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Mandela the moral leader

10 December 2013 06:46 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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We live in the era of permanent revolution that teaches us about the incapacity of liberal leaders achieving tasks of the democratic revolution. Then how did Mandela achieve? Mandela was not a socialist leader or a leader of the working class. Of course South African workers, particularly the blacks, followed him with complete trust. But his vision was liberal democratic. Still he was able to achieve a substantial change in South Africa and established a liberal democratic state. Some compare his achievement with that of Gandhi and claim Mandela followed the tradition laid down by Gandhi in South Africa but mixed with terror tactics. Does that mean though Kerensky failed in Russia to achieve a democratic revolution, it was achieved in South Africa under Mandela?

"Theory cannot reduce the greatness of an individual leader such as Mandela. He was dignified, and above all he had an immense love for his people and for the project of building a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa"

After the Second World War, capitalism was integrated as global capitalism and developed a political consciousness through a new mechanism. IMF and UN are part of this new unifying mechanism. Through this mechanism, global capitalism intervened in developing revolutions to direct these into liberal democratic ends. Fujiyama and others have explained this counter revolutionary nature of global capitalism. Triumph of liberal democracy both in India and South Africa could be explained using such analysis. However theory cannot reduce the greatness of an individual leader such as Mandela. He was dignified, and above all he had an immense love for his people and for the project of building a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. He was an African man of conscience. He slammed Bush and Blair for the war on Iraq: “What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight and who cannot think properly, now wants to plunge the world into a holocaust.” For Blair he had these words: “He is the foreign minister of the United States. He is no longer Prime Minister of Britain.”

"It didn›t matter whether one was ANC or what not, all tended to congregate around him accepting him as a moral leader. Without him it is difficult to visualise how the transition would have gone"

 The struggle to liberate South Africa was a collective effort. Moreover it was the power of the most downtrodden, the workers in the factories, and the poor in the community, working class women and youth that brought the Apartheid government, if not completely to its knees – at least to negotiate the terms of the end of their racist system. Every struggle needs a vehicle, a movement with a leadership that can give political direction and take difficult strategic and tactical choices. Mandela had this quality of being able to keep the people together. It didn't matter whether one was ANC or whatnot, all tended to congregate around him accepting him as a moral leader. Without him it is difficult to visualise how the transition would have happened. The racist South African regime in response to the Defiance Campaign and other protests organised by Mandela, passed repressive laws aimed at crippling the resistance of the black population. The oppressed people were subject to a merciless onslaught by the police state, including mass imprisonments, killings, torture, banning of the political organisations and emergency rule.

 Following the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960, the ANC and its ally the SACP, turned from passive resistance to sabotage and terror actions.  The latter consisted of blowing up telephone lines and transportation links, and other targets that would “frighten National Party supporters, scare away foreign capital and weaken the economy”.  Nelson Mandela left the country in January 1961 and travelled to various African and Western European countries and negotiated military and diplomatic support for the terror campaign. Over 200 acts of sabotage, from setting fire to post boxes, attacks on public buildings and attempts to destroy railway signal systems, were carried out. Mandela was arrested in August 1962. But, in the next period 300 recruits were sent across South Africa’s borders for military training in sympathetic African countries, the Soviet Union and China. ANC was able to infiltrate military trained cadres into South Africa, who carried out acts of terrorism, mainly in the urban areas.   The few hundred sabotage attacks carried out by trained military cadres equipped with powerful explosives, created more damage than those carried out in the first sabotage campaign. However, at no stage was the ANC terror campaign a serious challenge to the functioning of the South African state, its army and its economy. Mandela was forced to go into negotiations and mass actions. At that stage global capitalism started to work with Mandela.

Mandela’s legacy will also have to be weighed by the fact that South Africa is today more divided than ever as a result of inequality and social exclusion. The rich are richer and the poor poorer. The great unifier could undertake great symbolic acts of reconciliation to pacify the white nation. But because, by definition, this required sacrificing the redistribution of wealth, reconciliation with the whites was done at the expense of the vast majority of black people. Mandela was great; but not so great that he could bridge the social divide rooted in 21st century capitalism that has given us the era of the one per cent-ers!
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