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.

 


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Starting a Local Chapter from Scratch (9pm Eastern)

October 04, 2016 · 9 rsvps
Webinar, RSVP required for sign in information

So you are now a member of DSA, but there is no local chapter where you live. You are thinking of starting a local chapter, but you're not quite sure how to do it.

In Starting a Local Chapter from Scratch you will learn:

  • how other locals got started in recent years
  • how to find out who is already a member
  • the importance of a comrade
  • how to recruit new members
  • the importance of a mentor
  • how to become a recognized organizing committee
  • how to become a chartered local
  • what works best to bring new people in.

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

Instructor:

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

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org 607-280-7649.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. You can participate in every webinar or just attend once in a while.
  7. Workshops will generally be on weekends or evenings.
  8. Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance -- by midnight Sunday for Tuesday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

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DSA New Member Orientation Call

October 19, 2016 · 24 rsvps
DSA New Member Orientation

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.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

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