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Stalinism Lives in South Africa: Was Nelson Mandela a Secret Communist?

Writing in Dissent in that same period, professor of African studies Richard L. Sklar pointed out that South Africa’s Communists had rejected “a fundamental ideological shift from Leninism to democratic socialism,” thereby revealing its members were sticking to their true Leninist roots. Jordan at the time feared that internal tensions in his country “might cause us to move in a Stalinist one-party direction.”

More than a decade has passed, and one must say that Rian Malan’s fears, expressed in his recent book review, are well-taken.

Currently, one corrupt government after another has taken power, and instead of a thriving multi-party democracy, the seeds of one party rule, led by the ANC and its Communist allies, are doing all they can to hold onto power. Under the leadership of Jacob Zuma, he writes, “the rich have grown richer; hospitals and schools continued to degenerate; corruption remained endemic.”

Totalitarianism and the Soviet Union may have disappeared, but as Malan puts it, it “lived on in our political style.” He reveals how just as Zuma and his side purged the former president and once Marxist Theo Mbeki, when the press arrived, they pretended to have a united front and that no one was opposed to the brutal manner in which Mbeki’s removal was orchestrated by Zuma’s thugs. “The ANC,” Malan writes, “was serenely united; any talk of divisions was the work of enemies.” The ANC leaders, “like their Soviet mentors, thought their subjects were entitled to nothing, not even explanations.”

The question, as Malan says: how long can revolutionary martyrdom be used by the ANC “to discredit opponents and stifle dissent?” How long can the ANC leaders see themselves “as the only legitimate power in South Africa, entitled to rule ‘until Jesus comes back?’” Last August, police of the ANC regime fired on striking miners near Johannesburg, killing 34 and wounding hundreds, just as the apartheid government had done in well-chronicled attacks on the old liberation movement in the years of apartheid.

Malan says that “violent strikes are spreading, and the smell of anarchy is in the air.” All Malan can say, looking towards the future of his country, is “God help us.”

So it seems that the ANC now sees fit to use the same tactics the old Soviet state used against its opponents. Killing miners, the very working-class whose support it once sought, is now fair game to preserve stability and to prevent any movement rising that could challenge the hegemony of the ANC as the only force that holds political power. Leninist tactics, without a socialist regime, is the mechanism of political rule, evidently, to this day.

At least, now that the truth is out about Nelson Mandela’s political roots and the influence of the Communists in South Africa, we should not be surprised when, soon, that country’s troubles again hit the front pages.


My friend, the journalist James Kirchick, has just informed me that Malan had a longer article on Mandela and his Communist Party membership last year. Indeed, Malan provides much more substantial evidence in this version, and as he writes, it was completely ignored in South Africa.