The UDF: A History of the United Democratic Front in South Africa, 1983-1991
By Jeremy Seekings
Ohio University Press, 2000, 371 pp.
Beyond Our Wildest Dreams: The United Democratic Front and the Transformation of South Africa
By Ineke Van Kessel
University Press of Virginia, 2000, 385 pp.
These impressive and complementary studies both look at the history of the United Democratic Front, the political umbrella movement that mobilized mass resistance to apartheid inside South Africa during the 1980s in tandem with the exiled African National Congress. Seekings, a South African sociologist, concentrates on the UDF at the national and regional levels, analyzing the movement's complex evolution, internal tensions, and relationship with the ANC. Van Kessel, a Dutch social researcher, takes a bottom-up approach, focusing on case studies of two urban affiliates of the movement and one rural one. Her account brings out the dynamics of local struggles, emphasizing the importance of generational conflict, religious expression in political life, and the popular quest for a more moral social order in local communities. Both books probe far below the surface of South Africa's liberation struggle to expose the often messy and inconclusive underside of politics-the part outsiders rarely see and victors prefer to forget once they prevail. Two excellent contributions to modern South African history.