Sad but inevitable news that Nelson Mandela has died, a great man who I think we won’t see the like for a long while. Even the Onion has a nice (and all too true in the age of Obama and Cameron) tribute. Interesting that the usual criticisms of ‘revolutionary/terrorist/Leninist/Marxist’ are in play – the Tory party would be SO proud. Or even whitewashing the armed struggle of the ANC as ‘peacemaker’ ignoring his revolutionary background.
Yes the ANC were involved in domestic terrorism, targeting infrastructure, not people – something I think Nelson was never happy with…but understandable after atrocities like Sharpeville. (the amount of Saffa white flighters who have taken me to task about ‘His Evil Terrist Past!’ over the years especially after the end of apartheid who didn’t understand the terrorism of the State, well it’s a lot).
But when he came out of prison many expected the whole situation to become a blood bath, yet Mandela became a symbol of someone who had so much to hate for, yet forgave for the sake of the country. His pragmatic approach prevented a civil war, although tribal issues nearly derailed that, his legacy of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ still stands, and did a good job in a completely impossible situation. Rich whites and coloureds thinking it will become the new Zimbabwe, revolutionary anti-capitalists wanting radical change quickly, the poor just wanting water and electricity now, the possibility of outsiders attacking to protect their interests if change happened to quickly….
(I would put up the 70th Birthday Concert footage but it contains an embarrassing Dad-style dancing/singing Lenny Henry at the end, and no-one deserves that)
Always annoys me when people paint revolutionary struggle as something in a void, as if the struggle itself acts in a vacuum. People criticise Lenin and the early Soviet Republic, forgetting that as well as having a rather ambitious 5 Year Plan with a mostly medieval level country that needed industrialisation, they were almost immediately under attack from the British over the Baltic Fleet. Same happened to France when it liberated itself from a monarchy that didn’t care if it’s people were starving in the streets – other countries attacked it trying to protect their interests, create new ones or restore the monarchy. These were the things Mandela was trying to avoid, walk that tightrope. And he did it well. RIP Madiba.