South Africa

Helen Suzman, RIP

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First Miriam Makeba died, and now we've lost Helen Suzman, the leading classical liberal opponent of apartheid. From The Australian's obit:

suzman

The most celebrated white champion of the anti-apartheid movement, Helen Suzman was the South African MP who for 36 years consistently denounced the iniquities of racial segregation. Often, she was the sole politician in South Africa's parliament to campaign vociferously against apartheid. For six years, she was also the only woman among 165 MPs, enduring the contempt of male parliamentarians who viewed white supremacy as a birthright, and to whom liberal was a dirty word.

Undeterred, Suzman used her privileges as an MP to gain access to areas forbidden to the general public: prisons, black townships and "resettlement areas" in the tribal homelands. At every step she highlighted the evils of the system.

David Boaz has posted a nice tribute to Suzman at the Cato blog:

I loved reading about her quick wit in parliamentary debates. She sent the minister of law and order a postcard from the Soviet Union, saying, "You would like it here. Lots of law and order." Once she told a government minister to go into the black townships and see their appalling conditions for himself. He would be quite safe, she said, if he went "heavily disguised as a human being." In a famous exchange a certain minister shouted: "You put these questions just to embarrass South Africa overseas." To which she coolly replied: "It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa—it is your answers." When an Afrikaner in Parliament sneered at her Jewish roots and asked what her ancestors were doing when his were bringing the Bible to the "savages," she snapped, "They were writing the Bible."

Boaz notes that Suzman "did not forget her liberalism when apartheid finally fell and the African National Congress came to power. She continued to speak out against repressive policies and the Thabo Mbeki government's continuing support for Robert Mugabe." She was a consistent classical liberal in another way, too: She favored free markets as well as human rights, and she understood that the two ideals were linked.

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  1. Just in case, the full Google News story cluster is here.

  2. “She favored free markets as well as human rights, and she understood that the two ideals were linked.”

    /sarcasm MY GOD what a complete zealot market worshipping kook!!!

    /sarcasm

  3. Helen Suzman was an outstanding champion of freedom, much under-appreciated by American libertarians.

  4. A truly great person, with courage, intelligence, wit and integrity.

    We need more such people.

  5. Helen was a hell of a nice person, she championed the rights of those oppressed by the state which angered the conservatives in South Africa. She believed in free markets which angered the communists and socialists (who were often conservatives as well). She was hero of classical liberalism is ways that conservatives can never understand.

  6. “She favored free markets as well as human rights, and she understood that the two ideals were linked.”

    I doubt she was so stupid as to think they were identical.

  7. This is kind of nice:

    http://withastone.blogspot.com/2009/01/helen-suzman.html

    Helen Suzman was a Jew, in case the name and the adorable photo didn’t make that clear. Actually, a majority of the prominent white anti-apartheid activists in South Africa were Jewish, despite being a rather tiny portion of the white population (under 100,000 of several million). After the “feeling of betrayal” stemming from the Bernie Madoff fiasco, that’s nice to remember.

  8. I saw her at a speech several years ago – what a treasure the world just lost!

    The photo makes her look kind of like Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher was a Jew, wasn’t she, Lefiti?

    ‘When an Afrikaner in Parliament sneered at her Jewish roots and asked what her ancestors were doing when his were bringing the Bible to the “savages,” she snapped, “They were writing the Bible.”‘

    Is there a cite for that one? It seems that either Suzman, or the person telling the story, was borrowing from a supposed retort by Benjamin Disraeli to an Irish Parliamentarian in the 19th century. Supposedly, Disraeli said that while the Irishman’s ancestors were savages in an unknown island, Disraeli’s answers were priests in the temple of Solomon.

    Maybe Suzman had that anecdote stored up in case one of her fellow-MPs provoked her.

  9. Disraeli’s ancestors, not answers.

  10. Lefiti, this book from South Africa’s apartheid era should get your blood pressure up. Enjoy!

  11. Lefiti

    This thread is a tribute to a woman who had more courage than you or I and did vastly more than either of us ever will do to advance human freedom and dignity.

    Please try to behave like a civilized person.

    Max

    A recycled quip, used in a timely and appropriate manner, can be every bit as witty as when it was first used. It takes a ready mind to have the reference and the sense of when to use it.

  12. Aresen,

    What’s uncivilized about pointing out that the woman was oviously too intelligent to buy into a moronic libertarian market fundamentalism–which is the fantasy you fanatics have about anybody who reportedly supports “free markets”?

  13. What is uncivilized is your attempt to hijack a memorial for your own pet peeve.

    You are a left wing version of Fred Phelps.

  14. By the way, losers, did I mention that I’m still a sad, pathetic, needy little troll who claims to despise this place, but can’t stop commenting here? (not to mention that I’m a hypocrite and a fraud for claiming to be a liberal while still supporting the racist, classist War on Drugs)

  15. Lefiti | January 3, 2009, 12:13am | #

    By the way, losers, did I mention that I’m still a sad, pathetic, needy little troll who claims to despise this place, but can’t stop commenting here? (not to mention that I’m a hypocrite and a fraud for claiming to be a liberal while still supporting the racist, classist War on Drugs)

    QFMFT

  16. Lefiti actually makes good points about our fanaticism. How the fuck do we know completely free markets won’t lead to rule by ruthless plutocrats. Maybe we should give lefiti’s point of view some thought. This is sort of an echo chamber for libertarian dogma. Just sayin’.

  17. Apartheid may have been a shitty system but South Africa is worse off now than it was twenty years ago.

  18. I like to crap in my pants!

  19. She wasn’t a liberal.

    Her party, the Progressive Party, advocated a qualified franchise, with votes for the rich and educated. They wanted to replace colour discrimination with class discrimination.

    Nevertheless, she did fight for freedom and justice.

  20. “Apartheid may have been a shitty system but South Africa is worse off now than it was twenty years ago.”

    In many ways so is Russia. Fuck, so are we.

  21. How the fuck do we know completely free markets won’t lead to rule by ruthless plutocrats.

    You mean like Rhodesia?

  22. Her party, the Progressive Party, advocated a qualified franchise, with votes for the rich and educated.

    They dropped that stance in the ’70s, and I understand that Suzman wanted them to drop it earlier.

  23. “How the fuck do we know completely free markets won’t lead to rule by ruthless plutocrats.”

    We can’t be certain about anything. Do you have daughters? Are they cute? Are you familiar with the idea of plutocrats like me fucking the shit out of your daughters? Just curious.

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