The origin and evolution of apartheid in South Africa

While we celebrate the achievements of Nelson Mandela, give some credit to the Prime Minister de Klerk who made the critical decisions to dismantle the system.

UPDATE 11/12: A message to take on board, going forward in Australia right now.

One of the key points to take out of Hutt’s account is the way the trade unions and then the racist government used the minimum wage or the “going rate for the job” to gradually run the economy into the ground. The prima facie aim was to keep the blacks and the coloured folk in their place but the ramifications of the controls and regulations used for that purpose made industries less and less viable.

Which brings us to Qantas, Holden, other car makers, food processing, the timber industries (rather different process, but similar ideological drivers) and every other enterprise that is struggling with low productivity and high costs. The process of de-industrializing Australia is gaining momentum right now with the help of the various bits of enabling legislation passed by the Rudd/Gillard administration. Just read everything that Grace Collier has written about the trade unions and the way they feather bed and cream off our taxes in their pockets instead of getting win win outcomes by lifting their game.

ORIGINAL POST. Recall how it all started.

Hutt described the disastrous outcome of a combination of racial prejudice on the part of the Afrikaaners, unprincipled electioneering in Britain, white trade union exclusionism and socialist central planning on the part of various South African governments. His outspoken views on these matters aroused official alarm as early as the 1930s when he wrote letters to the press to warn that clauses in the constitution which were originally designed by the British administration circa 1900 to entrench the voting rights of coloured people were under threat.

Eventually apartheid came to an end. Did it fall or was it pushed? And what pushed it? At the end of his book Hutt referred to market forces, reinforced by world opinion, which he thought demanded far-reaching political changes. The Nationalist government (essentially the Afrikaaners) put in place a program of affirmative action for the benefit of unskilled, semi-literate, racist white Afrikaaner refugees from the countryside to save them from becoming poor white trash in the cities. As the decades went by, thanks to the colour bar, they consolidated themselves in supervisory, semi-skilled and skilled trades positions. Eventually those Afrikaaners with more to offer in the way of talent and initiative moved on into the professions, into the managerial classes and even into ownership and entrepreneurship. Those who achieved positions of power and influence in commerce and industry discovered something that Hutt explained over and over in his teaching (some would have even passed through Hutt’s Faculty of Commerce at the University of Capetown).

The colour bar was a crippling impediment to the functioning of the private sector and the economic growth of the nation. It was always in the interests of the owners to liberate non-White labour but it took a long time before there were significant numbers of Africaaners among the owners. In addition to this realisation, no doubt many Afrikaaners picked up a sense of justice as they became more educated and cosmopolitan, moving out of the small world of fundamentalist religion, the white ghetto and the back-veldt village. Then a white leader of remarkable courage and determination came forward (rather like Gorbachev in Russia) to put in train irreversible forces of reform, with tacit backing from a sufficient number of influential Afrikaners to forestall the kind of fanatical resistance that could have kept the Whites in power for a few more decades of squalor and degradation.

The Industrial Conciliation Act and the Wage Act of 1926

This marked a great leap forward for apartheid, after another round of strike activity in the early 1920s. The members of the miners union were overwhelmingly Afrikaaners by this time and this action was virtually an armed uprising to re-assert white dominance in skilled positions which had been eroded during the war when the shortage of labour enabled some blacks to move upwards into semi-skilled trades such as drill-sharpening.

In 1924 the Labour Party formed a coalition government with the Nationalist Party, a socialist party representing the Africaners. The combination of socialism and racism resulted in the Mines and Works Act of 1926, essentially to satisfy the demands of the 1922 strikers. Hutt wrote “This was probably the most honest and most drastic piece of colour bar legislation which the world had ever experienced, just as the ‘civilised labour policy’ – which they inaugurated immediately on attaining power- was probably the most dishonest and yet most effective plan for enforcing a colour bar the world has ever experienced”. Among other things the new Act entrenched the colour bar imposed by regulations under the 1911 Act.

The prima facie purpose of the ‘civilised labour policy’ was to prevent exploitation of the workers (regardless of colour) by protecting ‘civilised’ or ‘European’ standards. The de facto purpose was to protect the position of the whites. Part of the ‘civilised labour’ deal was the ‘rate for the job’, used by trade unions elsewhere to maintain the wage rates of the stronger and better organanised groups of (employed) workers against those who were unorganised and unemployed, as described in Hutt’s books on collective bargaining and the strike threat system.

The new Act of 1926 entrenching the racist regulations of the 1911 Act and the more aggressive racism of the Labour/National alliance mobilised the discriminatory powers that were latent in the Factories Act of 1918, the Apprenticeship Act of 1922 and the (pre-Pact) Industrial Conciliation Act of 1924.

The ‘civilised labour policy’ was built on a recognition of the following realities:
(a)the prejudice on the part of white employees against equal opportunities for Coloureds or Africans;
(b)the inferior educational facilities and sociological background of the non-Whites;
(c)the fact that the above factors would effectively but unobtrusively keep the non-Whites out of the Whites preserves if the “standard rate for the job” was applied;
(d) the apprenticeship system would exclude non-Whites from qualification in the trades because few could attain the educational standard laid down, and these few could be rejected by (racist) boards of selection;
(e) even where educational and sociological disadvantage backed up by prejudiced selection panels failed to exclude non-White apprentices, the insistence (under the Factories Act) upon separate facilities would often make their employment impossibly expensive.
(f)the labour union movement was already operating on the principle of the ‘closed shop’.

Advice to Monty in the comments.

1. Pay attention and read the whole of the link.
2. Realize that many conservative parties and administrations have taken on board socialist and anti-free trade policies. Big Government interventionism has bipartisan support practically everywhere, especially in Britain and the US. Read Hayek’s paper “Why I am not a [particular kind of] conservative”.

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255 Responses to The origin and evolution of apartheid in South Africa

  1. Poor Old Rafe

    One of the key points to take out of Hutt’s account is the way the trade unions and then the racist government used the minimum wage or the “going rate for the job” to gradually run the economy into the ground. The obvious aim was to keep the blacks and the coloured folk in their place but the ramifications of the controls and regulations used for that purpose made industries less and less viable.

    Which brings us to Qantas, Holden, other car makers, food processing, the timber industries (rather different process, but similar ideological drivers) and every other enterprise that is struggling with low productivity and high costs. The process of de-industrializing Australia is gaining momentum right now with the help of the various bits of enabling legislation passed by the Rudd/Gillard administration. Just read everything that Grace Collier has written about the trade unions and the way they feather bed and cream off our taxes in their pockets instead of getting win win outcomes by lifting their game.

  2. woolfe

    Flying out to SA there were some union drones (you know the ones wearing the union shirts with Rank and File emblazoned on them) waiting to board the flight in the Qantas Club.

    They flew business class natually.

  3. Poor Old Rafe

    They have a campaign of rolling strikes and then wonder why the carrier is going broke.

  4. tomix

    Blokes with 30years up, looking at 600k payouts, may not be too bothered.

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