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International Socialism, Winter 1961


N. Adler

Race and Class


From International Socialism (1st series), No.7, Winter 1961, p.32.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Tragedy of Apartheid
Norman Phillips
Allen and Unwin. 18s.

Mr Phillips is obviously a very humane man, and writes with great sympathy for the victims of South Africa’s barbarous policies. It is difficult not to be moved by his Letter to my Teen-age Daughter and by his imaginative identification with the disaffected young Africans in the larger urban areas. He understands that when they set fire to schools, churches and administrative buildings, they do so because these are the ‘symbols of white authority’. This books tells everything, and yet tells nothing. Mr Phillips does not realise that the question of colour is really an irrelevance. In South Africa the problem is essentially a struggle between a white ruling-class, and the non-white working-class. The white ruling-class owns the land, the mines and the factories. The non-whites own nothing, and are kept in complete and permanent subjection in order to safeguard the property rights and monopoly of political and economic power of their masters. In pursuit of this last end, the whites have deprived the non-whites of virtually all political rights and all rights of trade-union organization. The pass-laws enable them to control the movement of Africans from one area to another – South Africa has the most stringent internal passport system in the world.

The struggle in South Africa is, then, essentially the same as the struggle between capital and labour in the USA and Western Europe. Phillips does not see this. He sees the inhumanity but not the fundamental class structure of South African society. A host of consequences follow from this. Suffice it to mention Phillips’ failure to appreciate the essential difference between the programmes of the African National Congress and the Pan-African Congress. The former is largely a bourgeois organisation – its leaders are drawn from the rising middle and professional classes in African society, and would be quite prepared to come to terms with the white ruling-class. The PAC, on the other hand, is essentially proletarian in its inspiration and socialist in its objectives.

Phillips publishes in full the remarkable manifesto (which led to Sharpeville) issued by Robert Mangoliss Sobukwe on behalf of the PAC. For this alone the book is worth reading. The future clearly lies with Sobukwe and the PAC. They realise that only by unremitting struggle against a cruel, avaricious and powerful white ruling-class will it be possible for the vote-less rightless and oppressed non-white working-class and peasantry to break their chains and transform the whole nature of South African society.

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