I posted an item on this blog entitled Nelson Mandela obituary, state of ANC today (supporting Marikana massacre) and new Workers and Socialist Party on Monday, but subsequently improved it quite considerably before submitting it to the Weekly Worker newspaper, on which it appeared today entitled “Wealth gap” on the letters page. I include below my obituary as edited firstly by me and secondly by editors of that newspaper.
[I will post the entire letter that I submitted to that paper as a comment, since the Communist Party of Great Britain (PCC) that produces the Weekly Worker does edit my letters (usually quite considerably), not just due to reasons of space but due to their particular political agenda – most noticeably in opposing proportional representation under socialism (although I have won them round to supporting PR under capitalism with several letters over the years on that subject). It is an aside that I included at the end of the letter, but an important aside if a mass revolutionary movement in South Africa is not going to repeat the dreadful mistake of the Bolsheviks in Russia of implementing “the dictatorship of the proletariat” (power only in the hands of the working class). If majority support cannot be achieved for a socialist society then the revolution would not last anyway and it is much better to run society in the interests of “the 99%” rather than disenfranchising the middle class. Amandla!]
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 the goodness of their hearts – it cannot be denied (whatever the mainstream media will say) that it was due to the actions of ordinary (mainly working class) people in South Africa and their allies around the world.
Obvious factors were the extremely courageous actions of black youths in Sharpeville and Soweto, brutally massacred by the regime, and the effect those massacres had on mobilising international opinion into boycotting South African goods and companies like Barclays Bank, which were propping up apartheid.
Less obvious, except perhaps to people in South Africa itself, was black, white and ‘coloured’ workers uniting in trade unions, with perhaps the possibility of general strikes (via ‘dual power’) leading to socialist revolution, forcing the regime to release Mandela and end apartheid. Their prime motive was to preserve capitalism and their own wealth, and so far that has been successful.
This was the position of the organisation I was a member of at the time (the Militant Tendency, now Socialist Party) and the South African organisation it was linked to via the Committee for a Workers’ International (the Marxist Workers Tendency of the African National Congress, now the Democratic Socialist Movement). The DSM 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.
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 nine 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!) But the so-called South African Communist Party, that had and still has strong links with the ANC, has certainly not proved revolutionary despite the Tories being concerned about “communists”!
Unfortunately, for many of the poor masses in South Africa, little has changed since apartheid (there are still shanty towns) and disillusionment in the ANC is rampant – particularly after their support for the massacre of 34 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. There is a massive gap in wealth between rich and poor, and white people own most of the farms as well as businesses (which is ominous considering what has happened in Zimbabwe).
We had a minute’s silence for Nelson Mandela and for others fighting (or who had fought) injustice around the world at an anti-fracking protest in Salford on Sunday. 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.