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What did you do in the struggle, daddy? The real story of Nelson Mandela and the communists

10 December 2013

10 December 2013

Reading the obituaries last Friday, one was left with impression that Nelson Mandela’s only flaws were fastidiousness and a tendency to flirt with every pretty girl he met. Otherwise, he was exemplary in every respect, and of course a human right activist in the exactly the sense that Western liberals find winsome and cuddly. ‘Flawless,’ said Archbishop Tutu. ‘One of the true giants,’ said Blair.  Even the Tory Cameron could barely contain himself, describing Mandela as ‘the embodiment of grace.’  You had to have sharp ears to hear the discordant note struck by Johannesburg’s Business Day, which a ran a front-page story headlined, ‘South African Communist Party admits Mandela was a member’.

Better late than never, I suppose.  Mandela’s awkward secret has been doing the rounds since 2005, when veteran communist Hilda Bernstein let slip the bagged cat in conversation with Irish-American historian Padraig O’Malley.  ‘He denies it,’ said Mrs. Bernstein, ‘but I know for a fact that Nelson Mandela was in the party,’ by which she meant South Africa’s ultra-orthodox, Soviet-aligned Communist Party. This made sense to Russian historian Irina Filatova, who took it for granted that the Kremlin would never have financed Mandela’s insurrection unless he was under party discipline. Proof was lacking but Filatova dug it up, only to be beaten to publication by Anglo-Dutch academic Stephen Ellis, who broke the story in 2011. Now Filatova has come forth with a book of her own (The Hidden Thread, co-authored with Apollon Davidson) that features, among other clinchers, a conversation with a senior Soviet apparatchik who says Mandela’s name always appeared on the Kremlin’s lists of the SACP’s top leaders.

In short, the Communist Party’s admission on 6 December simply confirmed what was already known and forced the world’s great newspapers at last to pay attention to one of the biggest lies of the 20th Century – a painful exercise for commentators who saw Mandela as a civil rights leader in the Martin Luther King style. I would ordinarily be tempted to jeer at them, but I’ll refrain; a great man is dead and besides, last Friday’s revelation invites the telling of a story that is more interesting than any of us.

Let’s start this in Pretoria, in the closing days of the epic Treason Trial of l956-1961. Mandela and his fellow accused have spent nearly five years in the dock, dozing and yawning as prosecutors attempt to prove they’ve been plotting violent overthrow of the apartheid government. Presiding Judge Rumpff is a grumpy Afrikaner conservative, servant of a white supremacist state that Mandela is apt to describe as ‘facist’.  Most observers believe a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion, but they’re wrong: on March 30, 1961, Rumpff rules that the prosecution has failed to prove its case and that the accused are free to go.

This is a shocking outcome, given the enormous resources the apartheid state has devoted to this trial. Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd loves telling foreigners that most blacks support his racial policy, and that only a handful of misguided trouble-makers are against it. Rumpff’s judgement annihilates the argument. It also shows that South Africa is still a land of law. Judges are willing to rule against authoritarian state. The press is relatively free, and even Mandela concedes that police torture is at this stage unheard-of.  All told, Judge Rumpff’s verdict seems to show that peaceful change is still possible in South Africa.

But not in Nelson Mandela’s estimation.  After the acquittal, he returns to his Soweto home. Winnie sees him standing at the gate, chatting to some political cronies. At last, she thinks. At last Nelson has returned to her and her two baby daughters. At last her marriage will achieve a semblance of normality. But then a comrade comes in and asks her to pack a suitcase for her husband, and by the time she goes outside, Nelson has gone – vanished into the underground without even saying goodbye.  I could never fathom this strange little story until Stephen Ellis revealed what was really on Mandela’s mind that day.

We’ve always been told that Mandela’s was still hoping for peace at this point, still begging Verwoerd to heed the ANC’s plea for a national convention. Now it seems that the decision to go to war had already been taken – not by the ANC, but by its saturnine ally, the Communist Party, which endorsed military action at a secret meeting six months earlier, shortly after the Sharpeville massacre.  The proposed turn to violence was strongly opposed by Chief Albert Luthuli, president of the ANC and a leading candidate for that year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

It was at more or less this moment, says Ellis, that Mandela was secretly recruited into the Communist Party and then co-opted onto its innermost central committee. One of his allotted tasks, says Ellis, was to ‘bounce’ Luthuli into following the lead the Communists had taken.

Luthuli was not a pacifist per se, but he believed that non-violent options remained viable. Like many in the ANC and even the SACP, he also believed it would be folly to start a war at a point when the ANC was still struggling to organize effective protests. Luthuli and Mandela had it out in June 1961, at a tumultuous meeting of the ANC’s national executive in Tongaat, Natal. The debate raged through the night, but when the sun rose, Mandela was triumphant; the ANC had authorised him to launch a military wing, and to start making preparations for war against the apartheid state.

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This is Mandela’s version – or more accurately, one of his versions. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, he acknowledges that the outcome of his clash with Luthuli was actually very messy.  ‘The policy of the ANC would still be that of non-violence,’ he writes, and the new military organization, known as Mkhonto we Sizwe or MK, was required to be ‘entirely separate from the ANC’. This suggests that Mandela actually won just one concession: Luthuli would turn a blind eye to his military adventure provided it did not damage the mother organization. Even this was rejected out of hand by Communist lawyer Rowley Arenstein, who had a ringside seat for these events. ‘Luthuli was simply brushed aside,’ he said. ‘Adoption of armed struggle by the ANC was the act of a Johannesburg SACP clique, a hijacking’.

As for the moderate African democrats who populate the official MK creation myth, they appear to be entirely fictitious: according to Irina Filatova, every single member of MK’s High Command was secretly in the Communist Party. Their plans called for a two-stage assault on power – a National Democratic Revolution to sweep aside the white minority government, followed by a second revolution in which the Marxist-Leninist vanguard would take control and establish a ‘vigorous dictatorship’ over class enemies. As a new recruit, Mandela had a lot of catching up to do.  Ever the perfectionist, he borrowed seminal Red texts and made copies or summaries in his own hand.  One of these, found in his underground hideout two years later, was poignantly titled, ‘How to be a Good Communist’.

The first MK bombs went off on December 16, 1961, and Mandela moved on to the next phrase of his campaign, slipping across the border into British Bechuanaland. ‘My mission in Africa’, he writes in Long Walk to Freedom, ‘was to arrange political and economic support for our new military force and more important, military training for our men in as many places on the continent as possible.’

Towards this end, Mandela proceeded to newly-independent Tanzania, where he was received by President Julius Nyerere, a staunch anti-imperialist. Mandela looked upon Nyerere as a natural ally, but Nyerere’s affections were already spoken for: he believed that MK’s armed uprising should be postponed until Robert Sobukwe was released from prison. (Sobukwe was Mandela’s main rival, leader of the Pan-Africanist Congress or PAC, a group of militant African nationalists who’d broken away from the ANC because it was allegedly controlled by whites.)

From Dar es Salaam, Mandela flew to Ethiopia to attend an important conference of African leaders. There he met Kenneth Kaunda, who was about to become the president of an independent Zambia. In Long Walk, Mandela writes that Kaunda also had doubts ‘about our alliance with white Communists’. This was Mandela’s first inkling of something entirely unanticipated: ‘Communism was suspect not only in the West, but in Africa. This was something I was to hear over and over on my trip.’

When Mandela objected to Kaunda’s stance, he was referred to Kaunda’s deputy, Simon Kapepwe, whose view was even more sceptical. ‘We have heard disturbing reports from the PAC to the effect that MK is the brainchild of the Communist Party,’ said Kapepwe, ‘and that the idea of the organization is merely to use Africans as cannon-fodder.’ In Long Walk, Mandela claims to have been horrified by this ‘damnably false’ allegation, but in truth, Kaunda and Kapepwe were onto something: MK was indeed a creation of the Communist Party, and the Communist Party was indeed whitish in hue; according to Ellis, the SACP conference that resolved to take up arms took place in a posh white suburb, and only eight or nine of 25 delegates in attendance were black Africans.

Mandela appears to have been shaken by all this talk of stoogery. On arrival in London he rendezvoused with Yusuf Dadoo, presented in Long Walk as an exiled anti-apartheid activist, but in reality, a fellow senior member of the communist underground. ‘It was not a happy reunion,’ Mandela writes. ‘One African leader after another questioned us about our relations with white and Indian communists, sometimes suggesting that they controlled the ANC.’ Many had also expressed a preference for the Sobukwe’s PAC, a development that seriously dented Mandela’s hauteur. The solution proposed by Mandela and his former law partner Oliver Tambo, now living in London, caused Dadoo’s hair to stand on end.

At the time, the organizational structure of the ANC alliance mimicked the social divisions imposed by apartheid. The ANC was a blacks-only body. Indian supporters were required to join the South African Indian Congress; mixed-race people were steered into the Coloured People’s Congress, and whites into the Congress of Democrats.

Collectively, these four organizations formed the so-called Congress Alliance, an entity whose visibility often eclipsed that of the ANC. In other words, you often had whites and Indians who weren’t actually members of the ANC taking decisions and making statements on the ANC’s behalf.  Mandela and Tambo wanted to put an end to that, which meant the ANC taking a more independent, Africanist line.

Dadoo was appalled. ‘He believed that Oliver and I were changing ANC policy, that we were preparing to depart from the non-racialism that was the core of the Freedom Charter,’ writes Mandela. He assured Dadoo that the changes he envisaged were merely cosmetic, but still, he was moving in a direction that the SACP would have found threatening, and moving very fast indeed. His first act, on arriving back in Johannesburg, was to inform the ANC’s working committee ‘of the reservations I had encountered about cooperation with whites and Indians and particularly Communists.’ A day later, he left for Durban to convey his views to ANC president Luthuli. The chief’s response was not recorded, but the Rivonia Trial offered an intriguing glimpse of the great man’s last hours of freedom.

Wearing military uniform, Mandela met with MK’s regional commanders in a ‘beautiful new house’ overlooking the sea. According to Bruno Mtolo, an MK bomb-maker who later turned state witness, Mandela urged his troops to disguise their Communist affiliation if they were sent into Africa. ‘He warned us not to let African states know we were Communist,’ said Mtolo, adding that ‘they will not help us otherwise.’ In a 2007 memoir, Lord Joel Joffe, a member Mandela’s defence team, dismissed Mtolo’s claims as anti-Communist slander. Like thousands of others, Lord Joffe was a bit naïve.

When Mandela appeared in court to face charges of leaving the country illegally, he was at least outwardly a changed man. Prior to this point, Mandela had always been a cosmopolitan man-about-town, famous for his smart suits and upmarket style. Now he was dressed in Xhosa tribal finery – beads, a flowing robe, even a flywhisk of the sort traditionally sported by African chiefs. For Communists, these were the trappings of a backward and decidedly unscientific feudalism; the trappings, in fact, of the dreaded bourgeois African nationalist.  Mandela seemed to be signalling that he’d undergone some sort of conversion, the precise nature of which we can only guess at.

At one of his trials, Mandela was asked about his relationship with the Communist Party. He replied, ‘Well, I don’t know if I did become a Communist. If by Communist you mean a member of the Communist Party and a person who believes in the theory of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, and who adheres strictly to the discipline of the party, I did not become a Communist.’

This may be the most truthful lie ever told. Mandela never used Marxist jargon when speaking off the cuff. If anything, he sounded Churchillian.  Only when reading text foisted on him by committee did he sound Soviet, and then his whole demeanor would change, becoming wooden and stiff and possibly even resentful, as if he were thinking, what is this nonsense? As a rational man, Mandela cannot have failed to notice that the Communist underground was peopled largely by middle-class neurotics, constantly scanning one another’s syntax for signs of ideological deviance and gathering material for their memoirs. They were not the most promising revolutionaries, but they had access to things Mandela desperately needed —  money, cars, safe houses, the services of scores of dedicated volunteers and above all, the resources of two Communist superpowers. For one heady season, they seemed to be offering a short cut to the end he yearned for. He took it.

Did he regret it? Probably not. He wasn’t that sort of man.  All that is clear is that Mandela’s brief infatuation with the Red faith delivered the ANC into the hands of Communist hardliners who exercised almost total control over the organization for decades thereafter. This in turn caused the Boers in Pretoria to adopt a policy of merciless reaction.  The upshot was a bloody stalemate that endured until in 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall heralded the collapse of the Soviet empire. Realizing that without Soviet backing the ANC would have to abandon its dream of military victory, SA president F.W. de Klerk unbanned the liberation movements and freed Mandela. Within weeks, South Africa had resumed its unsteady quest for a happy ending.

Rian Malan is the author of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and plays guitar for the gypsy jazz group Hot Club d’Afrique

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  • jnrb

    The mindset in the old South Africa was that you voted for the NP because they were anti-communists. You didn’t vote for the marginalisation of the blacks and for active discrimination against them. You sent your son to the defence force for two years to help fight the communists on the border and that was it. Maybe naive but also true at the time.

  • Partyforever

    Mandela was arrested with 210,000 Soviet made hand grenades and 48,000 mines after a tip-off by the CIA. They had committed 213 acts of sabotage. As far as I know, no one was hurt in the incidence. But he owed the Soviet Union billions of dollars by 1962.

    All his statements are communist linguistics. They may be right in terms of their accusations, but if you look at the funding, about what was happening in the rest of Africa – the ANC praised the Marxist takeover of the entire Africa. So who do you want to believe? Mandela was friends with Castro, which spent billons of dollars “helping him”. Qaddafi. Arafat. The IRA. They wanted democracy, equal human rights – many wanted communism and the nationalisation of British and US businesses, especially the mines and banks – as called for in their founding charter. They were very anti-West. Anti-Imperialistic. Anti-colonialist. The first ANC member to visit Moscow was in 1927. When JT Gumede, the leader of the ANC met Joseph Stalin and exclaimed: “I’ve seen the new Jerusalem.”

    Google African National Congress Moscow 1927

    • Bonkim

      Good for them that they stood up for a foreign racist tyranny.

      • Partyforever

        Have a look at every African country that did – see what they look like today. They ANC had extreme Marxists within their ranks – Red Army generals with ranks as high as Brigadier Generals. Those African countries that did succeed and that did adopt Marxism, became the poorest in the world. Zimbabwe 90% unemployment, 250 million percent inflation. They chased all the whites out. Tanzania, Zambia, Zaire… It is like comparing the US against Afghanistan. That’s how South Africa looks compared to those countries that did adopt Marxism. So there’s absolutely no comparison to apartheid and Marxism, you can judge as much as you like, until you do the research. The world’s 9th largest stock exchange, 15th largest economy – the rest is 1% of those achievements.

        • Bonkim

          People have choices – and the countries you mention are tyrannies and nothing to do with Marxism. Social organisation is the key and failed societies will be eliminated in due course. I am not judging one or the other – equally who benefited from Apartheid – the Africans were no better being slaves in their own lands.

  • John welsh

    What would be interesting to know, is how ‘communist’ is the ANC now. The form of government in SA appears more like the democratic centralism of China – which SACP has always had close relations with.
    On the cover of my copy of Stephen Ellis’s book is a great photo of ANC/SACP leaders having tea with Mao.

  • Peter Stroud

    It is good to see the Spectator allowing comments on articles concerning Mandela The Daily Telegraph seems frightened to do so.

    But does it matter if Mandela was a communist, way back in the past? There are many respectable politicians in the democracies, who flirted with communism when young.

    • Noa

      Yes, it matters very much, both in RSA and in the UK. In the former Communism shaped and funded the post apartheid South Africa, creating the present intolerant, corrupt and now failing state. A very different narrative could and should have prevailed.
      Similarly in the UK New Labour came to be dominated by the closet communists who joined it after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. In large consequence of the application of their ideologies and world view from 1997 the legal system, insititutions and culture of the UK have been systematically and probably irrevokably changed and our democratic rights as subjects gravely reduced.

    • Bonkim

      and Communism itself has transformed – China now is socialist capitalism in action. Externally capitalistic taking full advantage of the World trade freedoms whilst trying to rein in any internal conflicts – but by and large the chinese have given useful employment, bread and shelter to their vast numbers – at the expense of individual freedoms that we consider the norm in the West – good for them and most Chinese are getting on with competing in the market place, educating themselves instead of worrying too much about the flaws in their political system..

  • mark tayler

    David Cameron is now celebrating secret Communist Mandela.

    No wonder we need UKIP.

    • Bonkim

      Nigel Farage is more of a socialist than Cameron.

  • David Booth.

    I’m not all that convinced Nelson Mandela was that popular with ordinary black South Africans, there were thousands of empty seats in that stadium which the BBC went to great pains to suggest were only empty because it was raining!

    • James Lovelace

      Not just empty seats, but those who were there were booing the current ANC President. As someone pointed out elsewhere, South Africa is probably only 10 years behind Zimbabwe, en route to be flushed down the toilet of civilisation.

      • Bonkim

        How do you define apartheid era SA as civilized? Mining Barons and farmers that took land away from the local population can hardly be called a heartland of civilization.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    I wondered how long it would before a Spectator scribe came out with a Mandela character assassination.

    • James Lovelace

      Better then the real assassinations favoured by your hero Mandela and his cronies.

  • victor67

    Mandela was never a Communist but he had few friends in the West in the 1950s and 60s . He made alliances with Revolutionary Communists at home and abroad because the” freedom loving” west were propping up the racist system that was oppressing him and his people. It was desperate times and a fight for survival and he needed allies in the Eastern Bloc and Cuba.
    Easy to judge him from the comfortable position of the ruling elite.

  • Bonkim

    To cut a long story short – so what if he had enrolled in the Communist Party?

    In the 50s and 60s it was only the socialists and communists that spoke of equality, and human rights – the rest of the polarized world was in the thick of the cold war and in the US they were labelling all and sundry communists and anti-American activists.

    Hot wars were going on in Mozambique, Angola, and Namibia and Africa was the battleground between the West and the USSR.

    Mandela was pragmatic and if he did side with the Soviets or accepted their material help – so what?

    • Noa

      Because we were the West and he was the enemy in our world war with communism.

      And we are now living with the results of loosing the war-ideologically if not militarily.

      • Bonkim

        That is human history – ideologies come and go – Soviet style collectives have failed, the Chinese have re-invented communist capitalism – if that makes sense – religious ideologies have come and gone – adapt and change or you perish. I have no problem with that. If you get stuck in a time warp – left behind.

        • Noa

          Well I have no intention of relinquishing any of my rights and obligations as a free subject and will fight to protect them and those of my friends and allies. When freedom and truth are replaced by suppression and lies we all loose. Whilst you, whether struck by world-view ennui or sheer stupidity, are prepared to accept subjugation to an all-encroaching state, others,who are not, will challenge, oppose and if necessary fight you.

          • Bonkim

            Great – Fight for a just cause and I am with you – the cause you believe in itself has a short shelf life – look through history again – causes worth fighting are also continuously shifting, changing and replaced by new causes. World view – regrettably those sitting in deep holes have tunnel vision.

            • Noa

              “…the cause you believe in itself has a short shelf life…”
              So you think that freedom, the rule of law and that all are equal before it, the right of all men to think do and say as they please? have a short life?
              Sadly, you are probably right.

              • Bonkim

                don’t remember saying that – I believe in freedom of speech and action as long as that does not impinge on others’ similar freedoms – accommodation of each other on an overcrowded planet. We were talking about ideologies and belief systems – ideologies blind people into assuming all other belief systems are wrong and when that turns to violent oppression – there is conflict. That has been the human story from the beginning – I am a pragmatist and recognize reality – but will fight where I can win to preserve individual freedoms – rather than misguided group norms.

                • Noa

                  How can you ‘not remember’ what you wrote?
                  And I have no interest in and do not ‘support group norms’.

                  I am of course pleased that you recognise reality and sincerely hope that soon you will connect with it.

                • Bonkim

                  My business – no need for you to worry about my thought process.

                • Noa

                  I don’t.

    • Colonel Mustard

      “In the 50s and 60s it was only the socialists and communists that spoke of equality, and human rights”

      That’s absolute nonsense, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was made in 1948, the culmination of much earlier work, and the two men most influential in framing its provisions could hardly be described as either socialists or communists. And after 1948 it was communist nations like China, North Korea, North Vietnam, the USSR and its many satellites that could be most relied upon to be abusing those provisions.

      “in the US they were labelling all and sundry communists and anti-American activists”

      And what do you think they were doing to dissidents in those communist states, sonny? It was something more drastic than “labelling” them.

      It is quite incredible how modern socialists (who are basically soft communists) are so busy at ramping up their revision of history to ensure their ideological dominance in current debate. Their attempted de-legitimising of dissenting views in a supposed democracy of political pluralism should worry us all. They really are mastering the propaganda and nowhere is their a cogent or effective narrative against them.

      • Noa

        “…nowhere is there a cogent or effective narrative against them…”

        There is, here at least.

      • janegray

        You know what else started in 1948? Apartheid.

    • James Lovelace

      ” it was only the socialists and communists that spoke of equality, and human rights ”

      And as now, their commitment to equality and human rights is bogus.

      When do the communists in the west ever complain about the endemic jew-hatred and homophobia in the Soviet Union? Or Castro putting gay people in concentration camps? Or the genocides conducted by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot which dwarf even the horrors of the Nazis?

      George Orwell was right – the Left are just interested in replacing one lot of rulers with themselves. They are the “managerial class” who feel they are the only people who have the right to rule. They have no interest in equality or human rights. And only one of their hypocritical fellow-travellers would think they do.

      • Bonkim

        Don’t know – should everyone get heated up about every issue that crops up all over the world – the Soviet Union, homos, Jews – I don’t care much about the Soviet Union or post-Soviet Russia, not affected by what goes on there. People usually get active on issues that that touches them – are you worried for example at the discrimination and disadvantages suffered by the Gypsy and traveller communities in the UK? What are you doing about that?

        Are you worried about the exploding world population and depletion of resources? I am and in that context all these are trivial irritations. I am also not planning to go in support of the misguided Ukrainians who don’t know which side of their bread is buttered. Does EU residents want hordes of unemployed Ukrainians descending upon them when Ukraine gets closer and their people free to travel? Whether left or right – Ukraine’s interests would be best served by closer union with Russia their historic partner.

        The vast majority of Russians are quite at ease with Gays not being given the same rights as straights, perhaps because of their beliefs or any other reason – why should people not have the right not to socialise with groups they don’t approve of. Not sure if the Catholic Church or any other church to that matter are shouting out for some of the equality issues you refer to.

        Genocides have been committed by many ethnic, and religious groups other than the Russians, or the Chinese or Latin Americans – the opening of the new continents in the Americas, Africa, and Australia were followed by wholesale massacres or elimination by other means of the native people of these lands. Not sure if the new tenants bothered to ask whether they were leftists or rightists or pursuing particular ideologies.

        Equality and human rights are relative notions – no absolutes and most of us are able to look the other way when it does not touch us or those around us but acutely sensitive when it impinges on us directly.

        Don’t believe in black/white/Right/Left, Christian/Jew/Muslim, etc – all creation of the human mind and fallible.

  • Framer

    In Northern Ireland there was a two stages theory as well. The NI Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was controlled by the Communist Party of Northern Ireland which was largely Protestant (for SA read Jewish). The CPNI was strictly and slavishly Moscow-line like the SACP and in the absence of the (British) Labour Party was able to control the Ulster trade unions. It had also taken over the IRA politically with the old guard (Catholic and hibernian) simmering on the sidelines.

    All looked well, until the NICRA marches from 1968 unleashed an unexpected Protestant backlash amidst a Catholic uprising (aided by Trotskyist students).
    The first stage (‘democratising’ Northern Ireland) turned out to be the only stage. Or war was the 2nd stage as the Provisional IRA turfed out the Marxists in the ‘Official’ IRA. (The Officials eventually took over the Irish Labour Party and one is now Foreign Minister)

    In SA, the CP managed to hang on to control of the ANC military wing which never really got going or far. That I suppose was Mandela’s real achievement. In NI there was instead a needless and pointless 35-year IRA war.

  • Daniel Maris

    We seem to have double standards on communism. When it comes to the French Resistance, or indeed the rest of the European WW2 resistance movements, we don’t take a censorious attitude to communist involvement.

    • Tom Tom

      Really ? I think you will find it was a question of “RF” Section versus
      “F” versus Maquis units. London did not control Communist Maquis and de
      Gaulle certainly had problems with them after Jean Moulin was killed by
      Barbie, but then again many think Moulin was a Communist himself.

      I think you might be a trifle under-informed Daniel

      • Daniel Maris

        I very much doubt it.

        Here I am simply reporting on the public perception of the French Resistance in the UK – not the reality on the ground. My point is that numerous books, press articles, films and TV series have portrayed the French Resistance as an admirable body, but it was in reality a body dominated by Communists, just as in Dachau the only effective opposition were the Communists.

        I think given the experience of imperialism, Nazism and Islam(ism) we should have a more grown up attitude to Communists.

        They aren’t the devil incarnate. They did do some good things – like treating non-white people equally way before the rest of society did.

        • Noa

          “They did do some good things – like treating non-white people equally way before the rest of society did.”
          A bit forgetful aren’t we Daniel?
          Do you not remember that the British and other European missionaries took Christianity and its accompanying doctrines of equality and justice with them to the far flung corners of empire?

          Or doesn’t it count if you’re not an ideological Marxist intent on overthrowing the White oppressor and seizing the means of production?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Well, when you extreme socialists, communists and NSDAPers get to fighting each other as in France, it’s best to just let you all kill each other.

      • Daniel Maris

        Also sprach the Francoist.

    • Bonkim

      Remember it was the communists and British socialists that opposed Franco in the Spanish civil war and later Hitler and the Nazis – Britain and the US were pals with the USSR then.

      • Noa

        Utter uninformed rubbish-again.

        • Bonkim

          Enlighten us with your better researched view then.

          • Noa

            Support your own un-informed argument if you think you can, I’m not interested in doing your research.

          • Noa

            Do you own research before you make ill-informed posts.

      • James Lovelace

        Would that be the same communists under Stalin who were in alliance with the socialist Adolf Hitler? And you seem to be ignoring that Mussolini and Oswald Moseley were both socialists too. Mussolini had even been the editor of Avanti, the newspaper of the Italian socialist party. And at his death, Mussolini’s (Leninist) acolyte shouted “Long live socialism. Long live Mussolini”.

        The reason why no Leftist can be trusted, is because they have no critical sense whatsoever.

        • Bonkim

          There are no leftists and no rightists – a free person looks at each situation on merit and acts out of conviction unpolluted by ideologies. Ideologies go out of fashion every so often – just need to look at the outcomes that one wants and act accordingly, not get carried away by group prejudices and the instinct to follow others. I believe in individualism not collectivism of any sort and don’t care much for labels..

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …yes, there are leftists and rightists. You’re a fantasist and a nutter, which is common enough.

    • Noa

      “European WW2 resistance movements”
      Have you just invoked Godwin’s law Daniel?
      Yet there is no duality of standards.
      In 1938 and 1939 Stalin wanted and was refused a military alliance with the UK, France and Poland in order to aid Czechoslovakia. Subsequently, of course Germany entered a secret non aggression pact with Germany.
      In 1940 Russia supplied Germany with the fuel and oil she needed to invade France and bomb the UK. We seriously contemplated going to war with the USSR when she invaded Finland. The invasion of Russia in 1941, like the bombing of Pearl Harbour, brought us inadvertant allies.
      It can be argued that WWII only postponed the already existing ideological conflict between the democracies and the triumphant survivor of the rival socialist ideologies, Marxist Leninism or National Socialism.
      So, there are no double standards, simply the latest campaign in the as-yet unresolved conflict.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        An excellent summary of events.

        We could probably expand our misguided socialist’s understandings by pointing out that the Soviets left the Polish resistance to die at the hands of the Nazis, rather than helping them, or allowing others to help them. And these Poles were fighting oppressors (which our valiant socialist appears to believe was the Sovs’ calling in life), whereas the Sovs wanted such types destroyed so they could dominate Poland. So much for the communists helping to free people.

        The Soviet Union, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was a murderous totalitarian empire, forever seeking expansion, using whatever tactics applicable, wherever applicable. Today’s socialists have simply changed tactics. The goal is the same.

        And I really can’t see where the Sovs and Nazis ever disagreed on anything, other than power sharing. Same socialist program all the way around, basically. They seek to destroy freedom and liberty, and enslave all.

  • Rocksy

    I’m not too concerned by the slobbering of the left and others over Mandela. Once the dust has settled (pun),the truthiness of his life and activities will start seeping out. Then we may be able to see him as a man who tried to do what he could for his people and surprise, wasn’t perfect.

    • Bonkim

      Spot on – pragmatic politics – look up Cameron cow-towing to the Chinese now in his quest for Red-Gold.

    • Noa

      Well, if you don’t nail the lie-and the lier-at the telling, it tends to stick in peoples’ minds and they accept it as the truth.
      In short, Mandela was simply the acceptable face of black South African communism, his presidency has seen it turn into a corrupt, lawless black supremacist state from which the white population is being expunged.

  • CharlesCrawford

    This may be for S Africa specialists only, but another fine thing about this article is that it touches on the ideological and other differences between the ‘Africanist’ tendency (PAC/Black Consciousness) and the ‘Soviet’ tendency (SACP)in the anti-apartheid struggle.
    The whole point about Mandela was that he erred in favour of the Africanist tendency (and so did not want the mainstream anti-apartheid effort to be led (or manipulated) by crafty Marxist Coloureds and Indians, let alone Whites!, with the ‘indigenous’ Africans as the main target of apartheid having a puny supporting role.

    “MK was indeed a creation of the Communist Party, and the Communist Party was indeed whitish in hue; according to Ellis, the SACP conference that resolved to take up arms took place in a posh white suburb, and only eight or nine of 25 delegates in attendance were black Africans. Mandela appears to have been shaken by all this talk of stoogery…”
    A huge amount turns on this, not least the way the ANC/SACP has managed to persuade the world that it is a benign, bland rainbowlike organisation, thereby covering its deep incompetent malign communist instincts. The sheer scale of this lie dwarfs everything else in the country.
    It is beyond parody that Castro/Cuba ends the Memorial Service. Freedom! For Communists!

    • Noa

      It is perfectly reasonable to argue that Mandela successfully manipulated the SACP to further the exclusive interests of Black Africans, at the expense of the now persecuted white minority, knowing that the probable consequence would be the slow genocide now taking place.

      • Bonkim

        utter rubbish – the Whites (don’t like the term) are not persecuted and not dying race in Africa. They are still as a group the top in wealth – contrary to your view wealth is not in Black hands.

        • Noa

          In practicing your bien pensant political correctness you may be happy deceive yourself.

          Don’t expect others to join you in evading reality.

          • Bonkim

            Not being politically correct – colour coding sounds awful.

            Regards the clips – the Daily Mail? S Africa is riddled with robberies, murder and mayhem – and the white farmers living in the wide expanse are particularly vulnerable. Black on black is the greatest danger to people in SA.

            That having said, law and order is spread thinly and corruption – prevalent in tribal societies, and not unheard of in the old White ruled SA. Quite a few slick cases in the old days involving mining and other interests.

            SA is the new Wild West. Don’t compare it with Britain.

            • Noa

              Still folllowing the old Marxist /Toynbee line of historical inevitability I see.
              Having spent considerable periods of time in both the RSA and Zimbabwe, under both white and Black rule- yes, thats how both races describe themselves, without reference to your tender sensibilities, I understand perfectly the fear of my fellow whites in having to live there.

              And yes, the Blacks too. But then, it’s their choice in continuing to vote for a corrupt, murderous oligarchy simply because they’re fellow blacks.

              And I’m sure you would not be as callously indifferent to any threat to your own life as you are to the sufferings of others just because,as a syndicated report, it was pubished in the Daily Mail.

              • Bonkim

                There is a line of thought that Apartheid and its violence on blacks have desensitized the native population – also sexual violence, rape, robbery is endemic – so difficult to separate violence along their motives.

                Most of the African population are poor, illiterate or semi-educated (product of Apartheid – 23 years is not enough to remove entrenched inequalities)

                I am not giving an excuse and am sure the black elite is corrupt as all others on the continent – are Greece, Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe any different in the corruption leagues, even France. Hence being judgemental along racial lines is without substance.

                The mines are a law to themselves, and there is a huge floating population of workers from other African countries in SA that engage in criminal activity.

                As said, SA is a lawless land, Apartheid days justice was summary and the huge expanse of SA coupled with stone-age communications and isolated communities made SA a land of mystery – the outside world only knew the game parks or gold mines and only a vague notion of the Boer wars or African tribes killing each other or occasional excesses of the Apartheid who in any case were little better than the Africans – being low-grade Dutch settlers of antiquity defeat by the British a hundred years back.

                We live in an age of instant communication and constant reference to our own frames and tend to ignore the world has got smaller and people nearer but still far away in our perceptions of their cultures and method of day to day survival.

                SA’s wealth is mainly its mineral and agricultural export, also some outsourced manufacture – all relying on cheap labour. Despite Mandela it would take SA many decades to improve – your point about corruption and privilege – the blacks are now sharing in the plunder but the vast majority of Africans remain exploited even if the regime has changed and superficially democratic.

                • Noa

                  Your fourth form knowledge of geography surpasses the political insights gleaned from your study of a SACP primer.

                • Bonkim

                  Personal comments will not get you anywhere – in effect demonstrating you lack any logic.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Goodness me. You really should replace the last two letters of your pseud’s nym with ‘ers’.

                  I’d love to read your justification and excuses for the national socialist party of Germany. I have no doubt that would be an equally inventive and contorted contrivance.

        • Noa

          As a politically correct clone you may be happy to police and deceive yourself, but don’t expect others to follow your bien pensant example.

          • Bonkim

            This a white racist hate/blog-site – not worthy of reference.

  • Persuasive

    Nice work. I’d like an even deeper analysis to appear and hopefully adjust this history to better reflect the unfavorable reality of the whole man and not just his end time successes. To much of history is being colored up to look prettier than the reality.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Thank you for tht, the first thng I have read here about Mandela that was for grown-ups.

    • Wilhelm

      So not a fan of ‘Madiba.’ ?

  • the viceroy’s gin

    The communists in the frontline states were paid for and supplied by the Sovs, and the Cuban regulars were there to supply the blood. The many who died as a result of these communist wars of aggression can’t be called apartheidists or Afrikaaners… in fact they can’t be called at all… because they’re dead. To the extent that Mandela collaborated with the communists who brought on these deaths, some of their blood is on his hands as well.

    • Daniel Maris

      So you are saying you would be quite happy to live under a regime that:

      (a) Deprived you of the vote.

      (b) Deprived you of a decent education.

      (c) Prevented you from expressing any grievance.

      That’s what you are saying?

      • Noa

        An apt description of the UK, Daniel.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        No, I’m saying exactly what I posted, and not what your socialist nutter fantasies conjure up.

      • Partyforever

        In 1955, 89% of South Africa’s black population was illiterate. By the end of apartheid, South Africa had a literacy rate of 93% – the highest in Africa.

  • Graeme S

    The coverage on all the media networks is nothing short of a Pantomime ….. Every single outlet is spewing this out , no wonder the country is going to the dogs, we have corrupt politicians *( nothing new there) we have millions of immigrants, we have schools and the NHS not fit for purpose and the media focus on this Tosh. Its not the people who have gone to the dogs it is the standard of journalism in this country that is too shocking ..

  • Wilhelm

    “Fly the Beloved Country”, written by Ann Paton, wife of the author of
    “Cry The Beloved Country,”a novel that was a primary source on the
    “evil’s ” of apartheid and standard reading in radical left circles.

    In the article, the deceased author’s wife is fleeing the rampant
    crime and violence of South Africa and decries the horrible changes in
    South Africa since the overthrow of apartheid. She describes the
    rampant, brutal violence, the lawlessness, the thuggery of the Mandela
    government, ironic, since her and her ilk helped to bring about.

  • CharlesCrawford

    Rian Malan wrote THE best-ever book on S Africa (and perhaps Africa too):
    I also know from when I had the honour to meet him in 1990 or thereabouts that he cooks a mean leg of lamb

    • FrenchNewsonlin

      Second that recommendation. My Traitors Heart offers great insights for those who would understand the vastly varied layers that make up South Africa! Thanks Meneer Malan for an interesting perspective on Mandela and the SACP.

  • Wilhelm

    ”Mandela who causes the Clintons, rocker Bono, Barbra Streisand, Richard
    Branson, and even Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands to fall about
    themselves, was rather ungracious to George W. Bush. In 2003, Bush had
    conferred on Mandela the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of
    Freedom. Mandela greedily accepted the honor, but responded rudely by
    calling America “a power with a president who has no foresight and
    cannot think properly,” and “is now wanting to plunge the world into a
    holocaust … If there is a country that has committed unspeakable
    atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t
    care for human beings.” If the then eighty-five-year-old Mandela was
    referring to the invasion of Iraq, he must have forgotten in his dotage
    that he had invaded Lesotho in 1998. Pot. Kettle. Black.”

    • Tom Tom

      Mandela was very close to Ghadaffi and receuived $60 million from Sukharto

  • Anthony Spuc Ozimic

    Mandela’s pro-abortion record – another link with the South African Communist Party

    • Bonkim

      You would get such rubbish from a Catholic blog-site won’t you? The world is overpopulated on account of fast-breeder technology propagated by both groups. The Catholic Church and Islam are brothers in arm in planting the population bomb due to hit mankind soon.

  • Daniel Crowley

    He was a ruthless communist and a typical African war lord. There’s a bit too much hand-wringing and an apologist tone to this article, though. I suppose that’s to be expected in a world where the man is considered a saint.

    • Bonkim

      doubt many consider him a Saint – but a pragmatic politician that knew his limits and also limits of his opponents and was able to win the game.

      • Daniel Crowley

        If you hadn’t noticed, the entire world has been practically worshipping him since he went to meet Satan.

        • Bonkim

          You must be jealous. Did Mandela believe in God or Satan? Good communists don’t.

  • Russell

    An extremely interesting article, in particular, on today of all days.

  • CharlesCrawford

    Truly fabulous analysis. Thank you, Rian.
    It explains so much. This is the only time in the history of the world that a top communist has been credibly extolled as someone more or less decent – no wonder the world’s liberal-left chatterati are milking it for all it’s worth.
    Plus, of course, the fact that Castro closed the proceedings at Mandela’s Memorial is also telling. Talk about a success for the Party: a diehard villain who has lived off oppressing freedom for decades gets up and proclaims his love for Mandela’s contribution to freedom. Lies = Truth. A staggering Orwellian inside-out moment. An insult to the planet, and a sign of where the true power in gloomy S Africa really lies

    • trotters1957

      But does it really matter?
      And isn’t that part of the story, that a revolutionary became a democrat.
      It’s not the young Mandela that is praised but the one that was freed and help establish democracy. I’ve no doubt there were thousands of Mandelas in South Africa in the 60’s.
      But there was only one Mandela in 1990 and he was the person we are mourning.

      • CharlesCrawford

        It matters if you want to look at what really happened and not just the staggering propaganda. Mandela was chosen by the SACP to be the ‘face’ of the anti-apartheid struggle out of many other Robben Island prisoners (Sisula, Mbeki etc) precisely because his links to the SACP were ‘deniable’. they knew that the world would not support an avowed Communist.

        A vast amount turned on this, with huge resources flowing to the ANC and more moderate ficures being ignored. Plus the ANC/SACP launched a civil war against Inkatha in which some 30,000 people died including after Mandela’s release.

        So, yes, it matters. A lot.

        My own take is here:

        • trotters1957

          But the remarkable fact is not that a black man in Post Colonial Africa became a Communist but that after 27 years in prison he came out and reconciled the irreconcilable.
          And shouldn’t the right rejoice and rub this in the noses of the left, that he converted to democracy after being a Commie.
          That should be the story.

          • BrickinaWall

            Again you seem to be giving him too much credit. If he had come out advocating civil war, he and those close to him would have been the first to go. Instead he chose a path which allowed him and his to prosper. A civil war would have decimated the country, so even if he survived it, he would have been the leader of a destroyed country – instead he wound up leading a wealthy country.

            He obviously understood the need to hide his communist ties, so we’ll never know where his true allegience lay.

        • HookesLaw

          your own take? Pardon me whilst I vomit

          • Ringstone

            Seeing as he’s a career diplomat who did four years in Pretoria he’s probably allowed his own opinion – you don’t have to like it. Your name pops up all over these columns and given the breadth of subjects on which you feel free to regale us with your opinion he is, unless you are omniscient, probably better qualified than you to have his say on this one.

            • Wessex Man

              You have to understand that dear old Hooky was once a decent sort of bloke then he saw the coming of Dave and he’s been going mad ever since.

          • Span Ows

            poor show; I suggest you read it and then come back and apologise.

            • alabenn

              Hook has become everything that everyone despises in the current Conservative party, his descent is becoming more marked every day, he is not even a lickspittle now, he is just the spittle dribbling all over the Spectator, sad really.

        • Ringstone

          It really doesn’t matter what man went into Robben Island, South Africa and the World were just phenomenally lucky in the man that came out; it would have been all too easy for the transfer of power to have descended into a bloodbath, Mandela might not have been as good a manager as he was a leader and there is much wrong with the ANC and it’s stewardship of the nation – we should just give thanks that he was, in the end, a great statesman.

      • TRAV1S

        But that is not how the media is telling the story. They keep talking about the imprisoned man the long walk to freedom. They still believe it is the 1980s.

        There is no mention of the man who became president formed a national government and held the country together. South Africa did not break apart like Yugoslavia, Ethiopia ,Somalia or the Congo. For all the problems South Africa has faced it could have been a lot worse.

        • trotters1957

          Absolutely, couldn’t agree more.

        • MikeF

          Interesting you should mention Yugoslavia there, since there are obvious parallels between Mandela and Tito – neo, rather than hardline Stalinist, communists in their early days who morphed into ‘elder statesmen’ holding together fissiparious countries with histories of ethno-sectarian violence. Well we all know what happened in Yugoslavia after Tito departed. The same could happen in South Africa.

      • sir_graphus

        Plenty of people have flirted youthfully with communism and become freedom loving democrats; Rupert Murdoch, Barosso, the entire Chinese leadership …. oh.

        • Noa

          Regretably Comrade Mandela was not one of ‘them’.

          And here I can only think of Peter Hitchens, an ex-trotskyite, who has recanted.

          No apologies yet fortcoming from New Labour’s Communist Party transferees like John Reid or Comrade Lord Mandelson….

      • Noa

        It matters if you look at the re-writing of history that is now taking place. The narrative of a peaceful, equal South Africa, created by a reformed communist peace-nik is a risible travesty of the truth. That this hokum is being preached to an ignorant British public by a unprincipled self-publicist who passes himself off a Conservative PM,happy to take a third rank position behind Mandela’s fellow murderer Fidel Castro, is beyond parody.

        • Colonel Mustard

          And a US president who is happy to shake hands with Castro which says it all.

      • BrickinaWall

        You’re automatically making the assumption that he chose to become a democrat; it sounds like he had no real choice at that point.

        From the article it sounds like the reigime’s crackdown on the anc was a direct response to the threat that communism posed; in fact it sounds as if mandela’s involvement with the communists may have cost thousands of black south africans their lives. This is as important a part of mandela’s legacy as his post-prison years.

    • Wilhelm

      You should read ” Mandela, white genocide with a whimper.”

    • Tom Tom

      Malan is a very renowned name in South Africa and Rian Malan is a well-informed journalist. Be good to hear more from him

    • HookesLaw

      a top communist?
      Don’t make me laugh.

      An excellent post carefully tailor made for the nutjob market. It should sell well – in certain quarters.
      meantime – as Guido notes Mrs Thatcher was a leading proponent and extoller of freeing Mandela

      • Colonel Mustard

        ” . . as Guido notes Mrs Thatcher was a leading proponent and extoller of freeing Mandela”

        Hasn’t done any good. The socialist narrative that predominates is that she called Mandela a terrorist. Shock! Horror! Hush my bien pensant mouth! And with useful “conservative” idiots like you trashing the article above instead of contemplating it there is no hope for us.

      • Wessex Man

        and she was in favour of us staying in the then EEC, she was either gullible or a liar like Ted Heath take your pick!

        • Fergus Pickering

          Oh come now.

      • Tom Tom

        You know a lot about the SA Communist Party ? You question the testimony of its members ?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Not just S Africa. They are everywhere in power now calling themselves “left of centre” communitarians. The worst thing that happened to the West was the fall of communism in the East because it liberated the communists here to take over in a soft revolution. We haven’t even begun to see the worst of it .

    • BrickinaWall

      Charles, seeing as yours is amongst the few intelligently written pieces on the subject, I have a question for you.

      I am under the impression that not enough credit has been given to white south africans who voted to end apartheid. Ultimately the reigime was not toppled by revolution and sanctions had minimal effect; it was the “whites-only” referendum than cleared the way for the change. I’ve

      • Bonkim

        Their power was shaky and the country was getting ungovernable. There was no option but to change the system.

      • CharlesCrawford

        A v powerful point. One usually forgotten in the focus on Mandela during the transition.

        It was interesting that De Klerk allowed only ‘Whites’ to vote and not (say) ‘Indians’ and ‘Coloureds’ too – they were no less likely to be affected by a one-person-one vote African permanent majority.

        I had left S Africa by then so I don’t really know the thinking behind this. He might have feared that so many of them would vote No that it would be embarrassing or dangerous. And/or he probably wanted a clear mandate from the Afrikaner community to cut a dirty deal with the ANC/SACP, so as to maintain as much control as was available.

        All of which said, the fact that the Whites voted heavily in favour of change was impressive (even with the crass manipulation of the media etc by the Nats to achieve that result). They would not have done so – the question would not have been serious – had the USSR still been strutting its power and supporting local communist subversion round the world

    • Bonkim

      Castro is liked by majority of Cubans and Cuba has one of the highest development index in the world including community health and social welfare via their cooperatives – good and economic.

      If that was not the case the regime would have collapsed by now. People know their leaders and political systems they live in more than casual commentators from outside. Cuba is fairly open to visitors from around the world and many go there and find a happy people regardless not being a western style democracy or capitalist economy.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …that must be the reason why they all try to escape the island prison for the US, huh?

      • CharlesCrawford

        Good point!

        We know just how Castro is liked by the Cuban masses since Cuba’s free media are able openly to criticise him and yet he wins for decades regular free elections to test his popularity. Otherwise how to explain the Castro family’s long grip on power?

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