Nelson Mandela was a very inspirational and courageous figure. He suffered so much in jail on Robben Island, enduring decades of hard labour, but refused to be broken by the evil apartheid regime. He did so much to force the regime to introduce democracy in South Africa. The regime didn’t concede defeat out of their goodness of their hearts – it was largely due to black, white and “coloured” workers uniting in trade unions (with the possibility of general strikes leading to socialist revolution) and of course international sanctions that played big roles. Their prime motive was to preserve capitalism and their own wealth, and so far that has been successful.
It should not be forgotten that Margaret Thatcher called Nelson Mandela, when he was languishing in jail, a “terrorist”. One report on British TV said that in an opinion poll within South Africa, 9 out of 10 white people said the same thing about him. The racist mainstream media in that country didn’t want to acknowledge that he was actually a lawyer (perhaps they didn’t want the idea that black people could be intelligent enough to qualify in that field!)
Unfortunately, for many of the poor masses in South Africa, little has changed since apartheid (there are still shanty towns) and disillusionment in the African National Congress (ANC) is rampant – particularly after their support for the massacre of 44 striking Marikana miners last year. The ANC is mired in corruption and big business still runs the country, albeit with some black bosses rather than them all being white as in the apartheid era.
We had a minute’s silence for Nelson Mandela and for others fighting (or had fought) injustice around the world at an anti-fracking protest (in Barton Moss, Irlam, Salford, Greater Manchester) yesterday. Whereas some of our political views may differ, we quite often (at least) recognise when someone with quite different views is an ally in our fight against mutual enemies.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) in South Africa has played a leading role in forming, in conjunction with some of the surviving miners, a new political party – the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP). They have an obituary to Nelson Mandela on their website, which is well worth reading.
I attended Socialism 2013 (organised by the Socialist Party, the DSM’s sister organisation linked by the CWI) and a leading member of WASP gave an inspirational speech. Although I have some political differences with the CWI – with whom I parted company in 1998 largely due to their opposition to the formation of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) – I send my solidarity wishes to the DSM and WASP at this vital time for struggle and socialism in their country.
I hope that WASP not only becomes as significant as the SSP (who got six Members of the Scottish Parliament before the Tommy Sheridan defamation trial fiasco), but leads a socialist revolution!
I’m now a member of Left Unity, which (partly due to my efforts) is a broad socialist party in Britain combining revolutionary and reformist aims (as agreed by the 30 November founding conference) – see a report by Pete McLaren of the Independent Socialist Network and Socialist Platform of LU (which has two comments of mine). In wishing WASP good luck, I hope we can learn from each other in how the masses (the 99%) can overthrow our ruling classes (the 1%) and implement very democratic socialism!
Note: In my view, being “very democratic” involves a government elected by proportional representation (PR), as well as some degree of workers’ and user’s control, and perhaps direct democracy on the internet – see my Facebook group: Very Democratic Socialism. If a “workers’ state”, that Marxists argue for, comes to power by extra-parliamentary activity – via a general strike movement, armed overthrow (insurrection), etc. – it is crucial that a general election is held shortly afterwards under a democratic system (which in this day and age means a form of PR) so that we cannot be accused of being undemocratic. The abolition of the Constituent Assembly by the Bolsheviks, after the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, was a massive mistake that has led to those calling themselves “socialists” or “communists” being regarded by many as undemocratic ever since. Note also that I favour a peaceful revolution, but defend the right of the masses to defend themselves when attacked.