Rebirth of Reason

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 5:17pmSanction this postReply

I was a little confused. The post you opened this thread with has some quote marks, like it came from somewhere, but I didn't see those words in the article. And those words were about the modern ANC and South African government rather than about Mandela or his current media attention.

The article you linked to was excellent. (And my quotes are pulled from it.)
As South Africans mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find any honest and balanced assessments of Mandela’s legacy.
So true.
The Cold War, he [Isaac Chotiner of the New Republic] argues, “prevented many of the people fighting it from viewing Mandela in anything but Cold War terms.” How, he asks, could anyone even think of the apartheid regime as part of the Free World? The Cold War, he writes, “didn’t require anyone to wear these blinders.”
The author is only about half-right. There should not have been blinders to evils of that apartheid government, but it would be naive not to expect those in that cold war struggle - virtually a nuclear stand-off of global porportion - not to take the communistic aspect of ANC into account. I think it would have been reasonable to side with those who were fighting the Apartheid while soundly condeming the communist influence, and pointing out that Cuba and the Soviet Union were not friends of the people or supporters of a free vote, free speech, or free anything. If you support liberty it is hard to explain how you can fully side with either the communists or the apartheid racists.
People say one thing, but party platforms and ideology are often ignored. This, he says, is what the pragmatic Mandela did. Conservatives who harp on it are engaging in “gleeful red-baiting.” The truth, he writes, is that Mandela “was at various times a black nationalist and a nonracialist, an opponent of armed struggle and an advocate of violence, a hothead and the calmest man in the room, a consumer of Marxist tracts and an admirer of Western democracy, a close partner of Communists and, in his presidency, a close partner of South Africa’s powerful capitalists.”

In other words, he was a man of contradictions. His alliance with and membership in the SACP was simply a “marriage of convenience,” in a movement with few friends. He was able to receive money and arms from his Soviet and Chinese comrades for their “feckless armed struggle.” Despite ideology, when push came to shove, the pragmatists and the realists won out. Mandela emerged from prison a changed man, who brought reconciliation to his native land that could have erupted in civil war, and both avoided bloodshed and gave his backing to South African capitalists who could have been his enemy.

His Party membership can be explained simply by the fact that the Marxist-Leninist group was the only political group that allowed whites, blacks, Indians and mixed-race people as members.
This was the best part of that article, but for one thing. The author pushed the concept of pragmatism and 'marriage of convenience' too far. It is the last sentence that holds the truth. Mandela found an alliance with the communists because they were the ONLY ones ready to stand beside him to fight the ONLY battle he was focused on: Race-based inequality under the law.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 4:29amSanction this postReply
Opening quote is last paragraph on the last page. It's a three page article.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 12:01pmSanction this postReply
Thanks, Teresa. I hadn't noticed those other two pages in the article.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 5:19pmSanction this postReply
This is another interesting (and fact filled) perspective written by Robert Tracinski today.

While I'm not at all convinced that Mandela (as Robert suggests,) was a free market convert, he offers additional insightful background. Pretty fascinating.

The Unsung Legacy of Nelson Mandela

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Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 7:13pmSanction this postReply
The following quotes are from the column Teresa mentioned above:
First, let's be honest about Mandela's real history. While he opposed South Africa's Apartheid system of institutionalized racism, it was far from clear during the height of that struggle whether Mandela was an advocate of liberty or not. In fact, it looked a lot like the answer was "not."
If Mr. Tracinski means the same thing by "liberty" that libertarians do, then no. Mandela wasn't a libertarian. But early on, and all the way through to his death, he was in favor of equality under the law regardless of race. And to be opposed to apartheid in South Africa, in those days, WAS a strong form of pro-liberty. In other words, that paragraph is a bit unfair.
Mandela's rapturous reception in the West... was about Western liberals having an opportunity to demonstrate how Not Racist they are (and, correspondingly, that their opponents are Secretly Racist). This is the primary remaining source of moral legitimacy for the American left, and they're going to hang on to it.
That is so true... And there is even more - the progressives have always harbored secret warm feelings socialism and communism. But that doesn't change the heroic nature of Mandela's part in eliminating apartheid.
As Michael Moynihan points out, "For a man imprisoned for his political beliefs, he had a weakness for those who did the very same thing to their ideological opponents, but were allowed a pass because they supported, for realpolitik reasons, the struggle against Apartheid." He goes on to document Mandela's expressions of sympathy toward miscreants like Fidel Casto, Moammar Gadhafi, and the regime in Iran—not just during the struggle against Apartheid, but to the very end.
I totally agree with this... to my mind this an unarguable and significant criticism of Mandela.
It is the American left that has not really wrestled with the Cold War and the evils of Communism as a system of global oppression.
it was President Reagan who made the end of Apartheid possible. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that South Africa's white minority could make a deal with Mandela without having to fear that they would end up living in a province of the Soviet Empire.

We got a reminder of this at Mandela's memorial when President Obama created a stir by shaking hands with Raul Castro, the successor to his older brother's brutal dictatorship.
I think this is nonsense. The apartheid government crumbled because it couldn't continue any longer. I loved Reagan, but he didn't contribute to the end of apartheid. He played a significant part in the collapse of the Soviet Union, but I don't believe that the collapse of the Soviet Union was pivotal in the end of apartheid. Apartheid ended because the opposition was too strong not continue, because a significant and growing portion of the white population also opposed it, because a few courageous white politicians wanted to end it, and because of Mandela and the trust he inspired.
He [Mandela] leaves behind a lot of problems, and it is possible that his less worthy successors will still wreck the country. But he also left behind a surprising legacy of freedom that goes beyond the dismantling of Apartheid and may give South Africa the political and economic means to survive and prosper.
It doesn't surprise me that he began turning to free market principles. (I don't know how far he turned). To me, everything about the man was focused on breaking the back of apartheid and he was driven by a love of his country and its people. And I think his openness to forgiveness arose out his extraordinary character, a character that also would have enable him to be more open to changes in political beliefs than most.

I was particularly struck by comments made Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News, about his interview of Mandela upon his release from prison. Williams spent quite a bit of time with Mandela and it wasn't structured as a formal interview. As Williams said, Mandela did most of the question asking. He was fascinated by America, a country that once owned slaves, but even though our country has a very large white majority and a small black population, it eliminated slavery at a great cost and overthrew the Jim Crow laws. He wanted to know what it was about our country that let this happen. And he was asking Williams about our founding fathers. (Not that Williams would be the best person to ask about Capitalism :-)

(Edited by Steve Wolfer on 12/12, 7:17pm)

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