The IUF and its members around the world mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, whose unbending struggle for freedom inspired millions around the world as well as in his own South Africa. To celebrate his life and achievements, and the achievements of those who fought with him and in solidarity with South Africa’s liberation struggle, we remember Mandela as the great unifier, a role in which he was unmatched, but also as a great fighter, unbowed during 27 years of confinement. We recall the crucial importance of the struggle for independent trade unions in South Africa and their transformative role in the fight for the freedom of an entire nation, as well as the role of the international labour movement in giving support to that struggle over many years, a struggle which we made our own.

With his passing, Mandela again unites all those fighting for justice and dignity. But memories are short, and amnesia is a potent force. It is inevitable that tributes will pour out from those who supported and profited from the monstrous system of Apartheid, and from those who would prefer to obscure the continuing legacy of that system. We cannot forget, and we need to ceaselessly recall, that the long struggle for democracy by South Africans dispossessed, exploited, humiliated and stripped of citizenship in their own country was an historic and inspiring victory for them and for all of us, but – as Mandela reminded us on his release from prison – the path to full emancipation remains before us. We best honour his memory by continuing his fight.

Published: 07/12/2013