Mandela — the class warrior

AS SOON as the death of Nelson Mandela was announced last Thursday the leaders of the western imperialist nations were ready with well-prepared speeches to praise him to the skies as a peacemaker and to boast about their brief encounters with him and to try to bury with words of praise the truth about Nelson Mandela the class warrior.

They have been clamouring loudly to drown out the memory that not so long ago many of them were describing Mandela as a terrorist and calling for him to be hung.

They have been trying to bury Mandela’s history as a communist and a leader of armed struggle against the monstrous injustices of apartheid — a system the imperialists of Washington and Westminster supported not long ago. That system would still exist if it were not for Mandela and his comrades in arms in the African National Congress and its military wing Umkhonte we Sizwe, the South African Communist Party and the Coalition of South African Trade Unions.

These are the people who worked together and, through armed action, through strikes and through endless marches and rallies — in defiance of murderous police brutality — forced the imperialist powers to negotiate the end of apartheid — or face being driven out of South African altogether. They declared themselves prepared to fight back and face torture, exile and death rather than give in to their oppressors.

Towards the end of his 27-year imprisonment Mandela was offered release on condition he surrendered his fight against apartheid several times but he refused. In the end they had to release Mandela and they had to negotiate the peaceful end of apartheid.

This was not the same as a socialist revolution, which we in the New Communist Party recognised at the time. But it was the removal of a huge level of injustice and a barrier to building the working class unity and consciousness necessary to win the fight against capitalism and imperialism — the mining companies, the bankers, the landowners and all the rest.

That fight is still a work in progress and has a long way to go. The broad alliance that was the ANC, and united all in the fight against apartheid, is now dividing as the contradictions between the capitalists and the working class take centre stage as they could not as long as the barrier of apartheid was in the way.

The western imperialists are in denial about that struggle as they are in denial that in every area of conflict Mandela sided with the working class against capitalism and imperialism. This is why he was on good, friendly terms with Castro and the Cuban people, with Libya under Gaddafi, with the Palestinians, with Iran, with Mugabe in Zimbabwe and with Democratic Korea.

The imperialists now praise Mandela as a quasi-religious saint for leading the anti-apartheid movement in putting aside anger and bitterness for all the suffering endured and entering the peace and reconciliation process. But as a class warrior Mandela knew that peace is always on the side of the working class struggle and that in war it is the workers who always suffer the most.

Mandela always acknowledged the consistent support he had from the SACP when the rest of the world did not want to know. In London the New Communist Party was active in support of the anti-apartheid struggle throughout. And when the South African secret Boss agents bombed the ANC printing press in London, it was the New Communist Party that was happy to make our own printing facilities available to them. We are proud to have been a part of their struggle.