Home History 322 lecture list Wallace G. Mills Hist. 322 14b Later Afrikaner Nationalism

Later Afrikaner Nationalism

- nationalism frequently has momentum; when one set of goals is achieved, younger generations set new, often more extreme goals. This seems to have been true of Afrikaner nationalism too. Hertzog’s nationalism was no longer adequate by the 1930s. In addition there was the sense of crisis that Kinghorn mentioned.

More extreme nationalism
- we have referred to the influence of Abraham Kuyper of the Netherlands and the religious nationalism which he advocated. This nationalism (it developed in Germany first) emphasised that each ‘nation’ was created by God as a ‘peculiar’ (i.e., unique) entity. It was the duty of every member to preserve its unique characteristics. Some German nationalists, for example, argued that it was almost an act of treason to even learn another language because doing so would expose the learner to the modes of thought peculiar to that language; as a result, their own language would be affected and contaminated. Maintaining the purity of the culture was an over-riding obligation and Christian duty; to fail to do so was a sin!

- most of the young Afrikaner men going to the Netherlands for an education, especially for the ministry, went to Kuyper’s university. By the beginning of the 1920s, their influence was being felt very strongly. Such men are typified by D. F. Malan, a predicant. They set out to bolster Afrikaans by establishing a number of cultural organisations and by trying to expand the literature in Afrikaans by publishing books, newspapers, and journals.

- they were also concerned about the lack of Afrikaners in business. They established a number of businesses, especially insurance companies. The latter would not only provide management jobs for Afrikaners, but the money taken in could be used to provide financing for other Afrikaners trying to start or expand businesses.

- they were also concerned to ensure that the right sort of Afrikaner (i.e., extreme nationalists) got into the right positions in education, in publishing and ultimately in politics. It was to achieve this that the Broeder Bond (literally, Band of Brothers or Brotherhood) was formed. It was a secret organisation.

- there was a rapid evolution in the 1930s. D. F. Malan had already become a powerful leader in the National Party led by Gen. Hertzog and a cabinet minister. As mentioned, Hertzog had been relatively satisfied by the position achieved by the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Malan and his followers were not.

- the great depression had created a serious economic and political crisis, especially when Hertzog’s National Party government tried to show its independence from Britain by staying on the gold standard when Britain abandoned it. The decision caused a tremendous flight of capital from the South African pound and the gold standard had to be abandoned. In the crisis, negotiations led to a merger of the 2 parties—the South Africa Party led by Smuts and the National Party led by Hertzog—into the United Party under joint leadership, although Hertzog remained prime minister. It never really merged into one party but remained a coalition.

- Malan soon split and formed the Purified National Party. This freed the extreme nationalists from any remaining moderate restraints.

- there were 2 great influences on this Afrikaner nationalism in the 1930s:
(1) Coming to power of the National Socialist Workers Party in Germany in 1933
- the nationalism of the Nazis was extreme but it was in the tradition of religio-nationalism and Pan Germanism; Afrikaner nationalism, through Kuyperism, was influenced by the same tradition.

- the racism of the Nazis too was easily assimilated into Afrikaner nationalism. Anti-Semitism was significant among Afrikaners; this was not unusual in most western societies in the late 19th and early 20th C. But it had become focused in South Africa. Afrikaner denunciations of capitalism in the inter-war period were strongly anti-Semitic. In political cartoons, the capitalists were often depicted as fat “Hoggenheimer”—a Jew.

- of course, the physical differences with the indigenous peoples was an even more obvious example of ‘race’ and facilitated the application of racist ideology.

- Afrikaners who travelled to Germany and Europe often returned with very positive comments about Germany under the Nazis. Many were very deeply impressed by the practices and theory of ‘national’ education being implemented:
- education is, of course, always a critical interest of exclusive nationalists because maintenance of the purity of the national language, culture and ethos in succeeding generations of the young is an essential priority. This concern was evident among Afrikaner nationalists before the Nazis came to power.

- however, the thoroughness of the programme of indoctrination did impress them. Beginning in the 1930s and continuing into the post-1945 period, there was an effort to revive and develop their own version— Christian National Education (this site downloads very slowly, so have patience).
- the theory of ‘evolution’ was not to be taught, but rather what is now called ‘creationism’; history was to be taught as the working out of God’s plan for ‘nations’ starting from the Tower of Babel; geography was to be taught as God’s allocation of land to ‘nations’ (showing most of S. Africa as allotted to the Afrikaner nation);

- many historians and commentators have noted that much of the proposed Christian National Education was similar to the Nazi education system (no tenure for teachers, teachers must be ‘Christian’ and ‘nationalist’, etc.). However, perhaps the influence of Nazi policies has been exaggerated. Nazis didn’t invent most of the ideas and as Kinghorn shows, Christian National Education had emerged among Afrikaner nationalists in the first decade of the 20th C long before the Nazis. In fact, the emphasis on “Christianity” was more like the German religio-nationalism of the earlier 19th C. But the totalitarian elements were very much like the Nazi approach.
- it is also said that many Afrikaners admired the authoritarian nature of Nazi Germany. Although many liked to refer to their republicanism as evidence of a democratic tradition (ignoring the denial of political rights to the vast majority of the population), most historians have noted an obvious lack of appreciation of the rule of law in the former republics, especially in the SAR. They had the idea that the popular will was the essence of democracy; this popular will was sometimes expressed by spectators going to the Volksraad with their guns and sitting there clicking the triggers as members were preparing and voting on an issue the spectators were concerned about. (This is much like the demand that M.P.s vote and act in accord with the latest opinion poll, or the current frenzy and panic.)

- the issue also came up in the 1890s when the chief justice in the SAR ruled that a law was unconstitutional; Pres. Kruger and the government said that they would ignore the ruling. When the chief justice received little public support, he resigned.

- in any case, many Afrikaner nationalists looked to authoritarian government as necessary to protect and further the interests of the ‘Afrikaner nation’ and Nazi Germany brought favourable comments from many as an example.
(2) Centenary Celebrations for the Great Trek—1937-39
- it started rather small as an Ox Wagon Trek (a group of ox wagons going slowly from town to town). Malan and the nationalists supported it pretty much from the beginning. As the wagons moved from town to town, the Trek gathered an enormous amount of enthusiasm, excitement and emotion. People were caught up in an unexpected way. There was a great vogue for building monuments and commemorative structures in various locations, especially associated with events in the Great Trek. The most noted was the giant Voortrekker Monument built just outside Pretoria.

- it has been recognised as a turning point in Afrikaner nationalism and contributed greatly to swinging Afrikaner support from Hertzog, who was now in the United Party, towards Malan’s Purified National Party. [Conservative Party and right-wing Afrikaners in the early 1990s tried to repeat the process by starting a new Ox Wagon Trek; they were trying to rally public opinion against de Klerk’s moves to change South Africa. It failed to develop a comparable momentum and enthusiasm; most people had recognised that the road they had been started on by the 1st Ox Wagon Trek in the 1930s was a dead end.]

- events reached an emotional fever pitch at the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blood River, 16 December 1938. Malan made a famous speech on the exact site. As he emphasised, what was happening was not simply a celebration of events 100 years before; it was a mobilisation for the present and future. Malan talked about the New Great Trek of Afrikaners into the cities and of the new struggles for survival that Afrikaners were engaged in there. The new struggles, he argued, were just as dangerous and life-and-death as those faced by the Voortrekkers.
“The battle with weapons is over. That was the Voortrekkers’. But one, even more deadly than theirs is being decided now. The battlefield has shifted. Your Blood River is not here. Your Blood River lies in the town ... at that new Blood River of our people white and non-white meet each other in much closer contact and in a much tighter wrestling-hold than one hundred years ago when the circle of white-tented wagons protected the laager and the shotgun and assegai clashed against each other.... Where he must stand in the breach for his people, the Afrikaner of the new Great Trek meets the non-white at his Blood River, half-armed or even completely unarmed, without a barricade, without a river between them, defenceless in the open plains of economic competition.”
- here was the sense of crisis discussed by Kinghorn but expressed in the voice of hysteria; this paranoia would increasingly drive Afrikaner nationalists and produce apartheid. It is very important in our present context because he was setting out the nature of the nationalist struggle which would absorb most Afrikaners for the next 40-50 years. From the end of the South African War in 1902, nationalists had been primarily preoccupied with the struggle against anglicization. That struggle was being won although many nationalists continued to treat it as a threat and it would continue to influence government actions and policies during the apartheid era. However, in 1938, Malan was focusing them in a new direction—the struggle against the black peril.
Afrikaner Nationalism and World War 2
- the outbreak of war in 1939 produced a crisis. All the dominions now had the power to determine whether or not they would go to war. Hertzog wanted the Union to remain out of the war (Eire in fact did this).

- Smuts and most of the old South Africa Party (the 2 parties had never really merged and the United Party had remained a coalition) opted for declaring war on the side of Britain. The vote in parliament was narrowly won by Smuts and his supporters for declaring war.

- Hertzog resigned and went into opposition with his close supporters. He expected to join Malan in his Purified National Party, but the latter had moved far beyond Hertzog in their goals and aspirations. In any case, Hertzog died shortly thereafter, but the remnants of his followers were organized into the Afrikaner Party by Hertzog’s friend and long time supporter, Havenga, in 1941. There was a drifting away of members to Malan’s party although the Afrikaner Party was not absorbed into the National Party completely until 1951 when the remnants, including Hertzog’s son and Havenga, joined the Nats.

- while the National Party was opposed to participation in the war, the Party never declared itself for Nazi Germany. However, during the early phase of the war when Nazi Germany seemed triumphant, a number of pro-Nazis among Afrikaners, especially in the Ossewabrandweg and the Stormjaers, did declare themselves. Germany showed some interest and established a radio station in Mozambique which broadcast to South Africa. There was even talk of a German-Afrikaner alliance. However, Hitler himself (as compared to a couple of Nazis) was not really interested in Africa and recovering colonies there; nothing much came of it. As the tide turned and it was clear that Germany might not win, pro-Germans quickly began to fall silent and to deny their pro-German sympathies. However, a number were interned for periods during the war (one of those was B. J. Vorster who subsequently became prime minister). While nothing came of it, a number of people had been in clandestine negotiations or at least in contact with German enemies during wartime—an act of treason!
Afrikaner Nationalism after 1945
- we must look at Afrikaner nationalism in its fully mature form after 1945 because it was the ideology which underlay the development and implementation of apartheid.

- as our example, we have Du Preez’s book, Inside the South African Crucible (excerpts ), written in the 1950s. Du Preez was a professor of theology at Stellenbosch Univ. and a member of the South African Bureau of Racial Affairs (SABRA) which was a leading ‘think tank’ for apartheid theory and ideology. The book was a defence of apartheid and intended primarily for foreign readers; thus, he was trying to make the best possible case for apartheid and putting what he thought was his best foot forward.

- references to ‘Afrikaner nation’ obviously do not mean a national state with defined boundaries, with a government recognised by the international community of states as the spokesman of all the people within its boundaries. He uses the term in an exclusive, not an inclusive definition. I would characterize Du Preez's definition of ‘nation’ along the lines of the following: “a body of people who show and share a unique blend of national and racial characteristics and who are infused with the national ethos and culture.”
Of what are the unique national characteristics composed?
Du Preez defines 6 elements which provide these characteristics:
(a) The Race Element(p. 54)
- these are inherited biological physical features (i.e., skin colour, hair colour and structure, facial structure, etc.)

- he makes a very important assumption, “There is a natural reserve towards people with prominent physical differences.” What is assumed is that ‘reserve’ towards those who are physically different is inherent. This premise is very important because it is used to justify the separation of the racial groups.

- it is argued that these ‘natural’ feelings of mutual hostility will lead inevitably to conflict. To advocate integration is to advocate violence because the latter follows inevitably. Thus, critics of apartheid were blind and immoral to refuse to accept the necessity of apartheid. Later, Afrikaner intellectuals recognised the untenability of such an assumption so they shifted the emphasis from innate antipathy to learned and historically based antipathy.

- of course, ‘race’ is not a concept that can be validated scientifically. ‘Racial characteristics’ are extremely superficial, literally skin deep. Du Preez does not attempt to define race and his discussion is cursory; he proceeds on the assumption that ‘race’ is self-evident fact arising from the fact that people’s physical appearance is different.
(b) The Historical Element (p. 55)
“A common destiny is necessary in the formation of the national characteristic. The aboriginal races had no share in the destiny of the Afrikaner who immigrated from Europe and formed a new nation here. They did not combine in the long struggle against the English conqueror. When the Afrikaner fought for their very existence at Blood River, the aboriginals were the enemy. And this was also the case in other conflicts between White and Bantu. These conflicts constitute the hostilities mentioned by the Tomlinson Report to which they add: ‘the attitude of hostility and conflict and its intensity necessarily produced the inflexible resolve in the White man to fight for his existence. The Non-White indigenous population had no share in this; hence the divergence.’”
- the Tomlinson Commission was set up early after the National Party came to power in order to provide a basis for ‘apartheid’, which at that point was a political slogan coined not too long before the 1948 election. Nobody knew what it really meant.

- please note the deterministic elements— ‘necessarily’ and ‘inflexible resolve’.

- there was a very old argument in South Africa (even among ‘liberals’); given this background of feeling among whites, if non-whites were given rights and equality, the whites would be ‘provoked’ to adopt the tactics, policies etc. of the US South—lynching, violence etc. They agreed that this behaviour is bad, but the solution was not for whites to change their attitudes or be forcibly restrained; rather that the behaviour should be avoided by denying non-whites their rights!

- it should also be noted that this element excludes English-speaking Whites.
(c) The Linguistic-psychological Element
“Language expresses the spirit of man. Language differences connote differences in the group spirit so that people with a different consciousness tend to oppose one another. Language differences point to differences in thought. Whenever such differences exist, those who speak the same language tend to associate and to separate themselves from those speaking a different language. For it is a presumption of society that people should understand and comprehend one another and associate and discourse with one another.”
- it is relevant to note that exclusive forms of nationalism, such as Afrikaner nationalism, are very uncomfortable with and antagonistic towards heterogeneity. Moreover, the herd instinct is strong.

- there is hardly any conception of society as groups within groups or of overlapping groups. The idea of pluralistic society is one of a complex overlapping of loyalties, commitments and memberships. People have a number of different identities. For example, one can belong to a specific religious denomination and as a result share membership, fellowship etc with a specific body of others. One can also belong to a political party, to a trade union and any number of other organisations; the associates in each of those are likely to be very different. Many of those with whom one shares religious beliefs etc. may be opponents in political parties or members can be on opposite sides of a labour-management negotiation or even strike. Thus, people can come together to work for common goals in one area of life while being opponents in other areas of life. One’s affiliates change depending on the context. Thus, people of disparate backgrounds can come together at specific times and for specific purposes while having nothing to do with each other at other times or in different contexts. This exclusive Afrikaner nationalism instead visualises almost complete unity and identity.

- this view regards what we are trying to do in Canada (multilingualism, multiculturalism etc.) as impossible and unacceptable if it were possible! Of course, to very exclusive nationalisms, pluralism is anathema; their aim is to achieve homogeneity.

- the concept of ‘nation’ in Afrikaans is an all-pervasive thing; it provides one’s total identity. In Canada we spend (and waste) tremendous amounts of time and energy on questions such as: Is there a Canadian identity? What is it? Most of this is a waste of time because of necessity, but now increasingly by choice, we have allowed people to make their own definitions of what Canada is and what it means to be Canadian.

- this is a bit different from our southern neighbours who have at times thought they could describe and detect ‘un-American activities’ (this assumes that there are ‘American’ activities). It would be difficult and rare to talk about ‘un-Canadian’ activities (except as a joke). We have unlawful activities which are as strict as most other nations so this is not to say that we are especially ‘permissive’. Thus, we call such activities illegal, unlawful or criminal, but not un-Canadian. That is because Canadian identity has not been a defined or pervasive concept; rather it has been a personal thing.

- such conceptions and such questions as we indulge in were inconceivable among Afrikaners. Is there an Afrikaner identity? An Afrikaner would never ask as it is to him a self-evident fact.

What is it? More clearly perhaps than anywhere else, it was defined. There was a constant stream of statements showing the prevalence of the concept:
- in practice, much of this began to unravel in the late 1970s and 1980s. Younger people especially began to reject the kind of straight jacket that this conception imposed.
(d) The Cultural Element
“Psychological differences between the groups express themselves in differences of culture. The one expresses Western culture, the other Eastern. To this may be added different standards of cultural development.”
- please note that this is rather fuzzy; Du Preez does not have much of a concept of ‘culture’.

- then he claims that Afrikaners or whites represent Western culture. Here he was attempting to draw on the prejudices of all members of western societies that grew up in the late 19th C, all the mystique about superior western culture and civilisation. This was a constant refrain among white South Africans, “We are the defenders and bearers of white western civilisation on a continent of barbarism.” Actually, that concept of superiority was increasingly discredited after World War 2, but it did appeal to substantial numbers of people in Europe and North America. Margart Thatcher and a lot of American politicians (even a few Canadian ones) swallowed that line.

- however, he calls ‘the other’ (meaning Africans) as ‘Eastern’. This shows the inability of many Afrikaners to make distinctions beyond simple dichotomies. If something does not fit into his category of ‘western’, therefore it is ‘eastern’. He does not distinguish any important distinctions between Chinese, Indian, Arabic or African culture. In their view of the universe, everything either is or is not; culture is western or it is not; it is Afrikaner or it is not.

- another irony to note. Afrikaners were stridently anti-communist and anti-Soviet Union. The Cold War provided the basic mode for viewing world politics. But there were 2 curiosities:
  1. S. Africa was more like the Soviet Union than most other countries; there was the prominence of the state over the individual; political crimes and police were very important; there was a highly developed police state; and individual freedoms were whittled away to almost nothing, even for whites (all ‘rights’ were at the discretion of the minister of justice).

  2. The dominance of state capitalism. Government ownership was more extensive than anywhere in most western societies—railways, telephones, airline, merchant marine, ISCOR (steel), SASOL (oil from coal), etc. Only in socialist countries was the proportion higher. Yet at the same time the South African government opposed social welfare measures as ‘socialism’. Nevertheless, the colour bar was really a massive social welfare program for poor whites!
    (e) The Religious Element
“Religion influences the life of a nation in a very important way. The Whites of South Africa brought with them a virile and vital Calvinist religious philosophy whilst the Non-Whites had an animistic heathen religion. These differences tended to promote solidarity and group unity amongst the Whites and induced them to protect the Christian religion from the dangers of wholesale racial mixture and miscegenation.” [my emphasis]
- “the Whites of South Africa”. Notice the assumption that Afrikaners were the real whites in S. Africa. Afrikaners continually called for unity among whites, but there was no possibility of compromise as far as Afrikaners were concerned; unity must be entirely on their terms.

- “animistic heathen religion”. Observe the slur and inferiority implied.

- “wholesale racial mixture and miscegenation”. Here is an incredible assumption that there is some direct connection of sex and genetic inheritance with religion and (inferred) with culture.

- “miscegenation” is a thoroughly racist term. It is not simply descriptive but is condemnatory; it declares that any sexual relations between people of different ‘races’ that result in children is harmful and wrong. It is wrong because it destroys the ‘purity’ of the ‘races’.

- but what has ‘miscegenation’ to do with religion and why would ‘wholesale racial mixture and miscegenation’ pose a danger to Christian religion? The only way that the statement makes sense is if religion is somehow transmitted biologically (i.e., in the genes); however, if language and culture are transmitted biologically and genetically, then I suppose that religion is also. Here we have a racism that is as extreme as that of the Nazis (this was the same argument as was used to say that the Jews had to be eliminated from all German life and society).

- however, what about the growing proportions of the other peoples in S. Africa who had become Christian? Many Afrikaners from very early times in S. Africa had not thought it possible that Africans could become part of the elect. Du Preez doesn’t say this; in fact, he later says that this is one element of difference that could change as non-whites became Christians. Moreover, as we noted last lecture, the NGK had a very extensive missionary program and outreach which contradicted such a contention. However, the preoccupation with ‘purity’ of race and ‘miscegenation’ is inescapably rooted in a pervasive racism that carries implications and ramifications even if not stated or admitted explicitly.
(f) The Element of civilisation
“There is a vast difference in civilisation between the various national groups which is reflected in their mutual relations. In this disparity of civilisation—and this is not always realised by foreign observers—difference in hygienic development plays a very important role.” [my emphasis]
- this is a very curious statement; in the oblique reference to ‘hygienic development’, there is the traditional white objection to the way Africans smell. Here, ‘civilisation’ seems to have been reduced to the way people smell!

- there are several ironies in such a contention:

- as we noted in a previous lecture, Afrikaners brought into the concentration camps in the war horrified British military and medical people with their habits;

- traditionally, where water was available, Zulu and Xhosa washed much more frequently than the Voortrekkers—every day in warm weather.

- water is a scarce resource in much of S. Africa and most of it was appropriated for use by whites. Most municipal locations (this was the term for residential areas for Africans although ‘townships’ came to be the preferred term in the 1950s) had only communal faucets in the street several hundred feet apart. Thus, all water had to be carried to the houses. In rural areas, Africans often have to go 2-5 miles and even more.

- Du Preez avoids saying one group smells and the other doesn’t; he just says that they are different, which superficially seems neutral. However, S. African whites always think of it as one way and Du Preez’s use of the term ‘disparity’ implies a ranking. Thus, he asserts that Africans are lower on the scale of odour than whites who are higher, and odour, it appears, is the essential element of ‘civilisation’.

- clearly, this is a reductio ad absurdum.

- having outlined the six elements, Du Preez [p. 56] argues that while some elements (e.g., civilisation and religion) might be reduced or eliminated, other elements (racial, linguistic-psychological, and cultural) can never be.

- again please note the racism. It is true that the superficial characteristics of ‘race’ (skin colour, hair texture, eye colour, etc.) are fixed by genetics, but the sort of things Du Preez includes in ‘linguistic-psychological’ and ‘cultural’ elements are surely learned behaviours (babies do not emerge from the womb speaking German, French or Chinese, let alone Afrikaans). Only racists argue that these are fixed by genetic inheritance.

- in this conceptual framework, ‘integration’ is totally unthinkable and intolerable.
- this sounds very much in line with a great deal of modern anthropological thinking. There are a number of problems with this thinking, however:
  1. this insistence on autogenous expression and self-development really can be simply an isolationism. There can also be considerable costs if a group insists on autogenous development and refuses to learn from other people’s experience. This can mean inventing everything, including the wheel, for themselves. Should a group, including the members of that group, be restricted only to developments created by other members of the group or should they be allowed to benefit from useful creations from anywhere or by anyone?

  2. the deeper philosophical question is: “Is culture made for humans or are humans made for culture?” If ‘culture’ and its preservation is made into an absolute, then humans are seen primarily as servants and instruments of the culture. But surely, ‘culture’ is a means that we as humans have devised to help us to make sense of the world and thus to enable us to function in that world. Thus, ‘culture’ is important only in so far as it fulfils that purpose. That is why culture constantly changes as our environment (the world) changes and as our understanding changes. If a ‘culture’ is no longer meeting our needs, then we need to change it or get another ‘culture’.

  3. in imposing apartheid, Afrikaner nationalists were insisting that all people in South Africa accept their view and definition that humans are created in these water-tight entities, ‘nations’. There was no choice: “You shall remain autogenous ‘nations’ (Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, etc.) whether you want to or not.”

  4. even if we put aside these philosophical concerns, there is still the question of implementation. Did the government in implementing apartheid really observe the ‘ethical’ sensitivity which Du Preez said it should? As we saw, belatedly in the 1990s, the NGK officially admitted that it did not.

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