Manela's Democracy

Nash, Andrew
http://monthlyreview.org/1999/04/01/mandelas-democracy

Publisher:  Monthly Review
Date Written:  01/04/1999
Year Published:  1999  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX15440

Nelson Mandela's ideological legacy — in South Africa and globally — is startlingly complex. He has provided inspiration for the struggles of oppressed people throughout the world, and he has made himself a symbol of reconciliation in a world in which their oppression continues. To understand his historical role, and come to terms with his legacy, we need to see how his greatness and his limitations stem from the same source.

Abstract: 
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Excerpt:

It appears both to those who praise Mandela as a realist, and those who denounce him as a traitor, that he had abandoned all he had stood for before. But there is no betrayal in his record. He has simply remained true to the underlying premise which had animated his economic thought all along: the need for the leader to make use of his prestige to put forward as the tribal consensus the position which was most capable of avoiding overt division...
Once Mandela had been released from prison and negotiations had begun, the crucial idea which made it possible for the ANC to organize the oppressed majority around the tribal model was that of society being made up of "sectors"—youth, women, business, labor, political parties, religious and sporting bodies, and the like—each with a distinctive role to play. This idea has emerged from the organizational needs of the struggle against apartheid when repressive conditions prevented them from mobilizing around directly political demands. It was now used to insulate the leadership of the liberation movement from critical questioning....
The tribal model of democracy has come to form the ideological contradictions of the new South Africa. It is nowhere to be found in the constitution of the new South Africa, nor in the programs and policies of the ruling ANC. But it informs many of the institutions of the new South Africa, and above all the real relationships of power behind the facade of formal democratic procedures....
Mandela has played a crucial role in forming these contradictions and sustaining them. They will live on long after he has left active politics, and outside the South African context in which he has been most active in forming them. His ideological legacy—in South Africa and globally—is startlingly complex. He has provided inspiration for the struggles of oppressed people throughout the world, and he has made himself a symbol of reconciliation in a world in which their oppression continues. To understand his historical role, and come to terms with his legacy, we need to see how his greatness and his limitations stem from the same source.