Radical Afrikaner Nationalism and the History of the Ossewa Brandwag
Author: Christoph Marx
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English translation © 2008 University of South Africa Translated by Sheila Gordon-Schröder First edition, first impression Originally published in German by LIT Verlag under the title Im Zeichen des Ochsenwagens: Der radikale Afrikaaner-Nationalismus in Südafrika und die Geschichte der Ossewabrandwag © 1998 LIT Verlag
ISBN (German Edition) 3-8258-3907-9 ISBN (English edition) 978-1-86888-453-7
In the 1930s, Afrikaner nationalism transformed itself from a populist into a cultural nationalism, becoming politically radicalised at the same time. The author looks into the reasons for mass participation in the Ossewabrandwag and analyses the organisation’s fight with the National Party due to the Ossewabrandwag’s illegal and treasonable activities. In this context he discusses the ideological influences on the apartheid policy that can be identified as coming from organised right-wing extremism.
I owe thanks to the ladies and gentlemen in charge of the archives listed in the appendix as well as the librarians and employees at the university libraries in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Bloemfontein, Potchefstroom, Grahamstown, Tel Aviv and Freiburg, in addition to those of the Arnold Bergstrasser Institute in Freiburg and the Afrika Bibliographien in Basel. The librarian of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the Parliamentary Register, and the Hoover Institute in Stanford sent me photocopies of documents of the Vatcher Collection. I would like to thank the numerous people I spoke to in South Africa who often clarified details or gave valuable tips on books I should consult.
My exchange of ideas with the archivist of the Ossewabrandwag Archive in Potchefstroom, Hendrik Robinson, who has regrettably since passed away, was particularly intensive. He demonstrated in an impressive way that it is possible for a person to revise former views even at an advanced age. He also arranged for me to speak to several ‘veterans’ of the Ossewabrandwag who are listed by name in the appendix.
My connection with Stephen Louw of the Department of Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, who in 1990 was working on the history of the Ossewabrandwag, encompasses not only this topic, but also our shared interest in political theories and ongoing debates on South African and other topics. I benefited greatly from Johannes Degenaar’s publications on nationalism and I value the personal conversation I had with him. I received my first introduction to South African history from Rodney Davenport, then at the History Department of Rhodes University, in the 1980s and he followed the progress of my research in 1990 with interest and support. Ulrike Kistner established the contact with Unisa Press and helped in various other ways.
Jörg Fisch, Ulrich Herbert, Bernd Martin and Wolfgang Reinhard at the Universities of Freiburg and Zürich gave me valuable hints and advice concerning the reworking of the thesis into a printable book.
Wolfgang Reinhard in particular with his path-breaking synthesis of the history of European expansion, with his theoretical and methodological contributions and with his comprehensive knowledge and interest, proved at all times a source of inspiration and help. His ongoing support and encouragement, particularly during the habilitation process itself, was of far greater value to me than he is presumably aware of.
Part of the book has been translated by Margot Pakendorf Schultz, by far the larger part by Sheila Gordon-Schröder, whose great and successful effort to translate mycomplicated German sentences into readable English is highly appreciated.
The Carl Schlettwein Foundation in Basel provided me generously with the necessary funding for the translation. I will be forever grateful to the late Carl Schlettwein, who helped me in various ways and who always proved to be a most generous supporter of African studies. I regard it as a privilege to have known him.
One of my most important intellectual partners is my wife Rita, who as a social anthropologist also works on South African topics. As my partner, colleague and comrade she accompanied the development of this thesis with sympathy, patience and loving indulgence – I owe her far more than can be expressed through words.
A note on spelling and quotations
The issues that are addressed in this text necessitated a certain disregard for chronology from time to time. To compensate for this, a chronological table has been added in the appendix.
Printed and secondary sources have been listed alphabetically in order to simplify the search for them. Afrikaans names were placed together and listed alphabetically; therefore ‘Van der Merwe’ is listed under ‘V’ and not under ‘M’. As a rule, the archive material is quoted without mention of the archive of origin except in cases where confusion might occur. Equally only the sigla, where available, are mentioned and not the full name of the collection (with the exception of the collections of J. C. Smuts and J. H. Hofmeyr, which are kept in different archives and are both numbered A1); they are easily found by means of the list of archive sources. The collections in the Ossewabrandwag archive in Potchefstroom were neither numbered nor coded. In this case the collections are identified by their full name, e.g. Behrens coll. Where material from the same collection is quoted repeatedly, this is identified as ‘ibid’; if it is followed by a number, it is another file from the same material, without a number it is from the same file. Initials of first names were included only where confusion could occur. Transcripts of the interviews in the OB archive are quoted with the abbreviation ‘OB:I’. They are included in the archive materials list; the numbers of the tapes were only mentioned in the footnotes when more than one interview with a person was extant and quoted. All Afrikaans quotations have been translated into English; where it seemed necessary, certain original Afrikaans expressions are added in brackets. Italics in quotes derive from the original text, if not mentioned specially.
History as a science will one day give a fair assessment of the position of the Ossewabrandwag in the development process of the Afrikaners and their future independent, Christian and national republic.1 What we have to recognize in South Africa is that all its ‘subversive’ elements are not ‘intolerances imported from abroad’. There is such a thing as a South African Nazism and South African Fascism, which, while finding inspiration in the European revolution, is nevertheless a South African product: the revolt against the apparent mal-distribution of power and wealth.2
Nazism is not an alien infection thrust upon an innocent and unwilling South Africa. Our social soil is ready to welcome it as a fertiliser for its racial weeds.3