The Communist Party of Ireland expresses its great sadness at the death of one of the great anti-colonial leaders of the late twentieth century, Nelson Mandela.
Mandela was a towering and inspirational figure, a leader of the oppressed of South Africa and beyond. Together with other liberation leaders he was convicted in the Rivonia Trial, concerning two charges of sabotage, one under the Suppression of Communism Act and one under the General Law Amendment Act. Their arrest and trial provoked worldwide solidarity, with money being collected in Ireland and around the world in the early 1960s to be sent to the International Defence and Aid Fund to assist Mandela and the other liberation prisoners in their legal defence.
At this moment it is important to acknowledge the major contribution made by working people around the world to Mandela’s liberation.
Despite spending decades incarcerated in apartheid prisons, he remained unbowed and unbroken. His walk to freedom, with his wife, Winnie Mandela, beside him, was a defining image of the late twentieth century. The white apartheid regime, which for decades nestled snugly under the protective wing of western governments, did not and could not break him or the people’s resistance.
In one of his first speeches Mandela paid tribute to the unbreakable and unselfish solidarity given to the oppressed masses of South Africa by the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc, as against the inaction and active collaboration of almost all western government with the apartheid regime that incarcerated him for twenty-seven years. Mandela also paid tribute to the heroic Cuban internationalists who defeated the invading South African army on the battlefields of Angola, which marked the beginning of the end of apartheid South Africa. No doubt those same western governments will now heap false praise on this champion of human liberation, though they did nothing to help during his long incarceration.
With his passing we also remember the thousands of ordinary citizens, both inside and outside South Africa, who campaigned for his release and for the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime but whose demands fell on deaf ears for many decades.
With the death of Nelson Mandela humanity has lost a deeply humane and committed liberation leader. We salute him and all the great leaders and fighters who struggled, and those who are still struggling, for freedom and social liberation. The long walk to freedom still has many miles to go. Statement ends
Eugene Mc Cartan
General Secretary Communist Party of Ireland