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Correspondence: Nelson Mandela and the Black Consciousness Movement

16 February 2014

Following the publication of the latest edition of Socialist Democracy Duen De contacted us to comment about the interaction between Mandela and the younger militants of the Black consciousness movement.  He includes a short excerpt in Mandela’s own words.


In 1976, Mandela got some new cellmates; the leaders of the Soweto student movement - followers of Steve Biko and his black consciousness movement. 
Mandela was hostile to this younger generation of revolutionaries, arrogantly patronizing them and slandering them as dupes and spies of the CIA, solely because they wouldn’t kiss Communist Party of South Africa butt.
Ironically, many of the Soweto militants who escaped into exile would wind up in his 'underground army', where they would languish for years in Joe Slovo's jungle camps, doing fuck all more to end 

Reflections in Prison

A collection of Essays by Robben Island Prisoners

Whither the Black Consciousness Movement? - by Nelson Mandela
The concept of Black Consciousness advocated by the BCM is imported from America and swallowed in a lump. 
The BCM will play the same role in this country as the collaborating organisations in Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. 

Certainly the government welcomed its emergence in the hope that it would ultimately neutralise or even kill any influence of communism and liberalism in black politics. 

Despite its ten years of existence as a legal movement, the BCM never embarked on a serious drive for funds from the black public - yet it was swimming in money.  Almost all its funds came from external sources.  
American imperialism has chosen to support the BCM in order to stem developments towards socialism. The real reason a section of the press hailed its emergence as the most important development in black politics in recent times was mainly to discredit and minimise the role of the underground, which undoubtedly is the main threat to the existing white power structure.  

BCM members have strong objections to the use of Afrikaans, but South Africa has almost three million Afrikaners who will no longer be oppressors after liberation but a powerful minority of ordinary citizens whose co-operation and good-will will be needed in the reconstruction of the country. One can think of no better way of turning South Africa into turmoil than to implement this proposal to end Africaans instruction. Precisely because Afrikaans is the language of the oppressor we should encourage our people to learn it.

It wouldn't surprise me if the ANC helped the Vorster govt destroy the BCM by snitching. 


Duen De


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