“The road of racial rainbows and imaginary class harmony without mobilizing the people to get rid of the existing state and uproot the underlying system appealed to many, especially the middle classes among the oppressed: it is an easier road than revolution. But the problem is, as the bitter experience of South Africa of the recent past 20 years has shown once again, it is entirely illusory – and imaginary.”
This article is from Maoist Information Bulletin. Published by UCPN (M), International Bureau, Vol. 04, No. 13.
This is a piece published in Nepal’s Maoist press against “negotiating to share political power within the old state.” In other words, it should be read as a sharp polemic over contested issues facing Nepal’s revolution and its Maoist leading core.
Two Decades After Mandela’s Release:
20 Years of Freedom in South Africa?
The world watched elatedly 20 years ago as Nelson Mandela was finally freed from 27 years in South African jails in February 1990, so hated was the apartheid regime and all the injustice it stood for. Mandela, as one of the world’s longest-held political prisoners has become a sort of living legend.
Apartheid’s jails regorged with thousands of political prisoners from the decades of struggle against apartheid representing different organizations and different perspectives. Many fighters, leaders and soldiers died in detainment or were hanged in police stations, thrown out of upper-story windows and never saw a wigged white apartheid judge go through the motions of a trial. Treason was a common charge. And the masses of South African people had made enormous and heroic sacrifices during the struggle and periods of upsurge over the previous decades. Although Mandela’s enemies secretly began negotiations with him in 1988, it was never a secret that their releasing political leaders and unbanning opposition groups in 1990 was a calculated step in the dismantling of apartheid and reorganisation of political rule in South Africa.
At the end of the 1980’s the apartheid system of enforced racial segregation and oppression in which the black majority (including people of Indian and mixed race origin) was legally forbidden the most elementary rights was rotting at the seams under the combined weight of major social, political and economic crisis.
It was a revolutionary situation, which the white settler regime fully realized as it could no longer contain the political upsurge that had been shaking the country in waves since 1976 and reached a peak in the mid-1980’s. Despite police invasion of the townships where most blacks lived, these became bases to stage different forms of struggle. Youth, students and workers, including foreign migrant workers, organized mass boycotts, stay-aways (from school, businesses and work}, strikes, fighting with the police and then funeral marches after people were gunned down. In the rural areas too, where most Africans were forced to live in phony ethnic-based reserves, people rioted against the despised bantustan authorities and their vigilante squads, fought for better land and resisted force removals as part of apartheid’s territorial consolidation.
While vast sections of blacks were mobilized in one form or another to fight white rule, many thousands were also actively involved in organizations fighting for national liberation and revolution, and passionately debating the future.