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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...

http://peaceandsocialjustice.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-progressive-program-for-real-change.html


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.


"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Appropriating heroes: Mandela




·                                 Written by  Ken Fuller 
·                                 Tuesday, 08 July 2014 00:00
·                                 Daily Tribune
When he died last December, in the mainstream media there was wall-to-wall praise for Nelson Mandela the “statesman.” British PM David Cameron, for example, seemed to have forgotten that his own party (and its then leader Margaret Thatcher) had labeled the African National Congress (ANC) a “terrorist organization;” indeed, a younger Cameron had himself supported South Africa’s apartheid regime. And we were subjected to a string of homespun homilies from Bill Clinton, who failed to explain — the tame media never asked him to — why Mandela’s name was not removed from the US “terrorist” list during his presidency.

This amounted to an attempt to appropriate a national liberation hero by people who had never supported that struggle.

In praising Mandela, the obituary-writers in the conservative press distorted both history and the meaning of the man’s life. Choosing its words carefully, The Economist rated him as the “most inspirational” statesman of the 20th century for “many people, in many lands.” While conceding that he “made some common cause” with the South African Communist Party (SACP), the journal considered that “his writings were then full of sub-Marxist drivel.” Thus, the man who entered prison in 1962 was hardly deserving of praise, whereas it was heaped upon the man who emerged in 1990, as if some dramatic transformation had occurred on Robben Island.

This left The Economist unable to explain Mandela’s continuing warmth toward countries like Cuba, Libya and China, except by reason that they had supported him and the anti-apartheid struggle. Downplaying Mandela’s role in the overthrow of apartheid (and of course that of Cuba is simply ignored), the magazine considers that his “greater achievement was to see the need for reconciliation, to forswear retribution and then to act as midwife to a new, democratic South Africa, built on the rule of law.”

The SACP, obviously alert to this international attempt at hero-appropriation, stated after his death that Mandela, far from merely making “some common cause” with the party, had in fact been a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest. Following his release from prison, Mandela made no attempt to distance himself from the SACP, speaking to an audience of 50,000 at its re-launch in late July 1990.
In London in 2003, he unveiled a plaque commemorating Joe Slovo, the late general secretary of the SACP, and his wife Ruth First. Addressing the assembled crowd, Mandela made no secret of the fact that the Slovos had been communists; he went on to praise the SACP for its organizational skills and solidarity.

While the mainstream media ignored the role of Cuba in the liberation of southern Africa, Mandela was fulsome in his praise and gratitude. In 1975, after South African forces invaded Angola in support of the US-backed UNITA, the MPLA government sought Cuban assistance. Thousands of Cuban troops — all of them volunteers — arrived to preserve the independence Angola had just achieved from Portugal, and within months the South African forces were chased into Namibia, then a South African “protectorate.”

However, UNITA incursions into Angola continued and when in 1987 Angolan government forces moved south to crush the pro-Western rebels, the South Africans invaded once more to support their UNITA allies, and by early 1988 it seemed that they might inflict a major defeat on the Angolan army, but in March that year Cuban troops once more arrived and saved the day.

Apologists for the apartheid regime still claim that their troops won the battle of Cuito Cunavale; they may well have suffered less casualties than the Angolans and their Cuban allies, but the fact of the matter is that the engagement sealed the fate of the regime, which was forced to concede independence to Namibia in March 1990 and the following year to repeal the apartheid laws, leading to the first free elections in 1994 at which Mandela was elected president.

Shortly after his election, Mandela visited Cuba, telling his hosts that Cuito Cunavale “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor. The defeat of the apartheid army served as an inspiration to the struggling people of South Africa. Without the defeat of Cuito Cuanavale our organizations would not have been legalized. The defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale made it possible for me to be here with you today. Cuito Cuanavale marks the divide in the struggle for the liberation of southern Africa. Cuito Cuanavale marked an important step in the struggle to free the continent and our country of the scourge of apartheid.”

Mandela also noted that Cuban assistance had not been merely military: “What other country,” he asked, “can show as much selflessness as Cuba has in its relations with the African continent? How many countries in the world have benefited from the assistance of Cuban health workers and educators? What country has ever asked for Cuban assistance and been denied it? How many countries threatened by imperialism or struggling for their national liberation have been able to count on the help and support of Cuba?”

He had little time for those who, like the Cuban émigrés in Miami, sought to persuade him to speak out against alleged human rights abuses in Cuba. “Who are they to call for the observance of human rights by Cuba? They kept quiet for 42 years when human rights were being attacked in South Africa. Who are they now to be so concerned about human rights? They are not concerned with the violence in which 10,000 of our people have been killed in South Africa. Who are they to teach us about human rights?”

Next week, we’ll look at another example of hero-appropriation, this time a little closer to home: Jose Rizal.

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For those interested in all aspects of the South African liberation struggle, I recommend London Recruits (2012), edited by Ken Keable. This contains accounts by young white volunteers recruited by the African National Congress in London to undertake missions in South Africa. Fascinating.