Mandela sanitized

by Chris Bertram on December 6, 2013

The great Mandela is dead. A political prisoner for 27 years, a courageous fighter against racism and injustice, and finally a great statesman. There is much to remember there and much to mourn. Those who suffered under apartheid, the exiles, those who were active in solidarity overseas: all will have their memories of the struggle. Some of their voices will be heard. But sadly, they have to share a stage with the official voices of commemoration: politicians and others who cared little for the ANC or who actively opposed it. In the UK it is sickening to hear eulogies from the braying Tories, the Bullingdon-club types and ex-members of the Federation of Conservative Students who sang “hang Nelson Mandela” in the 1980s. No doubt, in the US, there will be some prominent Reaganites who utter similar word of appreciation. There’s an implicit narrative emerging that everyone recognized his greatness after 1990. But this isn’t so. The warbloggers and Tea Partiers (and their followers in the UK) were vilifying him when he criticized US policy under George W. Bush or said something on Palestine that deviated from the standard US-media line. Just as with Martin Luther King, we are witnessing the invention of a sanitized version of the man, focused on reconciliation with those who hated him – and who still hate those like him – and suppressing his wider commitment to the fight against social and global injustice.

{ 191 comments }

1

Metatone 12.06.13 at 10:35 am

Very true and very sad.

2

idonthaveacoolname 12.06.13 at 10:50 am

I am disgusted that my country will be represented at Mandela’s funeral by a Prime Minister who would have supported the preservation of white privilege if he was in power during the fight against apartheid.

3

MPAVictoria 12.06.13 at 11:20 am

Very true. There are a number of very revealing quotes going around twitter at the moment from conservatives regarding Mandela.

“The release of Mandela…may one day be likened to the arrival of Lenin at the Finland Station in 1917.” -William F. Buckley

4

Klingsor 12.06.13 at 12:11 pm

‘The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land’ – Margaret Thatcher, 1987

5

Igor Belanov 12.06.13 at 12:30 pm

We should be encouraged that the ANC and the world-wide anti-apartheid struggle effectively forced right-wingers to pay tribute to Mandela, but I hope some people in the media will point out the right’s history on this subject.

6

a.y.mous 12.06.13 at 12:37 pm

Have to be aware another kind of sanitization. His attitude toward violence was more tactical and not necessarily philosophical, and even then he went through stages of for and against throughout his life, an attitude that was crucial to his growth and success in SA, and more so, within ANC.

7

john c. halasz 12.06.13 at 12:38 pm

Aside from the fact that the ascension of the ANC to rule over South Africa was a neo-liberal compromise and has brought limited benefits, if any, to the vast majority of blacks (with high unemployment, high crime, little infrastructure improvement or land redistribution, wild-cat strikes, etc.), the role the Cuban Army played in the matter has been white-washed out of history.

8

Anderson 12.06.13 at 1:00 pm

Forcing the assholes to eulogize him is part of his political victory. He changed what it was acceptable to say. A good thing, overall.

9

harry b 12.06.13 at 1:32 pm

I second what Anderson says. Sickening, sure, but an inevitable consequence of victory. Better than what we’d have experienced 10 years ago when he’d have died in jail, if this had never happened, with all of us mourning him and otherwise total silence.

10

LFC 12.06.13 at 1:39 pm

Relevant to the OP’s last sentence — the text of Mandela’s 2005 speech in Trafalgar Square for the Campaign to Make Poverty History:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4232603.stm

11

Steve LaBonne 12.06.13 at 1:55 pm

What Anderson said. When even your sworn enemies have to pretend they agree with normal human beings that you were a great man, you’ve won.

12

Barry 12.06.13 at 2:16 pm

Steve, I agree, but it’s important to remember and to help others learn that these people are only sounding nice on a particular issue on which they lost, and to not let them pretend that they were ever right on this.

13

MPAVictoria 12.06.13 at 2:34 pm

“Steve, I agree, but it’s important to remember and to help others learn that these people are only sounding nice on a particular issue on which they lost, and to not let them pretend that they were ever right on this.”

Bingo.

14

harry b 12.06.13 at 2:37 pm

Barry — that’s right. That’s why I got my daughter to read this 2 minutes before your comment appeared!

15

Chris Bertram 12.06.13 at 2:46 pm

I’m not entirely happy with the “inevitable consequence of victory” line. It rather suits these people to make out that MLK and Mandela were more successful than they were. That way they can talk about reconciliation, declare the “problem” over, and ignore the unfinished business: “what are those blacks complaining about? – they won!” etc etc

16

Steve LaBonne 12.06.13 at 2:48 pm

Barry- strongly agree. That’s also the reason why the younger generation needs to hear much more about MLK as a genuine American radical (one of the greatest), not just as a plaster saint.

17

Hector_St_Clare 12.06.13 at 2:53 pm

Re: Aside from the fact that the ascension of the ANC to rule over South Africa was a neo-liberal compromise and has brought limited benefits, if any, to the vast majority of blacks (with high unemployment, high crime, little infrastructure improvement or land redistribution, wild-cat strikes, etc.),

This is very much true, and I’m not especially a fan of the post-1994 regime, but in fairness things are certainly better for Black South Africans today than in 1990. (Which is not exactly a high bar- the estimated human development index for Black South Africans in the early 1990s was on par with Congo-Brazzaville, in spite of the fact that they lived in what was in theory a developed country).

18

Agunnoe 12.06.13 at 3:00 pm

I agree, its disgusting to see the process of historical sanitation take place in front of our eyes. The best we can do is to remember his words and his deeds and make sure we continue to bear witness to the countless freedom fighters around the world that continue to suffer from similar systems of brutality and exploitation.

Long Live Mandela; Long Live MLK; and Long Live the Struggle!

19

Sasha Clarkson 12.06.13 at 3:03 pm

Those who criticise(d) Mandela as a terrorist, or for sometimes condoning violence, are very rarely pacifists: they just don’t accept that the helots and slaves have any right to revolt. It’s all about whose side they were on, and are still on.

As Hemmingway’s Robert Jordan said “There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.”

20

Daragh McDowell 12.06.13 at 3:13 pm

I note with some satisfaction that Telegraph Blogs has pre-emptively shut down comments on all of it’s Mandela coverage. To add to Anderson above, if it’s a sign of victory if your enemies feel they have to eulogise you, it’s a sign of almost total victory when they also feel like they have to tell their own goonsquads to STFU for a day or two at least.

21

JG 12.06.13 at 3:14 pm

For me, Mandela’s most important achievement — one that should be celebrated and remembered as long as the many are oppressed by the few — was to pretty much singlehandedly prevent violent retribution against the white murderers and torturers — and, sadly, their black servants — once the ANC took power. I still remember the predictions of blood in the street coming from all those who ignored what was really going on in apartheid. If for nothing else, he is one of the great figures of the last century.

JG

22

JW Mason 12.06.13 at 3:22 pm

JG, that’s a vicious, stupid thing to say.

23

Realist 12.06.13 at 3:32 pm

Yay. I am a self-hating Jew, so I fully endorse Mandela’s anti-semitism and sordid solidarity with various Third-World kleptocrats. Funsies!

24

Sasha Clarkson 12.06.13 at 3:46 pm

“Realist” Here’s a picture of Mandela with Helen Suzman: looks very anti-semitic!

http://cdn.mg.co.za/crop/content/images/2013/07/11/mandela_and_suzman_i2e.jpg/676×380/

25

Realist 12.06.13 at 3:51 pm

Yah Sasha, you probably could find a pic of Jesse Jackson with a Jew too–still a stinking anti-semite, sorry.

http://www.israelandstuff.com/nelson-mandela-proved-to-be-an-enabler-of-anti-semitic-terrorism

26

Mao Cheng Ji 12.06.13 at 3:54 pm

So, what’s the story with ANC’s neoliberalism? What’s a good place to read about it (online&free)?

27

Hector_St_Clare 12.06.13 at 3:54 pm

Realist,

Given that the rogue state of Israel has as little right to exist as the apartheid South African regime, I see Mandela’s opposition to Zionist land thieves like yourself as a good thing, not a bad thing.

28

Ray 12.06.13 at 3:57 pm

Perhaps if Israel (and it is Israel we are talking about, not Jewish people in general) wanted Mandela to like it more it shouldn’t have been such a great ally of apartheid South Africa.

29

MPAVictoria 12.06.13 at 3:59 pm

Daragh:
I have also noticed that Red State has yet to post anything on his death which is very unusual. They probably know what kind of comments anything they put up would receive.

30

Bloix 12.06.13 at 4:11 pm

Mandela had an unwavering and very warm relationship with the Jewish community of South Africa. This is worth reading:

Nelson Mandela, Iconic Leader for Jews of South Africa — and World
Symbol of Black Struggle Built Bridges to Jewish Community: http://forward.com/articles/173992/nelson-mandela-iconic-leader-for-jews-of-south-afr/?p=all#ixzz2mi7UJidH

And on Mandela and Israel, including his consistent support for its right to exist and to defend its borders:
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/Mandela-and-Israel-334174

Also
http://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/ADL-American-Jewish-Committee-pay-tribute-to-Mandela-334178

31

Daragh McDowell 12.06.13 at 4:13 pm

@MPAVictoria – I didn’t even bother with the US sites. I assume they’d either be just basically racist or of the anodyne, day-glo MLK style eulogies. But yeah – good to know that racism remains a key part of the conservative movement worldwide.

32

john c. halasz 12.06.13 at 4:15 pm

@25:

It wasn’t a case of the ANC’s preferences per se, it was just that neo-liberalism was the global regime in force and a neo-liberal compromise with the South African business establishment was what was on offer, in exchange for democratization. So it was a real progressive advance, but also a limited advance, that didn’t necessarily benefit the broad masses of people there all that much.

The broader point is that this occasion shouldn’t be reduced to a cause for self-congratulation among Western leftists, nor for worshiping a plaster saint. (Mandela wasn’t the sole ANC leader and was a good deal more complex and conflicted a figure than usually presented in the media). The usual ideological trope surrounding the Mandela cult is: “why can’t “developing world” leader X be more like Mandela?”, when the peculiar configuration that gave rise to his “success” and the actual complexion of the man himself are being white-washed.

33

MPAVictoria 12.06.13 at 4:21 pm

” But yeah – good to know that racism remains a key part of the conservative movement worldwide.”

You think that being on the wrong side of pretty much every issue over the last 100 years or so would mellow them out. Apparently not.

34

Daragh McDowell 12.06.13 at 4:46 pm

@MPAVictoria – 32

You’re assuming rational goals, intents and thought processes.

35

Lawrence Stuart 12.06.13 at 4:59 pm

Whatever his other (many) faults, Brian Mulroney certainly bucked the Tory trend when it came to apartheid and Mandela:

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/12/05/nelson_mandela_thanked_brian_mulroney_for_canadas_antiapartheid_pressure.html

Credit where credit is due … .

36

Rakesh Bhandari 12.06.13 at 4:59 pm

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/mandela/interviews/alexander.html

Reflections on Mandela from a fellow prisoner who had his respect and passed last year.

37

Realist 12.06.13 at 5:03 pm

38

Mao Cheng Ji 12.06.13 at 5:13 pm

@jch, so, was it, in your opinion, an SA-specific development, or a part of the 1980′s-90′s global trend of social democratic revisionism defeating democratic socialism?

39

LFC 12.06.13 at 5:24 pm

JW Mason:
JG, that’s a vicious, stupid thing to say
I think you may be misreading JG’s comment. Although perhaps somewhat ambiguous, it can be read as sincerely praising Mandela for preventing a civil war or bloodbath in 1993-4.

There was a pretty good hour-long rebroadcast of a BBC retrospective of his life and career on US public radio last night. I’m not sure I agree w Halasz that M’s complexities are being whitewashed, though the four talking heads on the NewsHour panel (also last night) seemed, on the whole, rather platitudinous.

40

LFC 12.06.13 at 5:30 pm

MCJ @37
It was more a question, wasn’t it, of does M. piss off the SA corporate establishment and thus ensure that the economic problems he has to deal w in ’94 are even worse b/c of capital flight etc. Thus perhaps more to do w global capitalism and capital mobility, not so much w SA-specific situation.

41

JG 12.06.13 at 5:40 pm

LFC, thanks for the clarification: I do think that Mandela’s commitment to avoiding the bloodbath was a great accomplishment. One more thing: in the worst years, when the West endorsed and funded the apartheid government, it was the AFL-CIO (particularly Walter and Victor Reuther, Jay Lovestone and Irving Brown) who secretly funded the various clandestine black movements and kept the dim light of freedom alive. And, whether we like it or not, the Soviets.

JG

42

MPAVictoria 12.06.13 at 5:47 pm

“it was the AFL-CIO (particularly Walter and Victor Reuther, Jay Lovestone and Irving Brown) who secretly funded the various clandestine black movements”

That makes me proud to be a union member.

43

JW Mason 12.06.13 at 5:57 pm

it can be read as sincerely praising Mandela for preventing a civil war or bloodbath in 1993-4.

And that’s a stupid, vicious thing to praise him for. Because it implies that in the normal course of events, allowing black people political equality leads to a massacre of whites.

44

Steve LaBonne 12.06.13 at 6:03 pm

And that’s a stupid, vicious thing to praise him for. Because it implies that in the normal course of events, allowing black people political equality leads to a massacre of whites.

That’s one of the more creative malfunctions of reading comprehension that I’ve encountered in a while. What he actually said was that Mandela managed to prevent major bloodshed in a situation that objectively presented a very high risk of it. (Because it was a revolutionary situation, not because of the races involved.) Perhaps you’ve been living on some other planet for awhile (and perhaps you should go back there to do your trolling), but among earthlings this in in fact the thing for which he was most widely, and rightly, admired.

45

Ronan(rf) 12.06.13 at 6:10 pm

46

Sasha Clarkson 12.06.13 at 6:19 pm

@42 “….. Because it implies that in the normal course of events, allowing black people political equality leads to a massacre of whites”

In any revolution, there is always a danger that the oppressed may turn violently against the oppressors or their perceived agents – or become oppressors somewhere else. That’s not racist, it’s an, at times understanable, aspect of human nature. Look at the French revolution, or even the history of the Boers themselves.

But as Frank Herbert wrote: ” … Atrocity never balances or rectifies the past. Atrocity merely arms the future for more atrocity. It is self-perpetuating upon itself — a barbarous form of incest. Whoever commits atrocity also commits those future atrocities thus bred. ”

Mandela was intelligent and sensitive enough to seek to break the cycle.

47

Mao Cheng Ji 12.06.13 at 6:31 pm

LFC 39, I understand, like the communist party of China, they decided to play the game. But the SA govmnt is supposed to be democratic, which means: consent, little or no repression. With so much poverty and almost non-existent middle class it’s hard to imagine how they could pull it off. I see in Bulgaria, for example: they raise the price of a bus ticket – and the government is gone. This Mandela guy must have really had some magic.

48

BJN 12.06.13 at 7:47 pm

RE: bloodbath

I think that the backbencher article is pretty good on this, but the assumptions underlying the statement are problematic on a few levels:

1) It implies that Mandela was the only positive force in the ANC or SA politics in general. Whereas the ANC was always a multi-racial group committed to a multi-racial South Africa, the statement that Mandela was somehow single-handedly responsible from preventing a bloodbath implies that everyone else in the movement were savages being held back by one civilized negro.

2) Whereas claims that a successful revolution will lead to a “bloodbath” are always forthcoming from the defenders of the status quo, I don’t think that this is really borne out by history. The large majority of people killed during the Terror after the French Revolution were petty criminals, not the aristocracy. The Haitian Revolution was much more conservative than is typically believed, and spent more time putting down former slaves who wanted more freedom than was coming to them than the whites who simply packed up and left. Loyalists were harassed after the American Revolution, severely in some cases, but elites like Washington and Adams always sought to quell those looking for punishment. If I were to make a general rule, I would say that the successive government after a revolution tends to try and downplay revenge in order to make stability possible while the defenders of the status quo ante will pretend that every perceived slight to their allies is the same as blood running in the streets. Good for Mandela and the ANC for managing the public relations to not be tarred with that slander, but as mentioned above, this largely was a function of letting business be.

49

TheSophist 12.06.13 at 7:52 pm

While expecting either substance or nuance from local TV news is, I realize, even more naive than I usually am, it was nonetheless slightly facepalminducing to hear last night’s news faithfully reproduce an press release from John McCain extolling Mandela’s wonderfulness without pausing to mention that McCain voted against sanctions on apartheid SA.

50

Ronan(rf) 12.06.13 at 7:53 pm

” single-handedly responsible from preventing a bloodbath implies that everyone else in the movement were savages being held back by one civilized negro.”

No it doesnt. It only asks a question (why didnt SA succumb to Civil war considering that x, y and z would suggest it should have) and offers an opinion (primarily because of Mandela)
That doesnt have to be right but its a legitimate question/answer.

51

JW Mason 12.06.13 at 8:01 pm

BJN is right.

52

Ronan(rf) 12.06.13 at 8:03 pm

Well the question of why states descend into violence really doesnt begin from the notion of ‘savagery’, so I dont think s/he is.

53

Ronan(rf) 12.06.13 at 8:06 pm

Btw, I’m not saying anything about whether it was due to Mandela. I dont know SA history so I guess it’s on those making the claim to back it up. It seems plausible though, with caveats, and Im not sure it’s an inherently racist position

54

I.G.I. 12.06.13 at 8:10 pm

MCJ @ 47 I am afraid your understanding of Bulgaria is pretty limited. The bulgarian elites proved to be exemplarily corrupt and obsequious – the neoliberal looting has been going on there for more than 20 years with little to no reaction from the population, massively brainwashed by right wing propaganda.

55

BJN 12.06.13 at 8:24 pm

The ANC’s ascension happened without civil war in the early 90s for the same reason that the vicious civil wars in Central America ended at the same time (Guatemala lingered on a few extra years, though something resembling democracy returned in 92). With the Cold War over, the US and its allies signaled that they were no longer comfortable tolerating the worst aspects of semi-fascist regimes, and elites seeing the hand writing on the wall made peace with a neoliberal state in which open discrimination would be banned but the privileges of capital would be maintained. I don’t think Mandela was wrong to take this deal, but it was the intransigence of the right that prevented it from happening in South Africa and other places, not the bloody imagination of the left.

56

john c. halasz 12.06.13 at 8:26 pm

Long and rather depressing, but a detailed account of the neo-liberalism of the ANC in power:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/06/the-mandela-years-in-power/

57

Mao Cheng Ji 12.06.13 at 8:36 pm

“I don’t think Mandela was wrong to take this deal”

It’s been 20 years since the deal. Regardless of the deal, after 20 years of a democratic rule SA has appalling mass-poverty and one of highest Gini index values in the world. Does anyone find this odd?

58

Layman 12.06.13 at 8:56 pm

“It’s been 20 years since the deal. Regardless of the deal, after 20 years of a democratic rule SA has appalling mass-poverty and one of highest Gini index values in the world. Does anyone find this odd?”

No more odd than that after 60 years of independence and democratic rule, India has an even higher rate of poverty than does South Africa. Perhaps where one starts matters?

59

P O'Neill 12.06.13 at 8:59 pm

Accepting everything in the OP, another part of the sanitization that is going on is the ANC policy (or lack thereof) on HIV. At the very least it was one of the things that Mandela pushed down his priority list as President, and then Thabo Mbeki came along. The country is still trying to catch up from those years of neglect or outright denial.

60

LFC 12.06.13 at 9:12 pm

No it doesnt. It only asks a question (why didnt SA succumb to Civil war considering that x, y and z would suggest it should have) and offers an opinion (primarily because of Mandela) That doesnt have to be right but its a legitimate question/answer

This is entirely correct, IMHO, and the notion that it implies “savages being held back by a civilized negro” is absurd. The power of charismatic leadership, for good or ill, is an old and fairly well-established proposition — Max Weber, anyone? The idea that this is a racist position is, I think, nonsense.

61

Bruce Wilder 12.06.13 at 9:16 pm

BJN: The large majority of people killed during the Terror after the French Revolution were petty criminals, not the aristocracy.

The French Revolution really did unleash a bloodbath, and there’s no use denying it with meaningless jibes about “petty criminals”.

What’s missing from the reactionary narrative of revolutions as “bloody” is the role of counter-revolutionary resistance in making them bloody, as well as the sheer unworkability, not to mention violence, of the status quo ante.

Mandela took the neoliberal deal, and when the Right praises him for “avoiding a bloodbath” they are praising themselves for having the foresight to offer him the neoliberal deal in advance of having to escalate the routine violence of apartheid into a larger bloodbath, which they might lose.

Mandela and the neoliberal deal is the real-life dilemma of Jim and the Indians, and its been repeated in many revolutions.

62

LFC 12.06.13 at 9:23 pm

Barbara Walter’s post, linked by ronan @45, is not racist, whether one agrees with it or not. I think there is probably a fair amt to it; Mandela’s attitude of “let bygones be bygones” and his whole approach must have had an effect, I wd think. (Usual caveat, not an expert on SA, etc etc)

63

LFC 12.06.13 at 9:27 pm

Mandela took the neoliberal deal, and when the Right praises him for “avoiding a bloodbath” they are praising themselves for having the foresight to offer him the neoliberal deal in advance of having to escalate the routine violence of apartheid into a larger bloodbath, which they might lose.

The two things — “neoliberal deal” and “bloodbath” — are not necessarily entwined in this way. If there had been a bloodbath, the end result might still have been a regime closer to, say, postwar Vietnam than postrevolutionary Cuba. The avoidance of a bloodbath seems to me an achievement worth praising, regardless of one’s position on the ideological spectrum.

64

BJN 12.06.13 at 9:43 pm

Though “one civilized negro” was a bit of snark I still feel justified in using, I pointedly didn’t use the word racist and chose problematic. To elaborate, I think that the idea of the “Mandela Miracle” naively believes a bit of propaganda that the enablers of the apartheid state used and that counter-revolutionaries pretty much always use. Mandela and the ANC’s hope for a racially integrated society was always explicit, as the white ANC revolutionaries could attest. Saying that it was some unheard of possibility that the ANC wouldn’t unleash genocide gives too much credit to apartheid’s supporters by making their resistance sound reasonable.

I mean to take nothing away from Mandela the man, who is without a doubt one of the great heroes of human history (in as much as I can stomach a “great man” theory of human events). I just don’t think that claiming it took some massive force of will to hold back the rest of the South Africans is fair.

65

Ronan(rf) 12.06.13 at 9:53 pm

“Saying that it was some unheard of possibility that the ANC wouldn’t unleash genocide gives too much credit to apartheid’s supporters by making their resistance sound reasonable. “

Well to my ears a premise beginning from the assumption that in post apartheid SA violence would come from the ANC or black South Africans *only or primarily* is problematic.
If anything you would start with the well armed, ideologically racist minority regime *who had used violence consistently*

66

BJN 12.06.13 at 9:59 pm

Okay, sure, yes. I’m not sure I understand exactly what your critique is. Can you elaborate?

67

Ronan(rf) 12.06.13 at 10:01 pm

I actually dont have a different one, I was just reacting initially to the snark but think I more than less agree with you reading back, so sorry

68

BJN 12.06.13 at 10:03 pm

No need for apologies. Thanks for the contribution.

69

Bruce Wilder 12.06.13 at 10:12 pm

LFC: The avoidance of a bloodbath seems to me an achievement worth praising, regardless of one’s position on the ideological spectrum.

always is too often for me and regardless more than a bit too sweeping.

“Peace” often involves a remarkable level of continuing violence by authority against the powerless. Though I’m an ideological liberal, I am well aware that liberal politics often involves accepting the loot from such a “peace”, while deferring to an indefinite “progress” for melioration. Other locations on the ideological spectrum are not even natively self-aware enough to be hypocritical; making them conscious hypocrites is one of the strategic aims of liberal idealism, and in that, Mandela achieved a great thing, to be eulogized as he is, by people, who, left to their own devices, would have happily burned down the world, and may still manage as much, too soon after this news cycle is forgotten.

Whether his “mistakes” in falling short of embodying liberal idealism constitute personal shortcomings or political necessities or both, I can not assess.

70

adam.smith 12.06.13 at 10:24 pm

Well, at least the conservative grassroots are consistent in their hate for Mandela:
https://twitter.com/MattBinder/status/408795404458029057

71

geo 12.06.13 at 10:28 pm

BW @61: What’s missing from the reactionary narrative of revolutions as “bloody” is the role of counter-revolutionary resistance in making them bloody, as well as the sheer unworkability, not to mention violence, of the status quo ante.

Exactly, except that “resistance” may be a bit too kind, suggesting mainly indigenous opposition. The hostility, threats, and aggression of the status quo powers probably motivated a good deal of the revolutionary violence in both France and Russia.

72

LFC 12.06.13 at 10:33 pm

@Bruce Wilder:
1) I didn’t use the word “always”.
2) On the rest of the comment: I think I agree w some of it, not sure I completely understand the rest.

Btw, I’m not esp. interested in defending Mandela’s time as president, which I don’t know the details of and about which I’m sure valid criticisms can be made (and some are linked above); ISTM it’s his career up to the ’94 election, not after it, that will be mainly remembered.

73

LFC 12.06.13 at 10:50 pm

geo @71
well, there *was* indigenous opposition to the revolutions in both France and Russia. In the latter, of course, there was a full-blown civil war. There was also a range of opinions among the revolutionaries themselves on a variety of issues, incl. the proper scope/use of violence.

Why imply, however obliquely, that Robespierre and Lenin were basically like Montesquieu and Kerensky? They were revolutionaries with authoritarian impulses and no compunction about using violence to achieve their aims — not Bruce Wilder’s “liberal idealists,” however defined, by quite a long shot.

Not that this has all that much to do with the topic of the thread — b/c the ANC’s armed struggle is not nec. very comparable to the Fr and Russian revolutions, except maybe at a very high and pretty unhelpful level of generality.

74

Katherine 12.06.13 at 11:01 pm

It was the whites who were threatening the bloodbath. If you look through the historical records, they wanted amnesty or they’d burn down the house. Withholding total amnesty was the single biggest bargaining tool the ANC had. If you look at the initial political deal, the idea of some kind of body to look at conditional amnesty was just a single line almost. It was a twelfth hour compromise.

What came out of that was testament to the skill of Mandela, Tutu and the like in spinning this seed of an idea into an instrument of reconciliation.

75

Katherine 12.06.13 at 11:02 pm

Hmm, comment in moderation. I’m not quite sure what I said that triggered that.

76

LFC 12.06.13 at 11:06 pm

I’m not quite sure what I said that triggered that

Probably nothing. Comments here go into moderation periodically and at random; that’s just how the system works, or so I gather.

77

geo 12.06.13 at 11:24 pm

LFC: You’re right; Robespierre and Lenin weren’t democrats, and I suspect I would have been guillotined or shot right alongside you (and Bruce W). And there was, of course, indigenous opposition. I’m only suggesting that Robespierre and Lenin may have had an easier time getting away with using authoritarian violence to suppress that opposition than they would have if they hadn’t been threatened with invasion and overthrow by outside powers. A foreign threat usually makes internal oppression easier to justify for those inclined that way — like Robespierre, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, etc.

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DaveL 12.07.13 at 12:20 am

My understanding as someone who followed the news back then but has not been an expert on African affairs for several decades is that most of the violence in SA during the fall of apartheid was between the ANC and the IFP, rather than between Africans and Boers/English. (The IFP was encouraged and probably funded by the SA apartheid government, though.)

The thing to celebrate about Mandela is that he led a freedom movement that mostly depended on moral, economic, and political pressure rather than blood in the streets. (This is not to discount the effect of 1989 on the remaining Cold War “battlefronts.”)

I’m not at all sure what not being “neo-liberal” after that would have bought for anyone, given the circumstances. While countries who are part of that consensus haven’t all done well, those who conspicuously cut themselves off from it have mostly done much worse. When the wind blows one way, you go in that direction.

79

LFC 12.07.13 at 1:08 am

geo @77
I agree on that.

80

roy belmont 12.07.13 at 2:44 am

Bloix at 4:11 pm:
Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I come in peace, pretty much.
I recognize your effort there, and commend it.
Sanity, factuality, tempering potentially volatile misconceptions among thoughtful people.
Since I’m clearly not qualified to, could you respond to this:
https://tinyurl.com/mtuyj3c?
Not entrapment, not trying to coyly make some nasty point, truly I’m just flattened by it. It’s bizarre, irrational, and disgusting. One more unneeded example of accusatory hysteria just plain fucking up the discourse.
Is that website a trivial venue? The author a minority voice with no weight? Or something else?
I honestly don’t know, and I’m sincerely asking, rather than just slithering to possibly unfair and inaccurate conclusions.
_
On the OP, Mandela’s place in history’s justifiably secure, but it’s too easy to gloss over how far from his aboriginal African roots he was, for all the music and costume, and how close to European “civilized” values. How acceptably civilized, ultimately.
As opposed to the Kalahari Bushmen. AfaIct, the awful control and subjugation by the SA diamond industry of “their” black miners was a primary influence on the codification that became legal Apartheid. The diamond industry, and the energy industry, are conspiring right now with the Botswanan govt. to rid potentially lucrative mining and fracking sites of their indigenous people.
Numerically the victims are a much smaller population, a thousand or so as against the tens of millions who suffered under Apartheid. The Bushmen are not at all “civilized”, and evidently don’t want to be. It makes their plight easy to ignore, for many.
The same colonialist racism that created the prison-like barracks and maintained “workers” in cruel squalor in the SA diamond mines a century ago is at work today, in Botswana and elsewhere, i.e. the Guarani in the Brazilian Amazon.
They won’t have a Mandela, can’t, because they’re not trying to assimilate into and participate in the culture that oppresses them in order to end that oppression.

81

Ronan(rf) 12.07.13 at 3:06 am

“I just don’t think that claiming it took some massive force of will to hold back the rest of the South Africans is fair.”

Okay, reading back I guess what I’m wondering is why you don’t think that there was a high probability of violence post apartheid. Is it just the rhetoric of black retribution you’re uncomfortable with? Or is it more that the organisational structure/ideology etc of the ANC (and I guess parts of the white establishment) meant regardless who had become leader, any change from apartheid would have been *relatively* peaceful? Or was SA society at the time just not as divided as perhaps I’m assuming?

Back to the caveats of not knowing anything about this (which I don’t), I guess my assumption is that violence doesn’t look implausible in such a context; a racialised, highly unequal society with a defensive, internally divided white minority, and a disenfranchised black majority, disproportiantely living in poverty. An interaction between the two (and factions within the two main groups), reinforced by conflict regionally at the time, could quite easily have escalated (I would have thought) And that can be the case without buying the pro apartheid narrative.

So I guess my two questions are (1) how did Mandela (or whoever it might be) force the white minority to compromise, and why did they. Which Katherine answers, and it seems Mandela was central to this. and (2) how did they prevent the street from boiling over. Which I think is a fair question.
I could certainly imagine an alternative where elites on both sides specifically looked for conflict, or at least where they weren’t adept enough to avoid it – where pressures within society/regionally pushed them towards violence.

So was it Mandela? Or was it more SA’s elites in general at that time? Or am I overstating how divided the country was? Or something else altogether..?

82

Corey Robin 12.07.13 at 3:16 am

On Robespierre: I’m not sure it’s right to characterize him as someone who was just waiting and itching to lop some heads off, and was merely given the opportunity to do so by the counterrevolution. The fact is he opposed the death penalty initially, quite strongly. He also was one of the leading voices against the war the Girondins wanted with Europe, in part b/c he thought it would lead to the kind of internal repression that it did lead to. There clearly was a strain in him of purification through violence, no doubt, but he was much more contingently caught up in that movement, pushed and pulled in all sorts of contradictory ways, than the narrative we have of him allows.

83

geo 12.07.13 at 4:20 am

Thanks, Corey; I stand corrected.

84

Lawrence Stuart 12.07.13 at 5:36 am

Regarding the issue of violence in revolution, and its relation to Mandela’s legacy, I’ve coincidentally been reading H.S. Harris’ excellent analysis of Hegel’s Phenonmenology. Hegel was of course convinced that the Terror is built into the logic of the Enlightenment itself: there is in the understanding of the world as a mass of rational utilities an unavoidable logic of conflict between the end of individual satisfaction and the means of subordination of the self to the deterministic structures of rational calculation. So that, for the sake of building a world of perfect liberty, fraternity, and equality, it becomes absolutely necessary to confront the individual and her being for herself in the name of the General Will. As Harris writes, “The dream of a world in which ‘thought uses things‘ comes to grief upon the fact that the thinkers themselves are the things to be used.” Or as GWF himself rather laconically puts it, “Self and world are antithetic, and must now collide.”

Viewed through this lens, Mandela’s achievement was considerable. He learned the lesson in absolute negativity taught by the guillotine. Crucially, however, he remained capable of action in the world nonetheless. This action was made possible, I think, because of his willingness to see himself in his enemy, and his enemy in himself. Or as Hegel would have it: “‘Forgiveness’ is the Heart’s renunciation of its higher position, or its non-actual essence, and acknowledgement that that action is in itself good. The word of reconciliation is the Dasein of absolute Spirit intuiting the universal in the singular.”

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.07.13 at 8:52 am

Sounds like Mandela was (sort of) an equivalent of Kerensky. A lawyer and charismatic speaker, committed to a smooth transition and minimal disruption of the things that matter. And Kerensky would’ve made it too, if not for the war.

86

JM Hatch 12.07.13 at 9:49 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oRlh2nUWrzs
One of the better films on early “post-Apartheid” South Africa’s failure to actual get rid of Apartheid.

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aussie sunshine 12.07.13 at 10:44 am

So the ANC was designated terrorist .What does this mean for the groups currently designated as terrorist ? Maybe refusal to listen to them or negotiate with them is the wrong tact. Our leaders say they are other -worldly ,irrational ,and mad ;-while we are the opposite, so no communication (let alone understanding) is possible.

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Bloix 12.07.13 at 3:53 pm

#80 – does your computer not come with google, or what?
Your link is to the website of Arutz Sheva (Channel Seven), an unlicensed radio station with associated media operating out of a West Bank settlement. It is the voice of the Religious Zionist movement, which holds that the entire biblical land of Israel is the God-given birthright of the Jewish people and therefore that any compromise on matters of territory would be a betrayal of God’s commandments. People holding such beliefs are a small but far from trivial minority of Israelis and they are politically influential due to the proportional voting system, whereby governments are always coalitions, and also very well-funded, both through the corrupt “school” funding formula that channels tax dollars to religious organizations and from donations from Americans. To these people, anyone who advocates a two-state solution is an enemy of Israel.

Arutz Sheva uses the name “Israel National News” but it is not state-affiliated. It is owned by a yeshiva (a rabbinical academy). In an interesting twist, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, who was educated at that yeshiva, gave a public sermon praising Mandela in which he said, “The greatest tribute we can pay is to live like Mandela, in accordance with the values he practiced and taught – values of human dignity, forgiveness, kindness, courage, tenacity, strength, honesty and integrity.”

Within Israel and outside of the settler movement, the public reaction to Mandela’s death in Israel has been one of mourning. Government reaction was uniformly laudatory, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4462032,00.html

The mainstream press reaction is similar. From an oped in Israel’s largest circulation paper: “Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly the greatest person I ever knew.” From the second-largest paper: “In nearly seven decades spent fighting for freedom and equality, Nelson Mandela inspired the world.”

Not everyone believes that the outpouring of praise in Israel is honestly felt:
http://972mag.com/the-top-5-most-hypocritical-mandela-eulogies-by-israeli-politicians/83109/

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roy belmont 12.07.13 at 6:47 pm

Bloix 3:53 pm:
Thanks, pretty much. Yah, google, bing, and duck-duck-go too.
Though, as you are no doubt aware, the dangers of free-range internet research have recently dramatically borne down upon my virtual head. Causing some hesitancy.
So following that site backward and outward is less inviting than it would have been in a prior, more readily credulous time.
The way you present the “small but far from trivial minority of Israelis” as “politically influential” makes me wonder if they could be described as a kind of religious 1%.
A powerful minority whose interests have nothing or very little to do with the well-being of the 99%. Which seemingly includes whole other peoples and states, as well as Israelis whose voices are for some reason not getting to the rest of us at the same volume.

90

Alison P 12.07.13 at 8:39 pm

I am sorry if this is not greatly contributing to the discussion but what a great comment Lawrence

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Ed Herdman 12.07.13 at 8:59 pm

These things aside, I thought that the NPR afternoon coverage (say 5PM EST or so) was quite good at acknowledging (a little) that he didn’t exactly get help from many groups, that there may well be double standards in how those who claim to follow his legacy are treated (perhaps you had to read between the lines for that, though), and especially for acknowledging his argument that violence was necessary to beat the situation. Not only did President Obama read the lines from Mandela’s 1964 sentencing speech, but NPR (via the BBC, I think) played that speech and explained some of the context behind it.

Politicians engaging in CYAery is to be expected any time the earth turns, as it has here.

@ 74: Excellent comment, though it was far beyond threats when peaceful demonstrators were being massacred in dozens.

92

Suzanne 12.07.13 at 9:03 pm

geo @ 77: If it’s any reassurance, I think Robespierre and Lenin would have had other things to worry about.

“There were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”

Which is not to say that Mandela didn’t make the right choices during the transition. It must have been indescribably difficult, knowing what de Klerk’s army and police were up to while the negotiations were going forward.

As a side note, I recall that Roger Casement, unlike Irish nationalists in general at the time of the Boer War, loathed the Boers, having observed at first hand their treatment of the natives.

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JW Mason 12.07.13 at 9:37 pm

It was the whites who were threatening the bloodbath. If you look through the historical records, they wanted amnesty or they’d burn down the house. Withholding total amnesty was the single biggest bargaining tool the ANC had.

Right. It would be better to praise Mandela for bringing a sufficiently credible threat of reprisals, to intimidate the white government into handing over power. But for people like JG, LFC and Ronan(rf), the end of apartheid was a foregone conclusion, or just not a big deal. The only violence that concerns them is the violence of the oppressed.

94

Hector_St_Clare 12.07.13 at 9:53 pm

Re: Numerically the victims are a much smaller population, a thousand or so as against the tens

Though, how do you balance the interest of a couple thousand nomadic Khoisan people, against the couple of million (I’d guess) Tswana residents of Botswana? The Tswana are fairly undeveloped/poor too by most standards (though fairly economically advanced by African standards, more so than Black South Africans), and neither of them clearly fits into an ‘oppressor’ or ‘victim’ group. The government of Botswana could certainly make an argument that the desert and its mineral resources belong to all residents of Botswana, not just the small minority that happened to traditionally live there.

95

LFC 12.07.13 at 10:49 pm

Suzanne @92
where is the quotation from? thks

96

JanieM 12.07.13 at 10:55 pm

Google and Bartleby to the rescue, in case Suzanne doesn’t see the question right away.

It’s a great quotation.

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roy belmont 12.07.13 at 10:57 pm

Hector 9:53 pm:
Maybe balance isn’t what we’re after. This isn’t some kind of Williamsburg re-enactment of caveman society.
The absurdities of equating all individuals, then generalizing toward the “greater good” – i.e. the average v. median income disparity thing where the presence of a billionaire in a small group means everybody’s got a statistically nice income, even though in reality the majority are poor as churchmice.
Or life-expectancies-of-the-past nonsense, where infant mortality etc. skews the imagined quality of life downward. The animosity and prejudice leveled against “primitive” lives and living exists before the stats are even mentioned.
My personal take is the further from contemporary global culture people are, the closer to tried-and-true ways of living, the more they should be championed against the world-eating thing they face.
The cliches of backwardness and consequent inconsequentiality are so often bolstered by images of degraded lives, with no reference to the process of degradation, and no recognition of the experience within cultures undegraded by contact with the vicious heartlessness at the margins of civilization. The thugs and dolts of exploitation on the ground, as it occurs.
The provably successful core principles of primitive ways that have kept their practitioners viable into the 21st c are deserving of respect, if not outright emulation.
People who couldn’t live that way, even if they had to, fear it, rationalize away its viability, and shrug off its destruction.
Bushman culture would not have caused climate disruption. For that alone they should be aided in their fight for survival.

98

LFC 12.07.13 at 11:16 pm

@JanieM
thanks, wouldn’t have guessed. (‘A Connecticut Yankee…’ being yet another of the many gaps in my education.)

99

john c. halasz 12.08.13 at 2:17 am

100

Lawrence Stuart 12.08.13 at 3:21 am

@Alison P: Cheers!

101

Ronan(rf) 12.08.13 at 3:40 am

” But for people like JG, LFC and Ronan(rf), the end of apartheid was a foregone conclusion, or just not a big deal. The only violence that concerns them is the violence of the oppressed.”

Fair enough J.W.
It seems a *bit* of a misreading to me, but who really cares.
There’s been enough on this thread of interest so I’ll leave it there.

102

Lawrence Stuart 12.08.13 at 4:27 am

re: Suzanne and the Twain quote, @ 92

As I recall, Hank ends up machine gunning whole legions of the locals, and is trapped behind a wall of their rotting corpses in his stronghold. I think there is more than a little of Twain’s wry irony in Hank’s apparent enthusiasm for both the Terror and for efficient Yankee utility.

103

geo 12.08.13 at 4:28 am

Suzanne @92: I think Robespierre and Lenin would have had other things to worry about.

Other than “invasion and overthrow by outside powers”? My point was that aggression by counter-revolutionary foreign powers facilitated the triumph of authoritarianism within the French, Russian, Chinese, and Vietnamese revolutions.

Wonderful quotation, thanks.

104

Suzanne 12.08.13 at 6:09 am

@102: The quote seems to me, in and out of context, to be an expression of sympathy for the pain and suffering of the humble and not an example of “wry irony.” As you know, the novel has little use for feudal authority. There is some satire of Twain’s own society in the novel, to be sure, but that wasn’t his central target. I didn’t quote all of it:

“Why, it was like reading about France and the French, before the ever memorable and blessed Revolution, which swept a thousand years of such villainy away in one swift tidal-wave of blood–one: a settlement of that hoary debt in the proportion of half a drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in hell.”

Boy, that’s some wry irony.

@103: geo, I was referring to your comment in the post about your own likely fate during those dangerous times. My apologies for the snark and you’re most welcome for the quote.

105

Mao Cheng Ji 12.08.13 at 7:45 am

@58 “No more odd than that after 60 years of independence and democratic rule, India has an even higher rate of poverty than does South Africa.”

India is poor, but it doesn’t have the highest gini number in the world (according to the CIA, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality). Once upon a time inequality was based on race, and that was intolerable; now it’s probably just as bad but it’s not based on race, and that’s a great success story. Go figure.

106

Alex 12.08.13 at 12:09 pm

Regarding the transition, “blacks kill the whites” was not the only or even the most likely failure mode. There were several and here is an list, probably not exhaustive. The first three would have been initiated by the whites.

1) Military coup
2) attempt to set up a Volkstaat
3) terrorism/destabilisation leading to 1 or 2
4) “race war” as the whites saw it
5) civil war among rival black forces e.g MK vs IFP

Of course, any of these scenarios could have occurred in combination (for example 1 or 2 leading to 4 or 5, or 3 leading to 1 or 2 or even 4, and of course 5 could have led to 1 or 2).

There was a bit of 3, and a half hearted effort at 2, but the one that came closest to happening was 5, and in KwaZulu-Natal it kind of did.

Mandela’s achievement in getting the transition right should be measured accordingly, in that he avoided the first four scenarios and pulled 5 back from already being over the brink.

If you read it as a transition to democracy, you might say that pretty much all of them worked more or less, but of course that was very much an open question in 1990 and even in 1994. If you read it as a long-drawn-out decolonisation, well, there were some of those that ran through all 5 scenarios above, sometimes repeatedly.

107

JW Mason 12.08.13 at 12:31 pm

Alex-

That is helpful. But don’t forget 0) Persistence if the old status quo — not forever, but longer than it turned out historically.

108

LFC 12.08.13 at 2:12 pm

@JWMason:
But for people like JG, LFC and Ronan(rf), the end of apartheid was a foregone conclusion, or just not a big deal. The only violence that concerns them is the violence of the oppressed.

No, an inaccurate/unfair summary of the views expressed.
I’ve no doubt that Alex is right that ” ‘blacks kill the whites’ was not the only or even the most likely failure mode.” This all started w your (JWM’s) intemperate remark upthread on JG’s initial comment. But I think, if we all stepped back, we’d see that there is not that much actual disagreement here. We all agree, I think, that the transition could have been worse in various ways, incl. more violence by the white minority or parts of it than occurred (though there was some), and within that overall judgment I think we’re just left w a question of differing emphasis, if that. That’s my sense of it, at any rate.

109

Lawrence Stuart 12.08.13 at 2:39 pm

@104

I don’t doubt Hank’s sincerity in the utterance. The irony is in the narrative which leads from his enlightened revulsion at the cruelties of feudal exploitation to his eventual machine gunning of tens of thousands of the same people for whom he feels so deeply. The massacre marks his utter failure to bring progress to the world he knows is ‘backwards.’

Which leads me to wonder if actions taken on a calculation of suffering (a half drop of blood in exchange for a whole hogshead, and then happily ever after! Or more insidiously and ubiquitously, the neo liberal calculus of necessary economic misery) lead to progress at all. To my (admittedly Hegel filled at the moment) mind, progress is building a global community of empathy, forgiveness, and mutual recognition.

And Mandela shines to me as an exemplar of that kind of progress.

110

Rakesh Bhandari 12.08.13 at 4:25 pm

While it is true that South Africa has a great deal of public protest about housing, sanitation, health care, education and basic services, it could be that a careful checking of the record will show sharp improvement here by the ANC since the days of apartheid. At the same, there was important protest against the ANC for the repression unleashed against the workers at the Marikana mines. One wonders if Mandela’s legacy would have been different had Chris Hani been alive to succeed him rather than Mbeki.

111

Igor Belanov 12.08.13 at 4:47 pm

I would have thought that the problem with the ANC is that it has outlived its time. It was an anti-colonialist liberation front rather than an ordinary political party, and as such was not designed to act in a democracy. As in cases where colonies have won independence, the continuation of these types of organisation in government often leads to the establishment of self-fulfilling elites and corruption as they dominate the political landscape- Congress in India being a prime example. New forces will need to be established if real social gains are to be established for poor South Africans.

112

Rakesh Bhandari 12.08.13 at 5:18 pm

Acemoglu and Robinson from their blog:

“In 1993 the financial services company Sanlam sold 10% of its stake in Metropolitan Life to a black owned consortium led by Nthato Motlana, a former secretary of the ANC’s Youth League and one-time doctor to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. After 1994 the number of these deals began to grow rapidly, reaching 231 by 1998 and by this time some estimates suggest that as much as 10% of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) was owned by black businesses. This was a spontaneous start to what has become known in South Africa as Black Economic Empowerment.

Put crudely, these first deals were attempts by white capital to give the ANC political elite a stake in the private enterprise economy they dominated. Perhaps the major driver of the lack of effective reform in the extractive economic institutions of Apartheid is not just that the ANC elite were fearful of collapse but also because they started seeing their personal interests in the continuation of the same economic institutions.

And of course, this is nothing but a version of Robert Michels’s Iron Law of Oligarchy. Some evidence that there is at least some truth to this comes from the following figure which plots the relationships between leading South African firms and prominent ANC politicians.
[diagram missing]
Each link represents a non-executive directorship that a particular politician holds. This figure contains some of the most powerful people in the ANC including Cyril Ramaphosa (middle), the man who negotiated the transitional agreement with the National Party; Tokyo Sexwale (middle right), long time prisoner in Robben Island with Nelson Mandela; Max Sisulu (top left), son of Walter Sisulu, one of the founders of the ANC youth league with Nelson Mandela and one of the towering figures in the struggle against Apartheid.

So could it be that although initially the transition in 1994 started creating inclusive political institutions, this process has been reversed by the capture of the new black political elite by the white business elite? Could it be that this has then ensured the continued domination of the economy by the white business elite even as the white political elite has been cast aside after 1994?”

113

JW Mason 12.08.13 at 6:34 pm

Power concedes everything without a demand, eh, Lawrence? You’d be great on a picket line: “The boss says give back? We say forgive back!”

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john c. halasz 12.08.13 at 7:02 pm

#112:
Those A&R posts are fairly damning, considering they come from such a mainstream source.

115

Hector_St_Clare 12.08.13 at 7:51 pm

Re: While it is true that South Africa has a great deal of public protest about housing, sanitation, health care, education and basic services, it could be that a careful checking of the record will show sharp improvement here by the ANC since the days of apartheid.

Sort of. White people have 8 times the average income of Black people, compared to 10 times higher in 1990. That’s improvement of a sort, but not super impressive. (Not that I blame most of that on Mandela, or mean to cast aspersions on his achievements).

116

Hector_St_Clare 12.08.13 at 7:54 pm

Re: 4) “race war” as the whites saw it

The Afrikaner leadership took the concept of race war very seriously indeed. Some evidence came out in the late 1990s that their biological warfare program was largely focused on developing pathogens that selectively killed Black people.

117

Hector_St_Clare 12.08.13 at 8:00 pm

Re: As in cases where colonies have won independence, the continuation of these types of organisation in government often leads to the establishment of self-fulfilling elites and corruption as they dominate the political landscape- Congress in India being a prime example.

The political and economic failures of India, and of the Congress Party in particular, are a complicated issue, but I think the problems there go quite a bit deeper than ‘corruption’. The biggest problem to my mind, is that Congress (like the PRI in Mexico, APRA in Peru, the MNR in Bolivia, etc.) was founded as a liberal, reformist alliance that tried to bring together people from all classes and castes to achieve progress for the nation as a whole. That greatly limited its ability to act as a force explicitly in favour of the poor, and allowed it to seamlessly transition in the late 1980s and 199os from being a democratic socialist party to a liberal capitalist one (same as what happened to APRA, the PRI, etc.). If one of the more explicitly class-based or caste-based parties had been running things, Indian history might have looked very different.

118

Suzanne 12.08.13 at 8:07 pm

@109: As I recall, the Catholic Church creates a country-wide hysteria against Hank’s innovations, resulting in the massacre of thousands of knights who dopily charge against far superior technology. Hank doesn’t start the bloodbath and doesn’t want it.

“Which leads me to wonder if actions taken on a calculation of suffering (a half drop of blood in exchange for a whole hogshead, and then happily ever after!”

The quote from Twain acknowledges that the Terror involved murder – not calculated murder, but killing enacted in the passion of the moment in response to centuries of oppression. You can certainly argue about how true that is (and Twain doesn’t allow for the ordinary people who were caught up in the Terror as well), but his central point is while those deaths survive vividly in popular memory and political debate, the everyday violence, death, and suffering that preceded them is elided or downplayed.

Mandela did the right thing, I believe, but it did mean that a lot of people literally got away with murder, people far more directly culpable than many of those in the tumbrils, and that ghastly economic inequality was perpetuated for the foreseeable future.

119

bob mcmanus 12.08.13 at 8:15 pm

112: Neo-liberalism is awesome! Capital sweeps all before its path.

This is why i can’t get excited by the sexism anti-racism lgbt posts etc and issues, because I know exactly who their long struggle within liberal capitalism is for. Freedom and dignity for oh the top 10%! Barricades for lady barristers. Screw that.

I was wondering how rich Mandela got after he left prison. Anybody know his estate?

120

Alex 12.08.13 at 8:38 pm

I would have thought that the problem with the ANC is that it has outlived its time. It was an anti-colonialist liberation front rather than an ordinary political party, and as such was not designed to act in a democracy.

This is a good point.

121

bob mcmanus 12.08.13 at 8:39 pm

The neo-liberal wave killing all forms of socialism, right and left, and replacing it with reborn opportunistic liberalisms (identity rather than nationalism) is probably the most interesting event of my 6 decades. Mandela was a mere symbol and frontman. USSR, eastern europe, prc in Mexico, China, South Korea, Egypt, whatever historical order might be interesting, Libya, Tunisia, and endlesslit, Syria, Burma, hell even Saudi Arabia is trying to find ways to exploit women’s labour-power…all “irrational” governments and politics have been rationalized. All global wage-serfs must be equal! It’s astonishing.

Of course the methodological individualists and liberals are trying to romanticize this world revolution.

122

Lawrence Stuart 12.08.13 at 8:59 pm

@JW

So I am sounding a bit Pickwickian perhaps. But I’d argue that plurality and conflict within the bounds of a democratic polity are made more possible, not less, when the antagonists show a modicum of respect for each other, and respect for the very real differences between them. That doesn’t mean I condone the ability of the strong to dominate the weak. I suppose what I am trying to express is that the struggles to define how the concepts of liberty and equality are lived are going to work out better for all concerned when conducted in an atmosphere of fraternity.

On a personal note, I would myself never engage in, condone, encourage, ask, or, god forbid, require that any one else engage in, pre-meditated violence on a picket line or other protest. Passive resistance, civil disobedience, different deal if done voluntarily and with a good understanding of the possible consequences. For this I make no apologies.

123

Brett Dunbar 12.09.13 at 1:18 am

What Mandela was able to do was make a credible commitment on behalf of the black population not to seek revenge for the wrongs they had suffered, this gave the white ruling class enough confidence that they were willing to capitulate. The apartheid regime still possessed substantial military capabilities and could have held out for quite a long time, fear can be a great motivator. Mandela’s stature was such that even the most extreme black groups would obey his call for forgiveness.

124

Ronan(rf) 12.09.13 at 1:23 am

” Alex-
That is helpful….”

Yes, and said throughout the thread if you were willing to read with the slightest bit of generosity/competence.

125

GRE 12.09.13 at 4:49 am

Samuel P Huntington was advising the South African state in the late 70′s and early 80′s on security matters at the very time when extra-parliamentary politics was beginning to take hold in civil society. Consequently the police and military went after the student and union protest movements with some gusto, while at the same time engaging in a program of destabilization with the border states of Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe inter alia. Indeed, during this period the state also enjoyed very flexible lines of credit from various Swiss banks (moral hazard anyone?). The ending of the cold war and the fracturing of the Afrikaner elite at about the same time, forced the apartheid state into political compromise with the ANC for what was ultimately a consociationalist settlement. The aspirational and symbolic power of Mandela meant that the transition to a notional form of democracy was completed while most people within that deeply antagonistic society at least kept and gained some level of dignity.

126

Lawrence Stuart 12.09.13 at 4:50 am

@118 Suzanne “Hank doesn’t start the bloodbath and doesn’t want it. “

That’s true, but doesn’t Hank just reek of hubristic Yankee pride in his own abilities to set the messed up locals straight? That’s why I think he ends up like a NATO garrison on a forgotten hill in Afghanistan — compelled in some bizzare way they can’t really understand to be mowing down the people they’ve been sent to ‘help.’

127

Lawrence Stuart 12.09.13 at 5:11 am

Thinking about it, (and thank you Suzanne for introducing it), the Yankee tale brings Goya’s 2nd and 3rd of May to mind:

http://personalinterpretations.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/goya-second-of-may.jpg

http://personalinterpretations.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/goya-executions-of-the-third-of-may-1808.jpg

I wonder, does it matter who plays what role in these scenes? Does it matter that the French troops are the agents of progress and the Enlightenment, and the Spanish citizens reactionary defenders of the Church and King? The grotesque horror cannot be washed away by any appeal to teleology. The sleep, and the dream, of reason produce monsters.

I am not be abashed to state that, in spite of our technological prowess and rational ethical certainties, without recourse, in political action, to soft and mushy and ‘spiritual’ things like mutual respect and forgiveness, we are doomed to repeat this horrible tableau again and again.

What ever his shortcomings, Mandela knew this. And for this I thank him.

128

Nine 12.09.13 at 5:17 am

GRE@125 – “Samuel P Huntington was advising the South African state in the late 70′s and early 80′s on security matters at the very time when extra-parliamentary politics was beginning to take hold in civil society.”

Are you saying that Huntyington had something to do with the clampdown on agitation ?

129

GRE 12.09.13 at 5:54 am

Well he was consulting at the same time so perhaps mere coincidence?

130

Collin Street 12.09.13 at 6:02 am

What Mandela was able to do was make a credible commitment on behalf of the black population not to seek revenge for the wrongs they had suffered, this gave the white ruling class enough confidence that they were willing to capitulate. The apartheid regime still possessed substantial military capabilities and could have held out for quite a long time, fear can be a great motivator. Mandela’s stature was such that even the most extreme black groups would obey his call for forgiveness.

Sure, but flipside we want to incentivise them to go now, and we normally do that by making “go now” lead to better outcomes than “go later”. Or by making “go tomorrow” lead to worse outcomes than “go today”, and “go next year” lead to worse outcomes still.

There’s a conflict here, prisoner’s dilemma. From time to time it’s going to happen that a particular repressive leadership stays far too long, and from a global perspective, to keep the “worse outcomes” credible, we’re going to have to carry them out.

Ultimately it’s an empirical question.

131

Nine 12.09.13 at 6:17 am

GRE@129 – Hmm, Wikipedia is quite unequivocal that Huntington pretty directly advocated the suppression of anti-apartheid agitation to the end of “reforming” apartheid instead. If Wikipedia is correctly portraying the proceedings then congratulations are due to Havard Pol Sci.

132

Rakesh Bhandari 12.09.13 at 7:31 am

Huntington’s claims that South Africa was a satisfied society, couched in mathematical formulations, were subjected to scores of pages of critique by the mathematician Serge Lang. This led to a famous controversy about Huntington’s nomination to the NAS; the Chair of Huntington’s department Robert Putnam and his graduate student Fareed Zakaria rallied to Huntington’s defense.

133

Rakesh Bhandari 12.09.13 at 7:53 am

134

Alex 12.09.13 at 10:49 am

There is no issue about which Samuel P. Huntington has not been wrong.

135

faustusnotes 12.09.13 at 12:12 pm

the ANC inherited a corrupt one-party state, with no appreciable mechanisms for reining in that corruption. It’s hardly surprising that the post-apartheid era hasn’t developed as everyone would have hoped. Blaming this on the ANC or Mandela is a little steep.

The NRO Editor’s obituary is a thing of beauty: a furious contemptuous rant wrapped in a thin shell of flattery. And still it has hundreds of comments defending apartheid, and hundreds more claiming the NRO has become the NYT. My favourite: “The NRO is nothing more than a RINO organ, a female organ.”

Classy in defeat, conservatives.

136

LFC 12.09.13 at 3:27 pm

I have no interest in defending (the late) S.Huntington, who was wrong about various things (notably Vietnam). Wd just note that in the 400+ pp. of Political Order in Changing Societies there might be one or two things that are right. But I’ll leave that to those more closely familiar w his work. (I haven’t yet read the article linked by R.Bhandari @133 but I plan to.)

Btw, the diss. that Zakaria wrote under Huntington’s supervision, published as From Wealth to Power, is worth reading, or at least parts of it are. Perhaps best to ignore the IR-theory/pol-sci carapace and just read it as a historical essay.

137

engels 12.09.13 at 5:40 pm

‘Forcing the assholes to eulogize him is part of his political victory.’

The pyrrhic part?

138

Rakesh Bhandari 12.09.13 at 8:33 pm

LFC,
have not read Zakaria’s whole book, just the intro that the NYT put on line.

I think that Zakaria’s central question could easily be flipped: not why did it take so long for the US to to become a world power but why it became one as early as it did. Given that the rising industrial North, unlike most European states, was able to procure seemingly most of the timber, ores, cotton and foodstuffs that it needed often through “internal colonialism” organized around formally unfree labor relations–the “internal colonies” also possibly serving as vent for excess capital–why did the US find itself dabbling in world politics at the turn of the century?

139

Layman 12.09.13 at 10:41 pm

“India is poor, but it doesn’t have the highest gini number in the world (according to the CIA, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality). Once upon a time inequality was based on race, and that was intolerable; now it’s probably just as bad but it’s not based on race, and that’s a great success story. Go figure.”

‘Probably’ is doing a lot of work there. Do you have any data sources on economic inequality in Apartheid-era South Africa?

That aside, no one says it is a great success story – at least I haven’t seen anyone claiming that. It’s a mess. But it started out as a mess, didn’t it?

140

Mao Cheng Ji 12.09.13 at 10:55 pm

“Do you have any data sources on economic inequality in Apartheid-era South Africa?”

No. But it’s the highest in the world today. So, in a sense – comparatively – it’s at least as bad as the apartheid-era South Africa.

141

Suzanne 12.09.13 at 11:21 pm

@126: I certainly agree that the character and actions of Hank and Hank’s “modern” assumptions are at times viewed by Twain with a quizzical eye, but his primary satirical target is the romanticization of feudalism in the manner of Sir Walter Scott. (Indeed Twain’s condescension toward the “benighted” Middle Ages may not sit so well with readers today.)

@135: In some quarters the theory is being offered up that Mandela was recruited by the intelligence services while in prison, some of his comrades having accused him of “selling out.” That certainly smacks of desperation.

142

LFC 12.10.13 at 1:10 am

Rakesh @138
An interesting question (albeit one that I don’t want to get into too much as it is OT w/r/t the thread). I would say you’re assuming in the question an economic-driven model of expansion/imperialism that is partial at best. Been a while since I’ve looked at the book, but Zakaria’s ‘state-centered realism’ no doubt has flaws, and one of them may be that it has to treat the U.S.’s westward continental expansion as something basically different from its subsequent overseas expansion. In one sense it was different; in another sense perhaps not so much. I think I’ll leave it there for now.

143

LFC 12.10.13 at 1:20 am

Re inequality in apartheid and post-apartheid SA:
Mao Cheng Ji, true to his general outlook, seems to think laws and social (as distinct from economic) structure are mere epiphenomena of little importance. So if apartheid SA had Gini coefficient X and post-apartheid SA has the same, he apparently (?) sees nothing to choose between the two societies. Or am I misreading him? (I hope so.)

Put more directly, apartheid was an evil in itself, thus its elimination must be counted a good thing, period. It wd be better if post-apartheid SA were a more economically equal (or less unequal) place, but post-apartheid economic inequality doesn’t mean the elimination of apartheid was somehow unimportant. This seems obvious but also seems to need stating here.

144

Hector_St_Clare 12.10.13 at 1:54 am

Layman,

Economic inequality between racial groups seems to be about as bad today as it was in 1994. In 1994, White household made about 7.5 times as much as Black households, today it’s about 7:1. The same holds true for per capita income. The trends are getting worse, for what it’s worth: Black incomes are stagnating while white incomes are growing pretty fast.

The real big winners from the end of apartheid seem to be the South African Indians, who have greatly narrowed the gap with the White population.

145

faustusnotes 12.10.13 at 5:52 am

since 1994, how do those ratios look for e.g.

1. top x% of american earners vs. rest
2. white vs. black americans
3. top x% of citizens vs. rest in neighbouring african countries
4. top x% of citizens vs. rest in countries with one party rule

Maybe the ratio changing from 7.5 to 7.1 is actually a really good thing compared to what’s happened in the UK, US and some parts of eastern Europe?

146

Mao Cheng Ji 12.10.13 at 6:57 am

LFC: “he apparently (?) sees nothing to choose between the two societies”
“Put more directly, apartheid was an evil in itself, thus its elimination must be counted a good thing, period.”

There are different ways to establish and maintain a hierarchy. They switched to a modern, socially acceptable way, preserved the hierarchy, it has become stable, and even praiseworthy. I’d find it hard to think about it as a good thing, without feeling that I’ve been fooled somehow.

147

faustusnotes 12.10.13 at 8:19 am

That’s bullshit Mao, why don’t you go find a south African forum about Mandela and try peddling that shit there, see how many people agree with you .

148

Mao Cheng Ji 12.10.13 at 8:26 am

“why don’t you go find a south African forum about Mandela and try peddling that shit there, see how many people agree with you “

Why would I want to do it, what is it supposed to prove? Not to mention that only about 20% of the population there use the internet. Those who do, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if most of them support the new model.

149

Ronan(rf) 12.10.13 at 11:10 am

Well this graph (though not a perfect stand in) seems to prove faustusnotes point, Mao

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2013/12/06/a-simple-graph-shows-the-profound-impact-of-nelson-mandela/

As faustusnotes notes inequality has inreased in a lot of places in the last 20 years, and elites enriching themselves during the sorts of transitions that happened in SA isnt particularly unusualy

150

Mao Cheng Ji 12.10.13 at 11:50 am

Who said it was anything unusual? It was indeed a very typical development, for the last 30 years or so. Increasing the depth of hierarchy and legitimatizing it.

Incidentally, it surprises me that de Klerk’s government doesn’t get any credit here for the smooth transition and all that. I mean, didn’t they design, organize and manage the whole thing? Had Mandela refused to play, they could’ve always gotten rid of him and find someone else.

151

Ronan(rf) 12.10.13 at 2:03 pm

Well if, as per your telling, it was all just an elaborate bait and switch then it seems irrelevant who gets credit, surely?

152

Mao Cheng Ji 12.10.13 at 2:27 pm

Not bait-and-switch. Modernization, I’d say, of an anachronistic and impractical model of (a part of) social relations.

I mean, the credit for designing and managing a smooth transition, as opposed to potentially a much more messy and bloody one, – and, potentially, with much more radical consequences. Of course I don’t really care who gets the credit, but I read the discussion, and it seems odd that de Klerk&Co are not even mentioned as agents of this transition. And they had all the power. And a nuclear bomb.

153

LFC 12.10.13 at 3:56 pm

Well, deKlerk should get some credit. In skimming (I didn’t read it closely) Joshua Busby’s recent Duck of Minerva post on this subject, I notice he quotes someone as saying that in deKlerk’s 400-page memoir deK. doesn’t really explain why he acted the way he did. (Busby’s post is prob. worth reading more closely, but I’m sort of busy at the moment; may do it later.) I’m also planning to read (I’ve only skimmed it also) Timothy Burke’s post on Mandela at his blog Easily Distracted.

154

LFC 12.10.13 at 4:03 pm

Mao Cheng Ji:
Modernization, I’d say, of an anachronistic and impractical model of (a part of) social relations.

I’d say: Elimination of an unjust model of social relations. But Mao’s dime-store Marxism rules out such “moralistic” language. Justice and injustice apparently have no meaning to Mao C.J., and right and wrong are apparently fictions. For Mao C.J., only power is real; everything else is illusory. Marx himself arguably had a somewhat more complicated perspective, but that wd derail the thread.

155

LFC 12.10.13 at 4:14 pm

It wd also be helpful to have more facts here about how the end of apartheid affected people’s lives. Inequality and poverty clearly remain enormous problems and clearly have a v differential impact on blacks and whites — WaPo had a piece on the poor township where Mandela lived when he first came to Johannesburg, and ec. conditions there today — but it wd be helpful to know if there are other aspects of life (e.g., access to health care, freedom of movement, freedom of expression) in which the end of apartheid had some positive effect. Presumably (?) the answer is that there are.

Also relevant wd be the question of evolutionary change and whether it mattered. That is, the successive apartheid govts presumably were forced to tinker with and in some cases loosen the system as the years went by, even if only at the margins (see the pass laws, e.g.). When Mandela was elected in ’94, the people in power changed and the black majority was able to vote in a free election for the first time, but what else changed? Mao’s answer is presumably: nothing else changed. Is that accurate?

156

Mao Cheng Ji 12.10.13 at 4:17 pm

I don’t know about Marx, you’ll need to take it up with him. But my point was, actually, that the new model (having the hierarchy exactly (or almost exactly) as steep as the old one) is exactly as unjust. The criteria by which human beings are selected to be high up or deep down are not all that relevant. Skin color or greed+energy+IQ, what difference does it make. I mean, sure, it does make some difference, but the change is not even obviously positive. Instead of people with pale skin, you have a bunch of sociopaths of all skin tones on top, ruling you. How is it any better?

157

LFC 12.10.13 at 4:38 pm

Skin color or greed+energy+IQ, what difference does it make.

One difference, accepting your framing of the issue, is that “energy” is something partly within one’s own control in a way that skin color is not.

There is something especially objectionable about legal (de jure) discrimination directed at a category of people on the basis of characteristics that are mostly immutable, or deemed to be so by the prevailing legal-social system. I heard a talk yesterday by a historian about race in U.S. history and in the question period she had to acknowledge, after a talk whose thesis was that race is a ‘social construction’ (or ‘myth’) and that the real issue was exploitation of the vulnerable and defenseless, that skin color *was* one factor in de jure discrimination vs African-Americans. Part of what made slavery and Jim Crow wrong was that they were systems of exploitation and discrimination on the basis of immutable characteristics. One may not be wholly or largely responsible for one’s degree of energy, drive etc. (as Rawls e.g. maintains, pointing to the degree to which these things are determined by one’s upbringing etc), but they are not unchangeable in the way skin color is unchangeable. [Unless you are a celebrity with millions of dollars and can afford to have your skin and appearance chemically/surgically transformed, but that's a special case.]

158

Mao Cheng Ji 12.10.13 at 4:46 pm

Sure. There are racial supremacy theories, and there is social darwinism, and they are not the same thing. Granted. But both are objectionable.

159

Daniel 12.10.13 at 5:48 pm

Mao Cheng Ji @156 – see Hal Draper on this:

Domination or oppression from the outside by a foreign imperialist tends to overlay the social struggle class struggle) of the indigenous society, and therefore to distort, dampen or moderate precisely those social antagonisms which bear a social revolutionary potential. A people who do not enjoy national freedom will tend to primary attention to that immediate source of pain; their capacity to struggle will tend to be dominated by it; their perception of who-is-the-enemy will tend to be dominated by it. Therefore imperialist oppression tends to set back or slow up a full crystallization and clarification of class antagonisms; and a liberation from imperialist domination will have the long run effect of providing the conditions for the exacerbation of internal class strains (even if the immediate effect of a national liberation victory appears to be otherwise for an initial period). This is not gainsaid by the fact that, to be sure, revolutionary policy aims to introduce class struggle components even in the course of a national struggle.

While I suppose one could quibble about whether a settler state is the same thing as foreign imperialism, it shouldn’t affect this particular argument.

160

Daniel 12.10.13 at 5:50 pm

Citation for above is http://www.marxists.org/archive/draper/1969/abc/abc.htm#CHAPTER3 – the cite tag doesn’t work the way I thought it did.

161

Mao Cheng Ji 12.10.13 at 6:27 pm

I actually quite agree that anti-colonial struggle takes priority. The Afrikaners have been there for a hell of a long time, though; they are Africans. That was more of a tribal thing than colonial/imperialist. In any case: the highest gini in the world, that’s what gets me. You expect this in some banana republic ruled by some junta armed by the CIA or something. Not in an independent democratic state.

162

Hector_St_Clare 12.10.13 at 6:59 pm

Re: since 1994, how do those ratios look for e.g.

Inequality is worse in South Africa than in the United States or Western Europe. For that matter, inequality is worse in South Africa than anywhere in the world that reports data, except for Botswana, Sierra Leone and Lesotho.

I’m not aware that being a one-party state has much to do with it (the Communist one-party states had relatively low inequality), and while Africa as a whole has high inequality, it’s generally less severe than in South Africa.

For what it’s worth, 20-25 years ago much of Latin America had similar levels of inequality to South Africa (IIRC Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, and others were comparable to South Africa). Over the last 20-25 years, Latin America has made a lot of progress on that front (both under hard left regimes like in Venezuela, and soft-left ones like in Brazil), whereas South Africa has not.

163

Hector_St_Clare 12.10.13 at 7:00 pm

Black incomes actually rose quite a bit in the first few years after Mandela’s election, but appear to have stagnated since then.

164

Ronan(rf) 12.10.13 at 7:55 pm

A lot of this seems related to Michael Pettis’ recent books/articles on China’s need to adjust economically

http://blog.mpettis.com/2013/12/the-politics-of-adjustment/

With less money going towards the elite and more to ordinary households if they want to secure another round of stable growth.
Apparently the adjustment is more likely to be successful in democracies or countries with highly centralised decision making (Which looks goood for SA as it appears one of the positives post apartheid has been a genuine, vibrant stable democracy. – His case studies of successful adjustments also inlude Brazil, as per Hector)

165

Igor Belanov 12.10.13 at 8:09 pm

South Africa shared many features of other ‘traditional’ democratisation processes, in particular the fact that the elites finally felt able to concede democratic rights when they were convinced that democracy posed less of a risk to social order than they had previously thought. Mandela’s efforts helped to achieve this bloodless transition, which offers more than negligible benefits when you have been denied many basic human rights for so long.
I think the time is ripe for a threat to social order to be posed, and not just in South Africa, but I think would be unjust to blame Mandela for this. There is greater scope for organisation when the threat of internal exile off the Cape of Good Hope is somewhat reduced.

166

Mao Cheng Ji 12.10.13 at 10:04 pm

“offers more than negligible benefits when you have been denied many basic human rights for so long”

These are just words. Someone living in a slum without electricity, running water, or sewage, in a 2x3m shack made of cardboard; no food, no government services, no police, no nothing, – what human rights, as a practical matter, do they have now that they didn’t have before 1994?

167

LFC 12.10.13 at 10:38 pm

The Gini only tells you about the degree of income inequality — that’s it. It says nothing about the extent of extreme poverty, the extent to which basic needs are or are not met. You need to bring in other measures for that (Human Dev. Index, etc etc).

Inequality and extreme poverty are different, albeit often related, phenomena. In theory, country X can be highly unequal and still have made sizeable strides vs. poverty. In practice the measures may tend to move together, but not always, so one has to look at the specifics. I make this point b.c the two seem to be getting mashed together here.

168

Ronan(rf) 12.10.13 at 10:43 pm

The A and R post quoted by Rakesh above links to another of their posts which deals (a little) with positive ANC policies:

“Nevertheless, the ANC made progress. They created a vibrant participatory democracy, something that white rule had never dreamed of. They created a new system of social transfers which radically reduced poverty. They built three million new houses for poor people in the townships.

But inequality, rather than going down, went up.”

169

Hector_St_Clare 12.10.13 at 11:25 pm

LFC,

For what it’s worth, South Africa’s Human Development Index appears (in absolute terms) to be lower today than in 1990. It declined steadily from 1990 to 2006 or so, and then seems to have stayed relatively stable since then. In relative terms, since the world as a whole has been advancing, South Africa has fallen further behind.

I’d imagine that the biggest part of the decline in HDI is due to the AIDS epidemic, which is at terrible levels in South Africa, though less so than in some of their neighbors.

170

faustusnotes 12.10.13 at 11:55 pm

I asked about changes in wealth inequality, not absolute. This blog is full of posts about how inequality has increased in the USA and UK since the 1990s, but Mao is claiming it declined slightly in SA. If so, then it appears Mandela’s one party state avoided the worst excesses of the neo-liberal experiment. Not a great claim to fame, but better than nothing.

It’s a simple difference-in-difference model with ending apartheid as the intervention. I thought there were economists reading this blog … sheesh!

171

Hector_St_Clare 12.11.13 at 12:04 am

Faustus,

I think I was the one claiming it declined slightly. That may not even be true anymore: the data I was citing ended in 2010, and the trend was towards increasing racial inequality, so things now may be as bad or worse than they were 20 years ago, purely at an economic level.

Black South Africans of course enjoy much more personal freedom than in 1990, as well as (for what that’s worth) political democracy.

172

faustusnotes 12.11.13 at 12:33 am

I think you’re still missing the point, Hector, which is that compared to the democratic west South Africa has done well in the neo-liberal era. Mao seems to be claiming that SA swapped racial domination for neo-liberal domination and nothing has been changed; your point seems to be that Mandela won personal freedom for blacks but didn’t do much for their economic freedom. Compared to what happened in the USA and UK over the same time period, SA has not reduced the economic power of its poorest. Therefore, both your claims are wrong.

What should be said is that the ANC freed black Africans from apartheid and, despite inheriting a one-party, corrupt system, they managed to resist the lure of neo-liberalism, and didn’t rob their poorest blind as elites in the west did.

Seems like a win to me.
[and yes, HIV is the cause of the decline in the human development index, and probably also should be considered when assessing the poverty of the poorest blacks in SA].

[and let's also not forget that HIV's first 10 years in SA occurred under de Klerk, not Mandela or Mbeki]

173

Hector_St_Clare 12.11.13 at 12:38 am

Re: Compared to what happened in the USA and UK over the same time period,

Yes, but no one is proposing that we acclaim Clinton, Bush, Blair, and Cameron as secular saints.

174

john c. halasz 12.11.13 at 12:44 am

@172:

SA’s gini went from a high 60 to a higher 72, under ANC rule. (The U.S. gini went from 38 in the 1960′s to 48 today). And economic growth has been mediocre at around 2%/yr. What part of that are you not understanding?

175

Bruce Wilder 12.11.13 at 12:49 am

Ian Welsh had a comment today, in which he endorsed Mandela’s NeoLiberal Compromise as probably wise, in the circumstances, but he doesn’t apologize for, let alone deny, the deplorable conditions left untouched or exacerbated by that compromise.
http://www.ianwelsh.net/mandelas-neoliberal-compromise/

It isn’t just a matter of an abstract GINI statistic; its a society with a very high level of violence and civil corruption.

176

Ronan(rf) 12.11.13 at 12:54 am

Isn’t there more important things for a poor, developing country to deal with before inequality. Such as:
- extending education opportunities
- delivering basic services
- improving housing/infrastruture
-developing public health programs
- creating jobs

I don’t see how they could have dealt with inequality in any meaningful way in the working through similar institutions, and the same elite that existed under apartheid.
Corruption and inequality are certainly important, but I would have thought in the mid-long term. At this stage they’re probably inevitable

177

Bruce Wilder 12.11.13 at 1:02 am

Isn’t there more important things for a poor, developing country to deal with before inequality[?]

I would think your list *is* dealing with inequality. So, what does “before” mean?

178

Ronan(rf) 12.11.13 at 1:07 am

Well theoretically it would be dealing with the long term drivers of inequality, but what effect is it going to have on reducing inequality in the short term? Or am I missing something..?

179

Hector_St_Clare 12.11.13 at 1:56 am

Re: SA’s gini went from a high 60 to a higher 72, under ANC rule

Brazil, by contrast, went from about 60 to 51 over that same time period. Still higher than the United States, but substantially better than they used to be.

180

Hector_St_Clare 12.11.13 at 2:00 am

To be fair, one reason that domestic and international capitalist interests were somewhat tolerant of moderate leftism in Brazil, is because they were afraid that if the da Silva government failed, something even further left (along the lines of Chavez) would take their place.

181

faustusnotes 12.11.13 at 2:02 am

john, the world bank puts SA’s gini index now at 63; and at 57 in 1995. I don’t know what figures you’re using, but if you’re going to be snarky it helps to get them right. Perhaps you’re quoting Gini indices based on expenditure measurements properly weighted for household size, rather than income? If so your numbers are closer, going from 67 to 69. The UNU quotes figures for SA’s Gini index in 1995 of between 55 and 59, which suggests that the variation between measurement methods is almost as large as the trend over time.

This report from Stellenbosch university (pdf) paints a very different picture, in which inter-racial inequality has declined but intra-racial inequality has increased. I think this is an inevitability of removing barriers to black participation in the economy. That report also describes declining absolute poverty measured either as headcounts or proportion of families reporting going hungry, and a huge increase in the proportion of blacks in the middle class, from 11% in 1995 to 22% in 2004. Black share of total income has also increased.

I recommend reading the Stellenbosch report, it tells a very different picture to that painted by some people writing here.

182

LFC 12.11.13 at 2:23 am

BW:
I would think your list *is* dealing with inequality. So, what does “before” mean?
Bruce, I assume you’re aware that inequality is related to but *not*, I repeat not, the same as, the items on ronan’s list. See my comment @167 and ronan’s 178.

faustusnotes @181: interesting.

183

john c. halasz 12.11.13 at 4:17 am

@ 181:

You can find gini estimates all over the place. I used the figure from the Patrick Bond piece that I linked to above. The CIA fact-book gini is at 65 in 2005.

But leaving aside statistical games, policies like leaving RE development in private hands, privatizing water utilities, and the effective absence of re-distributing agricultural land would have precisely the sorts of outcomes, statistically or otherwise expressed, than one might expect.

184

faustusnotes 12.11.13 at 4:48 am

john, I quoted a whole bunch of other stuff that shows the evidence is not as simple as you suggest. You clearly haven’t read the article, it gives a much more nuanced view than you seem to want to cling to.

The counterpunch article you link to is full of basic flaws, but it seems to be citing the world bank’s figures on Gini, perhaps via wikipedia (it’s hard to know since, as is typical of counterpunch, it can’t be bothered giving sources). I note it chooses the higher one and doesn’t go for any more nuance than that. The top decile of South Africa’s population own 58% of its income; compared to 50% in the USA. Is that so different to where most commenters here live?

And how does the USA’s progress over time look?. Since 1997 it appears that the top decile of the US wealth distribution have really consolidated their hold on the nation’s wealth, going from owning about 42% of it to about 50%.

If you’re going to do these comparisons, you should try to do them properly. Every country in the world has suffered under neo-liberal reform, and you aren’t marshalling much evidence to suggest that SA has done worse than the USA or UK.

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john c. halasz 12.11.13 at 5:01 am

@184:

Really? You think the cases of SA and the U.S. and U.K are comparable? You might want to think through the international connections a bit more. You cite a study from an Afrikaner university and I cite a commentary from a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, (who was directly involved in formulating the original reconstruction and development program that the ANC originally proposed). The question isn’t what are the results, but rather what were the possibilities (that led to those results). The tendency of detached “centrist” commenters here to rationalize failure, on account of some small improvements, (yeah, nobody’s starving, since the poor are now entitled to their widow’s mite), is shameful.

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faustusnotes 12.11.13 at 5:15 am

FFS, how many times do I have to say it? I don’t think the cases of SA and the US and UK are comparable, I think every country fell victim to neo-liberalism in the last 20 years and Mandela protected his people a lot better than Clinton and Bush and Obama have theirs. Income inequality in SA is static or slowly improving. Income inequality in the USA has sky-rocketed.

And that’s without considering the baseline circumstances, the development issues, the trajectories of the rest of Africa, the obvious challenges in recovering from 10 years of sanctions, and the pervasive role of HIV. Where do you think income inequality in the USA would be at now if it had the same epidemic characteristics as SA?

Some perspective would really help.

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faustusnotes 12.11.13 at 5:17 am

And which country do you think will achieve universal health coverage first?

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john c. halasz 12.11.13 at 5:21 am

Perspective from where? Outer space?

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faustusnotes 12.11.13 at 5:40 am

From someone who isn’t hellbent on setting separate standards for an African leader.

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Hector_St_Clare 12.11.13 at 1:51 pm

Faustusnotes,

None of this has anything to do with him being an African leaders. There are African leaders who were arguably better leaders than Mandela, and there are certainly leaders who accomplished more radical change than he did. It’s probably true that none of them were faced with Mandela’s problem of not wanting to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs, since in most African countries there were never any golden eggs to start with.

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Ronan(rf) 12.11.13 at 5:10 pm

Well here’s a rosier take on the ANC’s economic policy

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-05/remembering-nelson-mandelas-unsung-economic-legacy

which complicates the emphasis on inequality and corruption

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