Afrikaner nationalism

Afrikaner nationalism (Afrikaner Volkseenheid) is a political ideology that was born in the late 19th century around the idea, that Afrikaners in South Africa were a "chosen people" and was also strongly influenced by anti-British sentiments that grew strong among the afrikaners especially because of the Boer wars. Afrikaner nationalism emphasized the unity of all Afrikaans speaking white people, the Volk, against such "foreign" elements as blacks, jews and English-speaking South Africans. According to historian T. Dunbar Moodie, Afrikaner nationalism could be described as a kind of civil religion that combined the history of the Afrikaners, their language and the Afrikaner Calvinism as key symbols. A major proponent of the ideology was the secret Broederbond organization and the National Party that ruled the country 1948–1994. Other organizations alligned with the Afrikaner nationalistic ideology were the Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Organizations (Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge , FAK), the Institute for Christian National Education and White Workers Protection Association.

Formulating the ideology

One of the first champions of the 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. 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 volks destiny was to rule South Africa.

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 emphasized 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. Kuyper also rejected the Enlightenment with its emphasis on human rationality and individuality and though that it had led to the ideals of equality, fraternity and freedom of the French Revolution. In his view, all these ideas challenged the God's authority. Afrikaner theologians worked from this foundation and defined a number of political, economic and cultural spheres that had their separate, independent destinies. The Afrikaner history was also reinterpreted through a Christian-nationalistic ideology. Already Paul Kruger, president of Transvaal and a founding member of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, 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.

Secular Afrikaner nationalism

During the 1930s and 1940s many intellectuals partook in the theoretical formulation of the Afrikaner nationalism. Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs, who later became South Africa's president, formulated the 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 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. Geoffrey Cronje developed these ideas further and argued, that as long as Afrikaner existed as a minority in a racially and culturally diffent 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.

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 ethic mengelmoes ("mess") induced by the transportation of black migrant workers around the contry. 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.

Afrikaner nationalism and race

Initially during the 19th century, the position of the Dutch Reformed Church on the nationalistic 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. 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" The Afrikaner state as a Christian civilization thus had a divine right to stay separate and rule the surrounding "heathen" nations.

Afrikaner nationalism and Nazism

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. Many Afrikaner nationalists also viewed a Nazi German style strong government as necessary in order to protect the volk. Just before, and during the Second World War, these sentiments lead to the appearance of number of pro-Nazi Afrikaner nationalistic organizations, such as the Ossewabrandwag and its paramilitary wing Stormjaers .

Afrikaner nationalistic politics

J. B. M. Hertzog led the Natinal Party to the 1905 and 1920 elections under the slogan "South Africa first" in order to create a South Africa independent from the British influence. In 1924 elections he defeated South African Party the lead 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 Labor Party. During his reign, he steadily promoted Afrikaner nationalism while deepening the racial segregation in the country.


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. Volkskapitalisme strived to improve the economic conditions of the Afrikaners who in general at the time were less well-of than the English-speaking whites in South Africa. In practice the program consisted of utilizing 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.

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 early 1960s.

Popular media

During the 1930s and '40s Afrikaner nationalist 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 (Directions) and a more popularized Inspan, magazines such as Huisgenoot, books published by the Burger Boekhandel publishing house and the newspapers Die Burger, Transvaler andVolksblad. The usage of Afrikaans instead of Dutch was aggressively promoted troughout the 1920s especially in white schools. The Bible was translated into Afrikans by J. D. du Toit, E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and BB Keet in 1933.

Rise to power

The South African opposition during the Second World War of the country's involvement in the war against Germany led to the Natinal Partys 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 mobilization in 1961 when the country resigned from the British Commonwealth and became a republic. The National Party government implemented, alongside apartheid, a program of social conservatism. Pornography, gambling and other such vices were banned because they were though to be elements contrary to the "Afrikaner way of life". Even adultery and attempted adultery were banned (by the Immorality Amendment Act, Act No 23 of 1957).

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 1970 election a radical splinter group from the National Party, Herstigte Nasionale Party , got 3.59 % of the vote compared to National Partys 54,86 %. The gulf widened further during the 1980s partly because of the international pressure against Apartheid. In the 1990s the National Party acknowledged the failure of its ethnic project and under the leadership of F. W. De Klerk dismanteled the political system set up from 1948. After Apartheid, the Afrikaner nationalism has lost most of it's support.

After the Apartheid state

Altough 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 Population's for the protection of cultural, lingistic and religious rights of people around the world. Also some marginal right wing political parties, such as the Herstigte Nasionale Party, still declares its goal as the "unashamed promotion of afrikaner nationalism".

The tradition of Christian-national education is continued by the Movement for Christian-National Education (Beweging vir Christelik-Volkseie Onderwys). It is committed to educating the youth of the Boere-Afrikaner volk from grade 1 through 12 in the Afrikaner Calvinist tradition, Boer culture and history as well as in Afrikaans language


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