The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
THE dark people who came to South Africa through Monopotapa are the Basuto-Bechuana and the Zulu-Xosa. They all have Negro, Hamite and Semite blood. In America they would be described as Negro or colored. In South Africa they are called Kaffirs, Bantus, Natives, Africans.
They arrived with the name, given them by the Arabs, of Kaffirs -- unbelievers. The Xosa wars were the Kaffir Wars; where the Xosas lived was Kaffirland; until a generation ago, officials and missionaries called them Kaffirs. Tiyo Soga, the first Christian Xosa minister, having married white, said in his testament to his children: "If you wish to gain credit for yourselves -- if you do not wish to feel the taint of men which you sometimes may be made to feel -- take your place in the world as colored, not white, as Kaffirs, not Englishmen."
The word Kaffir is, however, not liked today, and (though they no more originate in South Africa than the Europeans, and probably came after them) they are now officially and generally called Natives.
The term Bantu means simply people -- that is, not dumb animals. The latest expression -- used by dark intellectuals and their European friends -- is African. This is correct on the analogy of Europeans. But it gives the colored folk no home or nationality: for the white people alone are South Africans. And it cannot be translated into the official language, Afrikaans, because the people, once known as Dutch or Boers, are now the sole Afrikaners.
The fact is that the inhabitants of the Union of South Africa need a national name as badly as do the inhabitants of the United States of America.
It was the Xosas the Boers first met as they were trekking east and the Xosas, having descended to the Cape southeast, were trekking west; and almost at once it was arranged that black and white should separate: the Great Fish River was made the inviolable (but of course violated) boundary between them.
This was the first manifestation of what Dr. Malan's followers today call apartheid. Apartheid (literally, aparthood) is not yet a dictionary word, but it won Dr. Malan the last election and it stands for separation of blacks from whites. Real, full, separation became impossible when the Voortrekkers, in the 1830's, abandoned, as they declared, "the fruitful land of their birth" to the English, and left the Cape "to enter a wild and dangerous territory" and find a life for themselves. It became impossible because this wild and dangerous territory they entered was the home of the Basutos and Bechuanas. In the end, the Basutos were left, under British protection, with 10,000 square miles, and the Bechuanas with a quarter million square miles.
In 1779 the Xosas began a fight that lasted 100 years; that ten years later dragged in the white people. It began because one Xosa Paramount Chief insulted another by offering him a lobola (marriage settlement) of only 100 cattle for his daughter. During this hundred years, too, Chaka, the Napoleon of the Zulus, in a great passion for blood, killed 1,000,000 -- some say 2,000,000 -- Zulus.
On the other side of the Drakensbergen then, the Queen Mantatisi, scorned in love by a fugitive from Chaka, fell in rage upon the world until she had not only eliminated whole tribes of Basuto and Bechuana, but left their country so bare that even her own naked, blackened, black-plumed, satanic warriors became cannibals. Following upon Mantatisi's carnage came Moselikatze, escaping from Chaka with half his Zulus; and, through what was left of the devastated Basutos and Bechuanas, drove north on a pathway of blood -- which is what his name means.
The Boers, the Voortrekkers, fought their way through Zulus; through Moselikatze's People with the Long Shields, henceforward Matabeles; through Basutos and Bechuanas.
After the white people had defeated the black people that had all but destroyed themselves, after they were in control and the black people had to give up fighting, the black people recovered so quickly that, in 1894, Rhodes told the Cape Parliament: "The natives are increasing at an enormous rate. The old diminutions of war and pestilence do not occur. . . . The natives devote their minds to a remarkable extent to the multiplication of children." . . . He asked what was now to be done about them.
He answered himself. He was responsible, he said -- speaking as Rhodes of Rhodesia; Rhodes, Prime Minister of the Cape; Rhodes, the Chairman of de Beers and his Goldfields companies -- for 2,000,000 human beings. He put before Parliament what he proudly called his "Bill for Africa" -- not South Africa. Africa. "You are sitting in judgment," he told the Members, "on Africa." The Bill was passed almost unanimously.
In 1947 General Smuts said: "Today, if you discuss the native question . . . you cannot look at it merely from the South African point of view. If you touch this question, you touch Africa."
Africa is that continent which has 160,000,000 blacks and 4,000,000 whites, has overcome all previous civilizations below the Nile, is faced, as in times past, by Asiatic invasion, and is now confronted in its darkness by this group of 2,500,000 whites, crying, from its thinnest, lowest end: "Black shall not pass."
There were certain words, certain thoughts, Rhodes applied to the black races. For instance, the word "human." "They have human minds." "Help them use their human minds." He spoke the word human as though to combat the suggestion that they were not human. "I do not believe they are different from ourselves," he said boldly, challenging Darwin's thought that, even in God's eyes, they were not as white people. But yet he called them children, declaring them thus a people, retarded. Rhodes' Bill for Africa was a measure to separate these retarded people from the advanced white people. . . . He went on to say: "The natives in the past had an interesting employment for their minds in going to war and in consulting in their councils as to war. By our wise government, we have taken away all that employment from them. We have given them no share in the government -- and I think rightly, too -- and no interest in the local development of the land, which cannot continue to provide enough for all of them. . . . We do not teach them the dignity of labor, and they simply loaf about in sloth and laziness. . . . These are my premises."
This was his solution: To give the natives, under European direction, their own land, which no whites, except officials, approved traders and so on, might enter. To train them to govern, manage, tax and educate themselves; to take liquor from them; teach them to work; train them to build their own roads and bridges and grow their own food and forests. There would be individual holdings (Rhodes had no faith in the natives' communism, under the dictatorship of their chiefs). There would be primogeniture (he believed this system to be a source of England's strength). Property owners, as was the Cape law, would have a vote. The younger sons would labor three months in the year (a ten-shilling tax on "loafing" if they did not) on Europeans' farms and mines. The reserves were more than natives' reserves. They were South Africa's reservoirs of labor.
So was the Glen Grey Act of 1895 a success?
Rhodes considered Glen Grey "the best portion of South Africa." The Encylopædia Britannica of 1911 described it as "well-watered and fertile." A Government Commission of 1932 called it desert.
For this the Commission blamed both black and white. The Europeans, said the Commission, had changed the environment of the native, but had not taught him how to adjust himself to the new environment. The native still planted as his forefathers planted, he practised the animal husbandry of his forefathers, he believed religiously in a plenitude of cattle and then could not understand why "man begets, but land does not beget" -- why, in short, land eroded by cattle eating its growth to the roots and worn out by continual planting of the same crops should become a desert.
And yet in Glen Grey, thought the Commission, lay a great idea. These very reserves, so depleted, might, with help and teaching, be rescued and restored; the native could still be taught to govern himself; the reserves alone offered a basis for the solution of the native problem -- a practical method of natural segregation. Where Glen Grey had failed, Europeans had their difficult material, their limited experience and not their evil intentions, to blame. The policy of segregation, said the Commission, should continue.
Seven years later, a leader of liberal opinion in South Africa, the President of the Institute of Race Relations, put it like this: The liberal, he said, had, for the good of the native, to consider three policies -- total assimilation, total separation, a native life among Europeans running parallel to theirs. "When liberals support or demand some measure for improving the Reserve, they are in principle working for Total Separation. When they approve the admission of Native, or other non-European students, into Universities which are predominantly white, they take a step on the road towards Total Assimilation. When they encourage the Native to organize for, and among, themselves some service or institution similar to those available for whites, they are practising the policy of Parallelism." As things were in the world, he thought that "total separation should be the liberal's choice."
Today Dr. Malan's supporters, who condemn liberals as the enemies of the white race, say exactly the same: but for different reasons. Practical men -- businessmen and economists -- do not know how it can be done. Where is the land to come from? Where the money for the industries and developments in the native reserves? Where will they themselves get labor if the natives are too ardently devoted to their own affairs?
The farmers do not want "black spots" among their own lands. They say, "The natives should restore the land they have destroyed before new land is got for them."
The sort of young natives that call themselves African mostly hate the thought of the reserves. It is the white romantic, not the new young African, who sees a noble picture as the native, in his bright blanket, strides along eroded red paths on rock-crested mountains, with his wife behind him, on her head a load, and on her back a child.
What the educated young native sees is the misery of the crowded reserves where the land is so badly farmed and the yield so poor that a cow will give "not even a can of milk;" and the family has to be broken up by its men becoming migrant laborers. Often, too, these men don't want to come home again. For in the towns, so they say, one learns trades; gets better wages, work, food, education, medical help, a chance to play European games, see films, read news, meet men of other tribes, find out modern thoughts and ways.
Finally, there are the old men at home who so dislike European interference that they will not let boreholes be sunk in their lands, or use the Government ditches, or send their children to the preschool feeding centers. Often their children starve.
Yet the dream of separation does not fade, and always it is based on Rhodes' Bill for Africa. Three years after Union, General Botha, the first Prime Minister, decided to add 20,000,000 acres to the native reserves, which would have made, with their other holdings, 13 percent of the Union's land. Considering the natives' numbers, this figure does not look well; but, again, only 15 percent of the Union's land is arable, and the natives, like other people, prefer to live in towns. Today 60 percent of them live in towns.
Botha's plan naturally made the price of land go up. The German War of 1914 began and South Africa was in it and had a rebellion besides. A depression followed the war; 50 percent of the white population was on the bread line. After General Botha died and was succeeded by Smuts and Hertzog, there was no more talk of 20,000,000 acres: the best one could now do was 13,000,000 acres. But there was also another interesting idea: £500,000 would be spent on getting land and sinking boreholes in it.
What land? Every Union Prime Minister has bitterly demanded the three British territories, all dependent on the Union: Swaziland, Basutoland, Bechuanaland. Each, it seems, has had in his heart the thought to solve the Union's native problem with these -- with one of these. Which one? Which has much space and needs boreholes?
Obviously not Swaziland, a small country whose Queen-Mother is the most prolific rain-maker in southern Africa. Not Basutoland, so eroded that almost every able-bodied man has to go and work in the Union. Well, naturally, Bechuanaland: 250,000,000 square miles big; a desert, reputed to have under its sands much water; the very land for boreholes.
Only the territories will not come into the Union: under Britain's mild protection, they like to rule themselves. Particularly will Bechuanaland not come into the Union. Bechuanaland has already a man to each square mile. It is enough. The Bechuanas want no millions of Union natives thrust upon them.
The educated young Africans who hate the reserves deride the thought that one can "change from a subsistence to a money economy; change the whole relationship between people and land; introduce tax-paying and wage-earning as necessities; introduce western material culture," and then expect the old social structure of Africans to remain as before. "The Africans," they say, "will not willingly go back to the ancient and fast-dying fields of primitive life. Whether we like it or not, we shall have to cope with what the rest of the world coped with -- namely the adjustment of our life conditions to the demands of western culture."
The Africans say that the Europeans, too, once "lived like savages and constantly fought one another, and all the nations of the world have been through that stage of development." They recall that western culture itself came from the valleys of the Euphrates, the Tigris and the Nile, and that Peter the Great went west for the civilization he brought to Russia, and "What," they ask, "is the position of Russia today? Is Russia not one of the two World Powers today?"
They know about the French Revolution.
"Are not Africans," they say, "getting the treatment which caused the French Revolution?" And they too, they vow, would die for an African revolution. . . . Sometimes they wonder what, after a successful revolution, they should do with the whites of South Africa. Send them back to that devastated old Europe? The gentler souls think one could not do that. There is room enough in Africa for all. "As other peoples have done, and as other peoples of this land have already done for 300 years, black and white can develop together. Together we have made this land what it is today. We have made it our joint fatherland."
There are, however, cynics among these African intellectuals. Are the white people, they ask, afraid for their white women? "White women," they say, "are repulsive to us."
If only, they say again, the black peoples had, in the beginning, united to ward off the Europeans from South Africa, "we should not today have a white problem."
The quotations in these paragraphs are from private papers of Africans, 20 to 25 years old, educated in the Transvaal.
Most Europeans feel about such Africans as these that they are "intellectuals entirely sequestered from the thoughts of their people, quite incapable of independent thought, who merely repeat the precepts of their mentors." And it does seem likely that the native intellectual finds himself far away from the people in his kraal. He can no longer think like them, he can no longer feel like them. He has been trained to think and feel like a European. He is not merely -- and crudely -- a native. He is a particular kind of native: an African with a European standard.
What, failing the reserves, can South Africans offer the black man and yet stay white?
Always there is the white man's fear that to give the black man too much may mean his own submergence. At present, the native may become a teacher or preacher to other natives; he may become a doctor who runs a risk if he sees a white patient, but who is so desperately needed for his own people that the Government will give him a bursary to attend a medical school; he may become a lawyer, and then he treats his fellow-Bantu ruthlessly, and often dishonestly; he may become a craftsman, a trader, a pieceworker in industries or mines. But he cannot, as in other parts of Africa, get a position that will give him authority over whites. In the public services he is employed only as a menial or a low-grade clerk, except in the Native Affairs Department where he may become an agricultural demonstrator, an interpreter or a clerk. In the police or defense services he cannot get a commission. He can -- he somehow does -- run a business, a bus or a taxi.
France's colonials are divided into three groups: the thousands of citoyens, representatives of French civilization; the lesser notables evolués; and the millions of sujets (many of whom do not want the obligations of a superior status) who fall under native law.
That they may be citizens, even on rigorous terms, is as much as friends of the South African natives ask for them. It is what members of the native parliament, the Bunga -- a helpless affair, directed by white officials -- mean when they say: "We think that peace will come about in this country only when all the positions are open to us and we can fill them. . . . If the native is sufficiently educated, he is fitted for work any other man can do. . . . Why has the native departed from his former primitive state and acquired education and trustworthiness if he is not allowed to go forward?"
This is just and reasonable, but can this going forward include the vote, direction of the country? Many friends of the natives say it should include the vote: they say no more is asked than the French give: that is, full equality -- citizenship -- according to a man's civilization. This, they say, would mean that only a few natives, and not dangerously many, would get the vote. But do they not also think every native ought to be educated? And should not every educated native then get the vote? And would this not be dangerously many for the white people that are a fourth of their number and, above all, want to maintain their white civilization?
What South Africans say is:
"Frenchmen have France to live in. We have only South Africa. We cannot afford to do what Frenchmen can do."
Yet even the French colonies had forced labor until 1946. The Portuguese in Africa, who do not mind blending their blood with that of the blacks and then giving them European status, also have forced labor. The Belgian Africans suffer a social, if not an economic, color bar; but they are not allowed to attend universities, unless they are to become Roman Catholic priests; and so shocking was the scandal of the treatment of natives by the Congo Free State, so alarming the reduction of native population from 15,000,000 to 10,000,000, that now there are a Charte Coloniale and a Protective Commission to guard their full rights as Belgian citizens.
The British hold before their black colonials the vision of self-government. But, in 1945, a government welfare report said of Kenya that "poverty of a massive and grinding nature, assessed by modern standards, is at present the outstanding feature of African society everywhere in the Colony." British Trusteeship in East Africa has had a bad report from a U.N. mission.
There is a thing in Africa stranger than any. The greatest oppressors of African natives are the descendants of the freed Negro slaves, now running the Negro Republic of Liberia. No one despises what they call the "bush" people as they do.
Who can deny that black men are exploited throughout Africa? Who can believe white men come to Africa out of simple love of black men? Of all African countries, South Africa, with most to fear, has done black man the least hurt. Her social services for Africans cost more than those in the rest of Africa put together. Her African population has doubled in the last 40 years. In other lands it has barely moved.
But what is the cause of it all? What makes decent people lose their humanity in Africa? Is it only the question of skin? Then where is the answer to Liberia?
There is a deeper cause than color. There is a terrible answer. It is that it lies in human beings to kick those that are down. What does the saying mean about not kicking those who are down? That the impulse is to do it. All commandments, laws, proverbs are testimonies against human nature. One need not be forbidden to do what one doesn't want to do. The Africans are kicked because they are down.
But the Africans have discovered the power of their numbers, and they will not stay down. In this year of 1949, there have been native riots in Kenya and Uganda. Over Kenya flew Lancaster bombers; European and Asian members of the Kenya police reserve were mobilized. One saw that, if the Africans spread riot over Africa, the Asians would stand with the Europeans: as one saw, through the Durban native riots against the Indians in January 1949, if the Asians advanced down Africa, the Africans would stand with the Europeans -- though who would eventually dominate one could not tell, except that it would not be Europeans.
There have been riots in the Sudan: again civilians mobilized. They guarded planes, halting for the night, on the journey north. There are fears in Tanganyika. Black talk down the East Coast is of driving Europeans into the Indian Ocean.
In 1948, a commission, inquiring into native disturbances on the Gold Coast, found a leading cause to be the Communism learnt by Africans in England. They had evidence of a secret society, the Circle, whose watchword was "service, sacrifice, suffering;" whose aim was a Union of African Socialist Republics; who had a shadow government ready to displace the white government and drive out the Europeans.
They say in Rhodesia and Nyasaland that the Russian consulate in Abyssinia is sending black Communists to excite their natives. Talk about Communists is sometimes exaggerated; but it is a fact that, in the 1920's, the Colonial Department of the Comintern, acting in Moscow, instructed Communists in South Africa to work for a Black Republic, with a guarantee of minority rights for Europeans. There is talk (black) of strikes in South Africa.
One can see what may happen in African territories by looking, not only at Asia, but, more appositely, at Trinidad. Here were Indians, despoiled in turn by the Spanish, British, Dutch and French, taken by the British in 1797 and kept by them after the Treaty of Amiens. Here came Negro slaves and indentured Indian laborers from the east. Today, one may enter a law court in Port-of-Spain and find only the judge -- a British official -- white. Lawyers, litigants, witnesses, spectators are all, from yellow to black, dark men. One may see a procession of school-children of whom only two are white. Englishmen of good class are happy to be invited to the homes of colored dignitaries who maybe have British titles. The white man is on his way out.
Now what, thinking of all these things, is the South African who, alone of white men in Africa, has no other home -- what is he to do? He can withhold the vote, the essence of democracy, from the black man. He can give the educated black man the vote. If he also gives the black man education, then all educated black men will have the vote, and the white man will in time be enormously outvoted.
The South African can be utterly just and give the black man the same voting rights as the white man. The white man needs only to be 21 to have the vote. If the black man, too, at 21 gets the vote, then the white man will immediately be outvoted by people, four times as many as himself, and mostly barbaric. There is the fact of the 4,000,000 whites in Africa and the 160,000,000 blacks. His position, under absolute justice, would be that of the American if America had, say, 500,000,000 Negroes, nearly all raw men. The South African smiles at the fuss Americans make about their tenth of Negroes.
Even Jan H. Hofmeyr, Deputy Prime Minister in General Smuts' last Government, South Africa's wonder-boy, as General Smuts called him on his death, the greatest brain (sheer genius apart) South Africa has known -- even Jan Hofmeyr, who died fighting for the rights of the natives, could not think of giving them absolute equality, absolute justice.
Abraham Lincoln did not understand the Declaration of Independence to mean that all men are in all ways equal. "Certainly the Negro is not," he said, "our equal in color."
Judging by the preponderance of dark-skinned people in the world, one might think the Creator had different ideas and preferred the colored to the white people. Their preponderating representatives at the U.N. begin to think so too. South Africans look at the equal vote at the U.N. with almost the dread they have of an equal vote in South Africa. The U.N., indeed, points to their own dilemma. How, under it, they ask in despair, can they have justice? How can the white man have justice?
We are indeed past the stage where Lincoln may further be quoted on the Negro: "If God gave him little, that little let him enjoy." . . . They say at the U.N.: "Why little?"
The South African, in his fear, withholds this, withholds that, from the black man. The black man knows the deprivation of the day. His millennium is not yet here.
Against that time there are in South Africa negrophilists who offer the native what they call Christian Trusteeship. This is a smug and unpronounceable term and likely to be suspect by people who see how often in our world the name of Christ is attached to works directly against His teaching. All, however, that the apostles of this creed mean (Hofmeyr belonged to it) is that they wish, for those who need it, a measure of humanity. They stand with Dickens:
"Did you hear him say that he could have shed his blood for me?"
"Do you want any blood shed for you? . . . Does he shed anything for you that you do want? Does he shed employment for you, instruction for you, pocket money for you? Does he shed even legs of mutton for you?"
They ask for the native employment, instruction, pocket money and -- something like legs of mutton.