Mandela: A Multifaceted Symbol

I didn’t want to be presented in a way that omits the dark spots in my life.  –Nelson Mandela

Erasmo Calzadilla

Nelson Mandela. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Mandela was a man and a symbol: an icon of the struggle against apartheid and injustice, but also a case study that shows us how “the apparatus” can subordinate even its most astute opponents to its own interests.

The apartheid regime was getting very bad press before the South African leader had become the country’s president. Even those who supported the South African government economically (I am thinking of the country’s ally, the United States) were losing face before international public opinion.

The struggle against institutional racism was a vigorous movement that was much talked about around the world.

Many believed that Mandela’s presidency would spell the end of segregation, or at least the beginning of true, radical change in the country. Today, twenty years after Mandela took office, one question imposes itself on us: can we legitimately claim that apartheid* is over in South Africa?

I won’t overwhelm you with statistics but I will only share some facts with you: 80% of the land is still in the hands of the white elite, South Africa is one of the countries with the greatest social inequalities in the world (according to the Gini index) and unemployment borders on 40%. I wonder what race most of the poor and unemployed in the country belong to?

With his faith and participation in the political games of bourgeois democracy, Mandela used his brilliant reputation to clean up the reputation of a system that is and will continue to be ruthless with those whose lot is to slither at the lowest steps of the social pyramid.

Perhaps he should have never accepted the presidency, if he knew that was not conducive to a true revolution in the country’s distribution of power.

Today, South Africa’s exploitative, export-based apparatus can continue to ground up poor blacks and whites without as many obstacles as before.

* We can take “apartheid” to mean, not only a concrete phenomenon that took place in a given region and at a given point in history, based on a certain set of principles and enforced through the use of barbed wire and other means, but also segregation in general.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

9 thoughts on “Mandela: A Multifaceted Symbol

  • December 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Meanwhile, next door in Zimbabwe, where whites were pushed off “their” lands and forced to emmigrate, the country has become an economic basket case, with inflation running in the thousands of percentages each year, or rather, each month. Many of its black citizens have also been forced to emmigrate to South Africa, both to work, and to smuggle food and products back in that have largely disappeared from the shelves in Harare. In South Africa the post-apartheid leadership has had to compromise and make the best of a bad deal. Realistically, are there better–or even other–alternatives? In the 1920’s and 1930’s the Soviet Union went on a forced march of primitive accumulation in order to build a modern industrial state–but at what price?! OTOH, modern, multi-national capital may exact just as dreadful a price (but for that matter, they are doing a pretty good job here in the U.S.A. of destroying both middle- and working-class.

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