Courtesy Reuters

Self-Confidence and Self-Criticism in South Africa

THREE times since 1948 the National Party has won the parliamentary elections in South Africa, and each time by an increased margin. These successive victories reflect the dominant place which Afrikaners have secured within the White oligarchy. The elections of last April gave the Nationalists 103 seats in the new parliament, compared to 53 for the predominantly English-speaking United Party. A wave of satisfaction and self-confidence is sweeping through the Afrikaner community as a result. Yet now that their political opponents have been crushed, a new spirit of constructive criticism is emerging within Afrikanerdom.

The Nationalist victory was not primarily a triumph for White racism, which was not at issue; apartheid of some kind has the support of more than 90 percent of the voters. Race relations figured prominently in the campaign only in the final two weeks, when an unsuccessful strike against the pass laws and for higher wages became a political football for the major parties. Yet clearly the African National Congress, which called the strike, is becoming a significant factor on the White political scene. It appears that both Afrikaners and Africans will continue to strengthen their dominant positions in South African society, leading to further polarization of political thought.

The balloting on April 16 took place in a much calmer atmosphere than prevailed in the three previous parliamentary elections. The last campaign had been filled with hate and flailing bicycle chains, as the Nationalist Jeugbond and the Torch Commando broke up political meetings. The United Party attempted to make the issue Nazism versus democracy, castigating the anti-British sentiments of many Afrikaners during World War II, and their semi-military organizations. The United Party slogan, "Vote for the right to vote again," sincerely expressed the convictions of many English-speaking South Africans. But the National Party's loss of a good part of the English-speaking vote was more than compensated for by a new sense of Afrikaner unity which enabled it to maximize its support from the 60 percent Afrikaans-speaking majority in the voting population.

In 1958, the

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