E. Belfort Bax

Boer, Briton and Zulu

(3 August 1901)

Boer, Briton and Zulu, Justice, 3rd August 1901, p.6 (letter). [1]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


I cannot help regretting for his own sake comrade Hyndman’s attempt to resuscitate the old jingo “wheeze” anent the Boer and the native in the shape of a red herring to draw Socialists off the pro-Boer track. Hyndman, in spite of his pro-British sympathies (we all have our weaknesses), has done work in connection with the anti-war agitation which must entitle him to the respect of all Socialists and pro-Boers. It is, therefore, “in my humble judgment,” unfortunate that be should, even if only in appearance, play into the hands of the jingoes.

“Some of our eager members of the SDF,” complains Hyndman, “refuse to look at this side of the question.” Now what is the side of the question they refuse to look at? The argument that because in the distant past the ancestors of the present Boers, like all other colonists were engaged in conflict with those already in possession of the country (I will not say the aborigines, since the Zulus, the race in question, were themselves invaders within quite recent historical times), and that, in the course of the struggle they did many things they ought not to have done – that because of this we ought to be chary of our sympathies with the Boers of to-day in their struggle against the ruthless capitalism of Great Britain! Hyndman is not in favour of the independence of the Boers because it involves “the complete submission of the natives.” He evidently implies that the domination of the British would mean something other than the complete submission of the native – and this in view of recent facts that the Matabele and the Mashonas will have not forgotten, of the actual position of those subject races, of the “compound” horrors of Kimberley, and last, but not least, of Lord Milner’s late ukase as to the status and treatment of natives. Really, when one hears the native trotted out as a stalking-horse for keeping the wicked and ruthless Boer under the tutelage of the “after all” so decent and beneficent Briton, one’s gorge rises to the extent that it is difficult to keep to parliamentary language. I would ask all those who are imposed upon by the transparent pro-British “fake” of “pity the poor native” to study the facts of the case – above all, the Boer legislation for preventing the exploitation of the Kaffirs in the mines (one of the “grievances” of the mine-holding outlanders] now swept away in favour of British methods of unrestricted liberty of mine-owners’ “compounds,” also the Report of the Transvaal Commission on the “native” question, with the views of Boer and British witnesses as to native rights placed side by side. As a matter of fact, the life of the Zulu on the Boer farm, according to all reliable evidence, as a rule, is not an unhappy one. It is well-known to all students of history that domestic servitude of the patriarchal order practised by the Boers is of all the various forms of human exploitation the one involving, on the whole, the least amount of suffering to the exploited.

But, says Hyndman, the Zulu ought to be free and dominant in South Africa. Now, in the first place a question might possibly arise qua the so-confidently affirmed indefeasible right of the Zulu immigrant to the soil. I should have thought that the Bushman (now nearly extinct) and the Hottentot (also, I believe, rapidly dying out) might either or both of them have set up a prior claim. However, I do not wish to press this point. Hyndman may, in perfect good faith, urge the desire to see a Zulu South Africa, as a reason for refusing restitution to the Boers, but none the less his argument has a fatally strong appearance of that disingenuousness which seems to cling to all attempts to belittle the justice of the Boer cause, and for the following reason: We all know that the Cape and the adjacent territories have for generations past been in the hands of the white man, also that the immediate future to-day of South Africa lies between the two white races. Granted that the Boers did not get their independence back, does Hyndman, I ask, believe that every portion of the power of which the South African Dutch were deprived would revert to the Zulu – any more than it would revert to the Bushman and Hottentot? In what degree, I should like to know, would the ascendancy of Milner, Sprigg, and Rhodes bring us nearer to a native, or rather, a Zulu South Africa, than that of Kruger, Reitz and Steyn? It is difficult to conceive that Hyndman can doubt that the sole reversionary of Boer power would be the Briton and the Briton alone. If this is what he wants, why not say so straight?

As regards the two races, the Dutch were in possession of South Africa before the British, and they still constitute a majority of the population. For my own part, until the time is ripe for the Red Flag of Social-Democracy to make its final entry there, I could wish for nothing better than for a South Africa emancipated from the British yoke with the Vierkleur as the symbol of a united Afrikander Republic floating from the Zoutpansberg to Capetown. And that may come yet. History tells of a Sicilian Vespers, and history sometimes repeats itself.-Yours,


E. Belfort Bax


P.S. Hyndman’s remarks on my letter, I submit, amount simply to a begging of the question. I contended, I think with justification, that the Queen’s Hall meeting committee was not a party matter. He assumes without further ado that it was. As for the “knot” of Liberals against whom Hyndman imputes base motives of party advantage, I would gladly under the circumstances co-operate with a “knot” of devils, hot from below, in the interest of Boer Independence.


Note by MIA

1. There are a whole number of letters on South Africa including a response from Hyndman on this page.


Last updated on 15.6.2004