This is the first Marxist, Leninist, Maoist analysis of Nelson Mandela I could find. For Maoists or Marxists-Leninists this is a difficult topic. On one hand Mandela heroically fought the apartheid system in South Africa for most of his life. He was president, for a time, of the African National Congress (ANC). He spent one third of his life in Prison and emerged a symbol of resistance to the apartheid system of Whites ruling over the native black people of his’ country.
He is a hero both in his homeland and the rest of the world. This can’t be erased. However, as the first black president of his home country he did little to change the squalid conditions that many in South Africa had to endure. On the world stage he has done little or nothing to oppose US and European imperialism.
I think the following article is a good analysis and better than the hero worship of our mainstream media, which like the fact that as President Mandela never “rocked the boat” of capitalism.
I normally don’t endorse Bob Avakian and his promotion, However I left in his plug since I used his article.
On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95. In the coming period, revcom.us/Revolution will have more reporting and analysis of the significance of the struggle against the brutal racist apartheid regime in South Africa with which Mandela was so closely associated, Mandela's role in that, and the nature of South Africa today. But at this moment, the following are five points of orientation:
- The vicious system of apartheid—blatant, racist,
brutal oppression and discrimination against black (and other non-white)
peoples in South Africa, which Nelson Mandela struggled against—was part
of a legacy of centuries of
the most horrific plunder of Africa as a whole by the capitalist world. In
South Africa after World War 2, apartheid further institutionalized and intensified that
vicious oppression. black (and other non-white) South Africans were locked
down in prison-like "Bantustans," without the most basic
necessities of life (like clean water or decent shelter). They were
treated as non-humans, subject to fascist "pass laws" that
governed their every movement. On the backs of their labor, white settlers
lived the lifestyles of northern Europe and global capitalism-imperialism
accumulated massive profits.
- Nelson Mandela emerged as an opponent of the apartheid
system in the 1950s. He joined the rising tide of courageous, widespread
struggle among many different sections of people in South Africa that went
up against the whips, club, guns and torture chambers of the regime. For
this he was sentenced to a life of hard labor in prison, and he never
backed down in his opposition to apartheid. The struggle against apartheid
became a cause that inspired people around the world. Many people gave
their lives in this struggle. And Nelson Mandela became the most prominent
symbol of that struggle.
- But the powers-that-be are not praising
Mandela because of his role as an opponent of apartheid, but because he
conciliated with the forces of the old order, and played a key role in
dismantling apartheid in a way that didn't excavate, but in the main reinforced the
historic and horrific oppression of the black and other non-white people
of South Africa. Whatever Mandela's intent, his outlook of "embrace
the enemy" which is being so extolled by the powers-that-be in their
eulogies, went directly against the
need to uproot all the political, structural, economic, social and cultural
relations that formed the foundation for that system.
- We have to have the honesty to confront the reality of
the path Nelson Mandela charted. It did not lead to freedom for the
oppressed people of South Africa. The vast majority of people in South Africa
continue to suffer in the grip of global capitalism-imperialism. Today,
two decades after Mandela became the first black president of South
Africa, the situation for the masses of black people in South Africa
remains horrendous. South Africa is one of the world's most unequal
societies. Over half the population of South Africa lives in extreme
poverty. The only source of water for 1.4 million children is
dirty, disease-ridden streams. Immigrant workers from poorer countries in
Africa are subjected to violent attacks. Conditions for women, who played
such a heroic role in the battle against apartheid, are abysmal—South
Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world. And, perhaps the most
heartbreaking consequence of all, people have been left demoralized—seeing
all this as more proof that fundamental change in society is not possible.
That is not the
- But it is the case that nothing short of uprooting exploitation and oppression can free the people of South Africa or anywhere else. The "wretched of the earth" have made revolution and started on the road to communism—a society free of all oppression—first in Russia and then in China. They achieved great things before these revolutions were turned back. And not only has this been done before, it can be done again, and even better this time. We urge everyone reading this to get their hands on the special issue of revcom / Revolution "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About… The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future," and get into the work of Bob Avakian at revcom.us.