Revelations made by veterans of the period, and the opening of various archives, have thrown significant new light on the origins of Umkhonto we Sizwe. It is now clear that the South African Communist Party (SACP) was the first component of the congress alliance to decide to launch an armed struggle against the apartheid state, in late 1960, having consulted the Chinese leader Mao Zedong in person. Only later was the issue debated in the senior organs of the African National Congress and other allied organisations. It has also become apparent that the first commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe, Nelson Mandela, was a member of the SACP. The main thrust of these observations is to demonstrate the degree to which the start of the armed struggle in South Africa was inscribed in the politics of the Cold War.