While conservatives debate whether former South African President and African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela’s efforts to eradicate apartheid outweigh his one-time endorsement of violent terrorist tactics and shady alliances with despots, liberals seem curiously untroubled by the revelation that he used to be a communist. In fact, it seems to make them like him even more.
In 2011, British historian Stephen Ellis documented Mandela’s one-time membership in the South African Communist Party and his ideological affinity with such communist leaders as Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Joe Slovo. This was in addition to Mandela’s known political alliances with American foes such as Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas, and Muammar Gaddafi.
So what do liberals think of Mandela’s flirtation with communism? In a purportedly tough-minded historical assessment titled “Nelson Mandela, Communist,” New York Times columnist Bill Keller asked, “Does it matter?” and then, implying that it doesn’t, sneered, “The news excited some critics and historical revisionists, who claimed it exposed the A.N.C. as a Stalinist front… [But] Mandela’s Communist affiliation… doesn’t justify the gleeful red baiting.”
Keller went on: “Mandela’s brief membership in the South African Communist Party… say[s] less about his ideology than about his pragmatism… The early collaboration of the A.N.C. with the Communists was a marriage of convenience… Communist ideology undoubtedly seeped into the A.N.C., where it became part of a uniquely South African cocktail with African nationalism, Black Consciousness, religious liberalism and other, inchoate angers and resentments and yearnings.”
In other words, communism in the A.N.C. wasn’t an isolated pollutant that trickled into an otherwise pure mountain spring. It was a contaminant that blended in with the roiling cauldron of other ideological toxins that made up the A.N.C., including Black Nationalism, Black Liberation Theology, and socialism.
Keller continued: “Perhaps the most important and lasting personal effect of the South African Communist Party on Mandela was that it made him… a committed nonracialist. The A.N.C. in its formative years admitted only blacks. For a long time, the Communist Party was the only partner in the movement that included whites, Indians and mixed-race members. That relationship is one of the main reasons Mandela cited for his rejection of black nationalism and his insistence that multiracialism remain at the heart of the A.N.C. ethic.”
So the definitive 20th century international hero for multiracialism and racial justice didn’t reject racism on his own, but only once his organization was infested by communist doctrine. That’s how high-minded Mandela’s philosophy was: communism actually improved it, rather than making it worse.
For that reason, one wonders whether the American left is more excited by Mandela’s multiracialism or his one-time affinity for redistributing wealth.
For example, New York City Mayor-elect and self-described socialist Bill de Blasio, who supported Nicaragua’s Sandinistas after they left power, and honeymooned in communist Cuba, extolled to a Harlem audience the virtues of Mandela’s campaign against economic inequality—which coincidentally parallels De Blasio’s raison d’être. He urged the crowd, “If you believe in progressive values… all you need to do is look to the example of Nelson Mandela.” Could Mandela’s death have come at a more propitious time for the candidate who campaigned on the promise of grinding his heel into the faces of New York’s high-income earners and tossing their custom-made suits to the crowd?
For his part, Obama recently announced his intention to spend the rest of his Presidency spreading the wealth around—at least when he’s not busy slobbering all over communist leaders like Raul Castro. In Obama’s view, income inequality is the greatest factor holding back our economy. Not sluggish business investment, not stifled entrepreneurial spirit, not excessive government regulation or anemic job creation or artificially low interest rates. No, the most important influence on our economy is hard-working capitalists getting paid too damn much.
Similarly, Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats have renewed their push for raising the minimum wage for burger flippers to the starting salary of high school teachers.
And David Simon, creator of Obama’s favorite TV show “The Wire,” with its relentless left-wing propagandizing, recently wrote a long, incoherent essay in The Guardian arguing that America should become more Marxist.
As Michael Goodwin noted in the New York Post, the Democratic Party has no more centrists. The closest equivalents exist within the Republican Party, and they’re called RINOs.
Today’s Democrats aren’t troubled by Mandela’s former communist sympathies, because they share them.
- South African Communist Party Confirms Mandela Was a Member (blacklistednews.com)
- Mandela one of the world’s communist greats – SACP confirms his membership (praag.org)
- Why Mandela’s Communist Party membership is important (newstatesman.com)
- South African Communist Party Admits Mandela’s Leadership Role (thenewamerican.com)
- Comrade Mandela’s Secret Life (trevorloudon.com)