Afrikaner nationalism

Afrikaner nationalism is a political ideology that was born in the late nineteenth century among Afrikaners in South Africa; it was strongly influenced by anti-British sentiments that grew strong among the Afrikaners, especially because of the Boer Wars.[1]

According to historian T. Dunbar Moodie, Afrikaner nationalism could be described as a kind of civil religion that combined the history of the Afrikaners, the formalised creole language (Afrikaans) and Afrikaner Calvinism as key symbols. A major proponent of the ideology was the secret Broederbond organisation and the National Party that ruled the country from 1948 to 1994.[2] Other organisations aligned with Afrikaner nationalist ideology were the Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Organisations (Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge, FAK), the Institute for Christian National Education and the White Workers' Protection Association.[3]

Formulating the ideology

One of the first champions of Afrikaner nationalism was ordained minister Stephen Du Toit of the Dutch Reformed Church, who was also one of the founding members of the Broederbond as well as the publisher of Die Afrikaanse Patriot newspaper.[1] In his writings, Du Toit put forward the notion that Afrikaners were a distinct nationality with a fatherland (South Africa) and their own language (Afrikaans) and that the volk's destiny was to rule South Africa.[4]

Dutch Reformed Church

Religion, especially Afrikaner Calvinism, played an instrumental role in the development of Afrikaner nationalism and consequently the apartheid ideology. The Dutch Reformed Churches of South Africa were involved throughout the 18th century in a constant battle against modernism and modernity. They aligned with the conservative views of Abraham Kuyper, who emphasised God's authority over separate spheres of creation. These spheres, for example historical nations, had to be preserved and protected from liberalism and revolutionary ideologies.[5] Kuyper also rejected the Enlightenment with its emphasis on human rationality and individuality and thought that it had led to the ideals of equality, fraternity and freedom of the French Revolution. In his view, all these ideas challenged God's authority.[6] Afrikaner theologians worked from this foundation and defined a number of political, economic and cultural spheres that had their separate, independent destinies.[5] The Afrikaner history was also reinterpreted through a Christian-nationalistic ideology. Already Paul Kruger, president of Transvaal and a founding member of the Gereformeerde Kerke van Zuid-Afrika or 'Dopper Church', referred to it as "sacred history" with volk as the chosen people, where the Great Trek was seen as the Exodus from the British rule in Cape to the Promised Land of the Boer Republics.[7]

Secular Afrikaner nationalism

During the 1930s and 1940s many intellectuals partook in the theoretical formulation of Afrikaner nationalism. Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs, who later became South Africa's president, formulated Afrikaner nationalistic ideology in his book "Nationalism as a Worldview and Its Relationship to Internationalism" through Kuyperian theology. According to Diederichs, God created nations and these nations had a God-ordained right to exist as separate entities. Therefore, Afrikaners could refuse a "British-designed" South Africa in which they would co-exist with other ethnic groups as a minority.[3] Geoffrey Cronje developed these ideas further and argued, that as long as the Afrikaner existed as a minority in a racially and culturally different environment, they could not allow the black majority to develop economically or politically, since this would lead to black domination. He acknowledged this as unjust and unchristian, and as a solution offered total segregation, that is apartheid, between the blacks and the whites.[3]

The Afrikaner nationalist intelligentsia, along with the National Party and the Broederbond, ended up formulating a radical nationalistic policy which rejected British hegemony in economics and politics as well as ethnic mengelmoes ("mess") induced by the transportation of black migrant workers around the country. Their solution was a drastic reordering of the South African demographic map with a dominant Afrikaner Republic not influenced by British imperialism. However, because of the opposition of the urban middle class they did not propose a return to conservative, pre-modern Boer pastoralism.[3]

Afrikaner nationalism and race

Initially during the 19th century, the position of the Dutch Reformed Church on the nationalist issue was more pragmatic than ideological and, for example, in South Africa, racial segregation was accepted as a harmonious way of administering heterogeneous community. The economic depression in 1905–09 changed this attitude when a new group of "poor whites", mostly Afrikaners, emerged.[5] By 1939 the racial segregation had been made into a church dogma:

"The policy of segregation as advocated by the Afrikaner and his church is the holy calling of the Church to see to the thousands of poor whites in the cities who fight a losing battle in the present economic world...The application of segregation will furthermore lead to the creation of separate healthy cities for the non-whites where they will be in a position to develop along their own lines, establish their own institutions and later on govern themselves under the guardianship of the whites"[6]

The Afrikaner state as a Christian civilisation thus had a divine right to stay separate and rule the surrounding "heathen" nations.[7][8]

Afrikaner nationalism and national socialism

Afrikaner nationalism and Nazism had common roots in religio-nationalism and Pan Germanism and therefore the racist elements of the former were easily assimilated into the earlier. For example, Afrikaner criticism of the capitalistic system inter-war period was quite anti-Semitic.[9][10] Many Afrikaner nationalists also viewed a Nazi German style strong government as necessary to protect the volk. Just before, and during World War II, these sentiments led to the appearance of a number of pro-Nazi Afrikaner nationalistic organisations, such as the Ossewabrandwag and its paramilitary wing Stormjaers.[11]

Afrikaner nationalistic politics

Voortrekker Monument, Afrikaner nationalistic monument in the honour of the people that took part in the Great Trek. The architect Gerard Moerdijk described it as a "monument that would stand a thousands of years to describe the history and the meaning of the Great Trek to it descendants".[12]

J. B. M. Hertzog led the National Party to the 1915 and 1920 elections under the slogan "South Africa first" to create a South Africa independent from the British influence.[13] In the 1924 elections he defeated the South African Party led by Jan Smuts, after Smuts had used force to end the Rand Revolt of white miners in 1922, and stayed in power for 15 years in a coalition government with the Labour Party. During his reign, he steadily promoted Afrikaner nationalism while deepening the racial segregation in the country.[14]


Afrikaner Broederbond leadership in 1918

During the 1930s a group of Broederbond members shaped the Afrikaner nationalistic ideology, by trying to create a common "Christian-nationalistic" identity for all white, Afrikaans speaking South Africans as well as introducing the idea of Volkskapitalisme (people's capitalism) that tried to take control from the "British" or "Jewish" foreign economic system and to adapt it to Afrikaner's national character.[15] Volkskapitalisme strived to improve the economic conditions of the Afrikaners who in general at the time were less well-off than the English-speaking whites in South Africa. In practice the program consisted of utilising the Afrikaner capital into new and existing Afrikaner businesses. Although volkskapitalisme managed to develop some Afrikaner businesses, such as Sanlam and Volkskas into corporate giants that still have a central role in South African economy, in the end the economic benefits for the majority of the poor Afrikaners were slim.[15]

Despite the efforts of the Broederbond activists to "Afrikanerise" South Africa, the uptake of this new Christian-nationalistic Afrikaner identity was slow and unenthusiastic. According to electoral studies, the majority of the target group (white, Afrikaans speaking South Africans) did not vote for the Afrikaner nationalistic National Party until the early 1960s.[15]

Popular media

During the 1930s and 1940s Afrikaner nationalists constructed an "imagined community" of the Afrikaner with maps and narratives of its heroic past, moral purpose and a place among other nations. These ideas were spread through new emerging Afrikaner print media, such as the Christian-nationalistic journal Koers (Direction) and a more popularised Inspan, magazines such as Huisgenoot, books published by the Burger Boekhandel publishing house and the newspapers Die Burger, Transvaler and Volksblad.[3] The usage of Afrikaans instead of Dutch was aggressively promoted throughout the 1920s especially in white schools.[16] The Bible was translated into Afrikaans by J. D. du Toit, E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and BB Keet in 1933.[17][18]

Rise to power

The South African opposition during the World War II of the country's involvement in the war against Nazi Germany led to the National Party's rise to power in the 1948 elections, to the implementation of the apartheid politics in the country and finally to the culmination of Afrikaner nationalistic mobilisation in 1961 when the country resigned from the British Commonwealth and became a republic.[13] The National Party government implemented, alongside apartheid, a program of social conservatism. Pornography, gambling, and other such vices were banned because they were thought to be elements contrary to the "Afrikaner way of life".[11] Even adultery and attempted adultery were banned (by the Immorality Amendment Act, Act No 23 of 1957).[19]

Emerging conflicts

During the 1960s a split emerged in the Afrikaner electorate over the issue of how to preserve a distinct identity in a multi-ethnic society: one faction insisted on preserving the national identity through strict isolation, while others thought that such barriers needed to be relaxed. As a sign of this, in the 1970 election a radical splinter group from the National Party, Herstigte Nasionale Party, got 3.59% of the vote compared to the National Party's 54.86%. The gulf widened further during the 1980s partly because of the international pressure against apartheid.[13]

One notable Afrikaner nationalist organisation was the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), a political and former paramilitary group. The group had the support of an estimated 5–7 percent of white South Africans in 1988.[20] The organisation was beset by personal and militant scandals in the late 1980s and early 1990s that led to diminished support. This organisation was however never able to garner substantial Afrikaner support, which was held by the National Party until its dissolution.

In the 1990s the National Party acknowledged the failure of its ethnic project and under the leadership of F. W. De Klerk dismantled the political system set up from 1948. After apartheid, Afrikaner nationalism has lost most of its support.[15]

After apartheid

Although it has mostly disappeared from publicity, Afrikaner nationalism is kept alive through such political initiatives as the Cyber Republic of the Boer Nation, which claims to be "the only white indigenous tribe in Southern Africa" and has tried to appeal to the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations for the protection of cultural, linguistic and religious rights of people around the world.[21] Also some marginal right wing political parties, such as the Herstigte Nasionale Party, still declare their goal to be the "unashamed promotion of Afrikaner nationalism".[22]

Front National (South Africa); a political party in South Africa has also emerged in the post-apartheid years harbouring Afrikaner Nationalism.

The tradition of Christian-national education is continued by the Movement for Christian-National Education (Afrikaans: Beweging vir Christelik-Volkseie Onderwys) which educates the youth of the Boere-Afrikaner volk in the Afrikaner Calvinist tradition, Boer culture and history as well as in Afrikaans language.[23]

The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging had been largely inactive in South Africa since the demise of apartheid, although in 2008, the organisation was reactivated and is actively seeking an Afrikaner secessionist state within South Africa.[24] On 3 April 2010, Eugene Terre'Blanche, leader of the AWB, was murdered on his farm.[25]

Afrikaner nationalist parties

See also


  1. 1 2 "Afrikaner Nationalism – MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 31 October 2009.
  2. "Apartheid – Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism". Net Industries. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Louw, P. Eric (2004). The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of Apartheid. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 27–55. ISBN 0-275-98311-0.
  4. "S. J. Du Toit – MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 31 October 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 Clark, Desmond J; J. D. Fage; Roland Anthony Oliver; A. D. Roberts (1975). The Cambridge History of Africa. Cambridge University Press. pp. 564–565. ISBN 0-521-22505-1.
  6. 1 2 "Wallace G. Mills Hist. 322 14a Religion and Afrikaner Nationalism".
  7. 1 2 Prozesky, Martin; John De Gruchy (1995). Living faiths in South Africa. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. pp. 27–55. ISBN 1-85065-244-9.
  8. Dubow, Saul (1992). "Afrikaner Nationalism, Apartheid and the Conceptualization of 'Race'.". The Journal of African History. =33: 209–237. doi:10.1017/S0021853700032217.
  9. Marx, Christoph (2009). Oxwagon Sentinel: Radical Afrikaner Nationalism and the History of the Ossewabrandwag. LIT Verlag Münster.
  10. Bunting, B. (1986). The Rise of the South Africa Reich. Harmondsworth, London.
  11. 1 2 "Wallace G. Mills Hist. 322 14b Later Afrikaner Nationalism".
  12. Voortrekker Monument Archived 1 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.,
  13. 1 2 3 Human Sciences Research Council; Udesh Pillay (2002). Public Attitudes in Contemporary South Africa: Insights from an HSRC Survey. HSRC Press. pp. 49–50. ISBN 0-7969-1994-1.
  14. Morris, Michael; John Linnegar (2004). Every Step of the Way: The Journey to Freedom in South Africa. HSRC Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-7969-2061-3.
  15. 1 2 3 4 O'Meara, Dan (1–2 April 1997). "THINKING THEORETICALLY?". Paper presented to the Inaugural Conference of the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust. Retrieved 2008-10-01.: "...responding to the 'pauperisation and domination' of Afrikaners by what the interpreters variously labelled as the 'British' or 'Jewish' 'capitalistic system', volkskapitalisme explicitly set out to "mobilise the volk to capture control of this foreign [capitalist] system and adapt it to our national character". This boiled down to a concerted programme to mobilise the savings of the volk to finance existing and new Afrikaner undertakings."
  16. "The Origin and History of the Afrikaans Language". Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  17. Bogaards, Attie H. "Bybelstudies" (in Afrikaans). Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
  18. "Afrikaanse Bybel vier 75 jaar" (in Afrikaans). Bybelgenootskap van Suid-Afrika. 25 August 2008. Archived from the original on 9 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
  19. Anonymous (4 April 2011). "General South African History Timeline: 1950s".
  20. Battersby, John D. (22 February 1988). "Rightists Rally in Pretoria, Urging a White State". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  21. Chidester, David; Phillip Dexter; Wilmot Godfrey James (2004). What Holds Us Together: Social Cohesion in South Africa. HSRC Press. pp. 305–306. ISBN 0-7969-2030-3.
  22. Basson J: Die Afrikaner – mondstuk van die nasionalistiese Afrikaner, Strydpers Bpk,"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 June 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
  24. Bevan, Stephen (1 June 2008). "AWB leader Terre'Blanche rallies Boers again". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  25. White supremacist Eugene Terre'Blanche is hacked to death after row with farmworkers The Guardian. 4 April 2010
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