Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Nelson Mandela and the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

with 7 comments

Nelson Mandela’s death has received the coverage it merits.

He was truly a great man.

What should be underlined is that it was not just a great Man but a movement that overthrew Apartheid.

We should recall how the brave activists of the ANC brought down the racist South African system.

How they were backed by supporters across the world.

In this country the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM)  played its part.

The Daily Mirror describes the AAM’s role,

When Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 17 1990, there was dancing in the streets in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Home to the South African Embassy, the Square had been the focal point of the UK Anti-Apartheid Movement for just over three decades.

Originally known as the Boycott Movement, the British anti-apartheid campaign began on June 26 1959 – three years before Mandela was imprisoned – when a group of South African exiles and their British supporters met in London’s Holborn Hall.

Backed by trade unionists, Labour Party branches, British Communist and Liberal activists, women’s groups, the National Union of Students, and the TUC, the meeting called for a boycott of fruit, cigarettes and other goods imported from South Africa.

Led by Oliver Tambo, the ANC President and great friend of Nelson Mandela, who lived in Haringey after fleeing to the UK in the 1960s, other key public figures included Labour politicians Barbara Castle, Peter Hain and Frank Dobson as well as playwright Harold Pinter, actor Vanessa Redgrave and archbishop Trevor Huddleston.

The UK was South Africa’s largest investor, and at that time the ANC were still committed to peaceful means.

Eight months after the Boycott Movement was founded, the Sharpeville massacre where 69 protestors against apartheid were shot dead by South African police, changed the stance of the boycotters.

Now, the group renamed itself the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) and began active support for all those fighting apartheid.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was among those who opposed sanctions, but to no avail.

Mass demonstrations forced the cancellation of the 1970 Springboks cricket tour of the UK, and South Africa was expelled from nearly every international sporting federation.

Haringey was also the home of many of many anti-apartheid activists, including a large group of  Oliver Tambo’s fellow exiles. This was a major issue in the area, taken up by progressive organisations, from the Woodcraft Folk, the local political parties of the left, notably the Communist Party,  the trade unions, to a group of  courageous people who helped support and arm the ANC from the UK.

London Recruits: The Secret War Against Apartheid: Editor  Ken Keable.

It is hard to recall any of the present Government and their backers, some of whom are quite offensive about Mandela’s death, doing the same.

A dignified response to the event is given by Shiraz Socialist.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

7 Responses

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  1. If only the same crowd would demonstrate just 1% of the internationalism they showed back then with Syria today…

    Not George Sabra

    December 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm

  2. The AAM was very much orientated towards support for the ANC, its perspectives and political line, which was one reason why CPGB members were very heavily involved in it at that time. AAM was not just about opposition to apartheid, it was also about supporting a the struggle of a movement we considered to be our comrades.

    Are there any significant factions in Syria that secular British leftists could reasonably regard as their comrades? I’ve not heard of any.


    December 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm

  3. There is not, as far as I know, any Syrian group that the left can support.

    Groups like Socialist Resistance, the International Socialist Network and Workers Power apepared at one point to put their faith in the ” ‘Local Coordination Committees‘. http://www.lccsyria.org/en/

    There appears behind this a lot of wishful thinking about their influence.

    Andrew Coates

    December 8, 2013 at 11:30 am

  4. Do not a fair contingent of “secular British (and otherwise) leftists” support the Syrian government? What is the CPB line, for example? “Orthodox communists” in Germany are certainly very gung-ho about their pro-Assad (and pro-Putin) views.


    December 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm

  5. A member of the CPB asked me about the left in Syria while he was writing an article on it .

    He liked the fact that the Syrian Communist Party (both factions) participated in the Assad National Progressive Front.

    When I explained that there were serious allegations of anti-Semitism against some of them his eyes glazed over.

    Andrew Coates

    December 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm

  6. Mandela was a great man, his legacy is clearly explained at: http://antiracistfront.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/nelson-mandela-great-man-and-great-anti.html


    December 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm

  7. Generally speaking the CPB tends to take the “diplomatic” approach of the old CPGB and does not go against whatever the local CP it recognises is saying. But overall, “support” not backed up by any action is completely ineffectual anyway. That is the difference between the very active, material support given to the ANC and SACP in the days of the anti-apartheid struggle, and the entirely irrelevant pro- or anti-Assad posturing we may see on sections of the left now.


    December 10, 2013 at 10:38 am

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