Mandela and Communist Villainy
By Bryan Caplan
Bill Keller in the NYT:
But Mandela’s Communist affiliation is not just a bit of history’s
flotsam. It doesn’t justify the gleeful red baiting, and it certainly
does not diminish a heroic legacy, but it is significant in a few
I’m puzzled. How can a “hero” join a movement that murdered millions of innocents? How can a “hero” remain in a movement that continued to murder millions of innocents? Because that is precisely what Mandela did. At the time Mandela joined, the Soviet Union, Soviet satellites, and Maoist China had already murdered tens of millions via execution, terror-famine, and draconian slave labor camps. After Mandela joined, Communist movements around the world continued this villainous tradition, and Maoist China took it to new heights.
Are we really supposed to believe that Mandela didn’t know about these bloodbaths? If he somehow managed to remain oblivious for decades, he’d be a fool, not a hero.
If Mandela had merely allied with the South African Communist Party – as he repeatedly lied – you could say, “His actions were no worse than the U.S. wartime alliance with the Soviet Union.” But he wasn’t a Communist ally. He was a member of the SACP’s Central Committee.
But isn’t it great that Mandela didn’t act like a Communist once he gained power? Sure. Yet that doesn’t make him a “hero” any more than Deng Xiaoping. Utterly villainous systems are often reformed by moderately villainous people. We should be thankful for these reformist villains. But that’s no reason to forget what they really are.