By Steven Walker
Rolihlahla Mandela (Nelson was given to him by the white teachers at the church school he first attended) was rightly honored in December 2013 after a long period of ill-health. But what was striking in the worldwide publicity around his death, commemoration and celebration of his achievements was the absence of some simple facts. First, he was a life-long member of the South African Communist Party with Socialism informing all his pre-imprisonment days as a freedom fighter. The other fact was that he qualified as a Lawyer.
So we can note the odour of hypocrisy and re-writing of history by global politicians who seized upon his death to try to bathe in his reflected glory. Everybody wanted a piece of Mandela as his last days beckoned. Politicians from the developed World wanted a photo-opportunity to associate themselves with him. They represent countries who supported apartheid and broke United Nations sanctions, undermining efforts to persuade the South African white state to stop segregation and discriminating against non-white citizens. The Capitalists were doing good business on the back of racism so why change things? And the apartheid regime took their lessons from the Americans who found slavery, segregation and discrimination could somehow be wrapped in a Legal Constitution that laughably talked of 'all men being equal...and inalienable rights'.
Sanctions-busting against International Law was both lucrative business and delayed the liberation of the Black majority of South Africans. For example, The S.A. Air Force used Puma helicopters, C160 transport planes and Impala strike aircraft in 1969 against freedom fighters in South Africa and in neighbouring Angola where SWAPO were also fighting a war of liberation. Countries involved in producing or supplying these war machines included Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Germany- all in breach of the 1977 United Nations arms embargo designed to stop the apartheid state suppressing popular dissent.
Best of all has been the sight of American politicians parading their sombre respect at Mandela's funeral while conveniently forgetting their shameful history in supporting the Apartheid regime. America in fact had condoned Apartheid and resisted attempts by the UN to impose tougher sanctions. The links between communists in Angola and South Africa were strong, supported by Cuban troops and Soviet advisors. So when South Africa illegally annexed Namibia, against a ruling of the International Court of Justice in 1971, it provided the South African armed forces with a base from which to launch attacks on Angola's freedom fighters in 1981.
Naturally the Americans turned a blind eye as it suited US President Ronald Reagan's hysterical attempts to stop the 'spread of communism'. Prior to this on 26 June 1952 Mandela launched a campaign in Brighton Township, Port Elizabeth against the apartheid regime. The African National Congress, many of whose members were S.A. Communist Party activists, had become the focal point for all those fighting for repeal of racist laws that underpinned Apartheid. These included The Pass Laws; The Group Areas Act, The Suppression of Communism Act, and the Bantu Administration Act.
Within 5 months Mandela and others were brought to trial and found guilty of 'statutory communism'. Although they received suspended life sentences Mandela was later sentenced to life imprisonment on 11 June 1964, whilst serving another jail sentence, until his release on11 February 1990. The charges were related to his pivotal role in forming the underground military wing of the African National Congress- Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) which vowed to fight a guerilla campaign against the white minority rulers using sabotage and armed conflict. What the coverage of Mandela's death in the mainstream media overlooked was the fact that Mandela was a Communist. In a tribute to "a true revolutionary," the S.A. Communist Party issued this statement on its' website after his death:
"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 symbolize the monumental contribution of the South African Communist Party in our liberation struggle. The contribution of communists in the struggle to achieve the South African freedom has very few parallels in the history of our country. After his release from prison in 1990, Comrade Madiba became a great and close friend of the communists till his last days."
As president of South Africa, Mandela addressed the South African Communist Party on its 75th anniversary, referring to its "alliance" with the African National Congress and others ruling South Africa. While Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for 26 years incommunicado, the ANC and Communists never stopped fighting Apartheid. Joe Slovo- S.A. Communist Party leader helped Mandela found the MK and as a lawyer defended him in the 1964 court trial. It is fitting that Mandela should be recognised as a symbol of resistance and fortitude in the liberation struggle, but his Socialist ideology and the contribution of Communists in overthrowing white minority rule, deserves more recognition than has to date been reported.
Steven Walker is the author of "Fidel Castro's Childhood - The Untold Story" (Troubador Books).