With Nelson Mandela’s death appearing imminent, I brace myself for the media tsunami. I say this because I have not held Nelson Mandela in high regard, and I see the venerating of Mandela by those professing ideologies of freedom as bizarre. Any investigation into Mandela, deeper than the emotional appeals, shows that Mandela was both merely another statist and collectivist.
The massive admiring of Mandela is rather worrisome. Like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, few realize Mandela’s beliefs. Oddly, his beliefs are not hidden knowledge. A democratic socialist, Mandela was fiercely anti-free market. The African National Congress, Mandela’s political party, was also socialist and belongs to the greater Socialist International, a global organization of socialist political parties. The incredible element of Mandela’s political views is how easy the information is to find, and the information is by no means concealed. Perhaps many his supporters neglect mentioning his social justice and his hatred of the free market, but the facts remain.
Let us take Mandela’s inaugural address as an example. After release from his eighteen-year prison sentence, Mandela eventually went on to become South Africa’s president in 1994. In his inaugural address, Mandela speaks of unity, combating future discrimination, justice, “liberation from poverty,” and enforces a sense of nationalism, in working together to re-build South Africa. But this point requires a bit of background.
Although most are somewhat familiar with South Africa’s modern history, a more detailed overview is required to truly understand Nelson Mandela’s views. South Africa, originally colonized by the Dutch in the 1600s, remained a British colony until 1931. The South African government brought about the first modern apartheid (government regulations on race) laws in 1950. The first aspects of apartheid included mandatory registering one’s race with the government and the government creating separate sections of the country appropriate for each race’s residence. Apartheid continued in prohibition of mixed-race marriages and segregation reminiscent of Jim Crow laws. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the South African government began dismantling apartheid.
Mandela’s struggle against apartheid made him a global hero. Few leaders from the post-World War II world carried such renown and are so recognizable. But Mandela’s crusade to end apartheid wasn’t entirely peaceful. Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), or known by its abbreviation MK, a branch of the African National Congress. Some ANC members highly disapproved of the MK, both at its founding and throughout the apartheid era. Why was this the case? Perhaps it was due to the MK being a militant organization, using guerrilla warfare to further its political goals. (As a side-note, it’s also interesting to mention that South Africa’s current president Jacob Zuma also belonged to the MK.) Throughout the apartheid era, the MK carried out a campaign of bombings and mining roads, both of which killed civilians.
Additionally, Mandela’s policies as president in post-apartheid South Africa deserve some examination. Apart from appointing Communists to positions in the South African government, Mandela’s policies included high taxation and regulation, along with strengthening labor unions. During this era in South Africa, Keynesian and collectivist policies (including affirmative action) further hurt the economy, along the country experiencing high crime and unemployment. Many of these problems continue plaguing contemporary South Africa.
Now that we have looked at the history, let’s analyze Mandela’s life and legacy. Rhetorically, I personally often wonder why so many people deeply admire a collectivist who decided peaceful change wasn’t fast enough. Yes, Mandela led a struggle against the ugly and unjust apartheid, but his replacement was by no means just either. The Mandela-apartheid struggle is too often conceived of as the good-bad conflict, with the good winning in this case. But this interpretation crumbles under historical and analytical thought. The life work of Mandela simply exemplifies another instance of the classic political and ideological no-win scenario. There is no victory in the perceived choices of the Wiemar Germans (Nazis or Communists) or in the current Middle East (authoritarians or Islamists).
In some ways, we often view similar trends in Western countries. Though the choices do not encompass those clinging to Nazism or fascism, the similarities between many major parties holds true. Now, these similarities do not entail those of the conspiracy theorist. Rather these similarities show a fundamental danger to freedom: the restricting of political thought to a number of purely statist options. Take the last presidential election in the United States. Neither of the two major candidates took stances of liberty. The next option with the most support, the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, also did not take a distinctly liberty-minded stance—watering down libertarian thought and pandering to the left-libertarians. Mandela represented another feature of this “in the box” system and thinking. He was not a savior, nor a visionary politician. He was merely another statist.
Due the support of the media and millions, Mandela joined the farcical trinity of venerated modern political leaders. Along with Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, millions continue admiring this trio of shambles. As noted, this information is in plain sight. One only needs to investigate for himself. Among other things, Gandhi’s economic thought deserves special attention. If implemented fully, Gandhian economic thought would have doomed India to remain in the Dark Ages technologically and economically. Gupta’s Economic Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi notes that Gandhi wrote, “‘…evils are inherent in industrialization…'” (130). Rather than being the smiling global grandfather, the Dalai Lama argues for Marxism. The man of peace also received large sums of money from the CIA during the Cold War, with some of the funds going towards developing an anti-Communist resistance in Tibet.
And, finally, we turn to Nelson Mandela. With the proper research, one sees him not as an angelic man of his people, who brought his country from darkness into light. Look beyond the kind, smiling face and see the raised fist. The people of South Africa did not win with Nelson Mandela. They swallowed the same lies as millions previously did and continue to do. Until individuals take the first step, learning and thinking for themselves, they shall remain within the statists’ confines, with the mirage of freedom appearing reachable with another vote.