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Chapter Seven— Socio-Political Conflicts: The Non-White Opposition and the Internal Power Balance
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Chapter Seven—
Socio-Political Conflicts: The Non-White
Opposition and the Internal Power Balance

Until now, our analysis of racial conflicts has been confined mostly to the White side of the colour line. We have dealt with the English-Afrikaner conflict and with the racial attitudes and policies of the Europeans towards the non-Whites. This emphasis is justified insofar as the Whites have created the "racial problem" in South Africa, and as the non-Europeans have mostly reacted against White racialism. To view the non-Europeans purely as passive objects of discrimination, however, would lead to a gross distortion of reality.

Although the modern liberatory movements are a development of the twentieth century, the African masses never accepted the consequences of military defeat. Early in the nineteenth century, Gaika, a great African chief, was quoted as saying with bitter irony: "When I look at the large extent of fine country that has been taken from me, I am compelled to say that, though protected I am rather oppressed by my protectors."[1] The first expression of anti-White opposition that followed military defeat took the form of nativistic or messianistic movements. As in most other parts of the colonial world, the introduction of Christian


messianistic concepts, combined with the frustration and social disorganization following European conquest, led to the rise of native messiahs and prophets who promised to rid the land of the invaders, and to re-establish the golden age of the past. The most famous of these early movements was the disastrous cattle-killing of the Xhosas in the 1850's. Early, pre-industrial, ethnic nationalism also took the form of armed revolts without a messianistic basis, such as the Zulu Poll-Tax Rebellion of 1906.

Both of these pre-industrial forms of anti-White opposition, nativism and messianism, survive to this day. The 1960 revolt of the Pondo peasantry is the most recent example of non-religious, ethnic nativism. The rebellion flared up locally and spontaneously without much outside contact, and without any well-defined aims or political ideology in the modernist sense. Characterized by assassination, arson, and cattle killing directed against government-appointed chiefs, the Pondo revolt is a clear example of nativistic rejection of all that is European, including such "progressive" measures as soil conservation, and cattle culling and dipping. It is not only a rebellion against the government and Bantu authorities, but an expression of ethnic nationalism and peasant conservatism against European culture.

Messianism has likewise survived to the present in the form of many hundreds of small "Zionist" African sects. The 1951 census lists nearly 1.6 million people, i.e., one-third of the African Christians, as members of "Native Separatist Churches."[2] While these churches clearly express their members' frustration and dissatisfaction with the discriminatory "White man's" Christianity, they no longer have a political character, and the government tolerates them as a harmless derivative for anti-European feelings. In the past there have been violent clashes between the


government and "Zionist" sects, notably in 1920, when some three hundred members of the "Israelite" church were killed by the army after refusing to vacate their "sacred" hill.

The possibility that messianism can become an important political force for African emancipation seems remote, however. Most of the sects number only a few hundred members or less, and even the larger groups (such as the Shembe church among the Zulu) are generally restricted to one linguistic group. Like other forms of ethnically based movements, messianism is doomed to failure as an instrument of liberation, and can only have a diminishing appeal in an industrial and urban society which is becoming increasingly Westernized and secularized. Not only do the reactionary aims of nativistic and revivalistic movements make them ill-adapted to modern conditions, and unlikely to attract the crucial urban masses, but such groups totally lack the revolutionary discipline and techniques necessary to overthrow a well-equipped colonial government. Such movements may at most play a secondary and auxiliary role in the African liberatory struggle, largely because their thunder has been stolen away by the secularized and modernist political movements.

Education, industrialization, and urbanization brought about profound political changes starting at the beginning of the twentieth century. The missions spread not only Christianity among Africans, but also Western values of equality, individualism, and democracy, and the rudiments of European education. Mission education and life on the rural mission stations were the first steps away from traditional life for many Africans. The process of education and "detribalization," which the missionaries initiated over a century ago, was further accelerated with the rise of industrial centres. In the mines, great masses of African peasants were gradually transformed into a mobile urban proletariat. Cities became ethnic melting pots where workers became emancipated from traditional ties, learned the rudiments of European languages, developed common pidgin tongues, and were exposed to modern political concepts.


Urbanization lies at the root of the development of non-White political consciousness and of modern emancipatory movements led by a Western-educated intelligentsia.[3] Several circumstances have given the evolution of non-White political opposition a special South African character, however. As in most other European-dominated countries, these movements have been strongly influenced by the West in both their ideology and their organization, and bear relatively few traces of indigenous political traditions. But, in South Africa, the lengthy stay of Mahatma Gandhi has left a deep mark on non-European politics, which has survived to this day in the Congress Alliance, the main non-White opposition group. Most of the older non-White leaders, and many of the younger ones, adhere to the ideal of non-violence, and are schooled in the techniques of passive resistance, self-discipline, and self-denial. South Africa became the first testing-ground of Satyagraha, and, through the Mahatma's experiences, has indirectly influenced the evolution of India. More than any other single figure, Gandhi may be called the grandfather of South African non-White politics.

The non-White movements in South Africa also differ from those found elsewhere on the continent, in that their primary objective is not to gain political freedom from a distant colonial power, but to reach a modus vivendi on terms of equality with a sizeable, permanent White minority. In short, the non-Europeans seek freedom through equality rather than through independence. Non-White leaders are nearly unanimous in rejecting in principle any scheme for racial partition, and most of them envisage various forms of a multiracial country within present frontiers.


The secondary role played by trade unionism is a third characteristic of the South African freedom movements. Non-White trade unionism has been hampered by repressive action on the part of both industry and government, which both aim to keep the non-European workers cheap, docile, unorganized, and powerless. Furthermore, White trade-union leaders who, in the past, had the most experience, and could have played a leading role in organizing the African masses, have for the most part been racists, and have often defended the interests of White skilled workers against non-European competition.

For a decade, from 1919 to 1929, the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) under the militant leadership of Kadalie was active and moderately successful in organizing strikes and fighting court cases. The ICU was definitely an African working-class movement, but it lacked any clear political ideology or platform, its goals being mostly economic. When it called for a boycott of municipal beer halls in 1929, the police repressed and destroyed the union and banished its leaders, spelling the doom of the greatest and most militant of the African trade unions. A consequence of the underdevelopment of non-White trade unionism since the 1920's, has been that the freedom movements have, until recently, lacked mass support, and have been relatively small groups led by moderate liberals drawn mostly from the African and Indian intelligentsia.

Fourthly, the non-White political movements have themselves not escaped the surrounding climate of South African racialism. Not only has a Black counterracialism developed in reaction against White racism, leading to the split of the Pan-Africanists from the African National Congress in 1959, but the main freedom movement, the Congress Alliance, is itself segregated into racial branches. Although the Congress Alliance preaches racial equality, mutual antagonism and mistrust between the followers and even some leaders of its component racial branches hinder co-operation. The only truly non-racial political groups, the Communist Party and the Liberal Party, have remained small and


relatively ineffectual. We shall return to this problem of racialism in the freedom movements later.

The relative political passivity of the Coloureds constitutes the fifth special characteristic of non-White South African politics. The privileged position of the Coloureds among the non-Whites largely accounts for this fact. Until 1956 the Coloureds enjoyed a limited franchise in the Cape Province, which set them apart from the other non-Whites. Similarly, in the sphere of employment, many Coloureds occupied artisanal positions on terms of near equality with Whites. To these structural factors must be added the subjective factor of prejudice. Along with the rest of White South African culture, many, if not most, Coloureds have adopted European attitudes on colour, and consider themselves racially superior to the Africans, against whom they hold at least as strong prejudices as the Whites do.

In short, the Coloureds, as a group, have internalized the colour prejudices of the Whites. They have hoped to become "White," and so long as the government kept alive the prospect of eventual assimilation, the Coloureds have been apprehensive of jeopardizing their privileged position by joining forces with the Africans. Furthermore, prejudice against Africans has prevented such a rapprochement, while the internalized feeling of racial inferiority vis-à-vis the Whites, and the adoption of racial criteria of status within the Coloured community have deeply undermined the self-respect of that group, and further enhanced its colour-consciousness. The heritage of slavery has also left its marks on the Coloureds, and symptoms such as alcoholism and illegitimacy show the Coloureds to be the most socially disorganized racial group in South Africa. The Coloureds show the classical symptoms of social marginality, and their position is closely analogous to that of Negroes in the United States.

In the last few years, however, rapid changes are taking place in Coloured attitudes. As the discriminatory measures of the Nationalist government made increasingly clear that the assimila-


tion dream would never be realized, and that the Coloureds' status would deteriorate to the African level, militant anti-White feelings developed among the Coloureds. Since 1960 or 1961 a substantial segment of the leading Coloured intelligentsia has joined the mainstream of non-White opposition, and strongly reacts against Coloured racialism.

The arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa in 1893 marks the beginning of the modern era in non-White opposition politics.[4] In 1894 he founded the Natal Indian Congress, the first branch of what later became broadly known as the Congress Movement or Alliance. The years 1907–1913 saw the world's first campaign of Gandhian passive resistance, when thousands of participants courted arrest, and went on strike in protest against discriminatory laws affecting the Indian community. This early era of resistance came to a close with the foundation of the African National Congress in 1912, the Gandhi Strike of 1913, and the Mahatma's departure from South Africa in 1914.

Another great wave of unrest swept through the country in the early twenties. In 1920 some 40,000 African mine workers went on strike on the Witwatersrand, and in 1922 a strike of White workers directed against the rise of African labourers to skilled jobs degenerated into an armed insurrection and an anti-African pogrom. Since the Second World War protest movements and unrest have succeeded one another at relatively short intervals. In 1946 some 60,000 African miners went on strike on the Rand, while the Indian Congress leaders launched the second passive resistance campaign against the so-called "Ghetto Act." Durban was the scene of bloody anti-Indian riots in 1949, when young Zulu men looted and destroyed Indian properties, and killed or wounded hundreds of Indians. At first, police inactivity allowed the riots to spread, and later indiscriminate police gunfire greatly added to the casualty figures. In all, 142 persons were


killed and 1087 injured. A mass passive resistance campaign occurred in 1952,[5] and was followed by the 1956 Johannnesburg African bus boycott, and the 1958 manifestations by African women against the pass system.

The year 1960 saw the most widespread wave of protest to date. The anti-pass campaign organized by the Pan-African Congress and later joined into by the African National Congress led to the police massacre of Sharpeville on the Rand, to the Pan-African-led protest marches and "stay-at-home" in Cape Town, and to many other African anti-apartheid manifestations in Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, East London, Bloemfontein, and Pietermaritzburg. Shortly thereafter, a large-scale peasant revolt against "Bantu Authorities" flared up in Pondoland. The government declared a state of emergency, mobilized army reserve units, intensified its repressive measures, banned the African National Congress and the Pan-African Congress, and made thousands of political arrests without trial.

In December, 1961, the outbreak of acts of sabotage opened a new phase of the liberatory struggle, which the drastic penalties of the "Sabotage Act" of 1962 are unlikely to bring to an end. Between October and mid-December, 1962, there were forty-five reported sabotage attempts, of which thirty-three were successful.[6] On the Witwatersrand alone, there were six cases of railway sabotage between September, 1962, and April, 1963, involving damage of £21,000, and twenty-three cases of sabotage not on railway property since December, 1961.[7]

By 1962 at least three distinct underground organizations were active. One, Poqo, ("We Stand Alone") is allegedly connected with the Pan-African Congress, while the other two (the Spear of the Nation and the National Liberation Committee) seem to be offshoots of the African National Congress. At any


rate, members of the African National Congress have, on occasions, claimed credit for acts of sabotage conducted by the Spear of the Nation.[8] Balthazar Vorster (formerly a Nazi sympathizer, now Minister of Justice) declared in Parliament that, during 1962, 3246 persons had been arrested as suspected members of Poqo. Between January, 1963 and June, 1964, 431 persons have been convicted of sabotage under the "Sabotage Act," and 78 Africans were found guilty of political murder.[9] During 1963, 3355 people have been arrested, detained, or banned under security laws, 1186 of them without charges.[10]

In the early months of 1964 there were two important sabotage trials. On April 15, 1964, eleven accused were found guilty of belonging to the National Liberation Committee (also known as the Yui Chi Chan Club). The aims of the organization were described by the judge in the following terms: "By means of a combination of political agitation and guerilla warfare, supplemented by widespread sabotage, strikes and demonstrations, they aimed at the overthrow of the Government."[11] Another trial, the "Rivonia" case, involving such prominent African National Congress members as Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela, revealed the existence of a sabotage plan called "Operation Mayibuye" developed by the Spear of the Nation (which also goes under the African name of Umkonto we Sizwe ).[12] Mandela, while stating that Umkonto we Sizwe was unconnected with the African National Congress, gave two reasons for the establishment of the new underground organization dedicated to sabotage against property, but not to terrorism against persons:

1. We believed that, as a result of Government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable and that unless a responsible leadership was given to control the


feelings of our people there would be an outbreak of terrorism which would cause bitterness between the various races of the country.

2. We felt that without sabotage there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All other means of opposing this principle were closed by legislation.[13]

This brief summary of protest actions does not exhaust the topic. Since the Second World War hardly a week has gone by without some racial disturbance or anti-apartheid manifestation, whether spontaneous or organized, violent or non-violent. In the course of the last years, the forms of protest action have become fairly standardized. The first type of action is the organized call by the liberatory movements for mass meetings, protest marches, boycotts, strikes, or civil disobedience. Meetings and marches, although peaceful in their aims and methods, have often led to violence, because of police harassment and provocation. The frequent use of firearms by the police in order to disperse peaceful crowds of unarmed civilians has recently led the Congress leadership to turn away from crowd action as an opposition tactic.

Boycotts against municipal transport, beer halls, private shops, and Afrikaner-made products have only had a limited economic effect. They have generally been successful to the extent that they have had very specific aims, such as getting more courteous treatment in certain shops, or rescinding a price increase in bus transport. Nevertheless, such nearly unanimous actions as the Johannesburg bus boycott of 1956 did have an important role in developing political consciousness among the African masses. The boycott also has the advantage of being almost impossible for the government to combat. Civil disobedience, courting of arrest for breaking apartheid regulations, and pass-burning have, like the boycotts, little direct effectiveness. The main limitation of civil disobedience is that it must rely on highly disciplined and courageous activists trained in the techniques of passive


resistance, and, hence, cannot easily become a true mass movement. Furthermore, such campaigns can also easily be discredited by isolated acts of hooliganism, as was the case in 1952 when an impressive passive resistance campaign was finally called off for that reason. Heavy penalties on acts of passive resistance, combined with its limited practical effectiveness, have prompted the non-White leadership to seek new opposition tactics.

Although strikes are illegal for Africans, work stoppages are common occurrences in South Africa. In 1958, for example, 7128 Africans were involved in 64 strikes. In 9 cases, the strike resulted in higher wages or better conditions, but, in 23 instances, the strikers were prosecuted, 453 persons being convicted.[14] Most strikes are local, and of an economic nature. Government and industry generally co-operate closely in repressing strikes. Chronic unemployment enables employers to sack and replace workers at short notice.[15] Only well-planned general strikes on a national level can exert any significant political pressure on the government. However, repressive measures, police intimidation, and the fact that the mass of Africans live at, or below, the bare subsistence level, militate against the success of general strikes. Furthermore, the use of intimidation by some strike organizers has opened the Congress Movement to ideological criticism. The most wide-spread "stay-at-home" movement to date occurred in March–April, 1960, but it was still far from complete, and the April, 1961, call for a general strike was a nearly complete failure.

Next to politically organized action, the second major type of non-White protest is the local and spontaneous manifestation generally arising from trivial and secondary causes, such as anger over working conditions, petty vexations, and provocations by the authorities; low quality of food or beer provided in govern-


ment schools or municipal beer halls; and the unpopularity of particular officials. These spontaneous manifestations are much more frequent than organized ones, and often result in violence, rioting, and arson. The pattern is fairly standardized. A group of Africans lay down tools, go on a hunger strike, send a protest delegation to the local authorities, or simply begin to assemble and discuss their grievances. The authorities pay no attention to the protest, curtly tell the people to go through the "official channels" (i.e., the powerless advisory boards and chiefs), or, even more frequently, call the police to disperse the mob and arrest the leaders. The crowd gets increasingly irritated, and begins to sing and shout political slogans; the police becomes more and more brutal and provocative; the crowd starts to stone the police, and to set government buildings on fire, and the police shoots in "self-defence."[16] Such sporadic and spontaneous protests are, of course, quickly repressed and rarely achieve their aims.

Finally, the non-Whites, and particularly the Africans, resort to a third type of opposition, namely the "invisible" and individual expression of anti-White and anti-apartheid hostility. This type is by far the most common and may well be the most efficacious, although most Whites are unaware of its existence. Individual output restriction by "going slow"; minor industrial sabotage by pretending incomprehension of orders or unfamiliarity with equipment; deliberate waste of raw materials; telling lies or otherwise deceiving White supervisors and officials; making fools of Whites and undermining their authority through ridicule; ingenious intrigues; countless methods of circumventing regulations; falsifying documents and sabotaging the administrative machinery from within are so many variants of this "invisible" opposition. The effect of these subtle tactics is impossible to assess accurately, but it must be appreciable. To cite only one


instance, the enforcement of pass regulations, liquor laws, and influx control is well beyond the capacity of the police, and the faking of documents has become a profitable business. In 1962 liquor restrictions for Africans were finally abolished, not as a "liberalizing" measure, but as a consequence of police inability to enforce regulations which, unlike the pass laws, did not contribute much to the maintenance of the political status quo .[17]

One of the remarkable features of the South African political scene, attributable in great part to the Gandhian influence, is that, up to 1961, non-White opposition tactics have been predominantly non-violent, except as a result of severe police provocation. Furthermore, the open expression of non-European hostility has been almost exclusively directed at the government and its agents, and has not generalized to the White population as a whole. This is not to say that there does not exist a large degree of anti-White feelings among the non-Whites, but rather that non-White aggression has been specifically directed at the state and the administration. The 1949 anti-Indian riots are, of course, the outstanding exception to the rule. In that case, Africans clearly displaced their hostility on a relatively safe scapegoat. There have also been numerous incidents of violence between Africans, but these have generally involved either rival criminal gangs or traditionally based factions or ethnic groups. Such fights have little if any significance in the general political context.

The extreme policies of the last decade have, however, brought about a change towards radicalism among the leadership and the rank and file of the African opposition. Black racialism, as represented by the Pan-African Movement and some prominent members of the African National Congress, has rapidly developed as a reaction against White racialism. In addition,


many of the younger and more radical African leaders privately (if not openly) advocate violent guerilla tactics as the only ones likely to bring about a political change.

Several factors account for the lack of success of the non-White opposition. Indeed, not only have the liberatory movements failed to gain any concessions from the government, but each wave of protest has been accompanied by more police repression, and followed by increasingly dictatorial legislation. In the first place, the government has hindered the operation of the non-White movements. Police intimidation scares the masses away from active political participation; opposition organizations are banned, and forced to work underground; and the leadership is constantly disrupted by arrest and imprisonment. However, it would be erroneous to attribute the failure of the non-White movements only, or even principally, to government action. Although the state uses force unhesitatingly, its power apparatus (including the secret police) has been relatively inefficient by modern totalitarian standards, at least until 1960, when noticeable improvements began to take place.

Economic factors have powerfully hindered non-White political action. The non-European organizations have lacked the financial resources of the White parties, and, unlike the latter, have never had any support from industry. On the contrary, industrialists have co-operated with the government in keeping the non-White workers down. A population at, or near, the starvation level cannot easily be expected to participate in a general strike, when practically no material compensation for wage losses is available.

Racialism among the non-Whites has militated against the formation of a truly united non-European front. The Congress Alliance claims to represent such a front, but is itself divided into racial branches for reasons that we shall examine presently. The Pan-African Congress is militantly anti-Indian, anti-European and anti-Coloured, in spite of declarations to the contrary. Because of their political passivity and racial feelings, the


Coloureds are regarded with mistrust and hostility by the mass of Africans. Although Indians and Africans have closely co-operated at the leadership level of the Congress Alliance, anti-Indian prejudice is strong among many Africans, who, like the Whites, have used the Indians as scapegoats, and have viewed Indian merchants as exploiters. Conversely, most Indians remember the 1949 program, and as a small, defenceless minority, they are justifiably afraid of Black nationalism. Within the African group itself, the remnants of ethnic antagonisms are still a serious obstacle to political unity, particularly in the more rural areas.

Finally, a number of secondary factors have also hindered a non-White political action. Among these are the low education level of most Africans, peasant conservatism, the vested interests of the customary chiefs, the urban and intellectual character of the non-White leadership which has often lacked contact with the rural masses, and personal rivalries or ideological differences within the various organizations.

To conclude this chapter we must assess the present power balance in terms of organized political groups, summarize the main developments of the last few years, and attempt a prognosis. On the White side of the political fence, three parties are represented in Parliament, and reflect almost the entire range of White political thinking. Two of these parties, the Nationalist Party (N.P.) and the United Party (U.P.), account for the vast majority of both seats and supporters, and the third, the Progressive Party (P.P.), is a small splinter group with one parliamentary seat after the 1961 general elections. A fourth party, the National Union (N.U.) splintered from the Nationalist Party, campaigned in alliance with the U.P. for the 1961 elections, won a single parliamentary seat, and merged with the U.P. soon afterwards.

The main difference between the U.P. and the N.P. is not one of right versus left, but one of ethnic composition. Although the N.P. has a handful of English members, it is, for all practical purposes, an Afrikaner party, and it has now rallied the vast


majority of the Afrikaner vote. The U.P. attempts to keep alive the fiction of representing both White groups by placing Afrikaners in many of its command posts, but, since World War Two, it has lost more and more of its Afrikaner supporters, and has become increasingly an English party. Every successive election has confirmed the linguistic cleavage between the two major parties. The Nationalists gradually entrenched themselves by uniting the White Afrikaner majority, and the U.P. is left with the White English minority. In addition, the Nationalists have manipulated the electoral system and gerrymandered the constituencies so as to put the U.P. under maximum disadvantage. This was easily achieved because of the heavy concentration of the U.P. vote in large urban centres, in the Province of Natal, and in the Eastern Cape.

With 49 parliamentary seats against the Nationalists' 105, the U.P. has practically no chance of gaining power by constitutional means. On matters of policy, the main difference between the two parties was that the Nationalists have advocated and recently achieved a republican form of government, while the U.P. was in favour of close ties with the British monarchy and the Commonwealth. The proclamation of the Republic and the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961 have been accepted, however reluctantly, as a fait accompli by the U.P., and leave that Party with even less of a distinctive platform than it had before.

On the colour issue, the two major parties are in almost complete agreement as to the basic aims, and differ only in questions of practical details. At most, one can say that the racial policy of the N.P. is reactionary, and that of the U.P. ultraconservative. While the U.P. accepts much of the Nationalist colour legislation, and "security" measures, it favours a more subtle, flexible, and empirical implementation of apartheid, and is prepared to grant a nominal parliamentary representation to Coloureds and Africans along Hertzogian lines. In addition, the U.P. recognizes that the African urban middle class cannot be


wished away in the Reserves, and that economic imperatives make government plans of macro-segregation impracticable. The U.P. colour slogan is "White leadership with justice." In a nutshell, the U.P. colour thinking can be summarized as follows: We Whites can maintain the upper hand better and longer if we are less rigid and dogmatic about segregation, and if we introduce some palliatives to eliminate some of the superficial symptoms of racial friction. In the economic sphere, "integration" (i.e., the exploitation of African labour) is inevitable, and any attempt at rigid territorial apartheid is both costly and impracticable.

In 1959 eleven of the more "liberal" U.P. Members of Parliament split from that party, and formed the Progressive Party (P.P.). The P.P. also looks to the past for its colour policy. It essentially advocates a return to the "Cape liberalism" of the nineteenth century. Its franchise proposals make voting rights dependent on educational and property qualifications regardless of race. The qualifications are such, however, that the Whites would retain a secure majority of the votes for at least twenty or thirty years. In addition to such a "colour-blind," single-roll franchise, the P.P. opposes racial segregation by law, and has pledged itself to the abrogation of much apartheid legislation, but it has taken an equivocal stand on "voluntary" and "social" segregation.

The P.P. has even less chance than the U.P. of coming to power, or even of exerting a noticeable influence in Parliament. Its policies are far too liberal to attract more than a small minority of the White voters. In the 1961 elections (the first one contested by the U.P. dissidents) only one of the eleven P.P. members retained a seat in Parliament.[18] On the other hand,


P.P. policies are far too conservative to appeal to more than a handful of non-Whites, or even to serve as a bridge between White and non-White politics. In view of the increasing polarization of opinion, the chances of the P.P., negligible as they are, can only diminish steadily.

The ephemeral National Union (N.U.), founded in 1960, was to the N.P. what the P.P. is to U.P. A small group of "liberal" Afrikaners whom republican sentiments made reluctant to join either the U.P. or the P.P. formed a new group. The N.U. agreed with the N.P. on the issue of republicanism and Afrikaner nationalism, but advocated a slightly less reactionary colour policy, much along U.P. lines. The N.U. had so little hope of attracting more U.P. or N.P. supporters, much less of ever coming to power, that it soon amalgamated with the U.P.

The White political scene has reached a deadlock which ensures continued power to the Nationalists (barring extraconstitutional changes), and which makes any change within the parliamentary system extremely unlikely. The very structure of White politics is responsible for the present deadlock. None of the European parties significantly cuts across the White ethnic line, and this ethnic cleavage has become more and more rigid over the years. In other words, the traditional alliance between the English and the "moderate" Afrikaners, which was the keystone of South African White politics until the 1940's, has been broken. A new equilibrium has been reached: insofar as the N.P. has succeeded in uniting the vast majority of the


Afrikaners who constitute nearly two-thirds of the electorate, neither the U.P. nor the P.P., which are almost exclusively English parties, can hope to gain a parliamentary majority. Aside from this factor of ethnic cleavage, the mechanics of the electoral system further stack the cards against the U.P. and the P.P., through the loading of rural constituencies and other devices.

The second factor making for the deadlock is the colour prejudice of the Whites. All White parties stand for European domination, whether that domination is called "apartheid," "White leadership with justice," or "equal rights to all civilized men." No party can have any hope of support from the all-White electorate unless it guarantees the protection of White privileges. Faced with a choice between a more and a less conservative party on the colour issue, the vast majority of each White language group logically vote for the party that offers the best promise of "keeping the Natives down," namely the N.P. for the Afrikaners and the U.P. for the English. All attempts by the U.P. to attract more Afrikaners by trying to show that it is just as repressive as the N.P. have failed, because the U.P. has become an English party, and because, objectively, it is not quite as "good" as the N.P. in maintaining White supremacy.

There remains, of course, one other theoretical possibility of constitutional change in South Africa, namely a significant split within the Nationalist Party. Such a possibility appears remote at present, as shown in 1961 by the small appeal of the N.U. among Afrikaners. It is true that the N.P. is still internally divided between an "extremist" wing, drawing its support mostly from the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and a "moderate" wing, represented mostly in the Cape. But the whole evolution of Afrikaner Nationalism in the last thirty years has shown a trend towards reactionary extremism. As the Nationalist government became more firmly entrenched, its policies became more repressive, and today the "extremists" are in a stronger position than ever. The influence of "moderate" Nationalist intellectuals and clergymen has become negligible, and the Broederbond


gradually purged such organizations as SABRA[19] of "liberal" dissidents. Within the cabinet and in other leading political posts, the Broederbond replaces more and more moderates with extremists, and pressure has been brought upon liberal clergymen of the Dutch Reformed Churches to toe the party line. The rank and file of the N.P. is behind the Verwoerd extremists, and there is little, if any, chance of a significant split. If anything, Verwoerd himself may become seriously outflanked on the right by rural Afrikaner opinion.

Besides parties, other organized interest groups exert influence on White politics, mainly industry, the churches, and the universities. Here, too, these interest groups are divided along the English-Afrikaner line. Most businessmen and industrialists are English, and support either the U.P. or the P.P. They generally oppose the government verbally and ideologically, while cooperating with it as suits their interests. Their main argument against apartheid is not one of principle, but rather that apartheid is costly and impractical. Organized capital is, therefore, not a source of serious opposition to the Nationalists, although economic forces undermine apartheid from within, as we shall see later.

The churches are clearly split along White linguistic lines. The three Dutch Reformed Churches, to which the vast majority of Afrikaners belong, support the government; and the Catholic and other Protestant churches oppose apartheid in principle, but often practice segregation within their own congregations. For all practical purposes, only the Catholic and Anglican churches, or, better, a few prominent clergymen within these denominations, have openly attacked the government and actively fought against apartheid. The English-speaking universities, particularly those of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand, have been active


centres of opposition, and have tried to resist encroachments against academic freedom, but they too have not been free of the stigma of racial discrimination; the Afrikaans universities support the government, of course. In short, few of the White-controlled organizations have used their influence against the government, nor can they be expected to exert a determining pressure in the future. Industry is largely dominated by considerations of self-interest. The liberal high clergy is hampered by the conservatism of its White rank and file. The labour unions, universities, and other interest groups have themselves been pervaded by racialism, and have rarely gone beyond verbal protests expressed through petitions or resolutions.

Two other political parties, the Communist and the Liberal parties, exist in South Africa, but, because of their very special characteristics, they have not been included in the above discussion. Although the Liberal Party had a "Native Representative" seat in Parliament until 1961, both parties are now extraparliamentary. The Communist and Liberal parties are the only fully non-racial political bodies in South Africa, and they constitute the only bridges between White and non-White politics. The Communist Party (C.P.) is an illegal organization and operates entirely underground. Little is known about it except that it is numerically very small, but relatively influential through its increasing infiltration of the Congress Movement.

The Liberal Party (L.P.) was founded in 1953 and is still legal, although constantly harassed by the police. It only counts a few thousand members, most of whom are non-Whites. Many of its leading members are Europeans, however, and many White intellectuals belong to it. At the time of its foundation, the L.P. was almost as conservative as the P.P. now is, but since then it has moved rapidly to the left. Through its policy of universal adult franchise, and its total rejection of racial discrimination in any form, the L.P. now stands ideologically very close to the Congress Movement, with which it has generally had fairly close and amicable contacts. The L.P. has nevertheless failed to


gain wide support among the non-Whites because its conservative origins have given it the image of a party led by White paternalists, and because its intellectual, non-racial outlook lacks any mass, emotional appeal. To many African intellectuals who have adopted one form or another of socialism, the L.P. is too conservative on such economic issues as land reform and nationalization of basic industries. Mphahlele probably expresses the point of view of the majority of the African National Congress intelligentsia towards the L.P.:

A second front has been opened in Africa to try to kill Socialist ideas of any kind at the root. It consists of white African liberals, particularly those in Central and Southern Africa. They have set out to give African nationalism a big build-up. . . . Some South African liberals sing praises to African chauvinism. . . . The trouble with liberals in South Africa, of course, is that they spend two-thirds of their energy trying to avert a revolution and one-third to verbal protest against repressive legislation. Their attraction for a certain class of the non-White elite fits in with their anti-socialist sentiments.[20]

We turn now to an examination of the major bodies in non-White politics. By far the most important one is the Congress Alliance with its five constituent organizations: the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), the Congress of Democrats (COD), the Coloured People's Organization (CPO), and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). The first four of these branches restrict their membership by race, while SACTU is interracial. The ANC is by far the largest branch, and counted some 70,000 members when it was banned by the government in 1960. Although many of its leaders have been arrested or placed under other restrictions, the ANC continues to operate underground. The SAIC, which is the oldest branch of Congress, is much smaller numerically, but its leadership has exerted considerable


influence on the ANC. Both the ANC and the SAIC can claim the support of the mass of the African and Indian population. The COD is the small White branch counting only some two hundred members, mostly Communists and left-wing socialists. However, the influence of the COD on Congress as a whole is greater than its numerical strength indicates. The CPO is the weakest branch of Congress and is practically a paper organization. In terms of total membership, the Congress Alliance is thus overwhelmingly an African body, while its leadership is about equally shared between Whites, Indians, and Africans.

The programme of Congress embodied in the 1955 Freedom Charter includes universal adult franchise, the total abolition of all forms of racial discrimination, and some vaguely defined socialist measures such as land redistribution and nationalization of some industries. Politically, the Congress programme is almost identical with that of the Liberal Party, but economically it goes further to the left. Within Congress there exist, however, wide ideological divergences. The COD consists almost entirely of extreme leftists of various descriptions. In the SAIC leftist leaders have also gained much influence recently, but the older leaders adhere mostly to a mild, Gandhian, humanitarian socialism. Within the ANC at least three main currents are represented: the "bourgeois-liberal" old guard, represented by Professor Z. K. Matthews, the late Dr. A. B. Xuma, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Albert Luthuli; the younger Communists and left-wing socialists, such as Nelson Mandela, Raymond Mahlaba, Joe Slovo, Joe Modise, Walter Sisulu, and Joe Matthews, who have recently risen into many key positions and seek to displace the more conservative old guard;[21] and the younger Black racialists, who advocate an all-African state. Many of the latter have joined the dissident Pan-African Congress (PAC), but racialist thinking is still represented in the ANC. On questions of method, the Congress Alliance is still officially committed to a policy of non-


violence, but more and more of the leftist leaders privately advocate the resort to violence, or redefine non-violence as allowing sabotage, so long as loss of life or injury to persons is avoided.

The racial division in the structure of Congress in undoubtedly a severe ideological liability. Why, then, is the Congress internally segregated along colour lines in spite of considerable internal opposition to such segregation? The proponents of racial segregation justify their stand on historical and tactical grounds. The ANC and the SAIC, they say, grew as separate organizations, and each has its own history and traditions. This is, of course, no argument against merging into one non-racial body. The advocates of segregation in Congress also claim that, as each racial group is affected by different laws, it is tactically expedient to fight apartheid through racially distinct organizations. This argument is a disguised bow to the racial mistrust which the mass of Africans, Indians, and Coloureds nourish toward each other.

The real reason for continued segregation is to be found, paradoxically, in Communist influence. At present, each racial branch of Congress has equal representation in the policy-making central committee of the Alliance, regardless of its membership figures. The minute, Communist-dominated COD thereby exercises a completely disproportionate influence on Congress as a whole, and more particularly on SACTU and the ANC. The same applies, to a lesser extent, to SAIC, which is also small in relation to the ANC, and strongly Communist-infiltrated. Through racial segregation, the Africans have thus been placed in a disadvantageous position in Congress, and a Marxist minority has succeeded in wielding disproportionate power within the Alliance, while keeping the more conservative old guard as popular figureheads.

Next to the Congress Alliance, the Pan-African Congress (PAC) is probably the largest non-White political body. The PAC, an all-African organization, split from the ANC in 1959,


and was banned by the government in 1960. Except in the Cape, where it was notably successful in 1960, the PAC is poorly organized. Its programme and its ideology are vague, and rest on two main elements: anti-Communism and Black racialism. PAC leaders split from the ANC because they claimed that Congress was dominated by White and Indian Communists. The PAC demands "all power to Africans" while denying any charge of racialism, and claims to favour private enterprise, and to oppose violence. Economically the PAC is more conservative than the ANC and closer to the Liberal Party, but through its racial extremism it distinguishes itself from all other non-White organizations. In a climate of virulent White racialism and anti-African discrimination, the Black counterracialism of the PAC inevitably has a strong emotional appeal, and the popular support for the PAC is probably growing.

Other smaller non-White political bodies include the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM), and the Natal Indian Organization (NIO). The NEUM grew out of the fairly conservative All-African Convention founded in 1935. It has become a small intellectual clique of leftist students, mostly Trotskyites. It lacks both a clear programme and any mass support, and has the character of a debating society, spending most of its energies on disputes over minor points of Marxist theory and attacks against the Congress Alliance. The NIO is a conservative body representing the interests of the Indian merchant class, and favouring a cautious policy of compromise with the government.

As we have seen throughout this chapter, political conflicts in South Africa have centred around racial and ethnic divisions, much more than around social class. The foundation of Union in 1910 marked a decisive point in the country's political evolution. With Union, the country continued on the road of White domination, and engaged itself in a vicious circle of repression and extreme racialism. From then on, a return to sanity became increasingly unlikely and difficult. The great mistake of the Union compromise was to believe that peace and stability


in South Africa depended on the reconciliation of Boer and Briton, In that avowed aim, the Union settlement did succeed in maintaining for thirty-eight years a relatively stable co-operation between the English and "moderate" Afrikaners. By uniting Afrikanerdom, however, the Nationalist Party broke the balance of forces, and secured for itself a monopoly of power.

When the Union compromise was broken in 1948, the struggle between Afrikaners and English had receded into the background, however, and the main issue had become one of White versus Black. With education, urbanization, and Westernization, the non-Whites became politically conscious and organized. Non-White opposition was met, not with reforms and concessions, but with ever more repression. The two World Wars accelerated this process of deepening racial conflict and hatred, until, at present, little if any possibility of a peaceful solution remains. What is surprising is not that the gulf is now seemingly unbreachable, but rather that it should have taken so long to widen. Indeed, the African leadership has consistently shown a great degree of restraint and patience. The 1949 Programme of Action, and 1955 Freedom Charter mark the first truly militant and outspoken platforms of liberation, and the first unequivocal departures from the more conciliatory approach of the older leadership in the ANC and the All-African Convention represented by such leaders as Dr. Xuma and Professor Jabavu. By now, however, Whites and non-Whites have grown so far apart that reconciliation seems impossible, and practically all channels of communication have been broken. Official channels such as the Native Advisory Boards are media of sycophancy rather than of communication, while potentially intermediary groups such as the Progressive or Liberal parties soon tip into one of the opposing camps. The L.P. has been forced out of Parliament, and has almost become the right wing of non-White politics, whereas the P.P. has chosen to remain in the White camp.

White and non-White politics nevertheless react to one another in complex ways, and cannot be viewed separately.


Not only does the government devise improved methods of repression in answer to new tactics of resistance; the very antagonism between Europeans and non-Europeans profoundly affects political developments within each of the two camps. White oppression has increased non-White solidarity and consciousness, and is favouring the extreme Communist and Black racialist elements within the liberatory movements. The Coloured leadership is recently turning away from its political fence-sitting, and begins to co-operate with African leaders. Conversely, the growing "Black menace" has united the Whites into a desperate back-to-the-wall stand, and has contributed to the consolidation of Nationalist power. Indeed, the U.P. and the majority of the English are willing to pay the price of Afrikaner Nationalist dictatorship to preserve White privileges. The ever deepening racial conflict is favouring political polarization and extremism.

For reasons examined earlier, the possibility of a change of government within the parliamentary framework is remote. The Nationalists are too firmly entrenched to let themselves be unseated by the opposition. Should the Nationalists have any prospect of losing an election, they would not allow the election to take place, or they would fake the results. The Nationalist Party itself is less likely to split than it has ever been, and it has gone much too far on the road of repression to run the risk of making concessions. Even if Nationalist leaders were prepared to negotiate with the non-White opposition, they know that only increasing ruthlessness can keep them in power. From the White side of the political arena, a complete deadlock has been reached.

The non-Europeans, on the other hand, are legally denied any participation in the process of national government, and any constitutional method of remedying their grievances. The liberatory movements, most particularly the Congress Alliance and the Liberal Party, have utilized every conceivable nonviolent method of opposition, from passive resistance and civil


disobedience, to petitions, protest meetings, marches, boycotts, and strikes. While these methods have undoubtedly played an important role in mass morale and political education, they have consistently failed to achieve any but the most limited of practical aims. On the contrary, each new resistance technique or campaign has been countered with increasing police action and draconian laws forbidding all forms of protest.

Under these circumstances violence and revolution seem inevitable, although the prospect of a successful upheaval is remote without outside intervention. The discussion of international pressures against South Africa must be reserved for a later chapter. It is clear, however, that the government cannot resist much longer the combination of mounting internal and external pressures, and that political change in South Africa cannot be peaceful. Indeed, all the symptoms of a pre-revolutionary situation are clearly present. The opposing forces of Afrikaner and African Nationalism have become increasingly polarized ideologically, and both have shown an increasing readiness to use violence to achieve their aims. Lack of communication between the antagonists is complete; so are their unwillingness to compromise or negotiate, their disagreement about the "rules of the game," and their reciprocal denial of legitimacy.


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Chapter Seven— Socio-Political Conflicts: The Non-White Opposition and the Internal Power Balance
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