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Nelson Mandela and Nonviolent Resistance

A holiday gift to the worshipers: Mandela was not NONVIOLENT.
People who were closely watching the corporate media tributes to Nelson Mandela had to assume that certain aspects of Mandela's life would be forgotten. Here's one example, from CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Fareed Zakaria (12/5/13):

BLITZER: Fareed, we're remembering Nelson Mandela, a world leader who made such, such a change, not only in South Africa, but, indeed, he inspired so many people around the world.

ZAKARIA: Absolutely, Wolf. I mean, you remember, this is a man born in 1918, born when the Sun never set on the British empire, and lived a long life, and was part of a kind of tradition of nonviolent resistance to colonial power and colonial oppression that was part of the Indian independence movement. He was greatly inspired by Gandhi, by the nonviolent struggle.

If you're familiar with Mandela's life story, you know this is misleading. Yes, Mandela initially pursued nonviolent resistance. But he led the armed wing of the African National Congress, a shift in strategy that Mandela and others believed would be more effective in their struggle against racist apartheid. It was that violent resistance that landed him in prison. In 1985, Mandela was offered a conditional release if he were to renounce violence; he refused.

Hours later on CNN, former Time editor Rick Stengel offered a more realistic assessment of Mandela's views:

One of most interesting things he ever said to me was this idea of nonviolence. Remember, we compare him to Gandhi, we compare him to Martin Luther King. He said: "I was not like them. For them, nonviolence was a principle. For me, it was a tactic. And when the tactic wasn't working, I reversed it and started" -that's a very important difference.


Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed that Most People Won’t Talk About 08.Dec.2013 13:46

Aviva Shen

Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed that Most People Won't Talk About

By Aviva Shen

In the desire to celebrate Nelson Mandela's life — an iconic figure who triumphed over South Africa's brutal apartheid regime — it's tempting to homogenize his views into something everyone can support. This is not, however, an accurate representation of the man.

Mandela was a political activist and agitator. He did not shy away from controversy and he did not seek — or obtain — universal approval. Before and after his release from prison, he embraced an unabashedly progressive and provocative platform. As one commentator put it shortly after the announcement of the freedom fighter's death, "Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view."

As the world remembers Mandela, here are some of the things he believed that many will gloss over.

1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism. Mandela called Bush "a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly," and accused him of "wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust" by going to war in Iraq. "All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil," he said. Mandela even speculated that then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan was being undermined in the process because he was black. "They never did that when secretary-generals were white," he said. He saw the Iraq War as a greater problem of American imperialism around the world. "If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care," he said.

2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a "fundamental human right." Mandela considered poverty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. "Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils," he said. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty: "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life," he said. "While poverty persists, there is no true freedom."

3. Mandela criticized the "War on Terror" and the labeling of individuals as terrorists without due process. On the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008 himself, Mandela was an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush's war on terror. He warned against rushing to label terrorists without due process. While forcefully calling for Osama bin Laden to be brought to justice, Mandela remarked, "The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenets of the rule of law."

4. Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans' struggles against "the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality." He reminded a larger crowd at Yankee Stadium that racism was not exclusively a South African phenomenon. "As we enter the last decade of the 20th century, it is intolerable, unacceptable, that the cancer of racism is still eating away at the fabric of societies in different parts of our planet," he said. "All of us, black and white, should spare no effort in our struggle against all forms and manifestations of racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head."

5. Mandela embraced some of America's biggest political enemies. Mandela incited shock and anger in many American communities for refusing to denounce Cuban dictator Fidel Castro or Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who had lent their support to Mandela against South African apartheid. "One of the mistakes the Western world makes is to think that their enemies should be our enemies," he explained to an American TV audience. "We have our own struggle." He added that those leaders "are placing resources at our disposal to win the struggle." He also called the controversial Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat "a comrade in arms."

6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions. Mandela visited the Detroit auto workers union when touring the U.S., immediately claiming kinship with them. "Sisters and brothers, friends and comrades, the man who is speaking is not a stranger here," he said. "The man who is speaking is a member of the UAW. I am your flesh and blood."

This article was published at NationofChange at:  link to www.nationofchange.org. All rights are reserved.

the bar is set so very low 08.Dec.2013 16:32


Mandela is not some Gandhi character the media is making him out to be.

He is/ was a very good man, but most of the events he is getting credit for happened while he was on ice for 27 years in prison. He had really nothing to do with changing them the way Gandhi did. Honestly if Mandela were white, would we really be having this week long funeral? I know its not Politically correct to say, but we seem to have set the bar so very low. Our own president probably wouldn't have made it out of the Illinois State Senate for being able to do nothing more than read a Teleprompter well, yet here we are..

Lets see how many people show up to Lech Walesa's funeral when it happens.

The bar is set low? 10.Dec.2013 09:03


Might be that saints are in very, very short supply. One takes what they can get, I guess, like filling stadiums for consistent losers.


Lew Church, PSU Progressive Student Union POB40011@juno.com

As someone who organized 5 anti-apartheid pickets in Portland (for an older Coke Boycott, against apartheid, coordinated by Tandi Gcabashe out of AFSC's Atlanta office), there are several thoughts about Mandela, violence and nonviolence, sanctions, boycotts and the African National Congress:

1. Corporate media want to make Ronnie Reagan (a very bad actor, inciting three wars in Central America against workers and peasants, vetoing unsuccessfully sanctions legislation against S. Africa's white power government, busting unions, and casting the lone vote, 110 to 1, against breast feeing in the UN vis-a-vis the old Nestle Boycott) -- and folks like Nelson Mandela, synonymous. That is, lying that Mandela fits some Mother Teresa/Gandhi/Dr. King ideal (none of them were saints, and one of them, Mother Teresa, was absolutlely anti-feminist) paradigm. Pretending that Reagan was some kind of great communicator -- he was elected twice!?! -- when Hitler was also a great communicator, etc. If all historical figures are simply "good" and vanilla, then history isn't relevant and organzing for change now doesn't matter. Chomskey, Gore Vidal, Medea Benjamin, Howard Zinn, among others, have written about this propaganda trajectory of mainstream media.

2. Complicity by Reagan and the West in profiting from and supporting white power/apartheid in Pretoria for decades, has not been discussed in the weeklong accolades on TV for Mandela. Some discussion has occurred about Mandela seeing violence v. nonviolence as a tactic -- but then, for many historical figures (Washington, Jefferson, Lenin, Trotsky, Robespierre, Danton) this discussion about nonviolence v. violence wasn't even on the table. If you wanted to overthrow right-wing governments (this is a Michael Parenti line of thought), you overthrew them -- whether it was the Tsars in Imperial Russia, the British against their US colonies, or the rich in France under Louis XVI).

3. Sugar-coating all social justice activists, from Mandela to Dr. King to even Gandhi, is a common practice of mainstream media. The more 'supernatural' these individuals are made out to be -- the less likely people, it is inferred, will join together to create unions, mass social movements, anti-globalization protests (like Seattle, against the WTO), much less an international political party on the Left that overthrows globalization, per se. One of the tactics that might be more 'relevant' for organizing, not selling commercials on commercial TV, is sanctions and boycotts. The salt boycott, the UK cloth boycott (Gandhi against the British), the Montgomery bus boycott, boycotts against white businesses in the north (Dr. King), boycotts and sanctions against white-power funding corporations like Coca-Cola who kept doing business, and lying about it, in racist S. Africa (Mandela and the ANC) -- these are 'tea party' (Boston prior to 1776, not Ted Cruz now) type "tactics" that help squeeze the rich in their pocketbooks.

4. At times, some would argue, most of the time, it helps to have arms and the option of violence (even if you are targeting property of the rich, not people, like ANC did, and like Earth First has done, at times). One the main criticism of Dr. Allende in Chile in 1973 is not having enough grassroots armed support in neighborhoods -- even after Allende ran for president of Chile 5 times before he finally won in a three-way race in 1970, the coalition of many parties and groups that put Allende over the top with Unidad Popular in his 5th attempt -- was insufficient to stop, in their tracks, the Pinochet-Nixon-Kissinger alliance.

5. When our campus-community coalition did five pickets in suport of the AFSC's anti-apartheid Coke Boycott in Portland, we picketed (1) Willamette Week's old office on 2nd and Burnside (now a Central City Concern office) for one-sided reporting (in our opinion, pro-apartheid reporting); (2) Domino's Pizza on NW 21st (which sold Coke, and was pro-life, as a corporation), (3) Macheezmo Mouse on NW 21st (which sold Coke), (4) the Coke syrup plant by the Laurelhurst Theater, and (5) the old Burger King on Broadway and Burnside (now a Central City Concern health clinic--a vast improvement). Of these five pickets, we had the most people at the Burger King picket, but when we picketed the Coke syrup plant off East Burnside [this was shortly after Mulageta Seraw was murdered by three members of Eastside White Pride], Portland ARA (Anti-Racist Action) helped do that particular picket.

6. In addition, Macheezmo Mouse's owner, Tiger Warren (soon to die in a plane crash with three of his kids), negotiated, in person, twice with us -- about kicking Coke out of his restaurant chain. However, Tiger Warren said that "If I get a personal letter from Nelson Mandela, I might consider dropping the Coke contract," and, "We [the restaurant chain] will decide what's right for apartheid." It was these quotes from the negotiations that WWeek refused to print, and we then picketed WWeek, to boot.

7. Tandi Gcabashe, coordinator of that Coke Boycott for American Friends Service Committee in Atlanta [there is an ongoing, longstanding Coke Boycott now for union rights in Colombia, we've had three different SINALTRAINAL union speakers from Colombia talk about that boycott at PSU] -- Tandi was Albert Luthuli's daughter, both members of Mandela's ANC. Luthuli, in fact, was ANC president before Mandela, and Luthuli, Mandela and Tutu are the three black winners of the Nobel Peace Prize for their anti-apartheid organizing.

8. Lastly, re 'nonviolence,' 30,000 people (mostly black) died in the non-titled "civil war" circa late 1980s between the ANC and PAC -- VERSUS DeKlerk's white minority party/army/cops and his paid/puppet ally, Inkatha Freedom Party (Buthelezay (sp?) was head of Inkata). Over the decades, the white minority government committed "violence" against blacks (murder in the streets, in jails, and via poverty) to blacks in S. Africa, from the early days after WWII to the Sharpeville Massacre, from the student unprising in the 70s (the whites killed 700 students in one protest then) to Steve Biko's murder -- the white power government (supported by the West, the US, the CIA, et al.) is NOT "brought to task" about whether THAT GOVERNMENT'S "violence v. nonviolence" was a "strategy" or a "tactic." They just killed people, blacks and white allies alike.


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