Document 7 - 'White South Africa.' Two Voices." The International, 27 January 1922
History does not proceed with the logical march of a proposition of Euclid. Wars and disputes never arise over clear-cut issues. A confused situation arises, wheels revolve within wheels, a hundred wires are pulled in a hundred different directions. Then, as the result of conscious "philosophising" by some, and recognition by others of some isolated outstanding feature, there often emerges a popular slogan which, with the aid of more or less interested propaganda, secures acceptance as epitomising the real matter at stake.
"White South Africa," or "the maintenance of the colour bar," has thus been accepted by the white workers as the prime "motif in this strike, just as "making the world free for democracy" was accepted by the masses in the late capitalist war- only now, years after, to be found out as a piece of humbug. Meanwhile, recognising that "white South Africa" supplies the steam and the ginger in this strike, even to the point of a "revolutionary situation," let us see whether the trouble is really just ethnographical, or whether we cannot find here too the thread that runs through all conflicts in modern society, the thread of the inexorable class struggle necessitated by a capitalist system of production.
As a matter of fact, "white South Africa" (or "Vote White," as per Kentridge's recent election handbills) is a double-edged cry. A recent leaflet issued by Mr. Hendrikz as Secretary of the Mine Workers' Union quoted an article from "Ons Vaderland" by one General Pienaar - whoever he may be, he can scarcely be a member of the working class - referring to the age-long "struggle to build up South Africa as a white man's country and to uphold that supreme principle, THE PRESERVATION OF LAND AND PEOPLE." The Chamber of Mines, says the General, wants to wipe out the dividing line between black and white, involving equal rights for kaffirs, or the black taking his place alongside the white: first on the industrial field, to be followed by the vote and by intermarriage, the native, in receipt of higher pay for doing white man's work, taking such a position in society that many a white girl, impoverished by the lifting of the colour bar, will marry a coloured man. "Agriculture, he proceeds, will suffer from the diminished demand for produce in proportion to the replacement of white by coloured, and" - here comes the rub - "KAFFIR LABOUR ON THE FARMS WILL BECOME
UNPAYABLY EXPENSIVE." Finally, he indignantly repudiates the suggestion that the Miners' Union, 85 per cent. Afrikander, has socialistic leanings: and Mr. Hendrikz adds a note that his Union is "specially organised to resist native trouble." This, then, is what "White South Africa" means in the mouth of its farmer champion (and many of them are preaching this stuff daily from strike platforms). It means the land for the landlords, CHEAP AND SERVILE BLACK LABOUR to work it, and jobs on the mines as an outlet for the disinherited bywoner. Is this "White South Africa," or is it not much more the BLACK SOUTH AFRICA? Is it not just the capitalist ideal, except that industrial capitalism sees no reason why it should philanthropically provide outlets for the bywoner? Is not the General's repudiation of "Socialism" therefore perfectly in place?
Afrikander workers, beware of being sidetracked, as you easily may be owing to your country upbringing, into fighting the battle of a Junker section which shot down the workers in 1913 - 14, and which can have no interest in the workers' cause, as workers, to-day either.
There is not and never was a white South Africa, and when you shout for it, you are dangerously near shouting for just the black labour country capitalism has made of South Africa. Capitalism, whose first principle all over the world is cheap labour capitalism, whose profits can be made only at the workers' expense, is responsible for the black man doing the bulk of the work in this country. It is no use "damning the nigger" for that. Bob Waterston, who in 1917 fought Andrews at Benoni with appeals much a la Pienaar, now sees this much at any rate, that "the workers have no quarrel with the natives, their quarrel is entirely with the men who wish to place the natives in white men's positions AT STARVATION WAGES." Natives at starvation wages, that is the thing to attack: that is what ruins the white standard. Well, then, if you want "White South Africa," your campaign, so far from being on Pienaar lines, must be rather in the direction of encouraging native labour to become "unpayably expensive." Nor again, even though you eschew the Pienaar philosophy, will it avail to talk to and about "the workers" as though they consisted solely of white men, and ignore the rest. The C.I.D, (whose masters dread a black workers' strike above all) will let you run on to your heart's content on those lines; but they are ludicrously untrue, as the Witbank "supervisors" now admit. Parson Mullineux said the other day that if the status quo were eliminated the kaffir within five years would be fighting for higher pay. Of course he will, and whether the status quo is eliminated or not. He will do it because he is a worker under capitalism, and good luck to him!
The white workers are under a very real and proper fear of competition from this cheap labour: in fact, except for the few skilled trades and the protection of the colour bar, they cannot compete with it under capitalism, and in fighting for the colour bar they are at best fighting only a rearguard action. "The people who do the work of a country eventually inherit it."
But if so, then the enemy is the class and system that gives the palm to labour cheapness. Modern capitalism cannot raise wages. It is sick, and cannot pull itself together except by yet further cheapening labour, by yet further reliance on the cheapest labour. Then away with it! This strike, like every other labour movement, has body or meaning or effect only to the extent that it helps to destroy the capitalist system. The deliberate attempt to overthrow the whole rule and government of the capitalist class thus becomes, not a matter for "idealists" or "extremists," but the immediate present-day practical goal of every step taken by organised labour. And if to that end, as a workaday case of "labour solidarity," you decided to secure the support of the mass of the "real workers," well, what could be more proper in a workers' attack on capitalist exploitation?
Fellow-worker, ask yourself, am I really for the whites as whites - landlords, magnates, profiteers, parasites, exploiters and all - or am I not rather for the workers as workers - white brown, yellow, black and all - and against the capitalists as capitalists - THE ONLY REAL BLACK MEN?
It is not in "the spirit of the Voortrekkers who conquered Dingaan," as Mr. Pohl would say, that you will achieve a while South Africa. It is in the spirit of the humble but very determined industrial proletariat of Russia, who overthrew the master class and made work, for the common good, the one condition of "status." There is no remedy for the situation, there is no future for the white workers, under capitalism. Communism alone can make South Africa a white man's country, in the sense that Communism alone can secure to every workers - whatever his colour - the full product of his labour. Only when that is secured will a white man is safe: only then can you begin to talk of a "white South Africa."