Address by Nelson Mandela upon receiving International Lenin Peace Prize

28 October 2002

It is a rare occasion to finally be able to accept an award that had been made long ago under circumstances and from institutions that have since changed quite radically.

We are deeply moved by this occasion where we can at last receive in person the Lenin Prize.

Much has changed in the world since that award was given to us, but the world's need for the human solidarity, which that generous gesture demonstrated, remains as much as ever. It is in that spirit that we receive this award and that it honours us so much to accept it.

It reminds us again of the international dimension of our struggle against apartheid. Like few other liberation struggles ours enjoyed the support if virtually all political persuasions in all parts of the world. The world's abhorrence at the indignity and inhumanity of racial oppression was such that it identified with our struggle as one of all humankind.

Within that international support for our struggle the Soviet Union and other socialist countries stood out. The governments and peoples of the socialist bloc gave material, moral and political support to our struggle in a manner and on a scale that we will never be able to repay.

The world has changed since then and the Soviet Union and the other then existing socialist states of Eastern Europe have disappeared. It is not for us to lament developments that the people of those countries wished for and welcomed. Neither is it for us, however, to deny the value of the support we received from those countries or to mask the immense appreciation we had for those countries.

That we receive the Lenin Prize in such radically changed circumstances may in fact be symbolic of the revolutionary spirit in which it was intended. It may very well inspire us in the spirit of Lenin to radically adapt our methods to the changed circumstances and to seek what is best for the masses of the people rather than holding desperately to preconceived receipes.

As we remember the support from the Soviet Union and the socialist states, it is fitting that we also pay tribute to our historic partnership with the South African Communist Party.

We remember how South African communists came to the material support of the ANC at a time when the police were raiding our offices almost on a daily basis, depleting us of our resources to pay our full-time officials. We can never forget those concrete acts of solidarity.

The SACP has been trustworthy and dependable allies over decades as part of our movement in all its formations. Our relationship with the Soviet Union and the socialist world had much to do with their presence in our ranks.

As we receive the Lenin Prize today we do so in celebration of human solidarity. In a world where the poor seem to be getting poorer and the divide between the have's and have-not's is widening, we need global commitment to the value of human solidarity.

The methods and approaches to achieve a more equitable world might have changed. The problems of gross inequality and of poverty remain. Let us all recommit ourselves to building a world where there will be a better life for all.

I thank you for the honour of awarding me a prize in the name of a revolutionary that history will never be able to forget.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation