We’ve known for some time that Nelson Mandela was a member of the South African Communist Party. It was hard for fawning liberals to acknowledge the meaning of his membership, so they came up with a narrative explaining it. Their story went something like this: He only briefly joined to get the benefit of their organizational talent, and his membership was rather symbolic, and hardly meaningful. What is important is his steadfast commitment to non-violence, his adherence to political democracy, and the role he played after emerging from prison in the waning days of apartheid.
But with each passing day, more has come out to put Mandela’s allegiance to communism in more perspective. Writing in the British Spectator, the courageous South African journalist Rian Malan tells the entire story. Malan tells the tale of what Professor Stephen Ellis found in the online Mandela archives.
What Ellis found is none other than the lost Mandela manuscript – the original draft of what became his 1994 autobiography (and now a movie) Long Walk to Freedom. After reading the book, Malan writes the following:
Everyone thought Mandela was a known entity, but he turns out to have led a double life, at least for a time. By day, he was or pretended to be a moderate democrat, fighting to free his people in the name of values all humans held sacred. But by night he donned the cloak and dagger and became a leader of a fanatical sect known for its attachment to the totalitarian Soviet ideal.
Malan and Professor Ellis found new insights into how Mandela’s image has been manipulated for propaganda purposes through the decades. Having decided to use Mandela as what Malan calls “the anti-apartheid movement’s official poster boy,” since he was a “tall, clean-limbed tribal prince, luminously charismatic, and…reduced by cruel circumstance to living martyrdom on a prison island,” the ANC and its supporters knew they had to “cleanse him of the communist taint.”
So they got a ghost writer for his book, a New York journalist named Rick Stengel, who of course refused to return Malan’s calls for a comment. Stengel, working from the original, left out all of Mandela’s passages that revealed the way he thought, and actually changed the meaning of much of what Mandela wrote. Here are some passages that were expunged:
I hate all forms of imperialism, and I consider the US brand to be the most loathsome and contemptible.
To a nationalist fighting oppression, dialectical materialism is like a rifle, bomb or missile. Once I understood the principle of dialectical materialism, I embraced it without hesitation.
Unquestionably, my sympathies lay with Cuba [during the 1962 missile crisis]. The ability of a small state to defend its independence demonstrates in no uncertain terms the superiority of socialism over capitalism.
Malan asks a strange question, and giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it is with tongue in cheek. He writes, citing Barack Obama’s words at the Mandela memorial service that Mandela fought for “your freedom, your democracy,” that “one wonders if Barack Obama would have said that if he’d known his hero batted for the opposition during the Cold War.” Obviously, Malan is quite familiar with Mandela’s past, but knows very little about Obama’s. He does not know about Obama’s childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, the Chicago/Hawaii Communist apparatchik, or about his own mother’s overt leftism and that of his acquaintances in the Chicago area who were close to the American Communist Party.
At any rate, the unauthorized complete autobiography was completely purged of the elements that Malan says are nothing more than a “pro-communist harangue.” What Stengel then did is clean up Mandela’s work in three major ways, as I’ll show on the next page.