In writing the present essay, I have poached my title from a highly regarded old book by George Dangerfield entitled The Strange Death of Liberal England – chosen mainly for the bleak but, as I shall argue, appropriate catchiness of the spin I’ve sought to give to the title here. But there’s a substantive resonance to the link as well. Dangerfield writes of the period of proto-revolutionary upsurge in Britain on the eve of the First World War – encompassing actions by women, workers, the Irish – and of the role of the Liberal Party, caught up in the maelstrom of the time. The parallel is by no means entirely apposite, of course, but one sentence in the book’s opening pages did catch my eye. The Liberals, Dangerfield writes, emerged from the fray ‘flushed with one of the greatest victories of all time’ yet, he adds, ‘from that victory they never recovered’ (1997:19). Something similar can be said of Frelimo, of the MPLA, of SWAPO, of ZANU and of the ANC. For these movements, although still ‘in power’, have come to preside over the death of the promise that they were once thought to epitomise and their victories, or at least the way they came about, are arguably ones from which they too may never recover. It is with this paradox in mind that I chose not only this title but that of one of my recent books – The Next Liberation Struggle. For such a ‘next liberation struggle’, I live in hope.


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