Donate to Reason! Because What Other Magazine Was Interviewing Eldridge Cleaver About Nelson Mandela in 1986?

Mark Skousen sighting! |||We're finishing up Day Two of Reason's annual webathon, in which we ask our humble, disloyal, and rakishly attractive readers to toss a few dollars or Bitcoins in our cup so that we can bring you even more hard-hitting, intellectually engaging journalism advancing the cause of Free Minds and Free Markets. We're more than halfway to our new goal of $150,000 for the week, so please make your tax-deductible donation right the hell now!

Don't know about you, but I've been spending this death-day of Nelson Mandela–one of Reason's “35 Heroes of Freedom” in our 35th anniversary issue 10 years ago—re-living the anti-apartheid politics and controversies of mid-1980s America, when the protest kids were building pro-divestment shantytowns, William F. Buckley was writing about how Mandela belonged in his jail cell, and Ronald Reagan was trying (and ultimately failing) to find wiggle room between rhetorical anti-racism and practical anti-communism. (As in many things Reagan, checking the original video is always a fascinating trip.)

It's hard to exaggerate just how massive and distorting was the Cold War lens through which we all inevitably judged—and often affected the outcomes of—every faraway controversy. The apartheid struggle was a proxy war of communism vs. capitalism, Soviets vs. Americans, and for many of the most serious proxy warriors, it was more important that Mandela was on the wrong side of the divide, and that the African National Congress mixed some communism and violence with its anti-totalitarianism. Sure, he was a political prisoner of a horridly unjust regime, but the man sometimes talked about nationalizing factories!

Seriously, go watch that C-SPAN video. |||I was trying to put into words just how wrong I find that approach, then and now, but then I conducted a "Nelson Mandela" search in the Reason archive, and discovered that former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver said it much better, in a fascinating cover interview he gave to Lynn Scarlett and Bill Kaufmann in 1986. Relevant excerpt:

REASON: A lot of the Panthers seem to be, personally, pretty strong individualists, like you, and yet you espoused revolutionary socialism, collectivism. Did you notice the inconsistencies?

Cleaver: At the time I didn't notice it. It's one thing to study Marxism on paper, living in a capitalistic country where you have individual freedoms and so forth—you don't really see the relationship between the ideology and the form of government that comes out of that ideology. Now, when I had a chance to go and live in communist countries this individualism came into conflict with the state apparatus, and that's when I recoiled against it. But when I was here I was looking at Marxism-Leninism as a weapon, as a tool, to fight against the status quo, and you know, it's just a quality of human beings that when they are trying to tear something down they don't pay enough attention.

Just like in South Africa right now. They went to visit Nelson Mandela, and they asked him, "Would you prefer apartheid to communism?" And his attitude was, Communism is better than apartheid. Because apartheid has him in prison and has had him in prison for 20 years. Well, you get a guy in a communist country who has been in prison there for 20 years, and he will tell you, "I would rather live under apartheid," because he could leave. But the truth is that any form of constraint on our freedoms is not acceptable.

You can't spell "Hayek" without "Hay"! |||And in fact Mandela cut it out with the nationalization talk once he left jail, and will be remembered for something almost no politicians outside of George Washington are ever noted for: choosing not to exercise the power he had. I think Hugh Hewitt said it most succinctly today:

John Podhoretz tweeted out that Nelson Mandela could have chosen to be–had the power to become–an even greater monster than Mugabe. Instead, Mandela chose to become a saint. A great leader, a great Christian, a great example. The world cannot honor him enough as it should hope that all people offered the complete power he was would act as he did.

Anyway, Reason's long-form Q&As are my single favorite part of the archive. We published an eBook collection a year ago of some of the classics: Ronald Reagan and F.A. Hayek in 1975, Timothy Leary in 1977, and more. Since our last webathon, we've conducted some barn-burners with the likes of George Will, Jeremy Scahill, Judge Alex Kozinski and Rep. Justin Amash. Debating and testing out the philosophies and tactics of public figures is one of our best tools for representing your views in the national discussion. You know what makes that easier to do? MONEY MAKES THAT EASIER TO DO.

So please donate whatever you can, whenever you can (by which I mean THIS WEEK), and in the comments tell us who we should interview in 2014!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Tman||

    Over/under on Mandela posts?

    I'm going with 8.

    Not sure this one counts.

  • Metazoan||

    I see no point in betting now that Taboola has exposed the "Biblical Money Code."

  • Warrren||

    Goldie Hawn's soulless demon-husk demands a sacrifice.

  • Tman||

    It's tubes within tubes, man.

  • Warrren||

    Better. I'd rather have Aldridge Cleveland's picture at the top of the page instead of Joe Biden.

  • Cytotoxic||

    http://thelibertarianrepublic......z2mfXwkWp4

    Rand Paul is proposing economic freedom zones for cities like Detroit. This is very interesting and you should read it.

    If a county/city/whatever has an unemployment rate 1.5x the national average, they would automatically become one of these zones. Flat taxes at 5% for both individuals and corporations. Exemption from a slew of EPA regs and Bacon-wage rules.

    Of course, we'd all like freedom for all rather than based on some arbitrary unemployment rate cutoff. But think about this...there's a curve of unemployment, and there will always be some counties at the end of it past 1.5x average. Then, when economic freedom dramatically lowers their UE rate and overall national UE rate, counties that were close to the cutoff will fall above it, and they get sucked in and so on and so on. It'll be an 'opt-out' from the regulatory state and reform by automatic piecemeal. For once, a self-running bill that runs in liberty's favor. AMAZING

  • ||

    How long will they get these special rules?

  • Calidissident||

    Would this be constitutional? Don't all taxes have to be uniform throughout the US?

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    I'm not sure I know the answer to that question, but I will say that it would hilarious if Obama cultists and progressives started making a fuss about something being unconstitutional.

  • ||

    There is no way for it to be constitutional, bit as long as Obama blesses it such things are of no importance.

  • SIV||

    Somaliaization?

    I like it!

  • Invisible Finger||

    A colossally idiotic idea.

    Warren Buffet and George Soros would buy condos in Detroit, change their primary address to it, and maybe stop in a couple days a year.

    States already do this TIF-type shit and it only made things worse.

  • Sidd Finch||

    I found this essay really interesting. It's a liberal explaining why social justice is the worst. Here's the TL;DR version from the end of the first section.

    So it may be scary when your opponent is unaware of your arguments, but it is much scarier when your opponent has a sort of vague dreamlike awareness of your arguments, which immediately pattern-match cached thoughts about how horrible a person you would have to be to make them.

    But this is still not the scariest thing.

    Because if your opponent brings out the Bingo card, you can just tell them exactly what I am saying here. You can explain to the pro-Israel person that they are pattern-matching your responses, that you don’t know what strawman anti-Zionist they’re thinking of but that you have legitimate reasons for believing what you do and you request a fair hearing, and that if they do not repent of their knee-slapping pattern-matching Bingo-making ways they are going to Hell.

    No, the scariest thing would be if one of those bingo cards had, in the free space in the middle: “You are just pattern-matching my responses. I swear that I have something legitimate to tell you which is not just a rehash of the straw-man arguments you’ve heard before, so please just keep an open mind and hear me out.”
  • Sidd Finch||

    If someone did that, even Origen would have to admit they were beyond any hope of salvation. Any conceivable attempt to explain their error would be met with a “Hahahaha he did the ‘stop-pattern matching I’m not a strawman I’m not an inhuman monster STOP FILLING OUT YOUR DAMN BINGO CARD’ thing again! He’s so hilarious, just like all those other ‘stop-pattern matching I am not a strawman’ people whom we know only say that because they are inhuman monsters!”

    But surely no one could be that far gone, right?

    Listen:

    “I’m not racist, but…”

    If you are like everyone else on the Internet, your immediate response is “Whoever is saying that is obviously a racisty racist who loves racism! I can’t believe he literally used the ‘I’m not racist, but…’ line in those exact words! The old INRB! I’ve got to get home as fast as I can to write about this on my blog and tell everyone I really met one of those people!”
  • Sidd Finch||

    But why would someone use INRB? It sounds to me like what they are saying is: “Look. I know what I am saying is going to sound racist to you. You’re going to jump to the conclusion that I’m a racist and not hear me out. In fact, maybe you’ve been trained to assume that the only reason anyone could possibly assert it is racism and to pattern-match this position to a racist straw man version. But I actually have a non-racist reason for saying it. Please please please for the love of Truth and Beauty just this one time throw away your prejudgments and your Bingo card and just listen to what I’m going to say with an open mind.”

    And so you reply “Hahahaha! He really used the ‘look I know what I’m saying is going to sound racist to you you’re going to jump to the conclusion that I’m a racist and not hear me out in fact maybe you’ve been trained to assume…’ line! What a racist! Point and laugh, everyone! POINT AND LAUGH!”

    And of course “sexist” works just as well as “racist” here, even though the latter is more familiar.

    This is what I mean by “conceptual superweapon”. This is what it looks like to stare into the barrel of a gigantic lunar-based death ray and abandon all hope. This is why I find feminism and the social justice community in general so scary.
  • SIV||

    “Hahaha, atheists really are that hilariously stupid!”


    Stating the obvious.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Hmmm. That was a lot longer than I thought. Sorry 'bout that.

  • ||

    I read that a few days ago, actually, quite good.

  • Sidd Finch||

    If you're not familiar with Yvain, here's his current site.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Probably one of the worst-written screeds since the diarrhea-at-the-keyboard work of Veblen.

    Or as Mencken called it: progressive intellectual diabetes.

    http://cafehayek.com/2004/10/mencken_on_vebl.html

  • Sidd Finch||

    "Screeds" you're too stupid to understand aren't necessarily "progressive intellectual diabetes."

  • Tman||

    I don't quite get the Instagram fascination, but this is pretty funny.

    The Clinton one is great.

    http://histagrams.com/

  • Caleb Turberville||

    The MySpace one is kinda sad. I wonder how Tom felt as he watched the user numbers dwindle after 2006?

  • Tman||

    I'm sure he cried about it every night in to his giant pile of money.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Jesus Christ, Reason. It's late. Can't the donation drive wait to morning?

  • Hawk Spitui||

    No. It's imperative you donate immediately, so Reason can continue publishing the same barf-worthy kumbaya bullshit the rest of the MSM is publishing.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    Trying to squeeze us West Coast readers. But we know that they normally ignore us and don't post material after 5!

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    Anyone else remember when Chandler and Joey got a duck?
    That was cool.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Ever notice how Monica and Rachel's apartment kitchen exist in an impossible spatial relationship to the outside corridor? There's a window that shouldn't exist.

  • Warrren||

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Matt, I bet you could get a lot of donations if you published an annual "Guide to Exotic Bureaucrats" every year during pledge week.

  • Matt Welch||

    This is a good idea.

  • Warrren||

    Just found out my youngest daughter has been elected vice-president of her charter school student body.

    Damn it I hate politicians. But I love my daughter. What to do?

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    Convince her to stage a coup and seize control.

    Then she will abolish the student government, therefore proving the maxim that libertarians want to take over and then leave you alone.

  • Sidd Finch||

    kidnap the president

  • MJGreen||

    Encourage her to immediately resign, then write her a 15 page resignation speech outlining the dangers of power and the faults of so-called "collective action."

  • Invisible Finger||

    Ground her for 6 months.

  • Invisible Finger||

    She obviously doesn't have enough chores around the house.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    For all the hagiography that this week will bring, the most appropriate epitaph for Mandela and his works is thus:

    "It could have been worse."

    For that matter it fits pretty well as a send-off for the Apartheid regime.

    As evil as Apartheid was, communism was much worse. It is not right to dismiss Mandela's support for communism as a merely aesthetic or un-important flaw, not when communism claimed so many nations, liberties, and individuals as its victims. There was, in fact, a model for the trajectory of Mandela's insurrection in Africa: former Rhodesia, which had a similarly unjust but functional regime of discriminatory liberal democracy. This regime was of course replaced by Mugabe's junta: much worse for both blacks and whites than its predecessor, and cheered on by the ANC.

    This is the future that awaited a Soviet- and Cuban-backed ANC-ruled S Africa in the 80s, not the moderate government which took power after the fall of the USSR. Avoiding such a system does not mean supporting the status quo. Indeed, the tragedy of Apartheid was how unnecessary it was; Cape Colony and its multiracial qualified franchise had put the lie in the idea that racial restrictions were necessary to maintain a stable, liberal republic decades prior to Apartheid's institution. As S Africa grows poor, nasty, and brutish, more will recognize that it could have been worse -- and after the current Mandela craze is over, some might understand that it could have (and should have) been better.

  • ||

    Well said.

    The irony of the 2 week historical deconstruction of JFK as a figment of the Baby Boomers' cultural imperialism will probably be lost on the collective Reason staff as they proceed to bronze Mandella's dick over the next several weeks (and years).

  • Killaz||

    IT, that nails it. There was no excuse for anyone not to understand the nature of communism from the 1920s onward. Even the failure of Lenin before the NEP should have given pause, as the policy disasters were mostly open for anyone to see at the time. That someone like Eldridge Cleaver claims could not as late as the 1970s is so much self justifying bullshit it is unbelievable Welch is using it for a rationale. Excuse me while I vomit.

  • RishJoMo||

    There is a dude that knows what time it is. WOw.

    www.Anon-Do.tk

  • parkerbce586||

    my neighbor's mother makes 63 BUCKS every hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her pay check was 15302 BUCKSjust working on the laptop for a few hours. Learn More Here
    ===========================
    http://www.fb49.com
    ===========================

  • Federale||

    You interviewed one commie racist about another. Some contribution to either reason or liberty.

  • janiferavc088||

    my classmate's aunt makes 85/hour Dollars on the laptop. She has been laid off for 6 months but last month her pay was 18264 Dollars just working on the laptop for a few hours. go now
    =====================
    http://www.Fb49.com
    =====================

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement