By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, mourn the demise of Nelson Mandela last December 5. We express our condolences to his family, his comrades in arms and the entire people of South Africa. At the same time, we celebrate his great achievements as a revolutionary fighter in the service of the people of South Africa and the people of the world.
We honor him for his perseverance in fighting for the national and social liberation of the oppressedpeople of various races against the white colonial and racist minority rule of apartheid, for suffering 27 years of imprisonment, for his outstanding role as president of the African National Congress (ANC) and as president of South Africa in the dismantling of the apartheid regime and for establishing a new nation state based on the equality of the black majority and other races in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 as a result of the powerful struggle of the people of South African people under the leadership of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party (SACP), the upsurge of boycotts and other mass struggles and the armed struggle of the Spear of the Nation or Umkhonto we Sisweand the demand of the people of the world for the freedom of Mandela and his nation from the outrageous and revolting apartheid regime.
The white ruling class and the white minority government of De Klerk agreed to release Mandela from prison and allowed him and the ANC to take the lead in the making of a new constitution and a new government based on the equality of the races and electoral democracy in order to dismantle the apartheid regime. They offered a compromise because they and their imperialist masters feared the complete seizure of political power by the armed revolutionaries and the masses.
The compromise involved letting the black majority take their due role as a matter of democratic rightin the political system and letting the white minority continue in dominating the economy. For the sake of national reconciliation, restraintswere adopted against the punishment of human rights violators and against the nullification of the property rights of the white owners of the big farms, mines and other enterprises. It is left to the future whether the black bourgeoisie would grow strong enough to take over the political and economic system completely or the revolutionaries would continue the revolution against the exploiting classes.
The dismantling of the apartheid regime was a great achievement of Mandela, the revolutionary forces and the entire people of South Africa. It was accomplished in the wake of the social turmoil in China, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of revisionist-ruled regimes in Eastern Europe. Mandela and the revolutionary forces of the ANC, the SACP and the Spear of the Nation made the necessary and possible advance according to their best judgment and on the basis of self-reliance.
The ANC and the SACP had enjoyed the support of the Communist Party of China and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union until the 1980s, including the decades when these two parties engaged in an ideological debate on the issue of Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism. The dramatic events from 1989 to 1991 were a big letdown to the ANC and SACP. Both of them found it tactically necessary to deny that Mandela had been a communist. They deemed declaring him a communist as unnecessary or even counterproductive.
It is fine that the SACP and the ANC have after his death declared that Mandela was a communist at the time of his arrest in 1962 and that he had risen to the position of being a member of the Central Committee and the Executive Committee of the South African Communist Party. In the 1950s, he had avidly read and studied the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. He became a member of the SACP and accepted the revolutionary program for the national and social liberation of the people of South Africa.
He was inspired by Mao’s theory and practice of people’s war. And he co-founded the Spear of the Nation as the people’s army of the ANC and the SACP. He understood and accepted the necessity of the new democratic revolution as the prerequisite to socialism, which in turn is the transition stage to communism. His writings attest to the range of his revolutionary ideas and aspirations.
Like all his comrades and the people, Mandela knew both the necessity and greatness of dismantling the apartheid system in the 1990s. They were also aware of the limits consequent to compromise and avoidance of armed conflict. No matter how great and necessary was the dismantling of the apartheid system, this did not yet amount to completing the stage of new democratic revolution and proceeding to the next stage of socialist revolution. Definitely, the objective of nationalizing and socializing the political and economic system was not achieved.
At any rate, it is to the credit of Mandela as president of the ANC (1991 to 1997) and as president of South Africa (1994-1995) that he successfully led the process of dismantling the apartheid system. He led a government of national unity that worked against racial injustices, gross inequalities and poverty and adopted progressive laws and measures to encourage land reform, social measures to ameliorate the impoverished conditions of the masses, expand health care, education, better housing and other social services.
He instituted the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and democratic position of South Africa in international relations. He stood in solidarity with the anti-imperialistgovernments of Asia, Africa and Latin America. He praised Fidel Castro of Cuba, Moammar Qaddafi of Libya and Yasser Arafat of Palestine as his comrades in arms in the anti-imperialist struggle and thanked them for supporting the struggle of the people of South Africa. He was an active and articulate secretary-general of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998-99.
While he was president of South Africa and after his retirement, Mandela spoke out to defend the national independence of countries under attack by the imperialists. He strongly opposed the US war of aggression against Iraq and condemned US imperialism for committing unspeakable atrocities in the world. He advocated freedom from poverty as a fundamental right and described poverty as evil as slavery and apartheid. He criticized the so-called war on terror and terrorist labeling as violation of the right to due process. Showing extreme malice towards him, the US kept the name of Mandela in its terrorist list up to 2008.
Following his example and influence, South Africa continues to take anti-imperialist positions in various international organizations, including the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, African Union, G-20 and BRICS economic bloc of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. In their most serious ill-wishing, the US and other imperialist powers are speculating that the generation of Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela is past and a new generation of waning anti-imperialism has emerged.
Even before Mandela is buried, the imperialists and their puppets, their ideologues and publicists are loudly misrepresenting him in their panegyrics, canonizing him according to their false claims and using his name to serve counterrevolution and pro-imperialism. They claim that he was averse to communism and the just cause of revolutionary violence against oppression and exploitation; and that he achieved victory without need for the armed revolutionary movement of the people.
The revolutionary legacy of Nelson Mandela, the ANC and the SACP is immortal and will continue to inspire the continuation of the revolution. The crisis of the world capitalist system and the bankruptcy of neoliberalism and neocapitalism are inflicting more intolerable suffering on the people of the world and driving them to rise up against their oppressors. Revolutionary movements are surging forward to create a fundamentally new and better world of greater freedom, democracy, social justice, all-round development, international solidarity and peace.