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Simons, Ray Alexander (1913–2004)

Nicole Ulrich and Lucien van der Walt


Ray Alexander Simons was born Rachel Esther Alexandrowitch in Latvia in 1913. She was drawn to communism at an early age and became involved in Latvia's underground communist movement in her teens. Alexander left for South Africa in 1929. The exact reasons for the family's emigration are not very clear, but the oppressive atmosphere of anti-Semitism and political repression doubtless played a role. The decision was a fortunate one, for Latvia became a fascist state in 1934, and the Nazi occupation of 1941–4 led to large-scale massacres of Jews, including Alexander's two half-sisters and their families. Alexander remained dedicated to the communist cause and joined the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) within a week of her arrival. Trade unionism occupied most of her activism. She was involved in a wide range of unions, usually amongst African and Colored workers, and contributed to a regular column on trade union affairs in the Guardian , a paper affiliated to the CPSA. Alexander is perhaps best known for leading the Food and Canning Workers' Union (FCWU), which she helped establish in 1941. In 1955 the FCWU affiliated to the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), which was linked to the CPSA (reconstituted as the underground South African Communist Party, SACP, in 1953) , and the African National Congress (ANC) , from its inception. Intent on ridding the union ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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