On the Death of Nelson Mandela
By George Greene
All the bourgeois press has been crying crocodile tears over the death of Nelson Mandela, the long-time leader of the South African National Congress (ANC) and first president of post-apartheid South Africa. But they mostly neglect to mention that Mandela was arrested in 1962 based on intelligence information from a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency inside the ANC, that the ANC was considered a terrorist organization, and that the U.S. government had to grant a waiver for him to come to the U.S. for the first time in 1990, when he was given a hero’s welcome in the streets of Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York and elsewhere in New York and around the country. They also did not like the fact that South Africa’s liberation was aided by other anti-imperialist and revolutionary countries, such as Libya under Muammar Gadhafi and Cuba under Fidel Castro, aid that Mandela continued to extol during his visit to the U.S.
While they hypocritically decry Mandela’s 27 years in prison, they do not mention such political prisoners in the U.S. as Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has already spent 32 years in prison, Leonard Peltier now imprisoned for 37 years, Oscar Lopez Rivera imprisoned for 32 year, David Gilbert imprisoned for 32 years, or Lynne Stewart who has already served over 4 years of a 10 year sentence.
The bourgeois press also praised Mandela for “peacefully freeing” South Africa from white minority rule, while condemning President Mugabe of Zimbabwe who not only freed his country from white minority rule through armed struggle, but went on, at the end of the 20-year period mandated by the British-imposed Lancaster Agreement, to take over white-owned plantations and divide them up among landless African peasants. For this Zimbabwe has been placed under sanctions by the U.S. and Western Europe, and Mugabe himself has been demonized by the bourgeois press and its Trotskyite hangers-on.
In 1993, at the end of the apartheid era, Mandela together with F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid president of South Africa, was given the Nobel Peace Prize. In a similar action, in 1973, after the conclusion of the Peace Accords on Vietnam, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to both Le Duc Tho, the chief negotiator for the Democratic Republic of [North] Vietnam, and Henry Kissinger, the U.S. Secretary of State and one of the chief architects of that imperialist war. But, unlike Mandela, Le Duc Tho declined to accept the prize.
There are further reasons why the bourgeois press praises Mandela and the ANC government. The agreements ending apartheid in South Africa, accepted by the ANC, included clauses saying that the major corporations in that country, owned by white South Africans and British and U.S. capitalists, could not be nationalized. At best, a few members of the African elite were put on the Boards of Directors of these corporations (similarly to allowing token representatives of unions on the Boards of Directors of U.S. corporations, such as Doug Fraser, then head of the UAW, who served on Chrysler’s Board of Directors). In doing this they violated the provisions of the Freedom Charter, adopted by the ANC in 1955, which stated: “The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;” and that “Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger.” (See http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=72)
The fact that there has been no genuine change in white imperialist property relations in South Africa has led to the continuing poverty of the African masses, which has led to increasing revolts in recent years, especially among the miners.
The ANC, while it played the largest role in the fight against white minority rule, was never the only liberation movement. One cannot forget the Black Consciousness Movement, founded by Steve Biko, who was killed in prison in 1977 by the apartheid regime, or the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania. In the late 1920s and 1930s, the SACP, under the influence of the Comintern, took up a revolutionary position, calling for an “independent native [Black] South African republic as a stage towards a workers’ and peasants’ republic with full, equal rights for all races.” (See the Resolution of the Comintern on the South African Question, at www.RedStarPublishers.org/sacp1928.doc.) However, for decades the SACP, following the Khrushchevite line of “peaceful transition,” has become a thoroughly revisionist party that has abandoned any fight against the imperialist bourgeoisie in South Africa.
The gains of bourgeois democracy, in oppressed nations as well as in imperialist countries, are important to the working class because they clear the way for the further development of the class struggle, as Lenin frequently pointed out. This is clearly seen in the Black liberation movement in the U.S. Here, it was particularly after the formal defeat of Jim Crow with the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, that the movement moved beyond the demand for peaceful reforms. It was the Harlem rebellion of 1964, the rebellions in Detroit and Watts in 1967, and the hundreds of rebellions that broke out throughout the country after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. that marked the high-points of the movement here.
The petty-bourgeois left in the U.S., including the anti-imperialist left, confines itself to praising Mandela, while making no criticism of the accommodations made by him and the ANC with the white-led ruling class there. This is another example of their failure to provide any leadership in training proletarian and anti-imperialist revolutionaries in understanding current events along the road to a socialist revolution in the United States.