Many on the political right will observe that the late Nelson Mandela was a communist.
That will be the extent of their assessment, and observations thereafter may not be charitable by Mandela supporter standards.
I was an anti-Apartheid activist in college and also conservative, despite often wearing “Malcolm X” medallions.
My support wasn’t an embrace of communism, but was a demand that South Africa finally live up to her rhetoric about being a free state.
Left-of-center activists like Mandela forced their nations to honor rhetoric about freedom and amend governing documents to end legal bias against Black people, as precursors for abolishing it against anyone.
The same holds true here in America, as liberal jurists like Thurgood Marshall and allied advocates successfully changed Jim Crow (which if we’re candid, was simply Southern-fried Apartheid.)
Conservatives who promote the considerable virtue of a constitutional Republic, individual rights, and free markets have much to applaud in Mandela’s example, while wincing at his embrace of figures like Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
They can also research the role right-of-center Blacks, like Jay Parker and South Africa’s conservative Zulu populace, played in addressing not only Apartheid, but how the former Soviet Union and its client states sought to exploit the situation for their own benefit.
Nelson Mandela’s life challenges conservatives to make the West “the Free World” in reality and not just rhetorically because the disconnect invites socialists who use racial injustice as leverage to ultimately undermine such countries, if their wards allow it once taking power.
The Soviets were sent packing from more than one Third World country once victory over colonial masters was gained.
It would be remiss of me not to also note perpetual bloody coups and poverty afflicting these lands.
Post-Apartheid South Africa didn’t live up to some conservative fears that she’d implode into chaos and nationalize her economy, nor engage in state-sponsored pogroms against her White minority.
She was beset by violence among Black activist groups and assaults against White farmers engaged in holding actions in the hinterlands.
Nelson Mandela, as a communist, ironically helped ensure that South Africa could realistically become a member of the Free World, as opposed to rhetorically.
If he could do so from the Left, can we on the Right do any less within our nations to make sure the Free World truly is “free” for all its citizens?
Photo credit: Festival Karsh Ottawa (Creative Commons)