Archive for September 15, 2018

Memories of a Mother

letter of condolence from Comrade Nelson Mandela to my father when my mother passed away on April 4th 2008

reuniting with Nelson Mandela after 27 years – photo by me in Sweden 1990

The Valiant Women.

(for the countless women, names unknown, who bore the brunt of Apartheid, and who fought the racist system at great cost to themselves and their families, and for my mother, Zubeida Moolla)

Pregnant, your husband on the run,

your daughter just a child, a few years old,

they hauled you in, these brutish men,

into the bowels of Apartheid’s racist hell.

They wanted information, you gave them nothing,

these savage men, who skin just happened to be lighter,

and White was right in South Africa back then.

You did not cower, you stood resolute,

you, my mother, faced them down, their power,

their ‘racial superiority’, their taunts, their threats.

You, my mother, would not, could not break,

You stood firm, you stood tall.

You, like the countless mothers did not break, did not fall.

You told me many things, of the pains, the struggles,

the scraping for scraps,

the desolation of separation

from your beloved children, 

by monstrous Apartheid, by brutish men,

whose skin just happened to be lighter.

You told me many things, as I grew older,

of the years in exile, of the winters that grew ever colder.

You were a fighter, for a just cause,

like countless other South African women,

you sacrificed much, you suffered the pangs,

of memories that cut into your bone, your marrow,

you resisted a system, an ideology, brutal and callous and narrow.

Yes, you lived to see freedom arrive, yet you suffered still,

a family torn apart, and struggling to rebuild a life,

all the while, nursing a void, that nothing could ever fill.

I salute you, mother, as I salute the nameless mothers,

the countless sisters, daughters, women of this land, who fought, sacrificing it all by taking a moral and principled and valiant stand.

I salute you, my mother, and though you have passed, your body interred in your beloved South African soil,

you shall remain, within me, an ever-present reminder,

of the cost of freedom, the struggles, the hunger, the toil.

I salute you!

Viva the undying spirit of the women Viva!

(for the brave women of South Africa, of all colours,

who fought against racial discrimination and Apartheid)

Comrade Nelson Mandela’s mother and my mother protesting the arrest of political prisoners

with Comrade Winnie Mandela, an old friend and comrade of my parents

my mother reunited with Comrade Nelson Mandela after 27 years

Anti-Apartheid slogan and poster from the 1980s

from google

The Demonisation of Mahatma Gandhi.




The gradual chiselling away of what they call the facade of the great soul.

The thin man in homespun loincloth who galvanised a nation to take on the might of the British Empire stands alone today.

The man who spawned a revolution of thought and action the world had never seen before, the concept of struggling against evil through non-violence is being corroded by forces narrow and machiavellian.

Today, the life and times of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi are being picked at slowly and at times savagely, in attempt after attempt to sully the actions of a man of flesh and bone called the Apostle of Peace. 

The Mahatma Gandhi of today’s revisionist historians and social and political activists is a feeble, racist, casteist, sexual deviant, among also being a toothless panderer to minorities during some of the most horrific times that the peoples of the Indian subcontinent had ever experienced.

We stand today overlooking a dangerous precipice, as the forces of reaction and naked racism and fascism are on the ascendancy.

These forces have been biding their time for a while now, quietly infecting the undercurrents of different societies with their narrow sectarian and fascist notions of religious and racial superiority.

The perfect storm that has been brewing for decades now is coming to pass, as the forces of reaction and the so-called “noveau-activists”, often called “peacetime revolutionaries” by Nelson Mandela” comrade Ahmed Kathrada who spent 27 years on Robben Island during the harshest years of Apartheid tyranny and hegemony.

Was Gandhi all the negative things said about him today?

Quite possibly so when as a newly minted barrister from England he traveled to South Africa to take on his first case. Dressed in his very English suit and tie and still steeped in his Brahmin upbringing, Gandhi may well have been many of the things his detractors accuse him of being.

But history has shown us repeatedly how human beings evolve and how their political and social and personal attitudes and principles and values morph over time.

The Nelson Mandela revered today as a man of peace and non-racialism was a young man once, who political thought evolved from being a fiery young man who did not approve of other racial groups from being a part of the struggle against the Apartheid regime, but thanks to giants of the South African liberation movement like Walter Sisulu and others, it is all the more admirable when history shows the transformation of Nelson Mandela into a man of inclusivity and a fierce believer in the equality of all races.

The Nelson Mandela acknowledged by history as being a man of peace was instrumental in the formation of the African National Congress’ armed wing – Umkhonto-we-Sizwe or the Spear of the Nation. This man of peace understood and accepted the needs of the moment to change the course of the liberation movement in South Africa from one of non-violence to one that understood that the Apartheid regime was not going to be defeated by Gandhian principles of non-violent struggle.

In Nelson Mandela’s own words – “There are many people who feel that the reaction of the government to our strike – a general mobilisation, arming the white community, arresting tens of thousands of Africans, the show of force throughout the country, notwithstanding our clear declaration that our campaign is being run on peaceful and non-violent lines – closes a chapter on our method of political struggle. There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile to continue talking about peace and non-violence against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenceless people.”

The Nelson Mandela who struggled and campaigned in peaceful manner came to the historical realisation that armed action against the Apartheid regime had to be a part of the struggle for racial equality and freedom. 

So too with Mahatma Gandhi, whose views from a narrow sectarian and racially biased position, given his being raised in a ‘high-caste’ Brahmin family, which also mirrored Nelson Mandela’s being born into a royal household, were shaped over the years to the Mahatma Gandhi whom Albert Einstein said of “that generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as he, walked this earth”. No small praise from a fellow individual who’s works led to the invention of nuclear weapons even as he remained a campaigner for peace his whole life.

So too with many of the great figures we hold in high-esteem today, it is often the case that over a period of time and of political and social development of thoughts and of ideologies, there can be not one individual who can be singled out as being a born progressive and revolutionary thinker and activist.

Ernesto ‘Ché’ Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Jomo Kenyatta, Fidel Castro, Karl Marx, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many others were all flawed human beings, many being sexually and personally unfaithful to their partners.

To judge these men by the standards of today is a legitimate historical endeavour.

But to demonise them as being “sell-outs” and “sexual deviants” and “having been co-opted by the enemy” and of being “racist” and “tribalist” and “casteist” and “sectarian” by today’s standards of moral compasses is to ignore the revolutionary leaps they played in the struggles for universal dignity and freedom from want and grinding poverty and the countless horrors faced by the 99% of the world’s population today in 2018.

The most startling aspect of this revisionist history is that the almost seamless confluence of the forces of fascism and reaction with the forces of “progressive thought” and activism for meaningful political and social change seem to agree upon. 

To the resurgent right-wing these individuals are regarded as traitors to their “own kind” and are actively and concertedly being demonised, and the word demonise is not an exaggeration.

To the many progressive forces of social and political activism for true and meaningful and humane change, these individuals are singled out as being “racist” and “tribalist” and “casteist” and “sectarian” whose place in historical context must be viewed by the yardsticks of 21st century beliefs and societal and political norms. 

This is the most dangerous aspect – the confluence of thought between fascists and progressives on their iconoclastic quest to gradually, and often times not that gradually, demonisation of these figures of history.

It is very easy to vilify our grandparents for the views they held, as repellant as they are to us today, and similarly it is convenient to vilify countless figures in history as being “backward” and “anachronistic”, and rightfully so – but to simply dismiss those who came before us by simply painting them with the same brush is to do a disservice to history itself.

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a right-wing Hindu extremist who believed that Gandhi was a “sell-out” to his “own” people – the very same ideological thoughts that are being actively espoused by the successors to those very same notions of “our own pride” and “total and complete adherence to our religion”.

Yes, Mahatma Gandhi was a deeply flawed human being, yet his contribution to the Indian freedom struggle cannot be simply cast aside, as with Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, amongst so many leaders amd activists of movements the world over who dedicated their lives and many of whom were killed by the forces of imperialism and colonialism.

The shared demonisation by both right-wing and left-wing activists who are agreed about the legacy of these figures of history, is a dangerous nexus of convenience – especially in a time when the world is swinging dangerously towards the narrow populism of jingoistic and racist thought.

This is a time for all progressive and like-minded people to concentrate their efforts in order to be the vanguard against the obscenity of right-wing governments popping up in so many places I’m the world.

The virtual “acceptance” of raw and crude and vile capitalism needs to have the barricades set up once more as we witness the daily horrors of deprivation and grotesque wealth on the other side.

The spectre of the damning of historical figures, as flawed as they may have been, plays directly into the hands of the forces who wish to sow division among the peoples of the world.

This is a dangerous road that is being chartered, once again, especially when the world is in a dangerous place where racism and the hatred of the “other” is being preached from the pulpits of power.

It is especially corrosive at a time when wars of blatant aggression in the pursuit of plundering the countries invaded in the most overt adoption of neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism.

The simplistic interpretation of the history and historical contributions of the individuals being vilified, dove-tail chillingly as both right-wing and many left-wing activists are agreed about one thing and that is their reading and conclusions reached about the legacy of these and many more figures of history.

Zhou Enlai, the first leader of post-revolutionary China was once asked what he thought about the French Revolution, he responded with the following:

“It’s too soon to tell.”

from google


2018 copyleft afzal moolla

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