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DENIS V. COWEN, Prospects for South Africa - Ralph Raico, New Individualist Review 
New Individualist Review, editor-in-chief Ralph Raico, introduction by Milton Friedman (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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Prospects for South Africa
THIS PAPER IS concerned with the political future of South Africa; that is to say, the future of some 16 million people occupying a territory approximately one-third the size of the United States, in one of the most richly endowed, beautiful and temperate zones of the earth’s surface. These 16 million people, my fellow South African citizens, are quite normal, friendly human beings, with ordinary human virtues and vices; but they are troubled and perplexed—and in varying degrees, humbled—by the tremendous challenge in human relations which faces them.
Most readers are aware of the broad outlines of the South African government’s racial policy—a policy which has excited so much attention and criticism in the international community that I need do little more than mention its essential features.
The South African government of the day—which has been in power for some sixteen years—does not believe that there is any future for any political system whereunder the various racial and cultural groups in South Africa would live together on terms of equality in one undivided country. Some 10.5 million blacks of the full blood, belonging to several tribes, speaking several Bantu languages, and at varying stages of development, cannot, they say, form a stable political structure on terms of equality with 3.5 million whites who wish to preserve their own cultural heritage. In addition, there are a half-million Asians and 1.5 million people of mixed blood, who live mainly in Cape Province. Whites, for their part, belong to two groups having much in common, but yet they each have their distinctive character; 60 per cent (nearly 2 million) are Afrikaans-speaking (i.e., their home language is Afrikaans, though most of them speak English as well), and Calvinist in religion. The remaining 40 per cent are primarily English-speaking and either more tolerantly Protestant (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist), or Roman Catholic in religion. About 5 per cent of the whites are Jewish. In short, not only is South Africa multi-racial; it is multi-cultural.
Given such a population structure, any attempt to share political power between whites and non-whites in a single political system is seen by most whites as involving self-immolation. “One man, one vote” in an undivided society, or anything which may lead to it, it is said, would involve cultural suicide and the eventual abandonment of a way of life. The blacks, it is argued, would “swamp” the whites; and what is more, as they are on the whole the “have-nots,” the character of the economy would soon be changed out of all recognition.
PLACING NO FAITH in constitutional guarantees and devices for minority protection—which have tended in many parts of Africa, and indeed in South Africa itself, to be mere scraps of paper—the overwhelming majority of South African whites accordingly feel that there is no health in any deliberate attempt to bring about a common political society between blacks and whites. In this predicament, the better hope, they argue, lies in the opposite direction—it should be, in short, in the direction of “separate development” of the main racial groups in their own homelands, leading to eventual independence or partition. At the same time, it is recognized that the various population groups—black and white—are now, and are likely to remain, very largely economically interdependent, whatever their political future may be. European nations, it is argued, are a similar case; and the Common Market is taking care of the resulting organizational problem. Accordingly, Dr. Verwoerd would like to see political separation, coupled at the same time with increasing economic integration, not only between the population groups of South Africa, but also between the various South African groups, on the one hand, and the African states north of the Limpopo, on the other.
That, in basic outline, is Dr. Verwoerd’s plan for separate development; stated, I hope, as fairly—though not as eloquently—as he would state it in equally short compass. Nothing would be easier than to show the defects in this policy. Indeed, even its ardent supporters recognize that, given the most favorable circumstances, the achievement of Dr. Verwoerd’s goals would take many years; would involve great sacrifices on the part of the whites, if the eventual partition is to be fair; and that in the intervening years there would be many injustices and anomalies.
Meanwhile, under the guidance of a very efficient administration (as efficient as any in South Africa’s history) the country continues to prosper—even to boom—economically. Industrially and economically speaking, South Africa is the continent’s giant, so far in advance of all the rest that economists do not even group South Africa along with other African territories. Much the same is true of education and the organization of the learned professions.
But beneath the fair surface there is tension; and the cost of implementing the government’s racial policy is very high in terms of human suffering. Having written several detailed indictments of the policy myself,1 it is not my intention to repeat the performance now. I have not changed my convictions about the basic immorality of racialism. Nor have I changed my opinion about the economic and political arrangements in South Africa. I still hope and believe that one day racial tension will no longer exist in a fully integrated South Africa. At this stage, however, I think that it is more profitable to call attention to certain facts which tend to be overlooked in discussions about South Africa; to say why I believe that my country has a very good chance of pulling through to the achievement of a satisfactory future; and to give some idea of what may, I think, be done to help.
One will appreciate that I speak without any brief from either the exponents or the critics of the South African government’s policies. The only brief I hold is for my country, and all its people.
Perhaps the best way to present my subject is to deal with it under three headings.
First, I would like to review briefly why it is that South Africa matters; why her political future deserves the very serious attention and encouragement of people beyond her borders.
Second, I would invite the reader to look at the South African scene from the point of view of what, in the past, has actually happened, and what, in the future, is likely to happen—as distinct from what some of us would have liked to have seen, or may yet wish to see take place. In other words, I suggest that it may be useful to focus attention on the actual facts, and try to predict probable events as distinct from speculating as to what ought to have happened and what ought yet to be. Under this heading, it is my intention to place before you—somewhat bluntly and flat-footedly—a series of axioms about South Africa.
Third, while concentrating on the “is,” and the “likely to be,” rather than the “ought to be,” it may be useful for me to suggest a few maxims concerning what may be done to help the situation in South Africa; and, in particular, what sort of action should be avoided, as being calculated to aggravate the present distemper rather than cure it, for I would not like it to be thought that we should have no interest in the sphere of the “ought-to-be.”
I have been induced to adopt this method of treatment (that is to say, the formulation of axioms and maxims), because a similar procedure was recently used in an article by Mr. Philip Mason, in the October 1964 issue of Foreign Affairs.2 With some of Mr. Mason’s conclusions I am in complete agreement. From others, however, I would differ sharply. Nevertheless, I would commend his article to you, suggesting my own remarks as required supplementary—dare I say, corrective—reading!
AT THE LEVEL of international power politics, South Africa’s significance is considerable, although she is not yet a member of the nuclear club. At summit conferences, and notably in the lobbies of the United Nations, a determined effort is being made by the Afro-Asian bloc to bring the South African government to its knees, as the saying goes. More particularly, Britain and the United States, South Africa’s two largest trading partners, are being told that continued trade with South Africa bolsters up and encourages a regime which the Afro-Asian nations regard as an affront to their dignity and self respect. Accordingly, they are asking for a full scale trade boycott, backed by a blockade. They say, quite bluntly, that Britain and the United States must choose between them and South Africa.
The threat must be taken seriously. Not only would it be difficult to overestimate the determination of the Afro-Asian bloc to bring about a change in the political structure of South Africa, but a suitable occasion for involving the older and greater powers may actually present itself in the near future. Thus, it is quite possible (some say it is very probable) that next year the International Court at the Hague may feel itself compelled to give judgment against South Africa in regard to her administration of the South West African Mandate, and to call upon Dr. Verwoerd’s government to abandon their racial policies in that territory. It is by no means clear that the judgment will, in fact, go against South Africa; but if it does, and if South Africa refuses to comply with the court’s order (which, again, is not a foregone conclusion), the United States and Britain—being pledged to uphold the rule of law—might find it difficult to resist a call for immediate sanctions; and this could be the flash point for a major international confrontation.
In any event, whichever way the South West African judgment goes, the Afro-Asian bloc—aided and abetted by Russia and China, who seek, I believe quite cynically, merely to make political capital out of their “support” in terms of the overall “cold war”—will continue to press for international intervention in South Africa. In a world bemused with argument and agitation about skin color, South Africa has become a convenient pawn in a power struggle towards ends which have nothing to do with color.
Already there have been several resolutions in the General Assembly which make it abundantly clear that the South West African issue is only one string in the bow of the Afro-Asian block. To change the metaphor, it is no more than a convenient casus belli. Whatever happens in the World Court on that issue, they insist that there are bigger issues at stake. South Africa, they assert, presents a unique case in the modern world of a denial of human rights on the score of color. It is said that the denial of rights is so flagrant and unique that the issue cannot possibly be regarded as a domestic one; that it is, accordingly, the legitimate business of the world community; and, more particularly, the duty of the world community to put an end to the outrage.
It may be observed that quite apart from this very high-tensioned legal and moral question, South Africa also matters at the international level because it is the world’s greatest producer of gold, uranium, and diamonds; one of the world’s greatest producers of wool, and possesses vast deposits of coal and iron ore and other minerals. In addition, its industrial growth in recent decades has been phenomenal. None of the larger powers can be indifferent to the question of who controls this wealth and for what purpose. Indeed, only a few months ago, Dr. Nkrumah of Ghana let one of his cats out of one of his bags when he declared that South Africa’s mineral wealth rightly belongs to black Africans, to be shared north of the Limpopo.3
At a very much deeper level, South Africa matters, too, because it presents the world’s race and color problems in microcosm. If these problems can be satisfactorily resolved in South Africa—and when I say “satisfactorily,” I mean at depth, with roots in sincere conviction, and not merely on the surface, or in unwilling token compliance with law—if these problems can be solved in South Africa, something enduring will have been wrought for the benefit of the world as a whole. In this regard, one will recall that the ratio between whites and non-whites in South Africa is approximately the same as the overall world ratio. Moreover, pressures and tensions are felt at the same points—that is to say, in regard to opportunities for education, jobs, housing, social and marriage relations, and in the churches.
THUS FAR I HAVE emphasized South Africa’s significance from the point of view of shared international concern. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that South African affairs may also—all too easily and all too unfortunately—become part of the domestic political power struggle in the U.S. and Great Britain. One may recall how Israel’s affairs long bedeviled local American politics. It should not be overlooked that today American Negroes not only hold something very like a balance of domestic political power, but they are tending increasingly to identify their own “freedom fight” with the “freedom fight” of their “black brothers in Africa.” (I am quoting Dr. Martin Luther King.) Indeed, on this whole aspect, Dr. King’s recent acceptance speech, when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, is full of significance.4
And now having tried to put my subject into broad perspective, it is time for me to get down to the facts. I turn, therefore, to the enumeration of a few suggested axioms—or brief statements—concerning the essential and often overlooked facts of South African life.
First Axiom: My first axiom relates to the importance of cleaving to facts, as distinct from myths, illusions, and falsehoods about South Africa. Moreover, it is essential not only to cleave to facts, but to have regard to all the relevant facts, and not merely a selected group of facts; and, further, it is no less essential to weigh the facts dispassionately, and in full perspective. All this is emphatically not easy, because—and here is my first axiom—the South African situation, or racial predicament, is highly complex, shot through with deep emotion, conditioned by historical events, and, in the result, one may be sure that the surface appearance is almost invariably misleading.
Too many of the alleged friends of liberalism in the modern world approach the facts of the South African racial situation (and indeed other racial situations) with fixed inflexible ideas—sometimes based on sheer expediency; often with no rationally based or other deep-seated convictions; yet they cling to and brandish their ideas with a bigotry, self-righteousness, rancor, and prejudice, which is the very negation of true liberalism.
Beware of the professional “do gooders”; also beware of both the professional apologists for, and the professional critics of, South Africa. Both are likely to be wide of the mark.
To hear some of the white-washers of South Africa talk, one would imagine that the country has no problems at all. They fool nobody but themselves. On the other hand, to hear some of its traducers hold forth, one would imagine that the whites spend all their time killing and torturing the blacks.
Second Axiom: South Africa presents a situation to live with and improve, not a “problem” capable of instant solution.
Most of South Africa’s critics, well meaning though they may be, tend to overlook the magnitude and frightful difficulty of the human situation with which we are concerned. We speak of a “color problem” as if one could “solve” (that is to say, “remove”) it by an effort of the will and the intelligence. This is almost pathetically naive! There is no room here for easy generalizations in terms of “good guys and bad guys.” Nor is there any one magic formula which will dissolve the dark clouds. Certainly “one man—one vote” is not the answer—potent as that slogan may have been in some parts of Africa as a weapon in the early stages of the struggle for political power or emancipation, as distinct from the achievement of prosperity or true freedom. Dr. Nkrumah’s “Seek ye first the political Kingdom and all else will be added unto you” is not only sacriligious, but also over-simplistic.
We should be constantly on guard against over-simplifying the South African scene in terms of one issue. The black man’s effort to better himself in the modern world is often regarded as being simply and solely a color struggle—an effort to erase color-prejudice. This is an over-simplification. It is probably nearer the mark to suggest that what is taking place the world over is a vast revolution in which social, economic, and educational opportunities are being redistributed. The non-whites are, on the whole, the “have-nots” and color tends to be the external and visible sign of a pressure point in a social and economic process. The process itself, however, is not exclusively, and maybe not even basically, concerned with color.
Let me hasten to add that when I say that South Africa’s predicament may have to be “lived with” rather than “solved,” I am not being an apologist for much that is deplorable in present government policies. I say this because in the semi-lunacy which pervades some so-called “liberal” circles, if one does not support violent and bloody revolution in South Africa, one tends to be sworn at as being a “white supremacist.”
Nor am I a complacent believer in a policy of drift, against which Mr. Mason rightly inveighs. I do not believe that the mere passage of time necessarily brings about an improvement in human affairs. On the contrary, it is obvious that human situations may be lived with more or less successfully. And South Africa is not being all that successful!
Again, I do not advocate inaction. But on the other hand, I most emphatically repudiate the proposition that any action is better than no action. What we need is wise action—effective action—about which I shall have a little to say under the heading of Maxims. Wisdom is often the product of old fashioned and (among the shallow) discredited virtues, such as honesty and humility.
Third Axiom: Bad as apartheid, or separate development, are—and, let me repeat, I would not even try to defend any of the acts of stupidity and cruelty which have been perpetrated in its name—no one has yet come up with an alternative, which would be acceptable to both whites and non-whites. In fact, apartheid, like democracy, may be the worst form of government; but at the moment, as a matter of practical politics, there is nothing better in sight. Indeed, those who are serious-minded and sincere enough to get beyond vague generalities (such as, something must be done!), differ hopelessly as to what specific form of government should replace the present dispensation.5 The Afro-Asian bloc gets no further than the proposition: Leave the basic political structure to the decision of all the people of South Africa on a one man—one vote basis at a national convention. And this the whites will not soon or willingly accept. Any proposed change in South Africa must be acceptable to the whites as well as to the blacks if peace and inter-racial harmony are to result.
Fourth Axiom: No alternative blueprint for South Africa’s future has any chance of sticking unless the whites, as well as the non-whites, want it and willingly accept it.
In elaboration of this axiom, I would remind you that in no sense of the term are the 3.5 million whites in South Africa colonists. Many of them have been in the country as long as the white man has been in America. They have no other home. What is more, they have as good a title to some of the country as the Bantu-speaking settlers, who arrived at about the same time from the north. The whites are grimly determinded to stay on in South Africa, and I have no doubt that they will do so. For one thing, the dominant Afrikaans-speaking group have their own language, their own church, and their own mores, for the preservation of which they fought grimly over a period of many generations. They will fight to the death for them now. In this they would, I believe, be joined by the English-speaking whites.
Indeed, the population as a whole—white as well as non-white—are bent on working out their own destiny. What is more, despite talk to the contrary, I believe that many South African non-whites would resent outside interference as bitterly as the whites.
Fifth Axiom: There is no likelihood of a local black revolution ever developing or succeeding in South Africa, unless it is aided and abetted by the great powers abroad. Certainly there will be no Congo, no Algeria, no Zanzibar in South Africa unless the great powers, and in particular the United States and Great Britain, deliberately cripple South Africa’s economy and her government.
My reasons for this conclusion are:
(a) The South African whites are strong and determined. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that for them all is at stake. Above all, they believe in themselves. However perplexed they may be by their problems, they are tough and effective.
(b) The vital immediate decisions concerning South Africa are being taken and will, during the foreseeable future, continue to be taken in South Africa. In other words, the kind of withdrawal action which an external metropolitan power took in respect of, say, the Congo, Algeria, or Zanzibar, is simply “not on” in South Africa. Mr. Wilson, the present Prime Minister of England, may, perhaps, call the vital shots in Southern Rhodesia. I cannot see his doing so in South Africa.
(c) The more aggressive local opposition to apartheid has either been silenced or induced to acquiesce in the emerging patterns now being devised very largely by the whites. At the same time, I am bound to confess that I regard this silencing of black leadership as a seriously unhealthy factor. I am worried by the fact that so many of the articulate black political leaders are in jail, both because (quite apart from the humanities) I believe it necessary to encourage the fullest dialogue at all levels, and because a suppressed political view-point tends to become a political cancer. But at present I am concerned to state facts, not evaluate them.
(d) The spread of wealth in South Africa (uneven as it is between black and white) and, especially, the geography of South Africa are unfavorable to revolution. To begin with, economically, the whites and the non-whites are too heavily interdependent. Secondly, the overall economic conditions are not nearly bad enough for revolution. Compared with black states in the North, and with many other states in the world, South Africa’s non-whites are indeed, on the whole, economically fairly well off. Thirdly, the South African terrain is open and free from jungle; and, finally, the bland, sunny weather is just too good to encourage and sustain a violent revolution.
The point I am making is that South African affairs need not necessarily come to a crisis point, unless this is deliberately engineered by the great powers.
Sixth Axiom: If the great powers were to heed the Afro-Asian call to bring the South African government to its knees, the consequence would be extremely grave. Assuming that economic sanctions (and they would have to be universal and total), coupled with a naval blockade, could bring South Africa to her knees (and that is a very big assumption), how thereafter, I ask, in the ensuing chaos, would the country be governed? An immediate consequence, I believe, would be the need for indefinite international police action. White resistance would be stiffened and great and lasting bitterness would ensue. Not only would it be difficult for foreign powers to maintain peace in the presence of an embittered white minority, with the black majority clamoring for change, but the problem of restoring South Africa as a peaceful, productive, and independent country would, to say the least, be most formidable.
Seventh Axiom: One of the greatest threats to a sane outcome in South Africa—as, indeed, to sanity and health anywhere in Africa—is the ugly growth of anti-whiteism in the modern world. The whites, no doubt, have done much to bring this upon themselves, but it is often despicably nourished by white “freedom fighters” (for a variety of their own reasons). White racism is infernally evil; black racism, let me add, is no less evil—a point which I was delighted to hear Mr. Adlai Stevenson make (at long last) in the United Nations recently.6
Eighth Axiom: My eighth and last axiom is perhaps the most important. Most people in South Africa—including, let me emphasize, a great many Afrikaners—recognize that changes in South Africa’s political structure must come about. The white man knows and concedes that he cannot survive as a dominating and privileged minority. But, while the outside world clamors for change, it is all too often overlooked that changes are, in fact, taking place.
Barely three years ago, in my book The Foundations of Freedom, I criticized the Bantustan experiment in the Transkei on the score that it was retrograde and undemocratic, more particularly because the idea of popular voting was entirely excluded as being alien to the Bantu mentality.
The government’s policy has since changed radically; under the revised Transkeian constitution voting is now allowed to take place on a substantial scale—a definite step, in my view, in the right direction; and so this particular piece of criticism largely falls away.
EVIDENCE OF CHANGE for the better is manifest to anyone who is honest enough to keep his eyes open, and humble enough not to expect the immediate advent of the millenium.
This is especially true in South Africa’s industrial life; African minimum wages are rising steadily; last February the Minister of Labour stated in the Senate that there would be no ceiling to the skills Africans would be allowed to acquire in the border areas (a change in policy which has enormous possibilities); and, in the big cities, the wastefulness and inequity of “job reservation” is beginning to break down in the face of economic realities.
Again, a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Nationalist newspapers to refer to Africans as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” This is now being done. This may be a trivial point to those who have no experience of, or sympathy with, South Africa; but for anyone familiar with the history of this country, it is by no means an insignificant change, and—to many—most encouraging.
In short, the situation still holds within it elements of fluidity. While some doors are shutting, others are opening.
I have said that in my view the South African situation has within it elements of fluidity. It is of cardinal importance to keep the situation fluid, and to avoid inducing an overall rigidity through malicious action, or short-sighted action. What, then, can be done to help; and what in the first place, should be avoided? These questions bring me to the enumeration of a few maxims.
First Maxim: There is no health in attempting to fight evil with evil. More particularly, attempts to engineer internal violence, sabotage, and bloodshed can have no beneficial effect. Those who have engineered or condoned murder and violence—often from the safety of sniping points abroad—have achieved little more than trouble and imprisonment for young men and women, deceived by their charm and rhetoric, but left behind to face the music. What is more, they have provided an excuse for increasingly drastic laws. Indeed, there is much truth in the old French proverb that “without the gift of grace, men tend to become like the evil they oppose.”
Second Maxim: Attempts to pull South Africa and her government to their knees by isolation, boycotting, etc., are, in my view, mischevious and irresponsible—unless accompanied by a practical and acceptable alternative form of government. As to such an alternative, the boycotters are notoriously silent.
Third Maxim: Just as black racism is not the antidote for white racism, so too “appeasement” is not the antidote for black racism. You may be sure that no black racist would admire or like the United States or Britain any more for succumbing to the blackmail implicit in the now current Afro-Asian threat: “Choose between our friendship (no matter what the merits of the particular issue may be) or South Africa’s friendship.” The United States and Britain must be prepared to tell black men that they are often as wrong as white men—precisely because they are men; that each specific issue should be decided on its specific merits, and not by reference to an allegedly universal but crude yardstick: “If you are not against South Africa’s government you are against us.”
I am aware that there are some black racists who argue that there is no room for the whites anywhere in Africa. And it is possible that this may yet prove to be the real and horrible issue. “Africa for black Africans!” Happily, this is not the view of most non-whites in South Africa. What South African non-whites understandably desire in their country is a more equitable sharing of power and opportunities, which is not the same thing as a rejection of the whites.
Fourth Maxim: Mere negative shibboleths like “abandon apartheid” are not going to get anyone anywhere. Even the more positive call for a national convention to work out a new deal for South Africa is not really helpful, unless one has workable ideas about what is to happen if the government of the day, of what is after all still a sovereign state, refuses to summon it; and even more to the point, what is to happen if the delegates to such a convention do not agree on a new dispensation. On these specific but crucial points, one will again find the busybodies conspicuously silent or unhelpful.
Fifth Maxim: If international intervention can be justified at all in South Africa, it ought to be justified by reference to an issue of real principle—as distinct from mere expediency—and, what is more, in the application of any genuine principle, there can be no room for “double standards.”
In this regard, I was disappointed by Mr. Mason’s article. Mr. Mason argues that South Africa’s race relations, unlike race relations anywhere else in the world, should not be regarded as a matter of domestic jurisdiction, but are the world’s legitimate business because, he says, South Africa is uniquely guilty of a denial of human rights. South Africa alone uses the legal process to accord different treatment to men by reason only of their color—over which they have no control.
There are several things very wrong with Mr. Mason’s argument.
In the first place, color discrimination, bad as it is, is not the only kind of denial of human rights which should excite Mr. Mason’s indignation. Hungary and Ghana have, it would seem, been guilty of some fairly massive denials of human rights in recent years. Why single South Africa out as a scapegoat?
Secondly, it is by no means the case that South Africa alone is guilty of racial discrimination, backed by law. The Indian Tamils, not so long ago, were ruthlessly disenfranchised by law in Ceylon; and even Denmark draws certain important distinctions between Danes and Greenlanders. Moreover, and this is even more to the point, the absence of racially discriminatory laws from the statute book does not afford an exoneration from vicious racialism in men’s hearts and in actual practice. Indeed, when one looks at the facts—as distinct from mere theory and black-letter law—the body of sinners swells mightily, as you will discover if you talk to Asians in Zanzibar and throughout East Africa; Tamils in Ceylon; Malays and Chinese in Malaya; and many dark-skinned people even in the United States and Britain.
I do not mention these facts because I believe that by saying “you too,” one thereby finds an excuse for South Africa’s sins. Why single South Africa out as a scapegoat, I ask again?
Thirdly, it must be remembered that the South African government quite seriously rejects the contention that it is guilty of a denial of human rights, when it regards racial origin as a legitimate criterion for distinguishing between human beings. Arguing that racial origins are relevant to legitimate governmental objectives in the particular circumstances of South Africa, it places reliance on something like the “separate but equal” doctrine which once obtained in the United States. If today South Africa is admittedly a unique exception in putting forward such an argument, her government would reply that unique problems call for unique remedies. Nowhere else, they contend, within the confines of one country, does one find a comparable racial pattern to that obtaining in South Africa—where the whites are outnumbered by three to one.
I DO NOT PERSONALLY subscribe to the South African argument. On the contrary, I oppose it for reasons which I have set out at length in another place. My point here is simply that it calls for a serious answer, in the course of which the issue of bona fides—that of South Africa as well as that of her critics—may have to be faced.
Fourthly, the attempt to find something unique about South Africa’s case is to miss a golden opportunity to internationalize the problem of race-relations and human rights—whenever and wherever that problem is to be found; and to internationalize it in a mature and effective way.
For some years it has been recognized among international lawyers that the whole argument about the right of a sovereign state to do what it will with its own subjects within its own boundaries is becoming more and more out of date. What is needed is the encouragement and growth of this point of view; and the rededication and strengthening of the United Nations as a more clearsighted, impartial, and rational enforcement-agency against the infringement of human rights, wherever and whenever such infringements occur. These goals, I believe, are not helped forward by the over-simplified and often hypocritical performance of singling out South Africa as the world’s scapegoat. International law and organization are as yet a very tender plant. There is danger that its growth may be blighted by anger where coolness is needed, and by hate where there is need for compassion, charity, and above all honesty.
At the same time, there is much solid and worthwhile work that can be accomplished quietly day by day. As an example of such work, I value none more highly than keeping the channels of communication open between South Africa and what is good and more humane in the world beyond her borders. In such an enterprise, international trade and commerce have, I believe, a vital role to play.
There is an honored place for “industrial statesmanship” in South Africa. The standard of living of the African can and should be raised; African wages can and should be substantially increased on the basis of merit alone (bringing them nearer to white wages) without making enterprises uneconomic; tactful pressures can be brought to bear to relax still further the immoral and economically wasteful “job reservation” laws; new skills and know-how can be imparted to Africans; in short, the vast productive talent and purchasing power of non-white South Africans are ready for full and fair development; and here I would place the emphasis on the role of fairness.
Only a person with a rigid a priori view would regard such suggestions as these as an indefensible bolstering up of Dr. Verwoerd’s government. I prefer to regard it as what it more properly is—an opening up of new and wider horizons; an opportunity to demonstrate that efficiency and economic laws are color blind; an opportunity, in the constructive climate of commerce and industry, and in day to day contact, to treat men and women of all races as they should be treated, for let us never forget that there are no laws against charity—no laws capable of determining the look in a man’s eye and the tone of his voice; and finally, such an enterprise may be an instrument helping to consolidate and cement the interdependence of all men everywhere.
The blacks and the whites not only need each other but are too strong to destroy each other. Indeed, South Africa may demonstrate that economic realities are more potent than political dogmas. Earlier I indicated that I was an integrationist. I am; and I would suggest that, paradoxical as it may seem, the quickest and best route to stable and lasting integration may be the seemingly longest and the least dramatic way. Economic integration, which Dr. Verwoerd favors, may, despite his apparent views to the contrary, not only make eventual political and social integration inevitable, but it may also produce the only safe foundation for its enduring stability.
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[* ] Denis V. Cowen is currently Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He was formerly Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Cape Town.
[1 ] See, e.g. “Call for a Dialogue in South Africa,” New York Times, May 17, 1964, Sec. 6, p. 19 et seq. The Foundations of Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961). Liberty, Equality, Fraternity Today (Johannesburg: South Africa Institute of Race Relations, 1961).
[2 ] P. Mason, “South Africa and the World, Some Maxims and Axioms,” Foreign Affairs, Oct. 1964, p. 150.
[3 ]New York Times, July 10, 1964, p. 2.
[4 ]New York Times, Dec. 11, 1964, p. 33.
[5 ] My own formula for a non-racial, fully democratic federal form of government, with a court-enforced bill of rights—elaborated at length in my book Foundations of Freedom—is one of several proposed “alternatives” to the present dispensation, which as yet has made no serious impact.
[6 ]New York Times, Dec. 15, 1964, p. 16.