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Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Apartheid Dialectic.

There was a debate concerning Apartheid on the ILSA blog a few months ago often going along a general pro / con dialectic but I would submit that there is another perspective because that approach misses the larger picture of investigating why Apartheid was promoted & sold as a "solution" during the 1930s onwards in the first place because those that pushed it as a solution were basically ensnared into a confidence trick [ as the Apartheid example as set by the British Colonial power all over the world in fact was then starting to unravel ] because the long term viability of such laws were doomed due to changing trends & especially shifting demographics within the greater State. Consequently the loud proclamations of local governments asserting control over & expanding the existing Apartheid only led to the vilification of the macro White population in general.

Such an over ambitious & teleocratic agenda had great difficulty in obtaining its stated goal growing ever more illusive as time went on but only served as convenient fodder against the general White population as much of the world was conditioned to blame them for the system in place - but what role did the average White person play in the adoption of the system? There are those who are quick to lay blame on White people in general while overlooking just how the system was imposed in the first place. Most average folks within a given population often do not follow let alone participate in government & politics therefore to lay blame on an entire population group for government policies can be displaced.

Part of the erroneous Apartheid dialectic asserts that local White peoples imposed Apartheid laws onto the region when in reality there was never any grass root movement among the White population to adopt such laws & the adoption & imposition of the Apartheid laws was done in a top down manner. Those laws were initially implemented by the British Colonial regimes in the Cape & Natal during the late 19th cent modeled on the policies employed on the mines of Johannesburg. The Apartheid laws were never subjected to a referendum or plebiscite as they were formulated by bureaucrats & politicians. While White people were recruited to fill the role of a surrogate Colonial power within the government of the new macro State - it would be a considerable stretch to blame White people in general for its various policies as governments are notorious for following their own agendas / for being autocratic & for disregarding populist concerns among the general population.

Since Apartheid was never put before the White population in a referendum or plebiscite - it is not fair nor accurate to presume that most White people supported those measures. It is not as though the local White population clamoured for Apartheid laws on some sort of grass roots level or started political movements with the express purpose of implementing Apartheid because the old Apartheid laws were in fact instituted from the top down by various REGIMES without consulting the electorate in any sort of a vote. The only sort of vote which was interpreted as a public endorsement of Apartheid was the 1948 election of Daniel Francois Malan & his Reunited National Party but few bother to scrutinize the matter to discover some telling facts.

First of all the National Party victory at the polls during that election was illusory as they did not win the popular vote: only just barely enough seats to form a government. This is known to happen from time to time in Parliamentary based democracies. Therefore construing that election as a mass endorsement for Apartheid [ as many political pundits do ] would be intellectually dishonest. Next: the governing United Party was in fact PERPLEXED by the National Party's election campaign [ 1 ] & its proposed "emergency measures" aimed at strengthening & reforming Apartheid as the UP saw the NP position as nothing more than a dressed up version of their own policy & believed that the existing Apartheid laws on the statute books were sufficient. The National Party had to later co-opt the Afrikaner Party in the early 1950s [ of which its leader N C Havenga was Malan's preferred successor when Malan announced his retirement but the post ultimately went to Hans Strijdom ] just to increase the National Party's base of support to go into further polls. Then: when the next election cycle came up for 1953 the National Party made sure that the White population of South West Africa could vote in South African elections so that they could increase their representation in Parliament. Not until the 1958 election did the National Party receive a majority of the White electorate: [ 2 ] after most of the Grand Apartheid laws were already passed. Furthermore it should be pointed out that Afrikaner Nationalists simply extended & stregthened previous segregatonist laws that were inheritied from & passed by the earlier Brtitish colonial regimes prior. They did not invent anything new - only made it more organized & later granted independence & self government to various mini States. What had come to be known as Apartheid was in fact in practice since the begining of the South African macro State [ & indeed if it were not then the White surrogate Colonial regime could never have been brought to power in the first place via the universal franchise adopted as the means of electoral law as per the governance of South Africa ] & was IMPOSED onto the region via political decisions from the top & not from popular mass organization. The main purpose of Apartheid [ as it was enforced ] was to secure the State from the British & the intial use of the term Apartheid was used in relation to the separation of Afrikaans speakers from English speakers. The author P Eric Louw notes [ 3 ] that the National Party's version of Apartheid got started as a means to prevent Anglo domination.

This new expansion & reorganization of Apartheid was driven by the then secretive Afrikaner Broederbond which was using the Apartheid issue to bolster their influence & power. The membership of the Afrikaner Broederbond was small in numbers but wielded a lot of influence & power as virtually every single National Party cabinet member was a member of this elite semi-secret group which formulated the Grand Apartheid laws WITHOUT large scale or mass public consultation.

Prime Minister J B M Hertzog who started the original National Party in 1914 stated in November 1935 that: "there was no doubt that the secret Broederbond was nothing more than the National Party operating secretly underground, and the National Party is nothing more than the secret Afrikaner Broederbond operating in public". [ 4 ] Therefore this public admission demonstrates that the mass public were by & large kept in the dark & can not honestly be held accountable en mass for a system devised in secret [ initially ] by the political establishment.

The only reason why the old Apartheid laws appeared to have any support [ of which was never much more than 30 % solid hard core support of the electorate coupled with a slight "swing vote" section of which swung against Apartheid by the late P W Botha regime ] was because after the regimes dangled Apartheid in front of the White electorate as a means to safeguard their security & what little representation they had [ remember politics is the art of pretending to represent the people while really just implementing a semi-secret agenda aimed at securing the interests of the elite ] within the dispensation - they effectively frightened the White electorate into supporting the Apartheid doctrine as the only method to prevent what they cynically called the Black Threat. Cynical because they exploited those fears among the White electorate to great political benefit which was evident in how the National Party was able to hold onto power for over four decades. Though the opposition political parties' lack of submitting a viable alternative also played a large role in National Party dominance. Other options to Apartheid were purposely sidelined because of the establishment's desire to maintain their dominance of the macro State as created by the British Imperialists with an act of legislation passed in the British Parliament in 1909. The various Apartheid laws were just the various regimes' way of attempting to deal with the monstrous macro State that the South Africa Act created without losing control of the said macro State via its institutions & government. Wherein the Boers [among others] were denied their right to self determination in a total betrayal of Article 7 of the Vereeniging Accord not to mention the Sand River Convention & the Orange River Convention.

The Separate Development phase of Apartheid was often viewed as an expression of ultra right wing or conservative politics yet its basic premise of decolonization [ which was limited & never quite got off the ground as they never devised a viable method of reversing the macro State structure ] & of granting ethnic based self determination [ limited once again of course ] could hardly be considered as such & in fact this policy had opponents on the ultra conservative Right. The Separate Development stage of Apartheid as instituted by the National Party from the 1950s onwards was viewed as too liberal by ultra conservative figures such as Albert Hertzog [ who later founded the HNP ] as he was against the granting of Bantu homeland independence as he feared those independent states would become infiltrated by communism. [ 5 ] Though ironically the initial Apartheid policies which became institutionalized in law was a direct result of the high finance Capitalist [ which is not the free market ] influence in the region as a result of the labour policies employed on the gold mines near Johannesburg stemming from the racial segregation policies enforced on the mines.

Furthermore liberal icons such as Alfred Hoernlé was advocating for a system of partition in order "to protect the Black population from White economic exploitation". [ 6 ] Therefore it was one dimensional to view programs aimed at obtaining ethnic partition as "racist" when the very aim of those policies is to prevent racism from being possible by developing a dispensation whereby the various ethnic groups are no longer under the suzerainty of a racially or ethnically exploitative or dominant system. Which is not to say that the manner in which the past attempts within the old dispensation were enacted was desirable nor even practical as it was lopsided & the surrogate Colonial regime was attempting to maintain control over the major portion of the macro State & allocate it for the general White population - but such an aim of authentic ethnic / national group emancipation from macro State & surrogate Colonial regime suzerainty should not be a disparaged goal because the desire of authentic national group independence is a natural outcome of politically mature groups who want to get out from under oppression or ethnic marginalization & the dictates of a centralized system of government.

Conclusion. I will conclude on an interesting note: the Country Studies series available at the United States Library of Congress notes that prior to the arrival of the British & particularly before the era of the Anglo-Boer War - there was a balance of power in the region [ 7 ] thus if that politically stable situation could have prevailed & have been left alone: there never would have been the implementation of the later Apartheid laws on such a grand scale because this balance of power would not have been disturbed & there would not have existed the macro State which was the centralized enforcement mechanism of the Apartheid laws of the past & present.


1. Apartheid Revisited by Gavan Tredoux.

2. Paper presented to the Inaugural Conference of the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust. The Political Economy of Social Change in South Africa University of the Western Cape.

3. Page 33 of The Rise / Fall & Legacy of Apartheid. P Eric Louw.

4. Alistair Boddy-Evans. Afrikaner Broederbond. What was the Afrikaner Broederbond.

5. Chapter 4 The Afrikaner Broederbond: From ‘Devil of Apartheid’ to an Actor of Change in the Transformation Process of South Africa? Annette Knecht Introduction.

6. R F A HoernlĂ©, South African Native Policy and the Liberal Spirit, Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg, 1945, pp 168–178. See also P N Malherbe, Multistan: A Way Out of the South African Dilemma, David Philip, Cape Town, 1974.

7. The Library of Congress Country Studies.

Post Script. Which is not to say that State devised programs attempting to manage growing racial demographic complexities [ exacerbated incredibly by the British mines owners ] would not have arisen but it is clear that it would not have been on the scale of what later unfolded due to the nature macro State centralization.

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