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Nelson Mandela: Eulogies of Imperialist Hypocrites & a Revolution Betrayed by Capitalism
Today, as the chief representatives of U.S. imperialism praise Nelson Mandela, not mentioned is the fact the CIA aided the racist South African government in its arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: From Eulogies of Racist Imperialist Hypocrites to a Revolution Betrayed by Capitalism
By Steven Argue
Today, around the world Nelson Mandela is being hailed as a freedom fighter who helped abolish the white racist apartheid system of South Africa. While many profound and important criticisms need be leveled against Nelson Mandela, this praise is not without some merit. As a member of South Africa’s Communist movement, Nelson Mandela struggled heroically against his country’s racist capitalist system and endured 27 years in prison.
Leader of the South African Communist Party
Nelson Mandela emerged as a leading political figure in the struggle to abolish Apartheid. And as many on the far right bitterly complain in the United States today, Nelson Mandela was a leader in the South African Communist Party (SACP). While there was much speculation during Mandela’s lifetime, the official confirmation of Mandela being a leading member of the SACP came out only after Nelson Mandela’s death. On Thursday, SACP Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila admitted that Nelson Mandela was a leader of the Communist Party at the time of Nelson Mandela’s arrest. He explains:
"At his arrest in August 1962, Nelson Mandela was not only a member of the then underground South African Communist Party, but was also a member of our party’s central committee. To us as South African communists, Comrade Mandela shall forever symbolise the monumental contribution of the SACP in our liberation struggle."
As a leader of the SACP, Nelson Mandela’s ideology was influenced both by Lenin and Stalin. The world communist movement was influenced by Lenin’s program for the emancipation of all oppressed races and nationalities. It was also greatly compromised by Stalin’s two stage theory of revolution. Almost all communist parties in the world that did not explicitly defend Lenin’s program by becoming part of the Trotskyist movement adopted instead Stalin’s two stage theory of revolution. The SACP were among the parties that adopted it.
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s implementation of Stalin’s so-called “two staged theory of revolution” in reality meant the defense of capitalism today with the postponement of the socialist revolution until never. Mandela and the SACP have carried out their pro-capitalist political line as leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), which has become the ruling capitalist party of South Africa.
Statistics show the realities of the level of betrayal found in Nelson Mandela’s implementation of Stalin’s theory. Where a socialist economy could easily eliminate unemployment, South Africa’s unemployment under the capitalist ANC and SACP is, as of the end of October, 24.7%. That number increases to about 35% when those who have given up looking for work are included. According to the Global Alliance of Improved Nutrition, South Africa has the third most unequal economy in the world. One quarter of South Africans live on less than $1.25 (US) a day. Fifteen percent of South African babies are born under-weight. Five percent of South African children are so under-weight that they are considered wasted. As of 2011, life expectancy in South Africa was only 52.6 years. Public health care is under-funded so a two tier health care system exists with people who can afford it turning to private health care. In October of this year, 13% of 5th graders (11 year-olds) were found to be illiterate.
These numbers are shocking for a wealthy African country such as South Africa with rich resources and no imperialist punishment of restrictions on foreign trade. Tiny and poor Cuba, with far more limited resources and under a draconian economic blockade imposed by the United States is able to do far better than capitalist South Africa. They are able to do so with a planned socialist economy geared to human needs rather than to capitalist profit. In Cuba, life expectancy is 79.1 years, or 26.5 years longer than South Africa. Likewise, in Cuba illiteracy is virtually non-existent and good quality health care and education are free and available without tiers created by wealth.
As the same racist capitalists who created Apartheid continue to profit from a system now enforced by the ANC, South Africa remains a hell hole of poverty and inequality. To maintain this capitalist inequality, poverty, and extreme injustice, and to keep the capitalist profits flowing, the ruling ANC and SACP, as administrators of the capitalist state, also resort to the most extreme violence against the working class. The worst example so far has been the August 16, 2012 murder of 34 striking miners at the Marikana Lonmin platinum mine. This mass murder by the ANC’s police is very similar to massacres carried out by the forces of the Apartheid regime including the Soweto massacre in 1976 that left between 176 and 700 people dead or the Sharpeville massacre of 1961 where 69 people were murdered.
Under the ANC / SACP program that Nelson Mandela brought to power, the South African working class suffers extreme capitalist exploitation as well as repression by the capitalist state. This is the inevitable nature of all parties that take power without a clear program for the overthrow of capitalism. They become administrators of the problems inherent in the capitalist system. It was Nelson Mandela’s failure to fight for a socialist program to uplift the impoverished Black masses of South Africa that has won him the praise of international imperialist leaders like George Bush, Jimmy Carter, David Cameron, and Barack Obama.
Yet, despite the failings of Nelson Mandela’s capitalist / Stalinist program, much of the world highly respects Nelson Mandela for the role he played in abolishing legalized racist discrimination in South Africa. This praise is not without some merit, and not without major hypocrisy from the imperialist leaders now gushing with support for Mandela.
Before the capitalist class of South Africa decided to turn Nelson Mandela into an administer the capitalist state (to save the capitalist system), the United States worked with the South African government and fought tooth and nail against Nelson Mandela and his struggle for freedom. Today, as the chief representatives of U.S. imperialism praise Nelson Mandela, not mentioned is the fact the CIA aided the racist South African government in its arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962. Senior CIA operative Paul Eckel openly admitted to this fact at the time of the arrest, saying:
"We have turned Mandela over to the South African security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be. They have picked him up. It is one of our greatest coups."
In his eulogy for Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama never mentioned this key fact, nor did he apologize for the United State’s role. Likewise, the United States today holds its own Nelson Mandelas in prison. Innocent fighters against racism in the United States like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal rot in prison serving life sentences for crimes they did not commit. In his lifetime, Nelson Mandela stated his opposition to the American injustice being perpetrated against Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier. As Barack Obama praises Nelson Mandela for his heroic years in prison, Obama stands as the world’s supreme hypocrite holding his own Mandelas in prison, ruling over a system of racist mass incarceration of the poor, continuing to hold prisoners without trial at Guantanamo, and carrying out extrajudicial executions of whole families by drone in countries where people are poor, brown, and traditionally Muslim.
Besides overt acts like aiding the capture of Nelson Mandela, the U.S. imperialists officially listed Nelson Mandela and the ANC as a terrorist organization from the time of Reagan’s presidency up until 2008. Listing their reasons for this terrorist designation, Department of Defense documents claimed the ANC were fighting for a “multi-racial socialist society”. The horror! These documents also repeated a number of false allegations made by the South African government against the ANC.
Cuba’s Aid to the African Liberation Struggle
U.S. backing of Apartheid also included aiding South Africa’s wars against the people of Angola and Namibia. It was Cuba, not the United States, which came to the aid of African people in their struggles for liberation. Before Cuba’s military victory against South Africa, Namibia was occupied by racist South African troops. Angola was under attack from South African troops and allied CIA armed and financed mercenaries which included the FALA and Jonas Sivimbi’s UNITA forces. It was the victory of heroic Cuban fighters that forced South Africa out of both Angola and Namibia and helped bring down the racist apartheid system in South Africa. Nelson Mandela pointed out these facts in a speech he gave in Cuba in 1991 thanking the Cuban people for their role in the overthrow in of the Apartheid system:
“We have come here today recognizing our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa? How many countries benefit from Cuban health care professionals and educators? How many of these volunteers are now in Africa? What country has ever needed help from Cuba and has not received it? How many countries threatened by imperialism or fighting for their freedom have been able to count on the support of Cuba?
“I was still in prison when I first heard of the massive help which the Cuban international forces were giving to the people of Angola. The help was of such a scale that it was difficult for us to believe it, when the Angolans were under attack by the combined forces of South Africa, the FALA [Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola] who were financed by the CIA, mercenaries, UNITA [National Union for the Total Independence of Angola], and Zaire in 1975.
“In Africa we are used to being victims of countries that want to take from us our territory or overthrow our sovereignty. In African history there is not another instance where another people has stood up for one of ours. We also acknowledge that the action was carried out by the masses in Cuba and that those who fought and died in Angola are only a small portion of those who volunteered to go. To the Cuban people internationalism is not only a word but something which they have put into practice for the benefit of large sectors of mankind. We know that the Cuban forces were ready to retreat after driving back the invasion in 1975 but the continued aggressions of Pretoria did not allow them to do so. Your presence there and the reinforcements sent for the battle of Cuito Cuanavale has a historical meaning. The decisive defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale was a victory for all Africa. This victory in Cuito Cuanavale is what made it possible for Angola to enjoy peace and establish its own sovereignty. The defeat of the racist army made it possible for the people of Namibia to achieve their independence.
“The decisive defeat of the aggressive apartheid forces destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor. The defeat of the apartheid army served as an inspiration to the struggling people of South Africa. Without the defeat of Cuito Cuanavale our organizations would not have been legalized. The defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale made it possible for me to be here with you today. Cuito Cuanavale marks the divide in the struggle for the liberation of southern Africa. Cuito Cuanavale marksd an important step in the struggle to free the continent and our country of the scourge of apartheid.”
Meanwhile, as the United States fought against the liberation of African people and listed Nelson Mandela and the ANC as terrorists, they harbored, and still harbor, actual terrorists against Cuba. Among these is CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles who blew up Cubana Airlines Flight 455 with a bomb, killing all 73 people on board on October 6th, 1976. Despite demands for extradition from Cuba and Venezuela, Luis Posada Carriles continues to live happily in Miami, sheltered from prosecution for his terrorist crimes by the U.S. government.
In the aftermath of the bombing of Flight 455, the Cuban government infiltrated terrorist Cuban organizations in Miami in an attempt to prevent further terrorist attacks on the Cuban people. Five of these heroic undercover agents were found out by the U.S. government and given long prison sentences. They became known as the Cuban Five. Of the Cuban Five, René González was released in 2011 after serving 13 years in prison. The U.S. government finally allowed him to return to Cuba in April of this year. Cuban heroes Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González remain in prison in the United States. Just as Nelson Mandela rotted in prison under apartheid, the Cuban Five and other political prisoners rot in Obama’s prisons for their struggle justice.
Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 after the official enactment of the first of several racist Apartheid laws. He was given the fitting name of “Rolihlahla”, a name that meant “trouble maker”. For a large part of his life, as he battled the racist apartheid system, this was a name he would live up to. However, as Nelson Mandela explains, it was the tradition for school teachers at that time to rename students with English names:
"On the first day of school my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave each of us an English name. This was the custom among Africans in those days and was undoubtedly due to the British bias of our education. That day, Miss Mdingane told me that my new name was Nelson. Why this particular name I have no idea."
It is no doubt some measure of the dehumanization of a system that it is able to impose its own names on an entire people. The slave system similarly deprived Blacks of their African names in racist America. To this day, racists in America prefer to refer to Blacks by their slave names rather than respect their new chosen African names. A look at how the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police constantly refers to Mumia Abu-Jamal by his slave name is one example.
Before the Native American uprising of the 1970s in the U.S., led by the American Indian Movement, Native Americans were also subject to cultural destruction and humiliations in school. U.S. political prisoner Leonard Peltier describes the process. After being taken away by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and having his hair cut off, he says of his experience in school:
“I thought I was going to die...that place...was more like a reformatory than a school...I consider my years at Wahpenton my first imprisonment, and it was for the same crime as all the others: being an Indian.”
“We had to speak English. We were beaten if we were caught speaking our own language. Still, we did....I guess that’s where I became a “hardened criminal,” as the FBI calls me. And you could say that the first infraction in my criminal career was speaking my own language. There’s an act of violence for you....”
In South Africa in 1908 the white representatives of the capitalist state decided that blacks would not be able to hold political office. In 1913 that racist white government then passed the Natives Land Act. That act only allowed the black majority to own land in 7.3% of the country. Blacks were only allowed on white owned property if they were doing labor for white land owners. At that time, the black working class still had no effective union organization or national leadership to mount an effective fight back against these devastating defeats.
A new set of racist apartheid laws were enacted by South Africa’s capitalist government starting in 1950. These included the banning of mixed marriages, the establishment of separate toilets, parks, beaches, and offices for blacks and whites, and the pass law which required blacks to carry documents containing extensive information on them at all times. Under Apartheid, blacks suffered grinding poverty as they were paid far less than other races. Families were often split up due to the need to travel for work and segregation in where Blacks were allowed to live. Blacks were often subject to brutal repression. Routine police harassment, torture, and murder took place, as did major attacks on strikes and protests including massacres.
Apartheid’s Racist Manipulations of the Working Class
In 1921 the South African Communist Party (SACP) was first established to which Nelson Mandela would later belong. An early workers strike that the SACP became involved in was the Rand Rebellion, which became an armed rebellion of white workers. White workers were paid about seven to ten times more than Black workers. The majority were also in supervisory positions over Black workers. Black workers lived in barracks and their situation was seen by white workers as being an intolerable condition that they refused to be driven to. Sparking the strike, capitalist mine owners had decided that they could drive down labor costs and make more money by replacing white workers with Black workers. This was expressed by E.J. Way, president of the Institute of Engineers, who called for the replacement of half of all skilled white workers with Black workers. His reasoning was that the removal of what he called the ‘sentimental colour bar’ would save the capitalists over £1m in wages per year.
These were classic divide and rule tactics used by South Africa’s white racist capitalist class. Black workers were not under attack and the white union leadership did nothing to reach out to Black workers. In fact, a few years earlier in 1919 a strike by some 80,000 black workers was opposed by the white union leadership who ordered white workers to:
“carry on operations on the mines as usual ... provided it is the wish of the management’ [and furthermore] that ... they uphold the maintenance of the colour bar as at present constituted, and deprecate any attempt made to imperil it; and recommend the strongest possible measure to combat any such attempt.”
During that strike, workers were forced down the mine shafts to work by men carrying rifles that sometimes had fixed bayonets. In one mine, a scuffle broke out. Three Black workers were killed and 47 workers were injured, including 12 white workers.
As opposed to the 1919 strike, the Rand Rebellion was fought to defend white privilege. It is an example of how the working class was tragically manipulated by the Apartheid strategy of divide and rule. In these events one can see the economic roots of Apartheid. It was system established by the ruling capitalist class to divide and drive down the standard of living of the entire working class.
Ultimately the Rand Rebellion was put down by the racist capitalist government with the use of deadly force. Fighter planes were sent out to bomb workers’ positions in Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand and the union leadership were murdered, including three who were hung.
A Racist Communist Party and Corrections from Moscow
Unfortunately, the young SACP of 1922 joined the racist Rand Rebellion, supporting it under the slogan of, "Workers of the world, unite and fight for a white South Africa!" The SACP’s open defense of white privilege ran counter to the anti-racist program of the Communist International led by the Soviet Union under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. The Comintern intervened directly, ordering an end to the SACP’s program of defense of the privilege of white workers and for the adoption of a program for a “Native Republic” which called for Black majority rule in South Africa.
By 1928 the Communist International recognized the advancements made by the South African Communist Party under their new anti-racist program:
“The Executive Committee of the Communist International recognizes the successes which the Communist Party of South Africa has recently achieved. This is seen in the growth of the Communist Party, which is now predominantly native in composition. The Communist Party has a membership of about 1,750 of whom 1,600 are natives or colored. The Communist Party has also spread into the country districts of the Transvaal. The Party has waged a fight against the reactionary Native Administration Act. The ECCI also notes the growth of native trade unions under the leadership of the CP, the successful carrying through of a number of strikes and efforts to carry through the amalgamation of the black and white unions.” -Resolution on ‘The South African Question’ adopted by the Sixth Comintern congress
Further, pounding home the class character of the liberation struggle, the Communist International explained:
“The Communist Party cannot confine itself to the general slogan of ‘Let there be no whites and no blacks’. The Communist Party must understand the revolutionary importance of the national and agrarian questions. Only by a correct understanding of the importance of the national question in South Africa will the Communist Party be able to combat effectively the efforts of the bourgeoisie to divide the white and black workers by playing on race chauvinism, and to transform the embryonic nationalist movement into a revolutionary struggle against the white bourgeoisie and foreign imperialists.” -Resolution on ‘The South African Question’ adopted by the Sixth Comintern congress
Lenin’s Program on the Liberation of Oppressed Races and Nationalities
The world communist movement’s fight for the liberation of oppressed races and nationalities flowed directly from Lenin’s program in the USSR. Among the many gains of the Russian Revolution were the national rights it brought to oppressed minorities. Republics were formed of the formerly oppressed ethnic regions where languages that were illegal under the tsar were legalized and education was provided in those languages. In addition, special aid was given to the economies of these formerly oppressed republics through the planned socialist economy. Likewise, government backed pogroms against Jews were ended.
Internationally, Lenin’s program for the liberation of oppressed nations and races also had a profound effect. Before the Russian Revolution, much of the American socialist movement was oblivious to the oppression of Blacks. There was a so-called “color-blind” policy in the Socialist Party of America, summed up by Eugene Debs when he said “we have nothing special to offer the Negro.... The Socialist Party is the party of the whole working class, regardless of color.” Even worse, other socialists like Victor Berger were openly racist. It was the inspiration of the October Russian Revolution and Lenin's program on special oppression that made American and South African socialists see, in the newly established communist movement, that Blacks were doubly exploited and oppressed and that a program of special demands was needed to address Black oppression.
The South African Communist Party would remain a strong advocate of Black liberation from racist Apartheid laws in South Africa. This was even true after its Stalinist degeneration and massive purges of members in the 1930s. A couple decades later the SACP would face a resurgence of importance under Communist Party leaders like Joe Slovo and Nelson Mandela.
In 1933 Leon Trotsky also addressed the central role of Black liberation in his critique of a program being developed by South African revolutionaries:
“To push aside or to weaken the national slogans with the object of not antagonizing the white chauvinists in the ranks of the working class would be, of course, criminal opportunism, which is absolutely alien to the authors and supporters of the thesis: this flows quite clearly from the text of the thesis, which is permeated with the spirit of revolutionary internationalism. The thesis admirably says of those “socialists” who are fighting for the privileges of the whites that “we must recognize them as the greatest enemies of the Revolution.”
“Insofar as a victorious revolution will radically change not only the relation between the classes, but also between the races, and will assure to the blacks that place in the State which corresponds to their numbers, so far will the Social Revolution in South Africa also have a national character. We have not the slightest reason to close our eyes to this side of the question or to diminish its significance. On the contrary the proletarian party should in words and in deeds openly and boldly take the solution of the national (racial) problem in its hands.” -Letter to South African Revolutionaries, April 1933
While the imperialists backed the white racist capitalist government, communists, Trotskyists and Stalinists alike, were in agreement on the central role of the fight for Black liberation in our programs, both in South Africa and in the United States. Where our two political currents disagree, and where Trotskyists continue to disagree with the program of Stalinism and Nelson Mandela, is on the nature of the new revolutionary government that we are fighting for. Of course there are fundamental difference between Trotskyists and Stalinists on the form of government we would create when capitalism is overthrown, with Stalinists fine with a form of brutal bureaucratic dictatorial rule and Trotskyists advocating workers democracy. Fundamentally, however, much of the Stalinist movement also opposes even the overthrow of capitalism. This includes the SACP which adopted Stalin’s two stage theory of revolution after big purges of its communist membership.
For Socialist Proletarian Revolution
Unfortunately, the overthrow of Apartheid in South Africa did not overthrow the capitalist exploiters who installed the racist Apartheid system in the first place. Instead, the ANC became just another capitalist party. They are facilitating the exploitation of the working class by preserving the capitalist system and through carrying out murderous oppression against the working class. The SACP, instead of fighting for a socialist system, joined the ANC government and has even been trying to justify the recent mass murder by the ANC government of mine workers. Trotskyists have always said that South Africa's fundamental problems will not be resolved without a sweeping socialist revolution that puts the mines and other means of production into the hands of the working class and carries out a thorough land reform.
Despite the betrayals of the SACP, South Africa today is not without its proponents of socialist revolution. Among these is the Socialist Party of Azania (SAPO). SAPO is led Lybon Tiyani Mabasa, a veteran of the fight against Apartheid in Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement. Mabasa calls for a planned socialist economy built out of the “Expropriation of the land without Compensation” and the “Nationalization of Mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy, without compensation”.
Today, the rise of the ANC to power has abolished the most blatant racist laws, but the question of racism has not been settled. This was pointed out in the following quote from Lybon Mabasa’s statement on Mandela’s death. The reference here to “CODESA” is to the so-called “Convention for a Democratic South Africa” where negotiations resulted in the 1994 Kempton Park Agreements between the ANC / SACP and the racist rulers of the Apartheid regime. Lybon Mabasa states:
“The Mandela government in its preoccupation with the concept of "Black and white equality" refused to overtly attack white skin privilege and position which has been a norm for centuries and thereby reinforced Black disadvantage. So it is Black people, in the present dispensation, who in their millions live in tin and card-box shacks; it is Black people in their majority who are landless and homeless, who live far away from the towns and cities where they work, it is they who have no access to better health facilities and education and every conceivable disadvantage is visited upon them. It is they who are expected to use wall-less toilets. While white people continue to be better off in this present dispensation, in certain instances they are even much better off than they ever were in the Apartheid years, especially the fact that they no longer need to deal with their consciences because CODESA has legitimized their theft of Black people's wealth and land. It is sad to note that the same situation applies to Black people whose lots have not changed for the better and in certain instances for the worst; again CODESA has legitimized their poverty.”
Current statistics of poverty and wealth in South Africa reveal that 65% of the wealthy are white and 100% of the poor are Black. Liberation on the basis of race and class are inseparably mixed. Only a proletarian socialist revolution that smashes the brutal and repressive capitalist state, rather than joining it, and creates a planned socialist economy can begin to solve South Africa’s problems. It will take a revolutionary party like the Bolsheviks to carry out such a revolution.
The Example of the USSR
In the Russian Revolution Lenin and Trotsky advocated the immediate overthrow of capitalism as the only means to advance the revolution. The Mensheviks, on the other hand, advocated a staged theory of revolution, where the first stage would be all about the smashing of the remnants of feudalism and the development of capitalism and the second would be for the establishment of socialism. While the theory talks of two stages of revolution, in reality this program sets the fight for socialist revolution back to some future date that never comes.
The Mensheviks had their chance in Russia. The Russian Revolution went through two stages in 1917. The first, led by the social democratic Mensheviks happened in February, so became called the February Revolution. Almost nothing really improved under the pro-capitalist Mensheviks. They re-started the inter-imperialist war with Germany, a war where workers had no interest. They opposed a needed sweeping land reform for the poor peasantry. Likewise, they opposed a socialization of industry needed for the working class and society as a whole. The Mensheviks, through a program that claimed it was too early for a socialist revolution in Russia, carried out backward pro-capitalist policies.
As the Mensheviks were busy betraying the revolution, Joseph Stalin entered negotiations with the Mensheviks to merge the Bolshevik and Menshevik parties. Upon his return from exile, Vladimir Lenin put an end to those negotiations. Lenin also adopted Trotsky’s position that the nature of the revolution must be socialist in his famous April Thesis. It was after the adoption of the April Thesis that Lenin and Trotsky’s parties merged and moved on to lead the October Revolution against the Mensheviks in power. Had it been up to Stalin, there would have never been an October Revolution. Stalin would later revive his support for the Menshevik staged theory of revolution after Lenin’s death, imposing that program on Communist Parties around the world and expelling those who disagreed as Trotskyists. This is where Nelson Mandela’s and the SACP’s capitalist program came from.
The Mensheviks, opposed to the leftist agenda of the Bolsheviks, almost lost power in August 1917 due to a rightwing military coup led by General Kornilov. At that point, the survival of the revolution depended, in part, on critical military support from the Bolsheviks led by Lenin and Trotsky. The Bolsheviks saw this as only a temporary alliance, seeing the critical need to defeat Kornilov, but they also used the situation to arm the working class both to fight against the far right and to prepare for the struggles to come against the Menshevik Kerensky government.
Through patiently winning the working class to their side and military preparations, the Bolsheviks led the workers and peasants to power in a second revolution, the October 1917 Russian Revolution. This was a revolution that fulfilled its promises. The Russian Revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky ended Russia's involvement in the inter-imperialist mass slaughter of World War I, brought about a sweeping land reform for the peasants, abolished capitalism and created a socialist system that was capable of turning one of the poorest countries in the world into an industrial powerhouse capable of smashing Nazi Germany and rebuilding after two major imperialist invasions to provide everyone with a guaranteed job, housing, education, and health care, brought national rights to oppressed minorities forming republics of ethnic regions, legalizing their languages and providing education in those languages while also giving their economies special help through the planned economy, brought about big advances in women's rights and rights for homosexuals, made education and health care priorities, and ended government backed pogroms against Jews. Central to the Bolshevik’s ability to carry out this program was their overthrow the capitalist system.
With the help of the CIA, Nelson Mandela suffered through prison from 1962 to 1990. His release from prison was garnered largely through the growing militant labor movement in South Africa and the military defeats of South Africa in Angola and Namibia by Cuba. With terrible exploitation and repression of Black workers, the Apartheid system had been extremely profitable for South African capitalists. As the South African working class became more and more ungovernable, it became necessary for the South African capitalist class to turn to Nelson Mandela, the SACP, and the ANC as its next line of defense to preserve their profit system. Nelson Mandela, who was long seen as enemy by the racist capitalist class, was now understood to have a program for the preservation of the capitalist system and became the savior of the exploiters.
When South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, appeared to address a crowd of 90,000 people gathered to honor Nelson Mandela, he was booed. Jacob Zuma is a member of the African National Congress, the same party that Nelson Mandela led to power. Jacob Zuma in fact represents the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s program in power. It is a program that while eliminating the worst overtly racist laws, defends the capitalist system and the profits of the capitalist class. In doing so, the ANC have become administrators and defenders of the problems inherent to the capitalist system. As a result, nothing has been done to uplift the poor Black South African masses from the poverty imposed on them by a white racist capitalist class. In fact, as the administrators of that capitalist government, the ANC are responsible for gunning down 34 striking Marikana Lonmin platinum miners. Because Mandela failed to fight for the overthrow of capitalism, the blood of Marikana and the continuation of capitalist injustice will forever be a major part of Mandela’s legacy and will forever mar his memory.
This author is proud to have participated in the anti-Apartheid movement of the United States and to have been arrested fighting for that cause. I am also proud to have split from the once Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) while participating in that movement. In part, my split was over the SWP’s uncritical support for the capitalist program of the ANC and their adoption of Stalin’s two stage theory of revolution. I advocated a return to the SWP’s earlier Trotskyist program. Today, the Revolutionary Tendency works to build an international movement based on the program of Lenin and Trotsky embodied in the early years of the SWP and the Fourth International. In doing so, we reach out to all like minded revolutionaries in the struggle to re-forge the Fourth International, the international revolutionary party founded by Leon Trotsky.
A proletarian socialist revolution in South Africa will not only liberate the South African working class from grinding poverty and brutal repression, it will also be a shot in the arm for the anti-imperialist struggle across Africa and give new needed strength to the world socialist revolution.
Forward to the South African Proletarian Socialist Revolution!
End U.S. Imperialism through Socialist Revolution in the United States!
Build the Revolutionary Tendency!
-Steven Argue of the Revolutionary Tendency
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Photo: August 16, 2012 murder of 34 striking miners at the Marikana Lonmin platinum mine. This mass murder was carried out by the ANC, the political party Nelson Mandela brought to power. It was a massacre very similar to massacres carried out by the forces of the Apartheid regime including the Soweto massacre in 1976 that left between 176 and 700 people dead or the Sharpeville massacre of 1961 where 69 people were murdered. As leader of the South African Communist Party, Nelson Mandela helped abolish some of the worst overtly racist laws under existence under Apartheid, but at the root of the continuation of brutal capitalist oppression and exploitation in South Africa is Nelson Mandela's adoption of Stalin's two stage theory of revolution.