Nelson Mandela

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu   12/7/13
Nelson Mandela died Friday and since that day, there have been almost non-stop exaltations of the man from various pundits and news outlets around the world. Like many politicians who live to extreme old age after leaving office, Mandela’s image has gained from the fact that much of his life’s story is forgotten. In light of the hagiographical tales we are now hearing about Mandela, it might be wise to look into his history.

That Mandela was the grandson of a Xhosa King, and had a privileged upbringing is fairly well known. He began attending church as a child and was a Methodist all of his life. He became politically active after going to work as a clerk for a law firm which was run by a liberal white man. At this firm he became friendly with co-workers who were members of the African National Congress and communists. He started attending communist meetings in his early twenties. While attending law school, he met and established long term relations with communists such as Joe Slovo and Ruth First.

Dissatisfied with the leadership of the ANC, he and several others established the ANC Youth League in the early 1940’s, with the intention of pushing the ANC into a more radical stance. In the early 1950’s Mandela became more accepting of Communism and was influenced by the writings of Marxist writers and dictators. Throughout the 1950’s he became increasingly radical in his politics while becoming a philanderer on the side. He and his first wife divorced in the late 1950’s. Shortly thereafter he married Winnie Madikizela, a particularly despicable woman who used Mandela’s stature to shield herself from scrutiny. She formed the “Mandela United Football Club,” as a personal body guard. This was essentially a group of thugs who would occasionally “necklace” (soak a car tire with gasoline and put it around someone’s neck then set it on fire) as well as beat others to death. Yet Mandela stood by her when justice finally caught up with her and she went to trial for some of her crimes.

From the mid 1950’s, Mandela was an advocate for violence against the regime. He reorganized the ANC on basis of the cell structure and centralized the leadership. Both changes were adopted from earlier communist models. In 1961 he established the armed wing (MK) of the ANC in cooperation with the South African Communist Party. He also stated that he had drawn inspiration from the likes of Castro and Che Guevara. Mandela trained in guerilla warfare and secretly arranged for weapons from the Communist block to be smuggled into South Africa to be used in an armed struggle against the government. It was this push for an armed struggle which finally landed him in jail.

The South African government had tried to silence Mandela and others through the legal system, but had largely failed. In one particular trial the government brought the charge of treason against a large number of activists, but the charges were so broad and weak that they failed in court. But it was a different story with the MK. In a short period of time, the MK arranged dozens of bombing across South Africa. It was for these violent acts that Mandela was arrested, found guilty of conspiracy and trying to overthrow the government and subsequently sent to prison.

Many people today appear to believe that Mandela brought about the end of the apartheid government in South Africa. It is true he and President de Klerk reigned in the more extremist groups from both sides. And they did come to an understanding on how the country needed to move forward. But, to a large degree, it was international politics which forced the apartheid government to release its grip on power.

The South African apartheid State was established after WWII. This was the period during which the Cold War was started and South Africa became one of the fields on which it was fought. The Soviet Union saw many possibilities to extend its influence in colonial and post colonial Africa and it cooperated with many “liberation” movements such as the ANC. The Western block had no intention of allowing South Africa to fall under Soviet influence and supported the South African regime for many years. Over the years however, a public relations campaign against South Africa began to take its toll. Numerous companies began to cut back their trade with and investment in South Africa. More importantly, in my opinion, in the 1980’s it was becoming clear that the Soviet Block was cracking and unable to maintain its various clients throughout the world. This diminished Soviet threat, surely played a part in the decision of the United States, Great Britain and a large number of other countries to impose trade sanctions against the apartheid government. The South African government’s hand was forced and it saw Mandela as the least bad alternative.

Mandela’s greatest contribution is probably the way in which he helped keep violence under control. His “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” no doubt saved many lives. And he deserves a huge amount of credit for this alone.

But, it must not be forgotten that, in addition to his long-time association and cooperation with the South African Communist Party (SACP leader Joe Slovo became a minister in Mandela’s administration) government corruption and crime increased. And since his departure from office the situation has only worsened. Perhaps most worrying, for South Africa, is the fact that something approaching one million whites have emigrated from South Africa. One runs across them in all English speaking countries.

Mandela was not the political caricature which is presently being foisted upon the world. He was a revolutionary, and like all revolutionaries, he was willing to use violence to achieve his aims. Luckily, as regards his legacy, he was imprisoned in the 1960’s before he could come into power by violence. The history of revolutionaries who gain power through violence is not a happy one.

It was a happy turn of fate that he came into power as an old man after time and other forces had cleared most of the path to power for him. • (1809 views)

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31 Responses to Nelson Mandela

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Excellent article, Mr. Kung. This was far better and more balanced than the fawning tripe that has appeared at National Politically Correct Online. Well done, sir.

  2. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    Yes, this was far more balanced the hagiographies we’ve been reading elsewhere – even Newt Gingrich (well, I’m only pretending to be surprised) asked Conservative critics of Mandela what they would have done in his place. My answer is that I would have replaced the apartheid government with a free one, and that overthrowing the apartheid government was legitimate only if a free government was to be put in its place – the desire to establish a Marxist dictatorship is never justification for revolution.

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    Bravo……Perhaps prison was his salvation—reputation wise and as a human being. If we are blessed, we are profoundly different beings as we approach the ripeness of our years. And who knows if we will be made saints or devils by fortune, in spite of our best efforts.
    Legacies are like ripples from stones that are cast into deep pools. We shall see what Mandela’s true imprint remains in the wake of time’s inescapable judgments, following hard upon the proving grounds of time. South Africa may yet pass down that Dark Zimbabwe road. We should remember that “Greatness” is a morally neutral term that the world accords to those who make deep ripples. Without the aide of moral virtue, those ripples often reach their crescendo in a tsunami that scours the land clean of any goodness.

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    There’s a small SF fan group in South Africa, and one of its members had bad things to say about the new government, though I have no idea how much of the problem can be blamed on Mandela.

    Back when apartheid was breaking up (I believe it was Walter Williams who pointed out that a[artheid is properly pronounced “apart hate”), there was a book proposing a cantonal structure for the country, combined with a basic set of civil rights available to all.

    There is another interesting example of former terrorists becoming respectable civil leaders: the heads of the late 1940s Israeli terrorist groups (the Irgun and the Stern Group) later became the first 2 Likud prime ministers.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    “there was a book proposing a cantonal structure for the country,”

    Back in the 1980’s when living in a British Colony, I met some South Africans and others who had lived there. In a nutshell, they said the country was divided into tribes with the Whites being the largest and most powerful tribe. The Zulus were probably the second largest. So I can well understand the idea of breaking the country into various tribal cantons.

    As to the Irgun and Stern gang, it is too often the case that bad behavior is too often not only excused, but praised because someone else acted worse. But I do not think the Brits in the mandate were bad. It is also the case that people have short memories and there is plenty of ignorance of history to boot.

  6. Timothy Lane says:

    Humbert Fontova has an interesting article on Town Hall today which compares the civil rights records of Castroite Cuba and apartheid South Africa. He points out that the former has FAR more political prisoners (from a much smaller population to boot), far worse prison conditions, more routine (massive) use of execution (often summary), and a lack of any recognizable concept of a fair trial (unlike South Africa). Yet, naturally, little of this is ever reported today in the synoptic media.

    • faba calculo says:

      You hardly needed to go so far from South Africa as Cuba to see worse conditions. As someone I don’t now recall once put it, “South Africa wasn’t the worst human rights violators in the world. They weren’t even the worst human rights violators in Africa. Hell, they weren’t even the worst human rights violators in that region of Africa.

      Still, while not purely rational, I think that at least some of the reason so many in the US were so against South Africa was not just the oppression, but the way in which their oppression of whites against blacks was similar to prior oppression here by whites against blacks. Generals aren’t the only ones who always prepare to fight the last war.

  7. LibertyMark says:

    Nicely done, Mr. Fu. A coherent analysis indeed.

    How is it that the Left’s hagiography creates so many heroes out of so many despicable humans? Che, Fidel, Teddy, Hugo, Nelson, Barry, Karl, etc etc etc. Perhaps holography is a better term, whereby the viewer creates his own image of a hero with his own pattern of light interference. (For that matter, I cannot wait to see the Barry El Caudillo Library. Who knows what miraculous documents will appear.)

    So what constitutes a real hero? Is holography solely a Leftist phenomena? Do we of the Right create heroes out of holograms? Shouldn’t the measure of heroism include that which the hero hath wrought?

    Certainly Apartheid was reprehensible (a requisite disclaimer less accusations of racism ensue). But where is South Africa now? Bing Jacob Zuma and ‘struggle song’. Bing Afrikaner murders. Check out Genocide Watch for South Africa racist communists terrorizing and driving whites from their land. Think Knockout Game taken to the next order of magnitude. And of course Bing necklacing for some very telling video.

    No, I think Nelson hath wrought something as evil as that which he fought against. For this he is no hero.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Liberals are always looking for politically correct foreign leaders to compare to George Washington. The problem is that the latter is virtually unique because he was willing to give up his power (which caused King George III to call him the “greatest man” of his day), and his would-be successors (like those who champion them) would never do so.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        And he wasn’t a Marxist.

      • faba calculo says:

        “The problem is that [Washington] is virtually unique because he was willing to give up his power”

        But Mandela did as well.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Did he simply give up power, or grow too old to wield it?

          • faba calculo says:

            Which happened to Washington? Did he leave out of overwhelming nobility or because he was getting old, getting sick of politics, and just wanted to go home? Hell, when Mandela left, he had 14 years of life in him. When Washington left, he only had 3.

            Like Washington, Mandela could have walked to victory in every election for the rest of his life and just left trusted lieutenants – or, for that matter, sons (biological or otherwise) to do the work.

            None of this is to say, btw, that Mandela was the equal to Washington, who could rightly claim to be both first in war and in peace. The work of overthrowing Apartheid was largely done by others, while Washington truly was the indispensable man. And history’s verdict on his works is largely in while the outcome of Mandela’s labors are yet to come. And, in agreement with this article, I’d be MUCH more interested in seeing how America would have turned out in the hands of a much younger Washington than I would have been in seeing how South Africa would have turned out in the hands of a much younger Mandela.

            But they both desire enormous credit for extending the freedom and liberty in the world by taking countries that could easily have gone to hell in a hand basket and giving them the breathing space they desperately needed. And in both cases, if either of their respectively countries come to a bad end, it will be in no way their fault.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Remember that Washington gave up power twice: once in 1783 (which I think is when King George made his comment), and once in 1797.

              • faba calculo says:

                Touché!

                Still, it’s the running of the government rather than the winning of the war that determines how free people are. Were we still British citizens, our freedoms would be (sort of) similar to what they are now. His contribution to our freedom in his first resignation was mostly negative (i.e., he didn’t screw things up by becoming king) rather than positive (i.e., setting us up with a long-term form of government that would respect our freedoms and then ensuring that it get off to a good start).

                Still, you’ve at least forced me to restate my argument in somewhat weaker form. As I say, well played.

            • LibertyMark says:

              Well, that’s my point. Did Mandela extend freedom and liberty or promote one form of despotism over another? Nowhere has Marxism (the “Karl” reference) EVER achieved more liberty and freedom, and Mandela was a Marxist, no?

              • faba calculo says:

                In terms of measures of freedom (except for economic freedom) I generally go with freedomhouse.org (A.K.A., FH). They rate (among other things) both political rights, or PR (i.e, do fair elections dictate who is in power) and civil liberties, or CL (i.e., does the government have enough control over the people to maintain order and no more). As they measure PR and CL, their scores are pairs of numbers, the first for PR and the other for CL. Both scores run from 1 to 7 – though, non-intuitively though it be, low numbers are good while high numbers are bad. Thus, the US gets a 1-1 while North Korea is a perennial 7-7.

                I like FH for a number of reasons. First, they rate every country, so there’s a thorough time series. Unlike other organizations that rate countries by their freedoms, which tend to of recent vintage, the FH scores go back to 1972. Finally, their board has, over time, had both prominent Democrats and Republicans, giving them at least an appearance of un-biasedness.

                So, what do these scores say about South Africa? Outside of 1972 (their first and last effort to publish split scores – presumably one for whites and the other for non-whites), prior to the fall of Apartheid, their scores totaled to either 9 (either 4-5 or 5-4) or 11 (either 5-6 or 6-5). When Apartheid fell, the country instantly improved to a 2-3, and then a 1-2 the following year. They held that score until they backslid in 2007 to a 2-2 (a non-trivial decline, as, recall, the numbers 1 to 7 cover everything from the US to North Korea). And there they’ve held ever since. (For more details, see http://www.freedomhouse.org/report-types/freedom-world and then click the second (for sovereign countries) or third (for non-sovereign territories) bullet point.

                Bottom line: yes, he secured the expansion of freedom that brought him into power and then extended it for the people in general rather than “promot[ing] one form of despotism over another”.

                CAVEAT: FH doesn’t rate economic freedoms. That task falls to the Heritage Foundation and (I think) the Frazier Institute. However, an indicated above, these are much younger surveys and don’t cover Mandela’s time in office.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              I just read Condi Rice’s account of Nelson Mandela and his decision to step down and let someone else take over. This caused Bush to compare him to Washington. Part of this no doubt was Beltway political sensitivity, but she also (in the same chapter) discusses Bush’s efforts to push other African leaders to step down when their time came. Of course, I’ll still take Washington’s politics over Mandela’s.

              • faba calculo says:

                No way! I mean, what did Washington ever do for the jewelry industry? Mandela, on the other hand, I’ve heard actually bothered to aid the necklace industry (or something like that).

    • faba calculo says:

      “How is it that the Left’s hagiography creates so many heroes out of so many despicable humans?”

      Maybe we just read different parts of the leftist media. I focus most frequently on Salon and Slate (though I’m close to dropping Salon), and though many there have praised Mandela, few have come anywhere close to hagiography.

      “Che, Fidel, Teddy, Hugo, Nelson, Barry, Karl, etc etc etc.”

      Who does “Karl” refer to? Regardless, while Mandela certainly did some despicable things early in life, summing him up with that word seems over the top.

      “But where is South Africa now?”

      With the exception of Mauritius and Cape Verde, two very small island countries, there’s a strong argument to made that, in terms of political rights and civil liberties, it’s the freest country in Africa and its biggest economy (and one of the freer countries in the world – though not necessarily in terms of economic rights). As for any alleged genocide, the farm killings may well be more economically motivated than acts of racial hatred, as earlier studies show whites accounting for about 60% of them – more or less in line with their share of the farming population in which crime rates have shot up (though they’ve actually down in the full country, as I understand it). Then again, economic motives may not account for it, as white farms that get robbed also have a 25% high chance of turning into a murder than non-white farms. So, either way, I’d be leery of jumping to judgment on this on (which is not to say that you have done this).

      • LibertyMark says:

        “…while Mandela certainly did some despicable things early in life…”

        Is that to say that his later “achievements” erase those things? he went to prison for terrorism, not political dissent, after all. 27 years in prison did not “purify” him in some cosmic sense. He was paying a price for crimes against human life.

        Yes, South Africa is freest on the continent etc. But why is this? Is this not a legacy of the Dutch Afrikaners and the system of government they established? This level of freedom and economy is far, far from attributable to Nelson Mandela.

        • faba calculo says:

          Again, look at the Freedom House scores. It was civil liberties as well elections where people go screwed, so I don’t see a lot of bragging rights for the country on either ground before the fall of Apartheid, save by comparison to other countries around them, but that would be setting the bar low.

          And, note, my point wasn’t to say that the good things he’d done white-washed the bad, as I think I indicated. It was to say the good was enough to make summing him up as despicable in general inaccurate. If you precede the word despicable with “in his younger days he was” or “some of his earlier actions were”, no argument. But I see little room for concluding that, had he died in jail, South Africa wouldn’t have been a MUCH worse place than it was during his time in office and later.

          • LibertyMark says:

            Could we not use a similar speculative argument against Mandela? To wit, had he not spent 27 years in prison, would he possibly have upped the ante on his “youthful indiscretions” (my words, not yours) and never have been elected to anything? Could he have ultimately caused a bloody revolution in South Africa instead?

            For that matter, had Washington been younger, were we still British citizens, had Mandela died in prison, etc seems to lead us not very far. What was, was. As for Mandela, I have enough doubt about him to not put him on the cover of Time as Man of the Year. But, alas, history is a better judge than I, and certainly will still be judging long after I am gone.

            BTW, thanks for the FH reference. Good stuff.

            • faba calculo says:

              On FH, I forgot to mention that there is a brief article each year for each country, though those are available only back a few years (i.e., not back to 1972), it’s another FH-only feature in which they not only provide a score but justify it as well. Also, there’s a deeper breakdown where both political rights and civil liberties are disaggregated into the sub-categories that are used to generate the aggregate scores and (I think) the individual questions they use for the sub-category scores. My only complain against FH is that they don’t give the answers to those questions country by country. Still, this is far more detail than almost any of the other organizations give out.

              As for Mandela, yes, in the end I wandered into the far more speculative grounds of counterfactual. And even on the firmer grounds of looking at South Africa’s FH scores before, during, and after Mandela, the improvement might, I suppose, have had nothing to do with the man. Post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that.

              One final thing: while I think Mandela deserves the lion’s share of the credit for how well South Africa turned out after he was released, De Klerk should be remembered as well for having made the right call about ending Apartheid and releasing the man and then continuing to serve in government to attempt to make the transition work. History will be far less inclined to remember his name, but he also seems to have been the right man at the right time.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                De Klerk is like Gorbachev: the ruler who could have tried to maintain his power by brutal means (as his regime had a history of doing, though South Africa was far milder than the Soviet Union), and chose instead to accept change. Note, though, that Gorby was initially trying only to reform the Soviet Union while keeping power otherwise, unlike De Klerk. And Gorby is fondly remembered by his liberal admirers, while De Klerk (a better man) is virtually forgotten (as you point out yourself).

  8. David Ray says:

    What is it with liberals and putting flags at half-staff for undeserving entities??

    Chris Christie just couldn’t help his emotional outburst for Whitney Houston.
    I have no problem grieving for someone who sings our national anthem better than Rosanne Barr, but sorry; that doesn’t earn her honors for a fatal coke habit.

    As for the overrated Mandela who sang the same tunes as Schroeder and Chirac when we first responded to Islamic terrorism; I’m of the same opinion as Sheriff Joe Arpaio – Mandela’s not a U.S. citizen and, thus, undeserving of half-staff honors.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    You’ve got various nitwits around the web (apparently including some conservatives) trying to compare Nelson Mandela to George Washington. Well, first off, George Washington wasn’t a Communist. Nelson Mandela was. Here’s a good article by Bruce Walker that belongs next to Mr. Kung’s: Mandela the Communist”

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Add Andy McCarthy (not surprisingly) to the ranks of the sane regarding Nelson Mandela. He has a terrific article up today: Remembering Mandela, without Rose-Colored Glasses

    In this same article, Andy points us to another good article on the subject by Ron Radosh which is worth a read as well.

    And thanks again to Mr. Kung for really being the first person that I could find to try to set the record straight amongst all the politically correct Communist hugging.

    Selwyn also has an excellent article on the subject over at AmericanThinker. He’s taken the tact I would have if I had been better informed. In essence, the “apartheid” that existed was the natural fact of the Dutch and the English having created a modern civilization in the midst of primitive tribalism. There were inherent politics needed if that order were to be preserved against the tribalism.

    And, I would say, all this hand-wringing over apartheid (which I don’t endorse as a policy) is about wallpapering over the fact that blacks in South Africa had it better under the whites and that, left to their own devices, South Africa would have been just another backward tribal Stone-Age culture.

    The good that Mandela did is functionally non-existent. He’s simply a Leftist’s wet dream. It’s more revisionism. And as I think Mr. Kung said, a bad system in no way justifies a worse one (Communism).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I read the McCarthy article (I tend to read the websites in rough alphabetical order when I get started — Daily Caller, gocomics, gmail, Hotair (with sometimes a check on houseofsunny.tv if it’s been over a week since her last video), NRO, Rothenberg, Stubborn Things, Town Hall), and commented on it. Note that when Allen Drury interviewed Vorster for his book A Very Strange Society, the latter pointed out that blacks migrated from other countries (most of them still colonies at the time) in southern Africa to South Africa, so he figured he must be doing something right. Drury considered petty apartheid (all the individual restrictions) worse than the tribal homelands policy.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Hey, I’m just glad StubbornThings is in there somewhere. 😉

        My reading list is usually NRO, AmericanThinker, American Spectator, and then maybe an irregular look at Townhall and a few others. Many of these provide interesting further links such as this one from John O’Sullivan’s interesting article, Our Post-Christian Society which links to a somewhat interesting (but way too verbose) article by Kenneth Minogue titled “Christophobia” and the West. I eventually ran out of steam trying to read that. It makes the mistake that is common these days and that is to over-intellectualize and not get to the point.

        I like to think that I, or some of our cohorts here, do a much better, clearer, and succinct job of getting at what is rotting out our culture from within. Even so, he does make some good points:

        The failure of Communism was consecrated in the fall of the Soviet Union. The remarkable thing is that, as in most cases when prophecy fails, the faith never faltered. Indeed, an alternative version had long been maturing, though cast into the shadows for a time by enthusiasm for the quick fix of revolution. It had, however, been maturing for at least a century and already had a notable repertoire of institutions available. We may call it Olympianism, because it is the project of an intellectual elite that believes that it enjoys superior enlightenment and that its business is to spread this benefit to those living on the lower slopes of human achievement. And just as Communism had been a political project passing itself off as the ultimate in scientific understanding, so Olympianism burrowed like a parasite into the most powerful institution of the emerging knowledge economy—the universities.

        We may define Olympianism as a vision of human betterment to be achieved on a global scale by forging the peoples of the world into a single community based on the universal enjoyment of appropriate human rights. Olympianism is the cast of mind dedicated to this end, which is believed to correspond to the triumph of reason and community over superstition and hatred. It is a politico-moral package in which the modern distinction between morals and politics disappears into the aspiration for a shared mode of life in which the communal transcends individual life. To be a moral agent is in these terms to affirm a faith in a multicultural humanity whose social and economic conditions will be free from the causes of current misery. Olympianism is thus a complex long-term vision, and contemporary Western Olympians partake of different fragments of it.

        To be an Olympian is to be entangled in a complex dialectic involving elitism and egalitarianism. The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in self-ascribed rationality, generally picked up on an academic campus. Egalitarianism involves a formal adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of traditional authority, but with no commitment to taking any serious notice of what the people actually think. Olympians instruct mortals, they do not obey them. Ideally, Olympianism spreads by rational persuasion, as prejudice gives way to enlightenment.

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