…during the two World Wars South Africa produced Afrikaner capitalist. They emerged in the financial sector by establishing the Boere Saamwerk, Avbob, Sanlam, KWV, Volkskas and Uniewinkels, to name a few. The state on the other side created institutions like ESKOM in 1923, SASOL in the 1950s as well as ISCOR…. Exploitation of African people was one of the cornerstone for the emergence of Afrikaner capitalist. This was done through what Marxist calls primitive accumulation
By Pule Thulo
What is Afrikaner Nationalism?
It is important to note that there is no universal definition of nationalism. Webster Dictionary defines nationalism as “a feeling that people have of being loyal to and proud of their country often with the belief that it is better and more important than other countries”. However, this concept derives its origin from the nation which is defined by the state (government and bureaucracy), its geographical boundaries, its populace and other elements that can include language and believe systems to some countries.
Hist, in his analysis of origins of Afrikaner Nationalism, provides two forms of nationalism, namely inclusive and exclusive. Inclusive for Hist is no exceptions or less than full rights because of ‘racial’, linguistic, gender, etc. differences. However, exclusive nationalism may not require a state or geographical boundaries. Nor do all states accord full membership to people living within their national boundaries.
Lawson further articulates this position well when he argues that “there is a well-known distinction between the broad, humanistic kind of Nationalism that seeks to further the well-being of all the people and the narrow, exclusive kind of Nationalism, also known as chauvinism, which seeks to advance the interest of one section of humanity at the expense of everyone else”.
In trying to define what Afrikaner Nationalism is, the latter view presented by Lawson assist us. Their nationalism was based on narrow and exclusive and sought to advance interest of one section at the expense of us all. Their nationalism was exclusive and not inclusive. But what necessitated this kind of exclusive nationalism, it is something that need to be looked at.
Origins of Afrikaner Nationalism
Its origins can be traced to the late 1800s. The movement that promoted Afrikaner Nationalism was founded by Jacobus Du Toit where he argued that Afrikaners or Boers are a chosen nation of God who must lead. He established the Afrikaner Broederbond and promoted this through his newspaper called Die Afrikaanse Patriot.. This movement was based on anti-British sentiments of the time.
It is important to note as well that these anti-others was not based on Britain as the colonial master, but to African people generally. Hist points it out that “the trekboers certainly had important feelings of group identity: a belief that they were not only different but also superior to the indigenous peoples, a sense of difference from the British, and an abhorrence of the so-called ‘liberal’ policies in the Cape Colony”. Important to mention is that South Africa was divided into Cape (Eastern, Western and Northern) Colony, the Free State, Transvaal and Natal. Natal and Cape were British colonies and both Transvaal and the Free State were ruled by Afrikaners.
A number of factors that have led to emergence of such sentiments and can be summarised as follows:
- Discovery of gold and diamond led to alienation of the farming community as the Cape Colony flourished while the other republics, as they were called, languished in poverty.
- Lack of land by subsistence farmers as a results of both mining conglomerates and emergence of agricultural capitalist.
- Failing to adapt the Bywoners, as they were called, who had to relocate to other parts of the country in search of what they termed vrygrond (free-land).
- The Jameson Raid of 1895/96 and Anglo-Boer War of 1899/02 led to distance between the two white groups.
- Imperialist tendencies of Cecil John Rhodes.
- Anti-African posture on all fronts was another factor that led to Afrikaner Nationalism.
Afrikaner and Volks Kapitalisme
Kapitalisme is used to use to indicate capitalism in Afrikaans and the term Volks means peoples (Peoples Capitalism). There are many interpretation of what is meant by capitalism. Since there are different definitions, let’s use the Thesaurus Encyclopaedia’s definition which defines capitalism as “an economic system in which the means of productions and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development occurs through the accumulation of profit gained in a free market.”
The Afrikaner community consisted of the subsistence farmers (farmers who farm for instant survival). However, they were not directly involved in the actual work. African labour was used and highly exploited. Things changed with discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1886, respectively. The demand for agricultural products in the mining belts of Kimberly and the Rand made some Boers profiteers as Lawson argues that “they were transformed into entrepreneurs, rural capitalist, who produced, not merely to satisfy their own needs, but in order to a profit out of sale of their goods on a market.”
These changes led to two important two elements. One was the intensification of African labour, coupled with that was the legal basis of land dispossession of African people through the 1913 Land Act. The second consequences was the evolution of inequalities amongst the Boer community. Given the survival of the fittest character of capitalism, those who did not adapt had to leave rural areas and came to the cities to work in mining and manufacturing industries that emerged after the diamond and gold rush.
Those who remained in rural areas became wealthier and became rural capitalists of note. However, this rural bourgeoisie, as Lawson laments, was very slow in developing into a fully-fledged capitalist class. Thing started when it then diversified its economic interest in other areas of trade, finance, manufacturing and other investments. This also led to emergence of urban capitalist and entrepreneurs. Their main objective was to dislocate the English capitalist class that was already entrenched.
As a result, during the two World Wars South Africa produced Afrikaner capitalist. They emerged in the financial sector by establishing the Boere Saamwerk, Avbob, Sanlam, KWV, Volkskas and Uniewinkels, to name a few. The state on the other side created institutions like ESKOM in 1923, SASOL in the 1950s as well as ISCOR.
This became possible through investment by these former subsistence farmers with the assistance by the Nationalist Party with its racial ideology. The determination of Afrikaners to out manoeuvre the English was so massive, hence it was regarded as a people’s capitalism. Lawson comes to the rescue that the only way to real economic power and to a share in the super-profits of the monopolies lay in the coordination of the limited resources of the Afrikaner capitalist class as a whole.
Thus the creation of the Volks/peoples capitalism was a coordinated efforts by Afrikaner leadership through its chauvinistic Nationalism propaganda machinery. Again Lawson clearly articulates this view that “the spread of the chauvinistic propaganda of Afrikaner Nationalism was expected to induce an increasing number of Afrikaners to invest their saving and surplus capital with Afrikaans financial institutions, to take out policies with Afrikaans insurance companies, to build their homes through an Afrikaans building society and to do their shopping at Afrikaans shops”.
As a result more resources were put in place to unleash propaganda. It is reported that there was a rise in the assets of major financial institutions of Afrikaner capitalism during the last ten years. As Lawson put it:
“The rate of development of Afrikaner capitalism in the decade 1939/40 was considerably greater than the rate of development of the economy as a whole. According to the figures supplied by A. J. Bosman in a volume entitled “Die Triomf van Nationalisme”, the total turnover of Afrikaans business undertakings increased from 5% of the national total in 1939 to 11% of the national total in 1949. In that decade the number of Afrikaans industrial undertakings rose from 1239 to 3385 and the number of commercial undertakings from 2428 to 9585. The total turnover of Afrikaans industrial undertakings increased from £6 million to £44 million and of commercial undertakings from £38 million to £204 million. By 1949 ^Afrikaner capitalists were estimated to be in control of 6% of the country’s industry and 25 to 30% of its commerce (Volkshandel, Sept. 1950).
In the same period, according to Prof. Pauw, the number of Afrikaner directors and manufacturers increased by 295%, of business managers by 208% and of traders by 212%. In 1939 Afrikaners formed 3% of the directors, 8% of the business managers and 4% of the traders among the white urban population, but in 1949 these proportions had increased to 5%, 15% and 10% respectively”.
Exploitation of African people was one of the cornerstone for the emergence of Afrikaner capitalist. This was done through what Marxist calls primitive accumulation. David Harvey in his book called Accumulation by Dispossession written in 2005 describes primitive accumulation as a process which “entailed taking land, say, enclosing it, and expelling a resident population to create a landless proletariat, and then releasing the land into the privatized mainstream of capital accumulation”.
Both the English and the Afrikaner ganged up against the African people to firstly dispossess them of land. Those who refused were uprooted out through various laws which included the poll tax, hut and various land laws. The 1913 Land Act was a pinnacle and changed the political landscape which continues to haunt even the democratic state to this day.
Once Africans were landless, they were forced to be labourers and had to provide labour to these agricultural capitalist. The riches of Afrikaners came about as a result of that ruthless and super-exploitation of the African people.
Part of unseating African people included an unfair advantage in funding agricultural whites against successful African farmers. Other forms of support included research of different soil and its textures, veterinary services for animals, providing seeds and irrigation schemes. In cases of droughts, white farmers were financially assisted by the white government. As a result, many Africans were forced out of their land and became a proletariat and landless.
Role of the Nationalist Party in the Emergence of Afrikaner Capitalism/Volks Kapitalisme
The Nationalist Party, which was established in 1914, held an anti-British sentiments and was vehemently opposed to both Smuts and Botha likings of the colonial master. Hertzog, its founding leader, was always critical about the concept of payment of allegiance to the queen of England. Importantly, Afrikaners did not forget the brutality of the British during the Anglo-Boer War – the concentration camps for an example.
During the Second World War the Nationalist Party adopted an ideology linked to the Nazi Germany. Since the Boers regarded themselves as superior race to others, it was not surprising with this ideological view.
The Nationalist Party, in conjunction with the new Afrikaner bourgeoisie and inspired by nationalism chauvinism, were determined not to only unseat the British, but to make life of the African people unbearable. This had to be done through a systematic programme. Propaganda machinery was developed and it became clear that for sustainable creation of Afrikaner bourgeois dominance, an Afrikaner state machinery had to be put in place.
The Nationalist Party campaign was based on separate development. Various legislations such as the Group Areas Act, of the 1950s, various amendments to the Land Act of 1913, establishment of Homelands, ghettoization of Africans, pass laws and labour laws. All these laws were implemented violently and those against were maimed, jailed and done all sorts of things to.
Whites who could not make it in the economic mainstream were trained as artisan and integrated in the public service as the replacement of the English bureaucracy. ISCOR was created to supply needed material for artillery during the Second World War and SASOL for petroleum.
Massive infrastructure was invested by the Nationalist government and the beneficiaries were mostly poor white Afrikaners that could not benefit in the wealth creation of some Afrikaners.
Three things can be deduced. Firstly, the emergence of Afrikaner Nationalism was a well thought and systematic programme started in the 19th century as part of anti-British rhetoric. Secondly, the emergence of the Afrikaner bourgeoisie was a product of both Nationalism and state intervention especially in the 1930’s and the 1950’s, respectively. Lastly, the emergence of this class was as result of primitive accumulation and super-exploitation of African people.
- Lawson, H. (n.d.) “The Economic Basis of Afrikaner Nationalism
- Giliomee, H. (n.d.) “Reinterpreting Afrikaner Nationalism, c.1850-1900
- Harvey, D. (2005) “Accumulation by Dispossession
- Thesaurus Dictionary