Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Nelson Mandela died today. There is not much that I can add to all the words that will be written about him. But I thought that this old TV interview from 1961, when he was in hiding and before he was captured by the apartheid South African government and put in prison for 27 years before being released in 1990, was interesting.

Mandela will rightly go down in history as one of the major political figures of the 20th century. While he is someone I have personally admired from boyhood, we should resist the temptation to canonize him. John Pilger describes how he dabbled in neoliberalism as president of South Africa but that after he retired from politics he seemed to regain some of his old fire.


  1. colnago80 says

    He certainly dabbled in Israel bashing after he retired, right along with his pal, Desmond Tutu.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism includes a fascinating chapter about the end of apartheid, which involved parallel negotiations: Mandela leading the ANC in talks about political and constitutional changes, while his future successor Thabo Mbeki parleyed on economic arrangements (with much less public attention in or out of South Africa).

    Short version: Mbeki bought into the whole neoliberal plan, thus tying Mandela’s hands regarding nearly all concrete measures to improve the lives of the impoverished majority, frustrating plans to renew the economy, and subverting the revolution to the greater advantage of plutocrats domestic and foreign.

  3. 2up2down2furious says

    I can’t even imagine why Mandela would do something so horrible and irrational. It isn’t as if Israel has ever engaged in bashing of Africans or supported the National Party regime in South Africa or anything.

  4. says

    At least Mandela died a civilian in the democracy he left intact, as a speaker and a thinker.

    Robert Mugabe will eventually die as a thug dictator. He will be remembered as another Idi Amin.

  5. 2up2down2furious says

    An important point. Much of South Africa’s political stagnation since the end of apartheid stems from the victory of rightist elements within the ANC, especially Thabo Mbeki. I’ve often said that Thabo Mbeki is to Govan Mbeki what Hank Jr. is to Hank Sr.– a total betrayal of his father’s legacy.

  6. mnb0 says

    “we should resist the temptation to canonize him”
    Of course. He was human like everybody else. In my eyes it makes him just more admirable.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @colnago80 : Oh for pity’s sake!

    Yeah, Mandela did indulge in a bit of Israel bashing on a few ocassions but there was just so much more to him and his life and accomplishments than that.

    There are times and places to note Mandela’s Israel bashing episodes but this was neither. That was a very churlish, petty and terrible first comment on the passing of a man who may have had his faults but will still go down as one of the greatest people of the past century and perhaps the greatest South African in history.

  8. says

    Nelson Mandela was a great man and a great politician. Impossible to evaluate all of his merits. Nelson you will never be forgotten.
    Rest in peace Nelson Mandela

  9. M can help you with that. says

    “Zionist” is too broad ; according to lumbago (I heard someone say that one of his male-line ancestors had that name, so it’s totes legitimate to call him that), even cultural zionists are JINO Nazis. Only people who demand the wholesale slaughter of Arabs and Iranians and ritual bathing in the blood of Arab and Iranian children are non-Nazis.

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