The passing of Nelson Mandela left many of us with a paradox. The heads of U.S. and European imperialism praise him. The very same governments that helped prop up Apartheid.
Oh yes they indeed did, just check the records of how many corporations from those countries did business with apartheid South Africa even after it was revealed the day-to-day reality of the former racist, murderous and disenfranchising regime. The U.S. went as far as to use its CIA to help capture Mandela.
Hundreds and thousands of South Africans have sung his praises and memorialized him along with working people the world over who praise him as well. The devils and the angels praised him! How is that possible?
In mourning Mandela, I, too, am left with mixed emotions. There is a part of me that is deeply disappointed in the Mandela that along with his ANC cohorts struck a compromise with the White apartheid structure that left the economic condition of the vast majority of the Black population virtually unchanged. Then there is a part of me that is proud of his accomplishments in his and his people’s struggle against apartheid.
However, when the Western world’s leaders, leaders of capitalist governments come out and sing your praises one automatically suspects that the person being mourned couldn’t have been that radical and definitely not revolutionary. When the president of the United States makes speeches about Mandela all but deifying him, then I have to re-think my praise of him.
Something is definitely remiss when the leader of a nation that leads the world in prisoners and at present has thousands confined to solitary confinement, about 3,000 locked up for life for non-violent crimes and runs and anti-democratic gulag called Guantanamo Bay, sings the praises of a former political prisoner. Something is definitely suspicious when the head of a government that sustains its own type of apartheid, which includes over incarceration, under employment, unemployment and impoverishment of its own Black population praises a freedom fighter.
U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry gives us even better insight into why the West has so much praise for Mandela. “A great light has gone out in the world,” said Kerry. Mandela was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation and knew that the future demands we move beyond the past.”
I think what we saw at Mandela’s memorial was a gathering of the relieved. The U.S. and European leaders weren’t celebrating Mandela’s life and grieving his death as much as breathing a sigh of collective relief. They are relieved that the great Mandiba and his cohorts accepted a compromise for which the country Mandela sacrificed so much for is still suffering from.
They were relieved that one of the frontiers of capitalism in Africa run side by side with White Supremacy was left intact. They were relieved because White folks got to remain in place and the political economic social system that is responsible for most of the planets suffering would remain in place.
Imagine a real South Africa with the real wealth, really redistributed. It didn’t have to be technically socialist but anything that made a priority out of the needs of the people over the needs of profit would have been revolutionary.
Speaking of revolutionary, the folks screaming that Mandela shouldn’t get his due because he was a communist are just playing. Their outcry is mere smoke screen. Because had Mandela really been a real communist, a real Marxist, they would have something to cry about. Because Mandela would have done what he failed to do and that is refuse to pay the debt incurred by the racist government while enforcing its racist policies. He would have nationalized the mines and rebid all the civil service jobs. He would not have dismantled his nuclear weapons, nor would he have left the national bank in the hands of the Boers but in the hands of the Black majority and poor Whites who also who had been left out of their share of the wealth of the nation.
Unfortunately, part of Mandela’s legacy is an economically unequal South Africa and an opportunist ANC that elevates themselves and their cronies at the expense of the nation. But we can learn from Mandela’s shortcomings, however.
The greatest lesson is that there is no real compromise with the forces of greed that favor the needs of profit and capital over the needs of people. Compromise only means defeat for the people.
A Black Agenda Report columnist summed it up best,” he was at the end of his life, well aware how his very political triumph and his elevation into a universal hero was the mask of a bitter defeat. His universal glory is also a sign that he really didn’t disturb the global order of power.”
Mel Reeves welcomes reader response to firstname.lastname@example.org.