Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nelson Mandela - one man who looked forward

Nelson Mandela, saint?  No.  He was a man, who made some mistakes, perhaps his biggest one was in leaving the ANC to unspeakably awful men and in not purging the party of its Leninist culture.

The AIDS-denying, Mugabe appeasing Thabo Mbeki, who, had he been a white Afrikaner, would be blamed for genocide.  The rape-denying Jacob Zuma, in a country where 1 in 4 men admit to rape.  I see few feminists bemoaning the abject failure of the "new" South Africa to confront this culture.

However, I resist the claims of some that he should be dismissed as a terrorist and a communist.  That blanks out the reality of South Africa's white-supremacist regime.  It was sympathetic towards Nazi Germany during the war, and had distinct parallels in applying a non-eliminationist view of racial supremacy.  Apartheid itself was strongly supported by white far-left trade unions, who didn't want black workers taking their jobs.  A argument, which at its fundamental roots, is still used by protectionists without the overt racist component. 

Mandela lived under a regime that not only denied him and other black people in the country basic standards of citizenship, but didn't tolerate dissent unless it came from white people.  Even then, the regime would use accusations of communism to attack many criticising apartheid.  It was the proud Helen Suzman who maintained the small opposition in South Africa's Parliament, as the apartheid regime increasing became fearful of invasion from the post-colonial regimes to its north and of revolution within.

South Africa was a brutal authoritarian state that brutalised the vast majority, and explicitly legally denied them opportunities in business, education, science and culture.  In that environment, it is hardly surprising that the ANC - in resisting this - would turn to violence, after the awful Sharpeville massacre.  
The state did violence to the black population, it did not allow free speech, it did not give it options for political expression.  The black population faced authoritarian rule that they had no say over, they were non-citizens, with the police and the courts almost entirely beholden to those who ruled them.

So given the choice between Gandhi-esque non-violent resistance, and having protests of unarmed school children gunned down, and taking up violence yourself, it's hardly a surprise the latter was taken up.

Yes, the ANC allied itself to unspeakable regimes in the Soviet bloc and China.   That was opportunistic.  

As a result, it saw apartheid getting caught up in the Cold War - fascist white supremacists vs. communists.

However, as much as the left in the Western world want to claim the moral high-ground, there was little love in Washington and London for the Pretoria regime.   It was the same awful realpolitik that saw Suharto preferred over the Marxist resistance in East Timor, and the Khmer Rouge over the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.

However, it was the end of the Soviet Union that saved South Africa.  Thatcher had pushed hard for Mandela to be freed.  With the USSR making it clear it could no longer support South Africa's Marxist neighbours (and the ANC), the apartheid regime stopped being frightened of communism.  

Once he was freed, it was Mandela who pushed the ANC towards rejecting the political culture it had inherited from the Communist Party.  More importantly, he turned his back on vengeance and revenge. 

That is his legacy, facilitating a peaceful transition to liberal democracy.

Unfortunately, there isn't much beyond that.

For within the first term of his Presidency, his hangers on, including the murderous Winnie Mandela, treated the relative freedom as a way to enrich themselves at the expense of the whole country.  Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa have made absolute fortunes through a state that is increasingly thriving on corruption and kleptocracy.

South Africa has continued to have rates of extreme violent crime that exceed that of almost all of its neighbours.  It has promoted "black economic empowerment", which has enabled the patronage of the well-connected, whilst letting all others fall behind.  It has power blackouts because it scared away private investment in electricity generation and starved the state owned generator of capital.  

In short, South Africa has only done "relatively" well because it has benefited from the recent global peak in commodity prices (which has been sliding) and because it no longer has the stifling suffocation of sanctions and complete suppression of the freedom of the vast majority.

It is in spite of the ANC, not because of it.  Mandela's legacy, for what it is worth, is to have stopped the Marxist policies that so many in the ANC would have embraced.  However, the price of that has been for senior ANC politicians to enjoy the benefits of a typical dictatorship (vast enrichment of politicians).   Whilst the majority of black people still give the ANC the benefit of the doubt at the ballot box now, one day this will change.  The big question is whether the historically Leninist ANC will accept losing power, or whether it will embark on Venezuelan style tactics to harass the Opposition, take over or close opposition media, and use dirty tactics to thwart it.

Nobody knows.

It is common for the ANC to describe the Democratic Alliance - the Opposition born out of the anti-apartheid Progressive Party - as racist.  A vile and absurd lie, but the dominant broadcaster is state owned and pro-ANC, and the state education paints a particularly sanitised view of history of the ANC.

Mandela forced South Africans to look to the future, but unfortunately the ANC is too poisoned by the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism, and an anti-reason, anti-Western culture.  The one that spawned AIDS-denial, and conspiracies that it was a Western attempt to eradicate black people (as was contraception).   It is the culture that tolerates the murderous kleptocracy of Robert Mugabe, which has killed far more black Zimbabweans than white, and enriched a tiny few.   It is a culture that has rejected entrepreneurship and free markets, especially when they get in the way of the patronage of businesses acquired or controlled by the ANC cadres.

South Africa would have been much much worse off without Mandela.   It would have had civil war and quite possibly a Zimbabwe like catastrophe on its hands.

However, whilst it continues to be under the control of a party of pro-violence irrational vampiric power-lusters, it is difficult to think that it can grow beyond more than a promise.   For whilst it avoided that fate then, it is run by so many who look north not with disgust and dismay, but with envy and encouragement.

The mere fact that so much has gone wrong, because of the actions of those who could have done so much more, shows that Mandela's legacy has been squandered and that he himself did insufficient to stem it.

However, as we watch South Africa commemorate, around 4000km away, the Central African Republic shows how much worse it could be.

Don't expect too much attention from the comfortable left about that though.  For the sudden arrival of radical Islam in this poor battered land is not something that they get too fussed about.

Not that they get too fussed about what the ANC's comrade to the immediate north has been doing for decades.  

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