The Passing Show Column from the June 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard
Socialists are continually being asked by reformers to put their objective—which is, naturally enough, Socialism— into cold storage and instead use their time and energy to support “immediate demands," such as the abolition of the H-bomb, the ending of the new laws in Rhodesia, action by the N.C.B. about miners’ unemployment, and so on. But the only objective, immediate or otherwise, of Socialists is Socialism. And if the efforts of the world’s reformers had in the last fifty years been used to work for Socialism, their “immediate demands” would probably by now be unnecessary.
Prominent among the objects of the reformers’ interest is South Africa. They abhor apartheid. The result of their reforms would be to give the African workers the same opportunities as the white workers: that is, to work on equal terms for the South African capitalists. The objective of Socialists is to free both white and black workers from wage-slavery, and to end the evils of capitalism in South Africa as elsewhere
Hand in hand
The aims of the reformers in regard to South Africa are, in fact, exactly the same as the aims of the capitalists in regard to South Africa. The present state of affairs in the Union is the result of the political dominance of the large farmers, who are determined to keep the land (which gives them their economic and political power) for themselves, and to deny the Africans any political or educational equality, since that would only strengthen the Africans’ desire to own the land themselves, instead of merely working on it for the benefit of the white owners. The farmers wish to keep the Africans in subjection, as uneducated hewers of wood and drawers of water. But this is in direct contradiction to the desires of the South African capitalists, who want an educated working class, and one which is not made discontented by being deprived of the vote. The South African landowners strongly oppose giving the Africans the vote, since propaganda will no longer fool landless men into believing they can never be anything else: but the capitalists do not think that the grant of the vote will deprive them of any power, since they can see that in much of the capitalist world the workers possess the vote and yet make no attempt to use it to overthrow the capitalist systems (private or state) which sit on their backs.
The identity of aims between the reformers and the capitalists has come out strongly in recent weeks. No journal, perhaps, can claim to speak for British capitalists with as much truth as The Director, the journal of the Institute of Directors. And in its April issue it shows great hostility to the South African Government's latest face-saving plan. Hoping to side-track the Africans’ demands for political equality, Dr. Verwoerd has announced his plan to create five Bantustans out of the present native reserves (which cover only one-sixth of the Union's territory) and to hold out to Africans in the Bantustans the hope of eventual political independence. The Africans would thus regard the Bantustans as their real homes, and would be treated in the much larger white area (including all the industrial districts) as a mere drifting population. But capitalism requires a steady, settled, tied-down, working class: and The Director damns the scheme comprehensively, dismissing it finally with “The Bantustan plan, in short, looks half-baked and wholly impracticable, politically and economically."
The supporters of South African capitalism in the South African Parliament itself similarly attacked the Government’s bill to segregate whites and non-whites at college, by creating new universities for Africans only. “Situated in remote rural areas," The Observer (12-4-59) reports, “and cut off as far as possible from contact with Western civilisation, the ‘universities’ will be too small to provide anything like the facilities available at proper universities." But universities under a capitalist system exist to supply the capitalists with the upper ranks of the workers in their industries and in their state services. The Opposition was therefore much disquieted with the repeated statements of Government M.P.S that “the separate universities would restore to the African his ‘Bantu culture.’"
What was this “Bantu culture" that had to be preserved and promoted, inquired an Opposition M.P. To answer his own question he turned to the chapter headed “The Culture of the South African Bantu" in the most famous of apartheid documents, the Tomlinson Report.
Bantu Culture, declares the report, embraces “Bride price" polygamy, ritual practices, ancestor worship, the brewing of beer and the collection of wild fruits and spinach.
And the collection of wild fruits and spinach is scarcely a preparation for work in the higher levels of capitalist industry.
The division among the whites in South Africa is not between English and Afrikaaners, but between the capitalists and the landed interests. Hitherto capitalist industry has been owned chiefly by English speakers, and the land mainly by Afrikaans speakers. But South African industry is growing year by year, and more and more of it is owned by Afrikaaners. The Manchester Guardian (13-4-59) says:
At the same time it is known that influential people in the growing Afrikaans industrial and commercial world are apprehensive about the effects on world opinion and on the economy of the country of such measures as the bill to create separate African “states." the bill to impose stringent forms of job reservation (for whites) on industry, and the bill to impose university apartheid.
Here lies the real danger for the supporters of apartheid—the increasing strength of capitalism. But when the South African capitalists have gained their inevitable victory, and have given the African workers equal rights with the white workers, then the only change that matters, in South Africa as in the rest of the world, will still have to be accomplished: the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a Socialist society.
SIR DAVID IN TROUBLE
Sir David Eccles has been getting into trouble again. He told a German audience that the British royal family was all the better for its Hanoverian blood (The Observer, 3-5-59). Great exception was taken to this in the British newspapers. What they principally objected to was that anyone should mention the subject at all. It is never admitted in polite political circles that Prince Philip is German (coming from the German family that rules over the lucky Greeks) and that the Queen is part German (the family which occupies the British throne having been German, and having married Germans, from 1714, until the future George VI broke the custom by marrying an English-woman). Sir David Eccles will get no further in politics if he drops any more bricks. He must learn that the successful politician doesn't say things merely because they are true: he only says what the audience wants to hear.
“LOVE THY ENEMIES"
The Archbishop of Canterbury, returning from a tour of the Far East, tells us that the Japanese “are a lovable people” (Daily Herald, 29-4-59). And a fine, appropriate sentiment it is from the head of a church which claims to advocate love and kindness. Only one criticism: why didn’t the Archbishop tell us this between 1941 and 1945, when Britain was at war with Japan? All we heard then from the bishops were exhortations to work harder and fight more fiercely to wipe out the bestial, inhuman Japs. But there it is. When British capitalism requires the organisation of a wave of hate, all its subsidiary concerns do their bit to help: and that includes the Church. Now, when the Japanese are our allies against the Russians, the latter, who were lovable from 1941 to 1945, have become bestial and inhuman, and it is the Japs who are lovable. How thankful the Church must be that the average man seems to have no memory.