Several days ago anti colonialist freedom fighter Nelson Mandela dies at age 95. His death sent shock waves around the world as many people in all camps either tried to co-opt him or smear his name. Particularly around the issues facing South Africa today.
Many state that the ANC under his leadership have failed the people, particularly around the issues of neo colonialist domination and class differences in South Africa.These attacks fail to understand the politics of Nelson Mandela,politics that he still held to his death, the role of the SACP in the post Apartheid arrangement, The ties of the SACP to the Soviet Union and impact that its collapse has had on those parties under its influence.
Nelson Mandela was never a communist or for that matter a socialist. His politics have always been anti colonialist in the simplest terms, dismantle apartheid and free South Africa from the shackles of colonialism. Mandela was also an internationalist, recognizing that the same system of colonialism that has jailed him has also murder killed and jailed many others from Belfast, Turtle Island and Palestine.These politics of anti colonialism and internationalist support for all fighting colonialism are principles he took with him to his death bed.His support of the Irish struggle, condemnations of Zionism, The US war on terror and genocide in North America are positions he has never retreated from.
After the collapse of apartheid one of his first vists was to Cuba to thank all who have died in Angola shedding their blood for the Liberation of Africa and through that striking a severe blow against the De Klerk regime. When questioned about this and his support for Lybia, he made it quite clear that these nations that have shed their blood for freedom while the west was quiet were his allies and he would never turn his back on them.Mandela did not stop there however, his support of the IRA and views on decommissioning were not only seen as provocative, but also as a direct attack on Tony Blair and others. Yet he never backed down from that position. In terms of Palestine, while he could have just hid his politics and been like any other president a member of the club, he rejected this and not only supported the PLO, but also the PFLP and those other forces on the ground fighting against Israeli Apartheid. His political support for movements in Zimbabwe and other anti colonialist struggles was unwavering, as well as his criticism of the genocide taking place on this territory. Most importantly he put his reputation on the line time and time again speaking out against the war on terror and to his deathbed believing and supporting all those who seeked national liberation by any means necessary.
Like Nassar in Egypt and Ben Balla in Algeria his politics have always been anti colonialist and for political liberation, principled but not socialist, something he never claimed to be.
Given this one may wonder why is South Africa so many years after liberation in the situation it is in today where the white elite still hold power and unlike Zimbabwe have not been displaced through land reforms.The failure lies with his counterparts in resistance, The Communist Party, who was and is part of the government. In the biography of Joe Slovo, ones sees time and time again their reliance on following the Soviet line, as opposed to seeking truth from facts, and as such unable to push for a true socialist line because they did not have one. Shortly after the counter revolutions in Eastern Europe, Slovo wrote an article, heavily influenced by Gorbachev, Praising the counter revolutionary coups and calling for a new form of socialism, based on the “will of the people”. In this article, poisoned by freemarket thought such as perestroika and glasnost, the economic system of Capitalism which is responsible for alot of the evils present today were upheld. This being the Moscow line, and as such, nationalisations, land reforms and other measures that a true communist party must strive for were ignored. With the total betrayal of socialism by Gorbachev, Slovo and co were left rudderless trying to create socialism using market methods, still following the Soviet line, even though there was no longer any Soviet Union. This sort of policy, which many communist parties still follow can never change the economic realities of neo colonialism because there tools, market economy etc. are the tools of the colonialists and to misquote James Connolly “Even if you hoist the green flag over the Dublin Castle, they will still rule you, through their landlords, there businessmen etc,”. The South African Party, which should have been at the forefront of turning a nassar like revolution into a true anti-imperialist society not only failed socialism but refused to provide the true leadership of carrying the revolution all the way from a revolution based on civil rights to a true revolution, where people can be free economically as well as politically, dismantling the tools of economic repression still in place today.
The mistakes and betrayal of the Party didnt grow in a vacuum, the collapse of the Soviet Union created a space for all sorts of opportunists to reject class war and seek class conciliation and a seat at the table. With a decaying movement, built on revisionism, the so-called international communist movement not only turned its back on its role as the vanguard of struggle, but to maintain legitimacy, became no more than a force of conciliation, leaving many nations struggling to build a movement based on economic equality in the dust. The international situation saw many so called comrades not only refuse to support socialism and its construction but actually openly side with reaction and defend the colonialist crying over the death of one or two luntifunda “farmers” in Zimbabwe, yet being quite to the fate of all those that suffered at their hands.
This movement of socialists who have desk jobs, and are building a socialism of comfort are also just a guilty of betraying South Africa, as the Party is, accepting neo liberalism as a fait accompli, condemning those who are fighting and enjoying the wealth of colonialism while they engage “in struggle” by writing articles or in some cases actually upholding the system of crown injustice. Their silence and revisionism, based on not wanting to lose their comforts here in the belly of the beast creates the conditions that allow the demonization of those trying to implement land reforms, justifying the line of party’s in oppressed nations that seek conciliation. After all, the attacks on ZANU show that the world is not ready for land reforms, and no one wants to be seen as the next Mugabe.
So at this time I morn the death of an anti colonialist, who has never abandoned his principles, and am sickened at those whose role it was to be in the frontlines of struggle, yet turned their back on that for comfort.If anything can be learned is that Che was right, there can be no half revolutions, nor can there be any half revolutionaries.