Well, according to the United States he was a terrorist, but now he is a highly respected international diplomat. Mandela was on the United State’s Terror Watch List which made sure he had to jump through extra hoops to gain entry into the U.S. I’m sure his name being on that list also authorized the CIA or FBI to take some “other” actions against him as well. [read: wiretapping and other surveillance activities. I'm sure we'll read about it in a book after Mandela has made his final earthly transition.]
While most world leaders applaud Baba Mandela today (some going so far as to suggest that he is nearly a saint), he wasn’t always so celebrated – of course most of us know about his being an anti-apartheid political prisoner for 27 years in Robben Island Prison, but I wonder if most people know that Mandela came to be a proponent of armed self-defense in South Africa. Consider this quote from his Opening Statement in his defense case before the Pretoria Supreme Court in April 1964 entitled, “I Am Prepared To Die.”
At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the Government met our peaceful demands with force.
This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because the Government had left us with no other choice. In the Manifesto of Umkhonto published on 16 December 1961, which is Exhibit AD, we said:
“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom”.
They say that the conservatives of today were the radicals of yesterday. While I wouldn’t say that Mandela is a “conservative” it is interesting studying his development. I have serious doubts about whether or not he would support armed self-defense today. Or maybe he would. Who knows.
What I do know is that the revolutionary spirit is alive and well in the world, especially in Nigeria where members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), are engaged in guerilla warfare against Western oil companies (Shell, Chevron, and others) who are extracting the “liquid gold” from their land and leaving the indigenous people to live in extreme poverty. Being that the government of Nigeria is not advocating for the masses of poor in the nation and non-violent rallies and protests are not working, groups like MEND have begun a campaign of sabotage, kidnapping, and murder of Western oil workers in order to aggressively reconstitute the redistribution of resources in their nation.
Now who are the terrorists in Nigeria?
How does this apply to historical conflict and its traditional re-telling? (i.e. the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, Pilgrims, Black Muslims, Puerto Rican Independence Movement, the Central Intelligence Agency, Bloods, Crips, Black Guerilla Family, Young Lords, the Weathermen, MOVE, etc.)