Thursday, December 05, 2013

Mandela (updated)

Take a moment to think of Nelson Mandela. But think as well of the Reagan era, and earlier. Think of the time when saying a kind word about the imprisoned South African was a sure way to be labeled a communist. Remember how often our newspaper pundits told us that if Mandela ever ran in a truly fair South African election, that country would never know democracy again: "One man, one vote -- one time." Remember how often we were assured that allowing Mandela out of prison would inevitably lead to Soviet control of his country. Remember the prophecies of a bloodbath of whites.

Give a thought, in short, to our nation's inglorious history of using anti-communism as the great excuse for racism.

Update: I'm happy to see that other writers have noticed the right's "apartheid amnesia." See here and here. The conservative movement has benefited enormously from its ability to hide its history from ignorant younger recruits. From Joan Walsh's piece:
The Heritage Foundation was a clubhouse for apartheid backers; as late as 1990, when Mandela had been freed from prison and traveled to the U.S., Heritage suggested he was a terrorist, “not a freedom fighter.”
As late as 2003, the National Review attacked Mandela for opposing the Iraq war. His “vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise,” NR wrote, “given his longstanding dedication to communism and praise for terrorists.”
Mandela was called a "terrorist" because he did not renounce violence in the struggle against apartheid. It has always amused me to see gun-owning American rightists, dressed in cammo gear and drilling with militias, react with horror at the thought of darker-skinned Third World people fighting oppression by "any means necessary." The Gandhi thing is for them, never for us.


Anonymous said...

Nelson Mandela is one of those unique individuals that come through the world once in several generations--a born leader, a man who developed an uncanny ability to forgive and led a nation out of the darkness, preventing what could have easily been a bloody debacle. He wasn't perfect. South Africa still has a ways to go.

But what Mandela accomplished was nothing short of a miracle. And he did it with a strong, amazingly persistent, enduring but humble spirit.

And that's why the world will mourn his passing. He is loved and respected by millions and millions around the world.

Americans could learn a lot from the temperament and wisdom of a Mandela. There will be many pretty speeches and words to honor the man.
But in truth? There are very few if any who could ever be the man's equal.

If this is what a communist looks like then let us all be communists.


Stephen Morgan said...

Don't sully the name "communist" by associating it with him (although the ANC is in a coalition government with the South African Communist party).

What he achieved was being imprisoned for being the head of a terrorist organisation, First it was a terrorist group against the oppressive regime, then when the prospect of power presented itself it became a terrorist organisation against the Zulu nationalists and any other group that challenged their monopoly on power in South Africa. The reason South Africa still has a long way to go is because of the neoliberal compromise he reached with the government of Apartheid, and the resulting corruption. That's why there was no bloody debacle, because the owners of power didn't really change, they just let a few black thieves join the white thieves.

He was one of those unique individuals in several generations, like the Dalai Lama, or Princess Di, or Mother Theresa, or Ghandi, who closely resembles a squirrel: vermin with good PR.

You want a real hero accused of being a communist, look to Ho Chi Minh, no saint but still a step up from Mandela.

Anonymous said...

Must suck to be you, Stephen, that you can't take a moment of inspiration from an extraordinary man's life and passing.

Vermin with good PR? Your hatred for mankind is impressive. And sad.


Anonymous said...


don't be shy please tell us what you really think. As for the cons anti Mandella thing is a mask for their racist believes. They wished for an apartheid system here in this country

Stephen Morgan said...

I fail to see the reason that "recently dead" is a basis for being inspired by someone. Recently dead is the least inspiring time in someone's existence. When he was alive, if you were into him, fine. In a couple of thousand years, okay, he'd be interesting. Now there's someone who's inspiring, Tiberius Grachus. But the recently dead? They are recently interesting. And Mandela wasn't even particularly interesting then, let alone inspiring. Africa has been chock-a-block with actual inspiring causes and people in the last hundred years, some of which are still very much in need of attention today, and Mandela is not even in the top three. He's not even on a par with Jerry Rawlings, as far as I'm concerned.

b said...

The conditions of my own life are too shitty for me to gain much good feeling by stopping a moment and thinking about the favourable side of the global celebrity Nelson Mandela.

I wonder how many people who 'mourn' his passing without having known him personally are aware that he was of royal birth? Or that his daughter married royalty too? All right for some!

Or that after coming to office, he signed a huge weapons deal.

But he does deserve credit for refusing to renounce violence against apartheid. The idea that the presence and absence of apartheid are morally equivalent is deserving only of contempt.

Now...about the number of permanent secretaries in Whitehall who come from working class backgrounds...

But I won't go down that road.

No-one has mentioned the allegation that Mandela was an MI6 asset, so I will.

As for the relationship between the ANC and SACP, OK there is a Tripartite Alliance, but many SACP leaders (I'm not sure about all of them) are inside the ANC.

Stephen Morgan said...

Perhaps we can take a moment to mourn the passing of Paul Walker: cut short in a tragic accident in the prime of his life, his death delays the release of 7 Fast 7 Furious, thereby delaying the delivery of a moderate amount of action-packed entertainment to millions.

It certainly puts "retired elderly gentleman well past the average life expectancy dies in unremarkable manner" in context, as far as I'm concerned.