Of Mandela, Apartheid, Communism, and apologists
The sad death of Nelson Mandela should not allow anyone to make an equivalence between the massed ranks of Leftist apologists for communist genocide and those who, while still opposing it, were misguided about Apartheid on the Right. Yet, the Right still has a lesson to learn
It has been unseemly of some high profile, Left-leaning politicians and commentators to use the death of Nelson Mandela to unload the guilt of the political Left for the lies they told defending communist oppression by trying to draw a parallel with the political Right's allegedly similar apologism for the crime of Apartheid.
There is no similarity; there is no parallel. But there is an issue to discuss, and people of decency may agree that the Right too has something to reflect upon over Mandela's passing. But first...
According to the best academic estimates, Communism killed between 80 and 100 million people in the 20th century. Hitler only killed fewer because he was stopped in history's most violent war. And, as I see the history of oppression between the great and terrible psychopathic totalitarian systems, the Nazi Holocaust was the worst and most degraded single crime of the modern era, while Communism was the greatest criminal system.
There is a huge danger of getting locked into a numbers game. When you reach the depths of what people such as Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Hitler, Eichmann and Mengele were capable of, I dare anyone to find a moral proposition that can dredge any of them out of the deepest depths of Hell.
And yet, very significant sections of the Left political intelligentsia did that for decades in favour of the killing fields of a genocidal ideology that slaughtered people in their tens of millions: people who had lives and families just as you do. They and their surviving relatives largely remain abused by the insouciance of a modern Left that spits on their graves, and has no time for what they suffered.
That is far from being "another issue", but as we contemplate the death of Nelson Mandela, true defenders of freedom must recognise and internalise a terrible truth about the Western liberal tradition (now primarily, but not exclusively, held up inside one section of the political Right) which remains uninternalised, and unacknowledged, generally.
It is a lie to say that people on the Right in Europe and America backed Apartheid as the Left backed Communism (or played fast and loose with its oppression, as most Leftists did with communism.) There was no Right-leaning movement in the West backing Apartheid, just a few scattered individuals.
Practically everyone opposed it, and said so (if you can find the odd quote against that, then one merely clutches at ideological straws). Most people just differed on what to do about it, sanctions or not, sporting boycotts or not, etc.
But it is true to say that white people in the West did not usually understand the appalling degradation that a system like Apartheid represented against black people. (Why, even at such a moment are so many writers terrified of using words such as "white" and "black"? The discussion is pointless without them.)
Apartheid meant that black people were to be accepted as literally inferior -- sub-human, in relation to white people. South African Apartheid did not kill people on any where near the scale of even most oppressive regimes in Africa, let alone of communism or Nazism.
But it was the last regime in history (we hope) that regarded some fellow human beings as between humans and animals. And, amid subtleties that most don't want to deal with, the objective reality is that the political Left had a better handle on that truth than most on the Right. That is also a truth that no intellectually honest person can escape from.
The legacy of Nelson Mandela, who embraced the last white leader of Apartheid South Africa, F.W. De Klerk, and called the white Queen of England a friend (as she did him), is so extraordinary precisely because he had the almost saintly moral stature to put centuries of oppression against black people behind him.
His reputation should not now be sullied by Leftist Western ideologues trying to work a way out of moral problems they could resolve if they could only say, and mean, a single word: "Sorry!" His legacy also needs to be dealt with at just as profound a level by people on the Right who were slow to understand what Mandela represented.
At core, therefore, this is a time for reflection and contrition. And, to respect Nelson Mandela's life, surely the best response is to learn that freedom is indivisible, and that our sometimes silly, and sometimes sad obsessions with our own little political disputes, pale in comparison to what really matters.
Robin Shepherd is the owner and founder of The Commentator
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