The death of Nelson Mandela has ignited a liberal media campaign wherein the former revolutionary is being celebrated as a man of peace by the same people who, decades ago, would have branded him a terrorist.
The Mandela who led the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) against the brutal apartheid state of South Africa—who even supported the “necklacing” of collaborators as a necessity—is ignored in favour of the jovial statesman who negotiated a smooth transition from apartheid to liberal democracy. Indeed, in a CBC special dedicated to the life of Mandela, one commentator praised Mandela for abandoning his “extremism” and replacing his revolutionary zeal with “pragmatism.”
Hence, the liberal media remembers only the Mandela who sold-out his revolutionary past and, in this selling out, managed South Africa’s transition from settler-colonialism to neo-colonialism with the ANC managing imperialist exploitation.
Although the legal apparatus of apartheid was obliterated, all of the economic aspects of that horrendous regime remain: land and wealth remains primarily in the hands of the Afrikaaner population, with only 7% being redistributed, as does much political power. This is the reality of Mandela’s “pragmatism”… and attempting to end the abject poverty and continued exploitation of those who suffered under apartheid is tantamount to extremism.
Therefore, in the midst of this liberal celebration of Mandela-the-statesman, we should remember the other Nelson Mandela who died in the early 1990s when the ANC capitulated to imperialism. This “extreme” Mandela, along with the ANC of that period, proved that revolutionary violence was, in actual fact, the only thing that could end apartheid and, indeed, was what forced the apartheid state into negotiations. This Mandela spoke of socialism and land reforms—apparently more “extreme” than the brutality of imperialist domination that murders untold millions each year.
So let us mourn the revolutionary Mandela, our Mandela, and not the man he became. Let us recall the words that were once a rallying cry for the ANC when it was revolutionary and socialist movement: Amandla! Awethu! Power is ours.