stop using this phrase. I thought that maybe he was right, because no one spoke out against him. In my opinion this was when the Party began to collapse. That was the time when the leaders felt they all had the right to be rich. That was the beginning of the destruction of our life.” Lucio sent my book, Death of Dignity, from which I quoted him, to Thabo Mbeki when he became South Africa’s president. It was a warning of how political visions can be lost. Lucio died in 2016.

The historical work on the anticolonial archives of the MPLA in exile and in the bush until independence in 1975, is meticulously carried out, in Lucio’s old house, first by his wife Ruth then by the family and close friends (creating the Tchiweka Documentation Centre). After Ruth’s death the work was led by Lucio’s son Paulo, who died last year, and whose life course was set by those days. Paulo at 19 was in the military front line in repulsing the South African invasion in 1975 and he became a general in the long years of post-independence war until the death of Jonas Savimbi. Lucio’s daughter Wanda now runs it.  There is also a treasure trove of filmed interviews by Paulo in the remotest of provinces with the people who lived those years. This website is a jewel, the richest record of a people’s successful years of struggle against all that imperialism could devise to have them fail.

Victoria Brittain is an activist, writer and journalist who has spent years reporting in Africa, and campaigning internationally. 

Featured photograph: Victoria Brittain, Luanda 1986 (Augusta Conchiglia).


[1] Stubborn Hope: Selected Poems of South Africa and a wider world, by Dennis Brutus, Heinemann 1978. Dennis Brutus was one of Africa’s greatest poets, political organiser, veteran of Robben Island and 30 years of exile in US academia. When he died in South Africa in 2019 Noam Chomsky called him “a great artist and intrepid warrior in the unending struggle for justice and freedom…a permanent model for others to try to follow.”


  1. Fascinating narrative and recollections, which throw (re)new(ed) light on an all-too-readily forgotten era. Thanks so much, Leo and Victoria

  2. Wow! What a life lived! I was transfixed. It felt like a mini tour de force of contemporary imperialism & the resistance to it. It made me think that it’s so important to always document what they do as there are always lessons to be learned from it & of course our sides resistance to their murder, lies & treachery.

  3. This is very insightful. A life dedicated to the struggle for justice in Africa and beyond and in the face of so much impunity and imperialist corruption and murder.


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