Beware of Melancholy

Against the World: Attitudes of White South Africa

by Douglas Brown
Doubleday, 244 pp., $4.95

African Opposition in South Africa: The Failure of Passive Resistance

by Edward Feit
Stanford (Hoover Institution), 223 pp., $7.50

The Separated People: A Look at Contemporary South Africa

by E.J. Kahn Jr.
Norton, 288 pp., $5.95

The Seeds of Disaster: A Guide to the Realities, Race Policies and World-wide Propaganda Campaigns of the Republic of South Africa

by John Laurence
Taplinger, 334 pp., $5.95

The Long View

by Alan Paton, edited by Edward Callan
Praeger, 310 pp., $6.95

Rhodesia: Crisis of Color

edited by Theodore Bull of the Central African Examiner, with an Introduction by Gwendolen M. Carter
Quadrangle, 184 pp., $4.50

Douglas Brown is a conservative English journalist who lived for five years in South Africa. He has sympathy, and even admiration, for the Afrikaners, but disapproves, on grounds of Christian principle, of their practice of apartheid. He sees their predicament as tragic, its outcome as probably cataclysmic; he strongly dislikes liberal criticism of South Africa, and condemns any effort to change the system by external intervention. His divided feelings about South Africa, and the intensity of his concern with its problems and solutions, make him an exceedingly alert observer. He writes well himself, and has a good ear for the revealing word and phrase. Nobody, I think, has written more illuminatingly about his narrow but important subject: “attitudes of white South Africa.” His book has been banned in South Africa.

Edward Feit is a political scientist educated in South Africa, and now at the University of Massachusetts. His book is a “study in depth” of two passive resistance campaigns conducted by the African National Congress—that against the clearances of the “black spots” of Johannesburg in 1953-54, and that against “Bantu Education” in 1954-55. Based on newspaper material and on the documents of the 1959-61 Treason Trial, African Opposition shows why these movements failed. Tribal and class divisions; uneasy relations between different categories of non-whites; competition for scarce housing and scarce teaching; remoteness of intellectuals from the masses; real wages rising slowly, but rising; organizational weakness, resulting in part from great distances, differences in local situations and attitudes, and from poverty, defective communications, defective information, and lack of discipline—all these were sources of weakness in the African National Congress, offsetting the great numerical superiority of the constituency to which it appealed. The Nationalist Government, on the other hand, disposed of the wealth of South Africa and controlled the State’s apparatus of repression, intimidation, communication, and cajolement; it represented a community with a sense of common interest outweighing all internal differences; it had at its core Africa’s most formidable and united tribe, the Afrikaner Calvinists. These advantages more than offset the numerical inferiority of white South Africa. Mr. Feit’s analysis deserves study, and most of it carries conviction. It is not easy to see what he thinks about the wider implications of his analysis; he uses the cumbrous dialect of his trade—“the South African government…greatly lacked symbolic appeal to the Africans”—a dialect which implies a claim to impartiality. He seems, however, to be of the opinion that, on the whole, the Africans of South Africa have reason to be contented with their lot and—with the exception of intellectuals and agitators—are generally fairly contented. He notes the existence of “irksome disabilities” from which they suffer but allows for “the vast improvements of recent years.” What these vast improvements are, he does not say; all other writers, except for the propagandists of the South African Government, agree that the “disabilities” which “separate development” imposes on non-whites have become more, not less, irksome in recent …

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Letters

Only in South Africa March 13, 1969