Search This Blog

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Luxembourg: S African and Immigration

In quite a different historical setting, in South Africa, the same
process shows up even more clearly the ‘peaceful methods’ by which
capital competes with the small commodity producer.

In the Cape Colony and the Boer Republics, pure peasant economy
prevailed until the sixties of the last century. For a long time the
Boers had led the life of animal-tending nomads; they had killed off
or driven out the Hottentots and Kaffirs with a will in order to
deprive them of their most valuable pastures. In the eighteenth
century they were given invaluable assistance by the plague, imported
by ships of the East India Company, which frequently did away with
entire Hottentot tribes whose lands then fell to the Dutch immigrants.
When the Boers spread further East, they came in conflict with the
Bantu tribes and initiated the long period of the terrible Kaffir
wars. These god fearing Dutchmen regarded themselves as the Chosen
People and took no small pride in their old-fashioned Puritan morals
and their intimate knowledge of the Old Testament; yet, not content
with robbing the natives of their land, they built their peasant
economy like parasites on the backs of the Negroes, compelling them to
do slave-labour for them and corrupting and enervating them
deliberately and systematically. Liquor played such an important part
in this process, that the prohibition of spirits in the Cape Colony
could not be carried through by the English government because of
Puritan opposition. There were no railways until 1859, and Boer
economy in general and on the whole remained patriarchal and based on
natural economy until the sixties. But their patriarchal attitude did
not deter the Boers from extreme brutality and harshness. It is well
known that Livingstone complained much more about the Boers than about
the Kaffirs. The Boers considered the Negroes an object, destined by
God and Nature to slave for them, and as such an indispensable
foundation of their peasant economy. So much so that their answer to
the abolition of slavery in the English colonies in 1836 was the
‘Great Trek’, although there the owners had been compensated with
£3,000,000. By way of the Orange River and Vaal, the Boers emigrated
from the Cape Colony, and in the process they drove the Matabele to
the North, across the Limpopo, setting them against the Makalakas just
as the American farmer had driven the Red Indian West before him under
the impact of capitalist economy, so the Boer drove the Negro to the
North. The ‘Free Republics’ between the Orange River and the Limpopo
thus were created as a protest against the designs of the English
bourgeoisie on the sacred right of slavery. The tiny peasant republics
were in constant guerilla warfare against the Bantu Negroes And it was
on the backs of the Negroes that the battle between the Boers and the
English government, which went on for decades, was fought. The Negro
question, i.e. the emancipation of the Negroes, ostensibly aimed at by
the English bourgeoisie, served as a pretext for the conflict between
England and the republics. In fact, peasant economy and great
capitalist colonial policy were here competing for the Hottentots and
Kaffirs, that is to say for their land and their labour power. Both
competitors had precisely the same aim: to subject, expel or destroy
the coloured peoples, to appropriate their land and press them into
service by the abolition of their social organisations. Only their
methods of exploitation were fundamentally different. While the Boers
stood for out-dated slavery on a petty scale, on which their
patriarchal peasant economy was founded, the British bourgeoisie
represented modern large-scale capitalist exploitation of the land and
the natives. The Constitution of the Transvaal (South African)
Republic declared with crude prejudice: ‘The People shall not permit
any equality of coloured persons with white inhabitants, neither in
the Church nor in the State.’ (23)

In the Orange Free State and in the Transvaal no Negro was allowed to
own land, to travel without papers or to walk abroad after sunset.
Bryce tells us of a case where a farmer, an Englishman as it happened
in the Eastern Cape Colony had flogged his Kaffir slave to death. When
he was acquitted in open court, his neighbours escorted him home to
the strains of music. The white man frequently maltreated his free
native labourers after they had done their work – to such an extent
that they would take to flight, thus saving the master their wages.

The British government employed precisely the opposite tactics. For a
long time it appeared as protector of the natives; flattering the
chieftains in particular, it supported their authority and tried to
make them claim a right of disposal over their land. Wherever it was
possible, it gave them ownership of tribal land, according to well-
tried methods, although this flew in the face of tradition and of the
actual social organisation of the Negroes. All tribes in fact held
their land communally, and even the most cruel and despotic rulers
such as the Matabele Chieftain Lobengula merely had the right as well
as the duty to allot every family a piece of land which they could
only retain so long as they cultivated it. The ultimate purpose of the
British government was clear: long in advance it was preparing for
land robbery on a grand scale, using the native chieftains themselves
as tools. But in the beginning it was content with the ‘pacification’
of the Negroes by extensive military actions. Up to 1879 were fought 9
bloody Kaffir wars to break the resistance of the Bantus.

British capital revealed its real intentions only after two important
events had taken place: the discovery of the Kimberley diamond fields
in 1869–70, and the discovery of the gold mines in the Transvaal in
1882–5, which initiated a new epoch in the history of South Africa.
Then the British South Africa Company, that is to say Cecil Rhodes,
went into action. Public opinion in England rapidly swung over, and
the greed for the treasures of South Africa urged the British
government on to drastic measures. South Africa was suddenly flooded
with immigrants who had hitherto only appeared in small numbers –
immigration having been deflected to the United States. But with the
discovery of the diamond and gold fields, the numbers of white people
in the South African colonies grew by leaps and bounds: between 1885
and 1895, 100,000 British had immigrated into Witwatersrand alone. The
modest peasant economy was forthwith pushed into the background – the
mines, and thus the mining capital, coming to the fore. The policy of
the British government veered round abruptly. Great Britain had
recognised the Boer Republics by the Sand River Agreement and the
Treaty of Bloemfontein in the fifties. Now her political might
advanced upon the tiny republic from every side, occupying all
neighbouring districts and cutting off all possibility of expansion.
At the same time the Negroes, no longer protected favourites, were
sacrificed. British capital was steadily forging ahead. In 1868,
Britain took over the rule of Basutoland – only, of course, because
the natives had ‘repeatedly implored’ her to do so.(24) In 1871, the
Witwatersrand diamond fields, or West Griqualand, were seized from the
Orange Free State and turned into a Crown Colony. In 1879, Zululand
was subjected, later to become part of the Natal Colony; in 1885
followed the subjection of Bechuanaland, to be joined to the Cape
Colony. In 1888 Britain took over Matabele and Mashonaland, and in
1889 the British South Africa Company was given a Charter for both
these districts, again, of course, only to oblige the natives and at
their request.(25) Between 1884 and 1887, Britain annexed St. Lucia
Bay and the entire East Coast as far as the Portuguese possessions. In
1894, she subjected Tongaland. With their last strength, the Matabele
and Mashona fought one more desperate battle, but the Company, with
Rhodes at the head, first liquidated the rising in blood and at once
proceeded to the well tried measure for civilising and pacifying the
natives: two large railways were built in the rebellious district.

The Boer Republics were feeling increasingly uncomfortable in this
sudden stranglehold, and their internal affairs as well were becoming
completely disorganised. The overwhelming influx of immigrants and the
rising tides of the frenzied new capitalist economy now threatened to
burst the barriers of the small peasant states. There was indeed a
blatant conflict between agricultural and political peasant economy on
the one hand, and the demands and requirements of the accumulation of
capital on the other. In all respects, the republics were quite unable
to cope with these new problems. The constant danger from the Kaffirs,
no doubt regarded favourably by the British, the unwieldy, primitive
administration, the gradual corruption of the volksraad in which the
great capitalists got their way by bribery, lack of a police force to
keep the undisciplined crowds of adventurers in some semblance of
order, the absence of labour legislation for regulating and securing
the exploitation of the Negroes in the mines, lack of water supplies
and transport to provide for the colony of 100,000 immigrants that had
suddenly sprung up, high protective tariffs which increased the cost
of labour for the capitalists, and high freights for coal – all these
factors combined towards the sudden and stunning bankruptcy of the
peasant republics.

They tried, obstinately and unimaginatively, to defend themselves
against the sudden eruption of capitalism which engulfed them, with an
incredibly crude measure, such as only a stubborn and hide-bound
peasant brain could have devised: they denied all civic rights to the
uitlanders who outnumbered them by far and who stood for capital,
power, and the trend of the time. In those critical times it was an
ill-omened trick. The mismanagement of the peasant republics caused a
considerable reduction of dividends, on no account to be put up with.
Mining capital had come to the end of its tether. The British South
Africa Company built railroads, put down the Kaffirs, organised
revolts of the uitlanders and finally provoked the Boer War. The bell
had tolled for peasant economy. In the United States, the economic
revolution had begun with a war, in South Africa war put the period to
this chapter. Yet in both instances, the outcome was the same: capital
triumphed over the small peasant economy which had in its turn come
into being on the ruins of natural economy, represented by the
natives’ primitive organisations. The domination of capital was a
foregone conclusion, and it was just as hopeless for the Boer
Republics to resist as it had been for the American farmer. Capital
officially took over the reins in the new South African Union which
replaced the small peasant republics by a great modern state, as
envisaged by Cecil Rhodes’ imperialist programme. The new conflict
between capital and labour had superseded the old one between British
and Dutch. One million white exploiters of both nations sealed their
touching fraternal alliance within the Union with the civil and
political disfranchisement of five million coloured workers. Not only
the Negroes of the Boer Republics came away empty handed, but the
natives of the Cape Colony, whom the British government had at one
time granted political equality, were also deprived of some of their
rights. And this noble work, culminating under the imperialist policy
of the Conservatives in open oppression, was actually to be finished
by the Liberal Party itself, amid frenzied applause from the liberal
cretins of Europe who with sentimental pride took as proof of the
still continuing creative vigour and greatness of English liberalism
the fact that Britain had granted complete self-government and freedom
to a handful of whites in South Africa.

No comments:

Post a Comment