Home / Sezioni / globi / Mandela’s utilitarianism and the struggle for liberation

facebook-link twitter-link


Registrati alla newsletter di sbilanciamoci.info


Ultimi link in questa sezione

Turni di 12 ore e dormitori, l’Europa di Foxconn sembra la Cina
La vera tragedia europea è la Germania
Redistributing Work Hours
Institutions and Policies
A Finance Minister Fit for a Greek Tragedy?
I dannati di Calais
Are creditors pushing Greece deliberately into default?

Mandela’s utilitarianism and the struggle for liberation


In the time since his death at age 95, Nelson Mandela’s thinking on the strategic direction of the liberation struggle in South Africa has been oversimplified by proponents of nonviolent and armed resistance alike. His leadership in the relatively peaceful end to the brutal apartheid system was indeed critical, as was his leadership three decades earlier in the shift from nonviolent to armed resistance by the African National Congress (ANC). Yet many analysts have largely ignored the critical events in South Africa which took place in between, during his nearly three decades in prison.

While, on principle, Mandela refused to renounce violence from his prison cell as long as the far more violent apartheid regime refused to do the same, he also recognized the limits of guerrilla warfare in a country where the regime had all the advantages when it came to armed conflict. However morally justifiable armed struggle may have been in the face of such brutality, it simply was not working. Indeed, in the final years of his imprisonment, he - like other ANC leaders - recognized that it was the growing waves of strikes and boycotts, the establishment of parallel institutions, and other forms of unarmed resistance by the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the ANC’s political wing, that would eventually free South Africa from white minority rule.


While many western governments argued that the supposedly benevolent influence of western capital would lead to liberalization and an eventual end to South Africa's apartheid system, and many on the left argued that liberation would come only through armed revolution, in fact it was largely unarmed resistance by the black majority and its supporters, both within South Africa and abroad, which proved decisive.


The resistance of the 1980s was centered on massive noncooperation. Less than six months prior to Mandela’s release from prison in February 1990, an editorial in the Weekly Argus observed, “The intimidatory powers of the state have waned; the veneration of the law has diminished with the erosion of the rule of law. Inevitably that meek acquiescence of yesteryear has evaporated and SA is now witnessing an open, deliberate and organised campaign of defiance.”

Read more