We Must Celebrate the Life and Work of Nelson Mandela

Young_Mandela.jpgI expected to hear the news.  I did not know when it would arrive.   I did not believe that he had much longer to live.  So, when, this afternoon, I heard that Nelson Mandela, at the age of 95, had passed away, I was nevertheless surprised at my reaction.  Actually there were two reactions.

The first reaction was that of the loss of an elderly relative.  I know that sounds melodramatic but i feel that i grew up with Nelson Mandela.  From my earliest days as a young radical I heard the name “Nelson Mandela”.  I learned about the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress, and later the other forces that contributed to the South African Freedom struggle.  His picture was in my home in the form of a poster.  He was present in my life.  And, at the age of 95, one could not be surprised in hearing of his passing.

The second reaction was very different, and I am almost afraid to share it.  It was one of celebration, that is celebrating the very fact that this man lived and made the immense contributions that he made.  Celebrating his commitment and integrity; celebrating the extent of his courage, a courage that few of us can every imagine.  I found myself celebrating his comrades, some alive, many dead, who, against all odds, took up a multi-decades struggle for freedom and social transformation.  I celebrated the fact that Mandela believed so passionately in organization and did not wish to be worshiped as the ‘supreme leader.’  He saw in organization, that is the organization of the people, the key to liberation.

Nelson Mandela will be mourned and celebrated.  But something else will happen.  There will soon, probably very soon, be efforts to reinterpret his life.  I do not mean leaving things out, as happened in the otherwise excellent film just released about his life.  Rather, as we have experienced here in the USA with great leaders like King and Malcolm, there will be efforts to convert Mandela into a very safe character in order to advance the ends of the global elite.  We will, for instance, not hear much about Mandela’s refusal to renounce armed struggle against apartheid, even  though such a renunciation could have resulted in his release much earlier.  We will not hear much about his expressions of gratitude to the Cuban people for their consistent support to the people of Angola, Namibia and South Africa who were fighting the South African apartheid regime.  We will not hear about Mandela’s consistent, unwavering support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation.

The battle over Mandela’s legacy will not await his burial nor will it await a period of mourning.  It happens immediately.  And for that reason how we interpret his life and work will determine which Nelson Mandela we are actually recognizing and praising.

Mandela was not a saint, a point that he himself frequently made.  He was also someone who made decisions and choices with which others in the South African movement–people of character and integrity–may not have agreed.  None of that should distract us from appreciating his significance.  After all, Mandela served to introduce the people of the world to the South African people.  He opened a door, through his presence and struggle, to the battle that was waged by millions of otherwise faceless but very human, men and women.

Mandela will be missed.  But we cannot end our thought there.  We must express our appreciation to the Creator of all things that this planet was blessed with Nelson Mandela and those who stood with him when the global elite declared the situation hopeless.

Amandla!

Bill Fletcher is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941″; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a life-long activist in labor and social justice movements in the U.S. 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was first published outside the United States (and not published in the U.S. within 30 days) and it was first published before 1978 without complying with U.S. copyright formalities or after 1978 without copyright notice and it was in the public domain in its home country on the URAAdate (January 1, 1996 for most countries).

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.

 

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 36 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 6 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 45 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 69 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.