Nelson Mandela: some thoughts

Nelson Mandela: some thoughts

Some brief reflections on Nelson Mandela, his politics, and legacy.

I must admit to having a lump in my throat when I found out that Nelson Mandela had died (although not sure why) Whatever my thoughts are on him as a person, the ANC, or his legacy, the passing of such a towering international figure deserves honest reflection.

As a man he was loved and respected by millions around the world, as evidenced by the outpouring of grief today – some of it phoney, some genuine. As expected there is the - ‘Mandela was a terrorist’ accusations from the right wing media, - and the - Mandela was a great statesman, peacemaker, and inspiration to millions, - from pretty much everyone else.

I am no authority on Mandela’s politics or legacy so please feel free to add your own thoughts or information to this post.

How anyone with any kind of analysis can label Mandela as a terrorist is beyond me. What should the victims of one of the most despicable regimes in history have done to fight back against their oppressors, start a petition? Yes, I am sure his rap sheet has some unpleasant sounding convictions, but consideration of time, place, and context, is required.

Those who immediately use the ‘terrorist’ label are no different to those who heap huge praise on Mandela, two of whom I have spoken to today, neither of them could actually offer me any explanation as to why he was a great man, other than to say “He just was!” It seems that ‘brand Mandela’ has done its job.

As far as Mandela’s politics goes, I believe he has changed his position on things several times since the 1930’s, from ardent Stalinist to democratic socialist. As an anarchist I am not going to criticise Mandela’s early political radicalisation and views because they should be viewed in time, place, and context. However, if he defined himself as a ‘socialist’ since leaving prison, then he has failed miserably.

Again, I don’t claim any expertise on Mandela or apartheid, but to laud him as the man who ended apartheid (as many seem to be doing) seems a bit disingenuous. Surely there are many other factors and individuals that led to that change.

Mandela should be seen as the poster boy for the failure of political parties and for reformism. The ANC – whatever they consider their achievements, are nothing more than a party of gangsters, careerists, and anti-working class scumbags. Apartheid ended over twenty years ago, so what has changed? The black working class of South Africa has a new set of spivs, bosses, and politicians to oppress them.

You only have to look back on the various mine massacres by the security forces last year to see that not a lot has changed – I am given to understand that Mandela’s grandson is a part owner in one of those mines. Thirty years ago it would have been just white police officers shooting unarmed black miners in the back, now it is a mixture of white and black police officers doing the killing. Truly a massacre fit for apartheid.

Apart from an end to apartheid/segregation, has the lot of working class black South Africans improved? Not at all, unemployment, homelessness, and poverty are rife. However, there are a group in South African society who have benefited since the collapse of apartheid. They are of course the Mandela family:

Quote:
“Company information showed the Mandela children and grandchildren had, over the past two decades, been involved in about 200 companies extending over a wide range of sectors, including real estate, investments, railway engineering, minerals, medical firms, fashion, and entertainment. Mandela's eldest daughter, was an active director in 16 companies, including the South African subsidiary of the Swiss multinational food giant Nestle, a shopping centre in Kimberley, two railway engineering companies, and four companies apparently engaged in mineral exploration.”

Nelson Mandela himself – who left prison penniless – has a fortune that his family are now fighting over like vultures. Clearly a far cry from the lives of the average South African who generally do not have a pot to piss in!

Anyway, Nelson Mandela has died, and these are my brief reflections.

Hopefully, there will be an in-depth and critical obituary from the South African Anarchists appearing here at some point in the coming days - http://zabalaza.net/

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working class s...
Dec 6 2013 12:02

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  • Nelson Mandela himself – who left prison penniless – has a fortune that his family are now fighting over like vultures. Clearly a far cry from the lives of the average South African who generally do not have a pot to piss in!

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Comments

Picket
Dec 12 2013 00:48
Webby wrote:
Ah, yes, those halcyon days of 30 minute long Farming Today! I remember them fondly and miss them terribly. What I don't miss however, is the absolutely appalling Radio 4 UK Theme which we were subjected to just before the dazzling shipping forecast which pre-empted the commencement of the show. Listen if you dare!:
http://youtu.be/rF7kzj4lCnE

I used to wake up to the UK theme, and I enjoyed it! this was before the fog cleared and I saw Anarchy. Now I wouldn't dream of waking up that early.

I really am terribly sorry for taking this thread off topic. But I wasn't "gulling" Auld Bod, just checking, and connecting with fondness over the internet ether, because I was up really early.

Soapy
Dec 12 2013 02:39
Picket wrote:
Webby wrote:
Ah, yes, those halcyon days of 30 minute long Farming Today! I remember them fondly and miss them terribly. What I don't miss however, is the absolutely appalling Radio 4 UK Theme which we were subjected to just before the dazzling shipping forecast which pre-empted the commencement of the show. Listen if you dare!:
http://youtu.be/rF7kzj4lCnE

I used to wake up to the UK theme, and I enjoyed it! this was before the fog cleared and I saw Anarchy. Now I wouldn't dream of waking up that early.

I really am terribly sorry for taking this thread off topic. But I wasn't "gulling" Auld Bod, just checking, and connecting with fondness over the internet ether, because I was up really early.

Show some respect! Morgan Freeman spent thirty years in prison!

Noah Fence
Dec 12 2013 06:07
Quote:
Show some respect! Morgan Freeman spent thirty years in prison

Lol x 50!

MynameisPeaches
Dec 15 2013 13:56

To say that black people's lives have not improved since the end of the white supremacist regime is grossly unfair. Under Mandela people of colour (blacks, 'coloured' and Indians') gained political freedom and equality - one person one vote.

Mandela's aim was to free the fast majority of South Africans from political oppression a goal that he achieved. You can not expect to overturn almost four hundred years of white racial domination and 46 years of white supremacy in twenty years. It's not possible. It's been more than 50 years since the black civil rights movement in America and African Americans have still to achieve full equality. So why are people so harsh on South Africa?

Yes economic power still lies in the hands of white South Africans but change is happening at a slower pace than many people would like but it's still happening. Under the white supremacist regime only whites had access to political power, economic resources, high status jobs and unrestricted civil rights. Thanks to Mandela, the ANC and other activist these privileges are available to all. This is something to celebrate.

Noah Fence
Dec 15 2013 16:34
Quote:
Under Mandela people of colour (blacks, 'coloured' and Indians') gained political freedom and equality - one person one vote.

I know very little about South Africa and even less about being a victim of racism but I know for certain that there is no freedom at all in having the right to vote which particular clique of the state represent it publicly.

Quote:
Yes economic power still lies in the hands of white South Africans but change is happening at a slower pace than many people would like but it's still happening. Under the white supremacist regime only whites had access to political power, economic resources, high status jobs and unrestricted civil rights. Thanks to Mandela, the ANC and other activist these privileges are available to all. This is something to celebrate.

I've used the following analogy many times but it always seems fitting - you should NEVER be grateful for a smack in the mouth just coz you're not getting kicked in the nuts.

Serge Forward
Dec 15 2013 20:13

MynameisPeaches, as far as bourgeois or liberal democracy goes, Mandela was probably as good as it gets. However, as this is a libertarian communist website, why would you think we would be even remotely sympathetic towards a bourgeois politician or the ANC?

ocelot
Dec 17 2013 13:52
Serge Forward wrote:
MynameisPeaches, as far as bourgeois or liberal democracy goes, Mandela was probably as good as it gets. However, as this is a libertarian communist website, why would you think we would be even remotely sympathetic towards a bourgeois politician or the ANC?

Actually you're committing here exactly the same mistake as MynameisPeaches. Mandela and the ANC are definitely NOT as good as even middle of the road liberal democracy could do.

Let's take the example of squatter camp land. It would hardly threaten SA capitalism or the general ownership of the means of production to have declared an amnesty on "illegal encampments", and made moves to compulsory purchase (or simply expropriate) the land titles for existing, long-established squatter camps and pass these own to some body representing the tenants with relevant securities (i.e. to stop gangsters appropriating the title and then selling the land to developers). Instead what has happened is the ANC gangsters have allowed the original landholders (including public bodies) to retain title and now are helping the process of evicting the black residents of camps that are in areas that developers now think they can get a profit on.

Even without the socialist moves of proper land redistribution and seizure of the major means of production - including confiscating the mines and other natural resources from Anglo-American, de Beers and their ilk - that could realistically never have been agreed with the existing SA capitalist class. Even without those means, there was plenty that could have been achieved by even a moderate liberal capitalist government that actually had some kind of social-democratic or anti-racist commitment to improving the lot of SA's black majority. Instead the ANC have opted for pure neoliberalist moves to make the rich - including a small select band of new black ANC oligarchs - richer and the poor poorer.

As as for you, MynameisPeaches, when you say "these privileges are available to all" - you sound more like MynameisAynRand. Not even the briefest, most tangential encounter with the actual SA reality could be compatible with that provocatively obscene statement.

Serge Forward
Dec 17 2013 14:20

Fair play, Ocelot. Point taken.

GerryK
Dec 17 2013 14:30

"Mandela can go to hell!"

Two extracts:

Quote:
Because the spectators remain above all external to history, they feel the need, particularly when the conflicts of present society have hit them directly, for their gestures of “opposition” to be embodied in mythological heroes, like St. Nelson, who represent history for them. Christ used to be essential to the Christian mentality because he is the subjective incarnation connecting Earth with heaven; he is the external being who makes the Christian mentality possible because it is the Earth that constitutes for Christianity the actual inaccessible heaven. The function of “the meek shall inherit the Earth” mentality for social relations on the Earth is to repress the recognition that the gates of heaven can only be stormed by furiously storming the Winter Palaces of the rich and powerful, and at the same time storming the palaces of richness and power that each individual potentially possesses. But for the ordinary submissive mentality “revolutionary” heroes like Mandela literally perform the function of Christ, and you don’t need to be a Christian to have a Christian mentality, to be hypnotised by the forces relentlessly promoting such an icon. The romantic vision of a “Giant of History” carries out, through the sacred person of the hero, the union of terrestrial triviality with the heaven of universal history. Zuma said, “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.” Only the Holy Ghost remains, haunting the living. And anyone who says “Mandela can go to hell” is a blaspheming heretic who should be burnt at the stake.

Quote:
“Hanging on the walls of the house I had pictures of Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Gandhi … I explained to the boys who each of the men was, and what he stood for.” (Long Walk to Freedom p240). In this autobiography Mandela declared that he “…had always been a Christian” (p620). It’s not in any way contradictory that this Christian used to have a picture of Stalin on his wall. Christians generally try to emulate or imitate Christ, just as Leftists evoke some other icon or other. The Bolsheviks were great pioneers in this type of cultifying: Lenin declared that to really be a Marxist one should always ask oneself, “What would Marx have thought and done in this situation?” Today one can find people protesting against this and that ignorantly using the image of Mandela to substitute for their own words and ideas. It’s no coincidence that the current global spectacle, with its tendency to pick up ideas and practices from, and unify, all previous forms of hierarchical power, particularly those developing capital accumulation, should today find itself united in its eulogy to a former Stalinist-turned-neoliberal. Christ, Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Gandhi, Mandela – the need for “radical” heroes tears us away from our own rebellious initiatives, and ends up crushing and co-opting every independent initiative. The need for rebel role models, for external authorities in pretensions to changing the world, imbued in some glow of perfection (though the content varies between the different forms necessary for each geographical place and epoch) is based on the maintenance of the utter nothingness of the lives of the admirers. Such an emptiness expresses the brutal powerlessness imposed by the self-same system they fail to set their minds and bodies against, the system that erects and resurrects the need for heroes and saints, particularly ones that are integral to the system, as Christ, Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Gandhi and Mandela, all in their different ways, most clearly were.

- from "Dialectical Delinquents"

Red Marriott
Dec 17 2013 21:41
MynameisPeaches wrote:
To say that black people's lives have not improved since the end of the white supremacist regime is grossly unfair. Under Mandela people of colour (blacks, 'coloured' and Indians') gained political freedom and equality - one person one vote.

Universal suffrage - that is the default setting for modern capitalism, there's little liberatory about it. Those who benefit are the ruling clique, black or white. But universal suffrage has been quite compatible in SA with declining working class living conditions and brutal repression of struggles against that decline.

Quote:
Mandela's aim was to free the fast majority of South Africans from political oppression a goal that he achieved.

And that’s why the ANC were a bourgeois organisation with the goal of reforming class society along non-racial lines without challenging that society. To privilege political equality over all other social relations only helps reinforce the inequality of those other relationships of class society.

Quote:
You can not expect to overturn almost four hundred years of white racial domination and 46 years of white supremacy in twenty years. It's not possible. It's been more than 50 years since the black civil rights movement in America and African Americans have still to achieve full equality. So why are people so harsh on South Africa?

Because we don’t have illusions that when a leftish opposition comes to power that this means capitalism’s exploitations are over. Equally, the emergence of a US black middle class, some black politicians and entrepeneurs etc has done little for the conditions of most US blacks who are in many ways materially no better off than in the 1960s; http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/28/these-seven-c...
SA blacks have also suffered a material decline post-apartheid; http://www.nber.org/digest/jan06/w11384.html
...why are people so harsh on South Africa?” Cos people like you gloss over the exploitative realities of class society with reference to the existence of full voting rights. And cos the ANC is only another form of capitalist rule whose rise to power leftists often claim to be an advance for the working class, even as the ANC’s repression and exploitation of that class intensifies.

Quote:
What about the "authorised version" of reality in South Africa since the end of apartheid? Pilger notes that while average household income has risen by 15%, average black household income has fallen by 19%. The World Bank in effect imposed a traditional "structural adjustment programme" after apartheid, but with the complicity of the African National Congress (ANC) government. Although the ANC certainly has its achievements, it has failed to reclaim sufficient land for the dispossessed and presides over a growing gap between rich and poor.
"The unspoken deal," Pilger writes, "was that whites would retain economic control in exchange for black majority rule." Thus secret meetings were held in Britain before 1994 between the current president, Thabo Mbeki, members of the Afrikaner elite and companies with big commercial stakes in the country. Mandela told Pilger: "We do not want to challenge big business that can take fright and take away their money . . . You can call it Thatcherite but, for this country, privatisation is the fundamental policy."
Pilger is virtually alone in daring to expose the "ambiguity of Mandela" himself. Though recognising Mandela's role in alerting the world to the dangers of the Bush administration, Pilger writes that "as the first liberation president, he ordered a ridiculous and bloody invasion of tiny Lesotho. He allowed South African armaments to be sold to Algeria, Colombia and Peru, which have notorious human rights records. He invited the Indonesian mass murderer General Suharto to South Africa and gave him the country's highest award . . . He recognised the brutal Burmese junta as a legitimate government." http://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/jun/03/highereducation.news

Still at least black miners have, under the ANC, maintained the right – as under apartheid - to be massacred when they dare to go on strike; http://libcom.org/news/marikana-massacre-premeditated-killing-24082012

Quote:
Yes economic power still lies in the hands of white South Africans but change is happening at a slower pace than many people would like but it's still happening.

Much economic power now lies in the hands of an emerged black sector of the ruling class, now enormously rich; centred around the ANC elite and the Mandela family in particular.

Quote:
Under the white supremacist regime only whites had access to political power, economic resources, high status jobs and unrestricted civil rights. Thanks to Mandela, the ANC and other activist these privileges are available to all. This is something to celebrate.

Only if you desire to join the ruling class – whereas the real celebration would be to abolish class society. Your views are just typical leftist mythology wherein saintly/heroic icons like Mandela are a thin veil for capitalism as usual.

Noah Fence
Dec 17 2013 21:56
Quote:
heroic icons like Mandela are a thin veil for capitalism as usual.

Good post, but these few words really sum it up. It is so sparkling clear that this is the case - no matter how hard I look for an explanation I just can't figure out why people can't see it. It's so fucking depressing.

ocelot
Dec 18 2013 10:33
Red Marriott wrote:
Your views are just typical leftist mythology wherein saintly/heroic icons like Mandela are a thin veil for capitalism as usual.

You end an otherwise impeccable post with this throwaway snipe at some "leftist" strawman. I say strawman because I have yet to see an identifiably leftish* obit of Mandela that didn't go on to focus on the role of Mandela and the ANC in implementing neoliberalism in SA, implementing a multitude of measures attacking the living standards of the working class majority and so on.

Who exactly do you mean by "leftist" then? Members of the US Democrat or UK Labour party? What does it mean this term "leftist"? Does it actually have an analytic and principled definition? Or is it instead, a vaguely-defined shibboleth of your own conjuring whose principal function is to be the target of your animosity, and whose shifting borders conveniently allow its projection onto whatever the momentary target of your ire is?

Attacking enemies in the abstract without naming or properly defining their identity (other than by an accumulation of slurs and accusations) is a bad habit on the left, raised to an art by the stalinists, but no less indulged in by the trots (SWP and "autonomism" or "creeping feminism" anyone?). People who consider themselves to the left of either should really know better than to imitate or appropriate this particular weapon in the arsenal of bad faith authoritarianism.

* i.e. advocating for the end of capitalism, even if only nominally, for the emancipation of the proletariat, ditto, and the common ownership of the means of production

Red Marriott
Dec 18 2013 21:58

Definitions... I go with that one that sees myself and the likeminded as generally outside “the left”. That left wing of capital which - whatever it may think of itself – we can see actually defends capitalist relations and is for the continuation in practice of nations, states, wage labour, hierarchical relations etc, even if under a red flag of its ”vanguard”. Among anarchists, non-leninist Marxists etc there’s quite a historical tradition distinct from what it defines as leftism – as you’re surely aware. A radical analysis of society will generally try to identify the existence of those false exits to radical change.

Sorry, but my earlier post is not a review of recent Mandela obits – but specifically a response to comments by MynameisPeaches who doesn’t focus on the ANC’s neo-liberalism at all; in the course of which I comment on the historical development of iconic representatives and their use by leftism.

The adoption of neo-liberal policies was an unsurprising development of what the ANC always was; the goal had long been state power/command of the economy. That the same “left” who now may make some criticism of their neo-liberalism were often the ANC’s biggest cheerleaders is unlikely to be something they’ll usefully reflect on. That “leftist mythology” existed long before now and helped iconise Mandela, regardless of what now appears in leftist obits. Peaches’ views are representative of a wider tendency.

But I don’t think in every context we have to be held to as absolute definitions as you demand – that would make for very longwinded expression and would wrongly assume that there are never any commonly agreed concepts one doesn’t need to explain at every usage. (To try to lump me in with stalinists etc just for using a broad general term might be seen as an amalgamation technique more common to ... er, stalinists.) Whereas I think “the left” as “left wing of capital” is quite commonly understood on here and in common usage. And more so in the context of what had already been said on this thread. To say most of what I said is “impeccable” is surprising if (as a long time user of this site) you really don’t have some grasp of that critique of “leftism” that it is based on. But maybe you really think it doesn’t exist except as strawman and it had nothing to do with support for the ANC ideology nor the deification of Mandela. Maybe you see yourself/”us” as part of a Left of some description. Or maybe you’re just being pedantically argumentative, perhaps due to some past imagined grudge, or whatever. Regardless, I’ll have to differ.

It does seem a little contradictory though that you here demand an absolute definition when you’ve used the same term recently without providing one yourself, e.g;

ocelot wrote:
Whatever the motivations of the perpetrators, the substitution of a logic of armed struggle for the current social struggle in Greece would be strategically disastrous for the left at this juncture.
Nov 5 2013 http://libcom.org/blog/two-golden-dawn-members-murdered-outside-party-of...
On the question of identity, it should be remembered that the 1980s were also the era of identity politics. As well as the "loadsamoney" identity being pushed by Murdoch & co, the "left" was increasingly under pressure from the "hierarchy of oppressions" ideology of identity politics.
Oct 2 2013 http://libcom.org/blog/putting-class-back-agenda-23092013?page=1

ocelot
Dec 19 2013 17:21

Well my usage of "left" in the first quote - re Greece - is defined by the people who would be rounded up by a fascist government for being "leftists". It's a simple enough definition, and arguably guessable from the context. And in the right (or wrong, depending on your pov) circumstances it becomes a very materially real category.

The problem I have with your "leftist" = "left wing of capital" = "objectively capitalist" definition is two-fold. Firstly it obscures the degree to which distinguishing between those subjectively anti-capitalist political tendencies and individuals who are really "objectively capitalist" or not, is effectively a subjective political judgement and therefore not objective at all. i.e. it becomes a political catch-all for "people who call themselves anti-capitalist, but I think are wrong". Secondly it effectively lumps together anyone outside your chosen circle of communist correctness as an un-individuated mass of reaction, from trots, left unity-ists, to labour, spd to die linke. That indeed is a giant amalgamation and indicative of a certain gnostic affect or self-image as the pure few in the world of corruption.

It is also not a term in general use amongst working class people, and as such is an expression of specialist, in-group language. As to your assertion that " Among anarchists, non-leninist Marxists etc there’s quite a historical tradition distinct from what it defines as leftism". This is incorrect, this specialist term does not come from anarchists and non-leninist marxists in general, but from a specific tiny tradition emanating from the bordigist and councillist milieu. As such it carries the associations of a resolutely sectarian outlook along with the negative things that go with it - i.e. a messianical belief in the "invariant" revoilutionary gospel, etc. A form of dogmatism, n.b, that is generally incompatible with non-authoritarian political creativity (which has to start from the position that not all questions have yet been answered correctly already).

This:

Quote:
(To try to lump me in with stalinists etc just for using a broad general term might be seen as an amalgamation technique more common to ... er, stalinists.)

Is quite good. Chapeau! The concept I was looking for in the practice of "Attacking enemies in the abstract without naming or properly defining their identity (other than by an accumulation of slurs and accusations)" (which as you may note, is quite different from simply using a broad general term) is clearly the same as what you refer to as amalgamation. So you defend your use of the term "leftist" from the charge of being a use of the technique of amalgamation as being itself an amalgamation. Good jiu jitsu there.

Anyway. Meh. Not a particularly productive discussion. But to answer your question, clearly I am a "leftist" by your definition because I reject your political outlook. I'm cool with that.

Guerre de Classe
Dec 20 2013 16:00

Here is finally the rough translation of GCI-ICG's text published in French and Spanish in 1994 as a chapter of a text entitled "The more it changes, the more it stays the same".

Quote:
Mandela against the proletariat

This year 1994 marked a definitive end of apartheid and the transition to the government of “the black majority”. After 100 days of rule, Mandela made his balance sheet while announcing that it will be necessary “to tighten one’s belt”. For us, proletarians, nothing really changes. Bourgeois appeal us always more to hold on, to make and make again necessary sacrifices, as everywhere on this filthy planet… The only thing that really changed in South Africa with the election of Mandela as president was the Johannesburg Stock Exchange that “rocketed”, the macro-economic indicators that were “going up”, the bourgeois who were filled with joy considering the perspectives of the return of good business and dividends that are going to line their pockets and their safe deposit boxes as they expect. The “Chamber of Commerce and industry”, the main South-African employers’ organization, had just given the new government full marks while declaring that the monthly confidence index of businessmen reached its higher point for December 1987. It reveals that the high authorities of the bourgeoisie thus recognized the fully anti-proletarian functions of Mandela’s team. What apartheid was not able to do anymore, the ANC will be able to and give itself the means to an end.

Apartheid has had its day. It allowed during several decades to maintain the costs of reproduction of “black” proletarians’ labour force at the lowest level possible (this is what ALL the bourgeois dream about and try to achieve!), as well as to extract a maximum of surplus value and to accumulate to this pole of development of world market an impressive quantity of wealth. Apartheid was not only a system of “separated development of races”, but above all a policies aiming to impose social peace, to drive us working harder while shutting up. Yet, this pretty dream had to come up against the reality. The proletariat in South Africa already has a long experience of struggles against permanent deterioration of its miserable surviving conditions, against wage cuts, against intensification of our exploitation. Let’s just remind as an example the most recent struggles, those of 1976-77 that it’s not possible to confine to “riots in Soweto”, those of 1984-86 or even of 1989-91. Through these struggles, the proletariat directly clashed with all the forces of conservation of this world, while claiming each time a higher part of the social wealth produced by its own arms, while waging very hard strikes, while practising massive looting,... all struggles that constitute each of them an attack against the bourgeoisie’s Mammon: its rate of profit.

After several decades of “white” domination, apartheid finally proved to be not profitable enough anymore. The necessary costs to keep it became too high and the consequences were disastrous. It was necessary to break with the past and to turn the page. This therefore made way for a government of “the black majority”, for the universal system recognized and appreciated (especially by the bourgeois!) of “one man, one vote”. Legalization and cooptation of the ANC, overtly recognized as a partner and especially as a more credible manager, will be the strong points of this police operation, and also those that were given a lot of media coverage. Thus the bourgeoisie found itself obliged to lay an important card on the table that it still kept in reserve. This trump card, this joker must allow the broadened involvement of black citizens in political institutions through pushing a man to the front: Nelson Mandela. As if for us, History could amount to one man’s history, whether he is brilliant, black or president. Mandela’s release in February 1990 (precisely at the time when the proletariat was struggling) had only one goal: to defuse the social explosion, to jam the dynamics of uprising in the townships, to stop wildcat strikes, to bring back social peace.

Mandela will besides prove quickly to be what he always was: a top-ranking civil servant placing himself in the service of the State. After having been a “terrorist”, the “oldest political prisoner in the world”, he became therefore, because of the need of social pacification, the first black president of “new” South Africa. Other bourgeois have already appreciated “generosities” bestowed by the State when this one grasps the necessity to co-opt more radical elements in order to be able to better reform (and therefore to preserve) the totality of the social relation. A few time ago, a “little electrician of Gdansk” [Lech Walesa] did also mounted the podium after proving his talents of sabotaging our class struggles.

During this “period of transition”, the State will use all the means at its disposal to pacify the proletariat: legalization of the ANC and the “Communist” Party (1), removal of state of emergency to which a lot of media coverage had been given, strengthening of the unions, creation by the ANC of militias (ghettos police force) aiming to militarize the “streets committees” stemming from the riots of 1985 and to empty them of their content, etc. As all these measures were not enough to put a brake on class struggles, strikes, and riots in the townships, the bourgeoisie developed and generalized another kind of response: the ”ethnicization” of confrontations and the necessary media coverage to impose this version of the facts. From then on, there will only be militants of the ANC battling with Zulu militants of the Inkhata. These massacres will be expressed in murderous attacks and machine-gunning in local trains, raids on squatter camps, “indiscriminate” bomb attacks in great conurbations of proletarians, etc. sowing confusion and terror in the ranks of the proletariat in struggle. More than 10,000 people will be killed in 4 years during these operations of pacification.

Despite this murderous repression, our class continued to fight: the permanent boycott in schools by young proletarians expressed the difficulty to inculcate bourgeois notions in them like “discipline”, “effort” or “controlled labour”. Groups of youngsters stemming from the struggles of 1985-86 became “out of control” according to the ANC that tried without success to integrate them into its “defence committees”. These social contradictions ran across the ANC even, to such an extent that in the townships groups of proletarians stemming from this organization got practically organized in rupture with it. Their autonomous organization made them confronting directly the ANC and its unions, its local groups, etc. “Armed gangs that mostly don’t claim to adhere to any ideology or political project” (as described by bourgeois newspapers) developed in squalid suburbs like Soweto that became important centres of struggles.

A massive campaign promoting parliamentarianism has been necessary to oblige proletarians to go back to work and to lose those who struggle in the mass of citizens called “the people”. The “free elections” of April 1994 were the opportunity for the State to initiate a huge police operation and a census of millions of “black” proletarians who were resistant to the State control. During these years of struggle, the resistance of our class expressed itself indeed, among other things, through the refusal of all social control: proletarians systematically burned their “pass” and other work booklet, etc. Thanks to the electoral process and to the myth of “black majority”, millions of proletarians have been controlled, recorded, put on file with all the modern technological and computer means at the disposal of the State.

Early May 1994, the first government under Mandela’s presidency has been set up to the world bourgeoisie’s satisfaction celebrating its victory as well as the imposition of social peace reinforced by a generalized consensus. “State of grace” began.

But for our class the survival is always as hard. Townships and Bantustans (2) were overflowing with starving peoples suffering from all the diseases secreted by Capital: alcoholism, prostitution, criminality, misery viruses, AIDS, unemployment, etc. In Johannesburg more than one million of squatters were herded into suburban dumping grounds in the middle of nowhere. There were seven millions of squatters all over the country. In Soweto, on 2 million and a half of inhabitants, 50% were out of work, three-quarters of the youth were unemployed, 600,000 proletarians lived in accommodations unfit for habitation, 45,000 lived in “hostels” for bachelors that served as concentration camps for labour force since early the century and were managed by the Inkatha in a perfect division of labour among the bourgeois factions.

To all these evils afflicting our class, which are very “natural” for this civilization, the new team of managers responded with its cynicism as well “natural” by issuing desperate appeals for being patient. The ANC’s promises of an “improved standard of living” were all just to impress proletarians, and will soon turn into disillusions. The management of the social relation imposes and will always impose on our class more sacrifices, misery, wage cuts, intensification of our exploitation. This is it the genuine nature of Capital. Nelson Mandela is nothing else than a puppet who applies and will continue to apply there as elsewhere, the same recipes for austerity, sacrifices... all these constituting necessary measures for the smooth running of business.

Very quickly besides, the ANC showed its genuine ability while imposing to the proletariat a series of drastic measures aiming at first to increase the competition between workers. So the clandestine “immigration” (more than 2 millions of proletarians mainly natives of Zaire and Mozambique come to sell their labour force to the highest bidder in order to escape misery!) has been “curbed”, what concretely means the massive deportation of these millions of proletarians who were surplus on the market of labour and who only had to croak “in their country”. Continuity in the change, this is the “end of apartheid.”

The new “black” bosses had other surprises in store to “their millions of voters”. In order to oblige proletarians to go back to work and to extort from them an increased surplus value, the bourgeois were obliged to restructure. It is necessary “to make South-African exports more competitive on the world market and give a new boost to our wealth in human resources”, a minister of the ANC said while his colleagues encouraged to “increase the productivity” and to “restrict wage claims”.

But the spectre of proletariat’s struggles continued to haunt the bourgeoisie. The proletariat clearly saw since the beginning the significance of the power of “black majority”. A danger that the World Bank understood very well: “Social stability is a preliminary condition for the success of all economic program in South Africa. If the growth gains are not more equitably shared by all the communities, then political and economic unrests will blow up again sooner or later.” In the months before the electoral farce, the productivity in mines slowed down notably because of strikes launched by proletarians who were waiting for something else than a simple restoration of façade. Mandela had only just come into office that 9,500 miners of the goldmine de Kloof went on strike; they already struck in March.

Unions (mainly the COSATU) whose leaders found jobs in the “news” administration, assumed their function at best: sabotaging strikes and imposing wage cuts. But the proletariat continued to struggle. Workers directly clashed with the State and its unions while refusing practically the moratorium on strikes concluded between the ANC and the COSATU in April.

During the month of July, an important wave of strikes developed in all the sectors but it has been taken over by unions: the important thing for the bourgeois is not that there are strikes (there will always be!) but to know how to manage them.

The 15,000 proletarians of the department stores “Pick and Pay” paralyzed the sector of food mass marketing. Very violent clashes opposed them repeatedly against cops. This strike is the first important test so that unions could assess their room for of manoeuvre as for their social control.

Strikes spread to metallurgical industries –several thousands of workers demonstrated in Johannesburg- as well as to railroad workers of Pretoria and miners of De Beers among others. 25,000 workers in car industry get took strike for more than five weeks. The bourgeoisie was worrying about to see the conflict spreading to other sectors as a wave of strikes likely to challenge the bourgeois benefits resulting from the polls. Yet, if strikes indeed broke out in several mines during the summer, there were no real generalization of the struggle. Unions (first of all the COSATU) perfectly played their role of saboteurs while preventing the massive extension of the strikes to other sectors, while spreading confusion and disorganization within the proletariat.

One of ways for the bourgeoisie to restore social peace is to give some crumbs not to lose all the cake. Fearing to see proletarians from mines, traditionally very combative, taking the head of the strikes that broke out almost everywhere, their wages have finally been increased of 10%. This policy aiming to calm down a chunk of the proletariat through pay rises is a classic tactic of the bourgeoisie. This tactic has been reproduced to break the strike of workers of car industry. The government made therefore concessions for a while in order to avoid the contagion. It conceded pay rises of 10.5% that the inflation quickly ate away. For Mandela as for the other bourgeois the task is the same, the means of action also.

Notes:
(1) Let’s emphasize that the South-African “C”P which is an integral part of the ANC is probably the most important of Africa, or even of the world. The necessity for the bourgeoisie to put forward its Stalinists reconverted into a staunched liberalism is revealing the need to contain all proletarian movement in this explosive region. In March 1991, the “C”P declared that its “main responsibility is to contain workers’ hopes”.
(2) Bantustan is a word hiding badly the sordid reality. Bantustans are nothing else than territories where proletarians, exploited at will, were crammed like cattle into camps.

Red Marriott
Dec 21 2013 12:41
ocelot wrote:
Well my usage of "left" in the first quote - re Greece - is defined by the people who would be rounded up by a fascist government for being "leftists". It's a simple enough definition, and arguably guessable from the context. And in the right (or wrong, depending on your pov) circumstances it becomes a very materially real category.

Well there are other similar quotes that further indicate a degree of inconsistency in your position. But when is an inconsistency not (perceived as) one? Generally, when you commit it yourself.

Quote:
The problem I have with your "leftist" = "left wing of capital" = "objectively capitalist" definition is two-fold. Firstly it obscures the degree to which distinguishing between those subjectively anti-capitalist political tendencies and individuals who are really "objectively capitalist" or not, is effectively a subjective political judgement and therefore not objective at all. i.e. it becomes a political catch-all for "people who call themselves anti-capitalist, but I think are wrong".

Some, at least, ‘subjective’ judgements are based on observations of objective practice and their history (and therefore find their own objectivity insofar as that is possible). But, yes, every human observation and its conclusion can be criticised or dismissed for being “subjective” if you want to pursue a quite fruitless form of argument. I don’t mind if you determine its degree of subjectivity or objectivity one way or other; except that you reduce an inevitable part of theoretical and practical choice and judgement - the formation, evaluation and development of ideas and practice - to a philosophical exercise. The question is – do such people and groups exist? I believe they do and that circumstances demand that choices have to be made of how they are related to. Not necessarily static or eternal choices, but depending on circumstances one shares with them. But there is an institutional left that tends to have a regular social function in that way; if you don’t think such institutional forces exist, I’ll disagree and wonder why then you agreed with my critique of what happened in South Africa with statements like this;

Red wrote:
“the ANC is only another form of capitalist rule whose rise to power leftists often claim to be an advance for the working class, even as the ANC’s repression and exploitation of that class intensifies.”

But presumably, according to what you now say above, that can only be seen by you as “a subjective political judgement”?! And a “sectarian, dogmatic” one, at that.

ocelot wrote:
Secondly it effectively lumps together anyone outside your chosen circle of communist correctness as an un-individuated mass of reaction, from trots, left unity-ists, to labour, spd to die linke. That indeed is a giant amalgamation and indicative of a certain gnostic affect or self-image as the pure few in the world of corruption.

Your description of “anyone outside your chosen circle of communist correctness as an un-individuated mass of reaction” fits a common practice of much of the left you defend rather than my position! That most political theories/ideologies and the groups that hold them don’t have a critique I agree with very much is one basic way of defining a relationship between myself and others – if I really believe that as a reality I have to make that definition. Why to make that definition is defined by you as inevitably elitist is bizarre. Seems to veer toward some kind of left-humanist (or left-buddhist – ‘we’re all one really’) position.

You seem to resent that people inevitably make distinctions and use broad categories sometimes – inevitably, because that is part of defining oneself in relation to others and to historical events, institutions and actions. To identify "people who call themselves anti-capitalist, but I think are wrong" is apparently divisive; yet what you say of the Greek left - that “in the right (or wrong, depending on your pov) circumstances it becomes a very materially real category” - can be equally true of the left for other reasons. It’s not only the right who sabotage struggles or act in counter-revolutionary ways. One could argue that historically the left have had a more fatal role at many crucial moments of class struggle (and that libertarians have often borne the brunt of it). You seem to want to gloss over all “materially real” distinctions in favour of some less distinctive (arguably less well-defined) immaterial big-tent leftism. Which, in some “materially real” situations can be fatally disarming.
But equally, I assume you’re not that naïve – and that you too make those kind of distinctions, evaluations and choices regarding which left institutions and persons you’ll engage with, on what terms and to what degree. And that, eg, your presence on this site rather than others is part of your own “chosen circle”.

Quote:
It is also not a term in general use amongst working class people, and as such is an expression of specialist, in-group language.

I never said it was, but meant that it was in common usage on this site. But so what, your regular language on libcom isn’t “in general use” either. You seem concerned to try to project some populist anti-elitist pose even when your “critique” applies equally to your own behaviour. This ‘noble defender of the masses against (strawman) elitism’ pose is unconvincing and belied buy your own practice.

Quote:
As to your assertion that " Among anarchists, non-leninist Marxists etc there’s quite a historical tradition distinct from what it defines as leftism". This is incorrect, this specialist term does not come from anarchists and non-leninist marxists in general, but from a specific tiny tradition emanating from the bordigist and councillist milieu.

You misunderstand again – I was referring to the “historical tradition”, not the particular specialist term. Though – for those who don’t fetishise words in themselves - the concept the term describes has arguably been shared more widely than the term itself. But maybe that’s part of the problem here – that you’re projecting all your dislike of that tradition onto me for the sake of a phrase. (All absurdly stemming from my passing use of one phrase that you yourself have also used.)

Quote:
As such it carries the associations of a resolutely sectarian outlook along with the negative things that go with it - i.e. a messianical belief in the "invariant" revoilutionary gospel, etc. A form of dogmatism, n.b, that is generally incompatible with non-authoritarian political creativity (which has to start from the position that not all questions have yet been answered correctly already).

This is you doing that strawmanning you previously complained of. There is no necessary association between the use of “the Left” etc in that way with the above negative description; that’s a ridiculously dogmatic assumption and amalgamation that would only equally condemn yourself and most libcom posters. Of course some leftists and anti-leftists will have those traits but it’s a poor argument to suggest it’s uniformly so. You resent what you wrongly perceive to be blanket assertions about people but then go and make your own!

Quote:
Anyway. Meh. Not a particularly productive discussion. But to answer your question, clearly I am a "leftist" by your definition because I reject your political outlook. I'm cool with that.

I’m equally cool with that. Though there was no 'question to answer'. But I still think

Quote:
maybe you’re just being pedantically argumentative, perhaps due to some past imagined grudge, or whatever. Regardless, I’ll have to differ.

Guerre de Classe
Jan 2 2014 14:50
konecttony
Aug 6 2014 15:19

I agree with those who say Mandela was a great statesman, peacemaker, and inspiration to millions. It is my own personal view and I am fortunate enough to be able to share this part of his Legacy with others. He serves as a constant reminder of unity and hope for future generations, and that is how I personally remember his legacy.

Others disagree - and that is fine as well.

simiangene
Sep 15 2014 14:50

I saw him in a Punch and Judy puppet show last weekend! Who said he's dead, his legacy lives on?!

simiangene
Oct 17 2014 14:05

Mandela is the father of Obama, symbolically.