Dissenting views on Nelson Mandela

Here are two excellent dissenting pieces on Nelson Mandela by John PIlger and Jonathan Cook.

I have a quibble with Cook’s piece. Cook wrote

It is an indication of what Mandela was up against that the man who fought so hard and long against a brutal apartheid regime was so completely defeated when he took power in South Africa. That was because he was no longer struggling against a rogue regime but against the existing order, a global corporate system of power that he had no hope of challenging alone.”

The most devastating part, to me, of Naomi Klein’s “Sock Doctrine” book is her depiction of the ANC’s turn to neoliberalism and how they rolled that out to their supporters. In fact, the key passage from that chapter can be found online:

As in Bolivia, where the shock therapy program was prepared with all the secrecy of a covert military operation, in South Africa only a handful of Mbeki’s closest colleagues even knew that a new economic program was in the works, one very different from the promises they had all made during the 1994 elections. Of the people on the team, Gumede writes, “all were sworn to secrecy and the entire process was shrouded in deepest confidentiality lest the left wing get wind of Mbeki’s plan.”32 The economist Stephen Gelb, who took part in drafting the new program, admitted that “this was ‘reform from above’ with a vengeance, taking to an extreme the arguments in favour of insulation and autonomy of policymakers from popular pressures.” 33 (This emphasis on secrecy and insulation was particularly ironic given that, under the tyranny of apartheid, the ANC had pulled off a remarkably open and participatory process to come up with the Freedom Charter. Now, under a new order of democracy, the party was opting to hide its economic plans from its own caucus. [my emphasis]

Rather than collaborate extensively with their popular bases, as they had in the past, about the ANC policy platform, the turn to neoliberalism was plotted like a surprise attack on ANC supporters. Its very intention was to confuse and demoralize. Pilger’s article provides details about the ANC’s back room deals with apartheid profiteers that would trump previous commitments to the South African majority.

Could Mandela, like Hugo Chavez, have withstood the loss of numerous high level allies within the ANC by not betraying his people, and the demonization of the local and international media to name only two of the challenges he would have faced?

It is hard to say, but if Mandela would have failed, he would not have failed alone.

Jean Bertrand Aristide once said that “it is better to be wrong with the people than right without them”. Post-Apartheid, it seems to me that Mandela made the worst possible choice – to be wrong without the people.

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