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From: The Socialist issue 793, 8 January 2014: Axe austerity in 2014

Search site for keywords: Capitalism - Mandela - ANC - Socialist - Africa

Why capitalism mourned Mandela

Keith Dickinson

After Nelson Mandela's death, the articles in the Socialist on the fight against apartheid and on South African workers' struggles stood alone in clearly explaining the real history.

Some comments in the media coverage confirm our analysis. Nadine Gordimer, the white South African author and anti-apartheid campaigner reminded people that Mandela's release was against the backdrop of big strikes and protests in the townships.

Time magazine confirmed this unconsciously by reprinting an interview from 2012 with Francois Pienaar, the South African Rugby captain. "A lot of people thought we were heading toward civil war. Instead Mandela delivered, and South Africa embraced a very difficult transition".

This capitalist "transition" has meant continuing poverty and struggle for the masses while ANC leaders, including Communist Party and Cosatu trade union leaders, have made themselves millionaires.

They did this consciously, as was made clear in the Socialist's articles. This is why the leading representatives of the world's ruling class came to show appreciation to the saviours of capitalism at Mandela's funeral.

Newsnight interviewed the cynical British ambassador who had represented these capitalist interests in negotiating with the ANC and apartheid state leader de Klerk, for Mandela's release from prison.

After Diane Abbott MP reminded him that Margaret Thatcher had earlier said Mandela should be executed, he said that Thatcher was in favour of his release but insisted he tell Mandela, it was on condition that he "drops his silly nationalisation ideas".

Socialist Party members always gave support to the workers in southern Africa, including the ANC. But we offered critical support of their programme, strategy and tactics which were influenced by the Stalinists and proved disastrous.

In the 1980s we helped build the South African Labour Education Project, with others who, after returning from exile, were active members of the ANC.


In Britain, with limited resources, we took part in the Movement for Colonial Freedom (MCF) and Anti-Apartheid.

Our comrades at Sussex University even recruited Thabo Mbeki (later ANC leader and South African president) to the Labour Society in the early 1960s.

I was Liverpool Trades Council delegate to the Movement for Colonial Freedom and we organised a meeting to hear Joshua Nkomo, of what was then Rhodesia, speak.

His Zimbabwe African Peoples Union forces were having to combat South African government forces crossing the border to stop their independence struggle.

He explained to me that he had just walked out from the London negotiations after delivering his statement, as the British imperialists had proposed a constitution which would let them keep control through South Africa.

Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe discussed with leading trade unionists about how to build Cosatu in its early days.

But in the early 90s, after a long visit, Peter warned in his booklet that, as the ANC were not taking the socialist road, "how long will it be before an ANC government sends in police and army units against striking workers?".

Unfortunately this was tragically confirmed by the massacre of mineworkers at Marikana in 2012. This emphasises the importance of our help for the Democratic Socialist Party and its building of the broader mass workers' party (WASP).

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