Nelson Mandela's Long Walk

Desai, Ashwin

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/01/2014
Year Published:  2014  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20341

A look at Nelson Mandela's book, "Long Walk to Freedom" in the context of the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s.



This story came at a time when the world was witnessing the collapse of the Soviet Union, the toppling of statues of many socialist icons and the quagmire of many post-colonial states in Africa. Mandela's story was rightfully seen as one example of vindication for resistance, righteousness, principle and steadfastness. With the African National Congress's victory seen as a rare move forward during the 1990s, it reminded us all that to sacrifice for justice will finally find redemption.

Often written out of this story are the sustained rebellions by millions of South Africans that were to lead to Mandela's release from prison. The 1973 Durban workers' strikes, the rise of the Black Consciousness Movement, the 1976 Soweto student uprising and the rebellions of the 1980s, all put the regime on the back-foot.

The international sanctions movement caused a run on the banks in 1985 that contributed to white business breaking with Pretoria and exploring terms with the liberation movement. Reeling from resistance and economic crisis, the apartheid regime opened talks with Mandela.

It was one of the ironies of the mid-1980s that those who marched in the streets of South Africa saw non-collaboration as a central plank of resistance. For them, negotiation with the regime was outside of any genuine liberation movement's organizational mandate.

By agreeing to meet with representatives of the regime, Mandela was already playing a lone card. Many in his own exiled movement were shocked by this move.

Running through the speeches and banners of the internal rebellion was a sense that apartheid and capitalism were feeding off each other, and that the destruction of the former would "grow over" and destroy the latter. Our theories posited the existence of a strange and unique creature, racial capitalism. Our strategy was that an obsidian knife in the heart of apartheid oppression would cause the dragon of capitalism to slowly disintegrate. It was a time of monsters, tyrants, insurrection and the seizure of state power.

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