February 5, 2014

Mandela, Communist

A letter to the editor of the Washington Times:

Mandela’s ANC had a history of terrorism and brutality with the gruesome practice of necklacing, burning victims alive with a gasoline-filled tire around their bodies. It was used as a campaign weapon against rival blacks to achieve one-party rule. Mandela, as head of his party, cannot be exonerated from the vicious actions of his party henchmen. Mandela’s party campaigned hand-in-glove with the South African Communist Party, and any black who spoke out against communism was labeled a puppet of apartheid.

It's not ironic that this was published by the Washington Times, a conservative newspaper; what is ironic is that the same paper was mentioned in Nelson Mandela's memoir, which serves as the best retort to the above posthumous character attack...

I had one not-so-pleasant visit from two Americans, editors of the conservative newspaper the Washington Times. They seemed less intent on finding out my views than on proving that I was a Communist and a terrorist. All of their questions were slanted in that direction, and when I reiterated that I was neither a Communist nor a terrorist, they attempted to show that I was not a Christian either by asserting that the Reverend Martin Luther King never resorted to violence. I told them that the conditions in which Martin Luther King struggled were totally different from my own: the United States was a democracy with constitutional guarantees of equal rights that protected nonviolent protest (though there was still prejudice against blacks); South Africa was a police state with a constitution that enshrined inequality and an army that responded to nonviolence with force. I told them that I was a Christian and had always been a Christian. Even Christ, I said, when he was left with no alternative, used force to expel the moneylenders from the temple. He was not a man of violence, but had no choice but to use force against evil. I do not think I persuaded them. 

Nelson Mandela's complex relationship with the South African Communist Party clearly does not fit into a Bill O'Reilly style of punditry which simplistically opposes factions and effectively dumbs down politics into spheres of "good" or "bad"; neither should South Africa's liberation from Apartheid and minority rule be viewed strictly from an American context, in which national values supersede local or international context. The answer to the question "Was Mandela a Communist?" is neither yes or no, but should be a critical attack on the political basis of the question itself, which clearly is biased - loaded with preconceived notions of Communism, directed from an particular national viewpoint blinded of perspective.

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