For the last couple of days, the corporate media has been a-gushing about Nelson Mandela, what a wonderful man he was, what an example for the ages he is, complete with a grotesquely pandering speech from the allegedly first Black Commander in Chief his own self, Barack Obama. I saw Colin Powell on one of the morning shows almost swooning as he described watching, “through the eyes of a soldier,” the white South African military chiefs escorting Mandela to the podium after he was elected President of South Africa.
I thought, “there’s something wrong here” because, when President Hugo Chavez, beloved by a clear majority of Venezuelans died, there were no such speeches from the likes of Obama, Powell, and others–hell! They didn’t even recognize the legitimate election of his successor! No American flags were lowered to half-mast to mourn Uncle Hugo.
So. I did some thinking and just a little researching, and found the answer rather quickly. The reason our financial aristocracy is mourning the death of Nelson Mandela is because they can no longer use this truly great man and patriot as a fig leaf to cover up what they are doing to the vast majority of the people of South Africa.
First, there’s this little jewel from a Trotskyite journalist over at the World Socialist Web Site. Mandela, no matter how heroically he suffered, gained power the way he did because the old apartheid government of South Africa saw the writing on the wall and knew they would lose the coming revolution and civil war. So they cut a deal. Intelligent of them, and kudos to the best aspects of Christianity put forward by Mandela himself, but in the end, Mandela and the African National Congress(ANC) either got hoodwinked or co-opted by the same people who had kept them under their jackboots for centuries.
Economically, little has changed. In fact, the working classes of South Africa have even a lesser share of the national wealth of that rich country now than they did under apartheid! A few Black South Africans, notably including Mandela’s own family, have raked it in. They got their cut, the old ruling class was largely left alone financially, and now it is Black men with guns in addition to white men with guns holding the South African working class down when they dare to object to abominable working conditions and demand to receive a greater share of the fruits of their own labor.
Then today, right here on FDL, Kevin Gosztola wrote an excellent post on the subject. From that post, the crux of the matter, IMO:
To the extent that Mandela allowed his principles and vision to be co-opted by capitalists of his country and permitted structures of economic apartheid to be maintained, he is an example to world leaders in power of how one can imprison a transformative organizer in the confines of their achieved compromises. Not willing to sacrifice what had been gained in terms of political rights for black Africans, the economic gains that could be made through the ANC’s Freedom Charter were largely abandoned after the constraints created by the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) were felt. (For more, see this chapter, “Democracy Born in Chains” by Naomi Klein from her book, The Shock Doctrine.)
Yeah, I read The Shock Doctrine, and found the chapter on South Africa one of the most depressing. The ANC leaders sold out their own people for their own personal gain. Much like union leaders in America and Europe have sold out their own people for their own personal gain for decades now.
It’s the old story. Capitalism, which celebrates greed as a virtue, uses the same to co-opt its opponents to its own purposes. It’s downright insidious. And there’s no clearer example of this than what has happened in South Africa. I don’t think Nelson Mandela himself ever wanted or intended this outcome for his country. I do think he got conned because he had the laudable goal of avoiding a very bloody civil war and the consequences thereof. I think he chose what he thought to be the lesser evil–the continuation of the capitalist system in South Africa–over what he thought to be the greater evil, a very nasty ethnic civil war.
A Hobson’s Choice if ever there was one.
I do not begrudge Nelson Mandela. I don’t even blame him for what has happened to his people. But I DO blame people like Obama and Dimon and Pelosi and Boehner and all the rest. There’s an important lesson here that should not be forgotten by Americans or Europeans or Chinese or anyone else who want to achieve true social and economic justice.
And that is: social and economic justice cannot be achieved so long as capitalism is allowed to survive. Period.
But now, in South Africa, the fig leaf of the Great Man, Nelson Mandela, is gone. Now, the financial aristocracy and their ANC toadies can no longer hide behind his example to justify their crimes. Now, the truth might be laid bare.
No wonder they’re mourning Mandela’s passing at the very ripe old age of 95.
And have a nice day.