The endless threnody for Nelson Mandela continues to make the front pages for yet another day and this I hope justifies me in writing about him again.
I admit I feel a certain desire to deride Mandela just to show we still have some degree of
freedom left. The ludicrous Mandela cult is linked to this dreadful thing which is taking over the Western world. It's like an invasion by aliens.
Still, Mandela was in many ways admirable and is not responsible for most of the bad things that have happened to South Africa since he came out of the jug. They would have happened without him, when whites ceded power. Let us hope things do not get worse, though they may well do. It was inevitable, sooner or later, that whites would cede power. This is why De Klerk did.
Ian Smith put it best. He said
'I was right about Mugabe but wrong about Mandela'.
(Is is significant that Mugabe was educated by Jesuits and Mandela by Methodists? It is in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, anyhow. Mandela might have been a Marxist but he was a Protestant Marxist.)
F.W . Klerk comes out of it all best, I think, Mandela very well but the apartheid regime deserves credit too. Unlikeable though the National Party were they saved South Africans, of all races, from Communism. F.W. Klerk in today's Times gave some of the credit for avoiding civil war to Margaret Thatcher. I think this is fair.
This article by the (former?) Trotskyite Brendan O' Neil, describes how the ANC were taken by surprise by the township violence that started in 1976. In fact if the role of the ANC was to tame the angry young black men this is to the ANC's credit. The ANC is often blamed by right-wingers for the horrific 'necklacings' and other killings and torture that took place in the 1980s but they are fingering the wrong people. The ANC leaders believed in violence in theory, but were not instigators of it or even prepared for it.
I was particularly struck by this passage:
The youthful Black Consciousness movement, as it called itself, was centred around university campuses and was also influential among black schoolchildren and teenagers. Its spokespeople were individuals like Stephen Biko, a radical student union and community activist whose contempt for white liberals who pitied oppressed blacks immediately set him apart from the ANC old guard. (Biko would be murdered by Apartheid prison guards in 1977.) As Alistair Kee argues in his essay, ‘Redemption of the Poor: South Africa’, these radical black students of the early 1970s launched a critique not only of ‘liberal white analysis’, but also of ‘the analysis of the ANC’ (1). They were anti-reform, anti-assimilation and impatient. Mandela’s shock at the radicalism of this new cohort of agitated black youth was summed up by his response to the ‘insolence’ their leaders displayed when they were sent to Robben Island in the 1970s: ‘These fellows refused to conform to even basic prison regulations’, he wrote. Asked to remove his cap in the presence of a prison officer, one Black Consciousness leader respond: ‘What for?’ Mandela was shocked: ‘I could hardly believe what I had just heard. It was a revolutionary question: “What for?”’
It has been the fate of many radicals, from Cromwell to Lloyd George and Ramsay Macdonald, to end up conservatives. Even the Communist Tito in his later years slightly resembled the Emperor Francis Joseph, in whose army he had once been enrolled as a private. If Mandela ended up as a curiously conservative figure, that is something truly worth celebrating.