The people who suffered most and continue to suffer from the racial segregation system known as apartheid are the Boers, the people for whom the system was purportedly set up to defend and protect as an ethno-racial group. The reason why this is so is that apartheid was socialist and socialism is simply never good for anyone; just as the primary victims of the NHS in Britain are the British and their health—the state distorts the signals that would lead to optimum healthcare provision—so also, no matter what the stated benevolent intentions from politicians, apartheid was bad for the Boers.
Now, contemporary South Africa is even worse than under apartheid; and this is because it has continued to slide towards full communism; and full communism looks a lot like the recent riots that engulfed the country, usually followed by a regression into outright starvation. Yet South Africa was already well on the way to communism, in the functional sense, under apartheid; indeed, it is strange to think that at various times under apartheid South Africa enjoyed the highest or nearly the highest standard of living in the world—and yet if it had not been for apartheid that standard of living would have been even higher, stratospheric.
Apartheid was implemented by the National Party and this party was, basically, national socialist—indeed many of its activists were sympathetic, as a Germanic rural people historically opposed to English imperialism, to National Socialist Germany during the war. The National Party’s programme was populist racial nationalism, and this included such measures as the reservation of certain jobs at the lower-middle-class level for whites; specifically, the poorer Boers. So, for example, in true populist fashion, jobs such as railway guardsman or shift supervisor in a mine would be reserved for white men. More widely, the apartheid policy created various Bantustans, quasi-autonomous tribal governments within the South African republic, that proved to be significant dependents on the state; indeed, this dependence proved to be an substantial economic headache in the later years of apartheid.
Now, this whole issue is complicated because the Boers have become—perhaps less so, but still residually—a demonic out-group in Western propaganda; and this is partly because they were seen to support what amounts to metaphysical evil for contemporary Westerners, Nazism, and partly because there was a long-standing hostility between the Anglo-Saxon world—Britain and latterly America—and Boerdom, a tension that goes back to the Boer War; a war conducted with considerable brutality.
Certainly, though I was born in the 1980s, I was quite aware from TV shows—particularly comedy shows—that the Boers were “evil”; and if you flip back to various comedy shows or documentaries over the years, particularly in the 1980s, you will find that the animus directed at the Boers was extremely brutal. The issue has dissipated somewhat now, but the whole cause of anti-apartheid activism was huge in the West. I remember that I used to periodically watch a Bill Murray version of A Christmas Carol, made in the mid-1980s, in which Murray plays a yuppie Scrooge; as part of his moral transformation he makes friends with a black family—and an “End Apartheid” sticker features in a prominent shot; in other words, to be against apartheid was normal pop culture material at the time.
So it is difficult to think clearly about apartheid; yet, as you would expect, the post-apartheid fate of the Boers has been increasingly uncomfortable and unfortunate and this is what you would expect after decades of enervation, just as the British have become progressively unhealthier under the NHS—or, to choose a reverse example, just as the Israelis became more aggressive and virile after they dropped the socialist kibbutz system from the late 1970s onwards; a system also aimed, incidentally, to preserve a racial group. The reason why apartheid failed lies in its architect: Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd. Now Dr. Verwoerd, the doctorate is significant, as we shall see, was not—as you might imagine—descended from a long line of Boers rooted to the land; he was not even a descendant of those who undertook the Great Trek, the foundational migratory event for the Boers. Indeed, Verwoerd—the author of Boer supremacy—was born in the Netherlands; his father, formerly a shopkeeper, became entranced with the Boer cause during the Boer War and emigrated with his family. Now the Boer are originally Dutch, although, of course, they are Dutch in the way the Americans in 1860 were English or the Australians today are British; nevertheless, there was kinship there—a slight kinship. However, this history should give us pause for thought.
In the first place, Verwoerd’s father was obviously an ideologue and a fanatic. Nobody who is a businessman in their bones uproots their family to trek across the world for what is a purely politico-religious cause; since political views are inherited, we can safely assume that Verwoerd was, as with his father, a priestly fanatic type. The Boer ideal might be a self-sufficient farmer guided by a stern faith in an ultra-Protestant God, but Verwoerd came from the city merchant class with an interest in strict nationalism as a religion. It is my view that such men do not make for good leaders, since they have a strong demonstrated tendency towards delusion. Further, it could be argued that Verwoerd hardly knew his country in his bones; and yet his ideas were to determine how half the century unfolded for South Africa, and his name is inextricably bound up with the very term “apartheid”.
As if to demonstrate that he was a priest, Verwoerd obtained a PhD in psychology; and, as such people are wont to do, it is quite telling that he is frequently referred to, even by detractors, as “Dr. Verwoerd”; now, come on, everyone knows that it is only medical doctors who really get to call themselves doctors—so long before Jill Biden demanded that everyone recognised her PhD in education, or whatever it is she did, Verwoerd was at the same game. Verwoerd’s academic career spirited him away from South Africa for a substantial period of time—to inter-war Germany, in fact (cue sinister music). The problem is less that Verwoerd went to National Socialist Germany, as the official line would have it, but more that he left his adopted country at all and then embedded himself in an entirely abstract field.
My basic contention: Verwoerd was in no way deeply South African and was primarily an intellectual with typically impractical ideas in the field of government, ideas that were given full reign. The left will say: “Well, he studied at German universities when the Nazis were in power so all his ideas are evil, even if his actual research never touched on Nazi ideas.” My point is that it would have been just as bad if he went to England instead—he was offered a chance to go there at the same time the Germans invited him—and studied at LSE. The problem is not the ideas as such, it is the mode of thought that men like Verwoerd use and their temperament—whether for Marxism, nationalism, or neoliberalism—that makes them disasters. Verwoerd, as with his father, was an irresponsible fanatic but bright enough to give his ideas a veneer that could impress—especially in a relative intellectual backwater, such as South Africa. Hence he was in a position to impose intellectual ideas, even though they were almost certainly not sensible, through dint of his intellectual credibility and rhetorical skills—when he returned from Europe he became a newspaper editor, a propagandist.
Verwoerd also played out another pattern in history; as with Napoleon and Hitler, he was a man who came from the periphery to the centre to lead. Hitler was Austrian and Napoleon was Corsican, and yet both men managed to make themselves central to national history in their adopted countries. Famously, as with the British in Rhodesia or India, people on the periphery are often absurdly proud of their real heritage; they are more English than the English—and, of course, Verwoerd and his father, converts to the Boer cause, were more Boer than the Boer when it came to racial ideology.
Accordingly, such men are often obsessed with the fatherland’s glory and importance and will undertake grand—often fatal—schemes to raise the fatherland up. Hitler often claimed, especially towards the end of the war, that the Germans had failed him; and I think we detect in that sentiment a man who idealised Germany and the Germans and then felt let down when reality did not conform to his ideal. I also have a slight suspicion that such people, outsiders, often hate the populations they rule over; perhaps they hate them because they can never truly be them and never truly belong. So I sometimes wonder if Napoleon and Hitler really detested the French and the Germans above all, not the English or the Jews; certainly, both men managed to wreck the countries they led and destroy millions of their countrymen’s lives. Stalin is a similar case, since he came from peripheral Georgia; although unlike Hitler, Napoleon, and Verwoerd he did not positively identify with the Russians and Russianness. So, in short, countries should avoid leaders from the periphery, although, of course, such men will romanticise and flatter the mob to the highest degree due to their delusions about the country and its people.
To pick one example where apartheid went wrong: the system tried to push Afrikaans language and culture right through the education system, education was a topic Verwoerd was supposedly, as we say today, an expert on. This created resentment across all population groups; it was not as if they were being forced to learn English, a world language at least. By the 1970s, the left capitalised on Boer cultural hegemony and the language issue to disrupt the system. A Machiavellian or realist would never impose a language in this way, since it is bound to create resentment and is practically pointless in every way except in that it will make your subjects despise you. Apartheid, being essentially anti-Boer, made every other group in South Africa despise the Boers—and perhaps that was because Verwoerd, who could never really belong among a nation of farmers, did not really care for the people he purported to represent. As one of the Cambridge Spies observed, as regards his homosexuality, “If you can’t belong you betray.” In his case, it was Communism; and in Verwoerd’s case it was to develop an unpractical system that led the Boers to be disliked globally and internally.
As with most places in the world, South Africa has not had a decent government for a long time; probably not since sometime in the 19th century. What went before Verwoerd was Jan Smuts, a man whose silly hope for a world state went along with all the progressive pieties of the age. South Africa would have been no better off, probably slightly worse off, if his policies had been continued. What was solid in the Boer tradition was the myth of the Great Trek: the idea that when faced with irreconcilable political disagreement you should up sticks and colonise elsewhere. Now, of course, the Boers first went on the trek to escape the English and the English followed after, but it is the principe that remains solid. South Africa post-war probably needed to break down into smaller units, and, indeed, there were secessionist initiatives even at the time.
The races that count in South Africa are the English, the Boers, the Jews, and the Indians; they are the operative organisational and economic thrust—the various black tribal groups have different characteristics, but none provide the backbone that makes South Africa a substantial economic power; they are the counters used by the other races—factions within those races—to pursue various goals. If you read a left-wing account of South Africa—basically how the Western mainstream media portrays the country—you would assume that “the whites were oppressing the blacks and then this stopped when Mandela was released”, but neither “the whites” nor “the blacks” fall into coherent political units in South Africa.
Indeed, the left went to great lengths in the 1970s to create “black consciousness” across tribal lines, whereas the apartheid government—in line with its culturally rightist policies—affirmed tribal identities. Long before then, back in the 1920s, the nascent Communist Party of South Africa campaigned under the slogan: “Workers of the world unite and fight for a white South Africa!” Later, the party, now renamed the South African Communist Party, would pitch itself as being in the vanguard of racial equality and in this manifestation came to be intertwined and essentially the puppeteer of the apparently social-democratic ANC.
What had changed? Well, in the 1920s the miners—mining is a key South African industry—were white, but by the 1960s they were mostly black; and a good Leninist moves with the times, and diktats from Moscow. It was expedient, as the racial issue always is for the left. By the end of apartheid, the party’s military wing—a joint operation with the ANC—was run by Joe Slovo, a Jewish immigrant; either a touching sign that a European man could come to lead an organisation overwhelming composed of black Africans, or a dangerously racist sign that one man with high enough intelligence and the right temperament could lord it over thousands of Africans.
What was positive in apartheid was its recognition that certain tribal realities exists—its willingness to grant little kingdoms within the republic an existence, of sorts—but this principle was not extended out far enough, and was crippled because it was tied to state aid. What was required was probably something closer to a Great Trek outwards for the responsible racial groups in South Africa—a finding of their own paths. However, whether the leadership was Smuts with his Anglo-American progressivism, Verwoerd with his national socialism, or today’s ANC-SACP with its communism the constant has been socialism and centralised domination. Today, it is the blacks who receive the lion’s share of the “help”, and so their condition degrades a little more each year; and the Boers are already retrograde too, for they were crippled by apartheid—a system invented by a man with no time for self-reliant farmers.