He was born in Latvia in 1927 and came with his family to South Africa in 1934. He graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1950. Returning to South Africa in 1953, he joined the South African Congress of Democrats and in 1955 became its secretary for the Cape western region, acting as a full-time organiser for the Congress of the People. He was arrested in the Treason Trial in 1956 and stood trial until charges against him were withdrawn in 1958.
His wife, the former Mary Butcher, was also prominent member of the COD and later served a six months' sentence for aiding the illegal ANC. In 1962 he was convicted under the Explosives Act and sentenced to three years in prison.
He is now on the faculty of London's Open University, for which he wrote a lengthy study in 1975: "Inequality as State Policy: The South African Case." His writings also include "South Africa: The Search for a Strategy," in The Socialist Register 1973 and a booklet, Strategic Problems in South Africa's Liberation Struggle: A Critical Analysis (1974).
He is currently director of the Institute for African alternatives.
This veteran ANC MP is expected to face disciplinary proceedings by the ANC after publicly explaining why he broke party ranks and did not vote for the controversial Protection of Information Bill, aka the Secrecy Bill, on 22 November 2011.
Turok was instrumental in helping draw up the Freedom Charter and also served time in jail under apartheid. - ref iol.co.za 24/11/2011.
- Ben Turok's Personal website
- South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid - Building Democracy See a 56 min video interview of Ben Turok in 2006 recounting his participation in the struggle against apartheid and other topics, e.g. religion and the struggle.
- South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid - Building Democracy Read a brief biography of Ben Turok from South African History Online