The influence of Second World War military service on prominent White South African veterans in opposition politics, 1939–1961

Plint, Graeme Wesley (2021-03)

Thesis (MMil)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The nexus between military service and political activism is explored in this thesis. The lives of 153 politically-exposed Second World War veterans are examined. Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘Capital’ and ‘Habitus’ are used to examine the ways in which the war shaped the political views of the servicemen as well as the ways in which the ex-servicemen could leverage their war service to further their post-war political careers. An examination of the fault lines of class and culture, in pre-war, White SouthAfrica, provided crucial insight into the initial habitus and motivation of the volunteer soldier. War-time military service drew together volunteers from every part of South Africa and from each strata of the White community. This provided a common platform to develop shared notions of a common ‘South Africanism’. This shared comradery facilitated their later mobilisation against the National Party (NP) after 1948.The ex-servicemen, having fought German and Italian forces on several warfronts, had been exposed to the dangers of totalitarianism. As a result, some returned with an embedded intolerance of authoritarianism and, after the war, the Springbok Legion (SL)acted as a clarion call against rising racial intolerance in South Africa. The more affluentex-servicemen, often in line with family tradition, joined the established United Party (UP). However, the widely unexpected defeat of the UP in 1948 by the NP triggered the ex-servicemen’s entry into politics. After the NP’s victory in 1948, a cohort of increasingly-politicised ex-servicemen used the NP’s wartime dalliance with fascism to mobilise ex-servicemen en masse as the Torch Commando (the Torch). The Torch Commando brought together ex-servicemen, active in parliamentary and extra-parliamentary politics, as a front against the NP in the 1953 elections. However, the UP’s defeat in the 1953 elections soon exposed the fault lines, particularly in terms of the ex-servicemen in parliamentary politics. The subsequent implosion of the Torch Commando led to the emergence of the Union Federal Party (UFP), and Liberal Party (LPSA) after the 1953 elections, which marked the end of the ex-serviceman identity as a coherent political identity and revealed an array of diverse political views amongst voting Second World War veterans. Tensions between the conservative and more progressive and liberal ex-servicemen in the UP led to the formation of the Progressive Party (PP) in 1959. Finally, increased government repression led to the detention of the more radical ex-servicemen in 1956 and 1960. Their subsequent involvement in the formation of armed formations in the form of the African Resistance Movement and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) provides continuity between the war against fascism and the armed struggle against apartheid.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif ondersoek die verband tussen militêre diens en politieke aktivisme. Die lewens van 153 politiek-blootgestelde veterane uit die Tweede Wêreldoorlog word ondersoek. Die gebruik van Pierre Bourdieu se konsepte ‘Kapital’ en ‘Habitus’bied ‘n manier aan om te onderskei tussen hoe die oorlog die politieke sieninge van die dienspligtige gevorm het en hoe die veterane hul oorlogdeelname gebruik het om hul politieke loopbane na die oorlog te bevorder. Die ondersoek van onderskeie lyne van klas en kultuur in die blanke Suid-Afrika voor die oorlog, bied insig in die aanvanklike habitat en motivering van die vrywilliger. Oorlogdeelname het vrywilligers van alle dele van Suid-Afrika en vlakke van die blanke samelewing bymekaar gebring. Dit het hulle ‘n gemeenskaplike gebied gegee om hulle tot ‘n gedeelde ‘Suid-Afrikanisme’ te bind. Hierdie kameraadskap het hul mobilisering teen die Nasionale Party (NP) na 1948 vergemaklik. Die voormalige soldate, wat teen die Duitsers en Italianers op verskeie fronte geveg het, was aan die gevare van totalitarisme blootgestel en ‘n onverdraagsaamheid van outoritarisme in die na-oorlogse Suid-Afrika het ontwikkel. Na die oorlog het die Springbok-legioen(SL) as ‘n oproep teen die toenemende rasse-onverdraagsaamheid in Suid-Afrika opgetree. Die meer gegoede veterane, dikwels in ooreenstemming met die familietradisie, het by die gevestigde Verenigde Party (UP) aangesluit. Die breë onverwagte nederlaag van die UP in 1948 deur die NP het die ou-soldate se massa toegang tot die politiek veroorsaak. Na die NP-oorwinning in 1948, het ‘n groepering van verpolitiseerde ou-soldate die NP se oorlogstyd-toenadering met fascisme gebruik, om die ou-soldate in die Fakkelkommando te mobiliseer. DieFakkelkommando het ou-soldate in die parlementêre politiek en die buite-parlementêre politiek teen die NP in die 1953-verkiesing saamgevoeg. Die UP se nederlaag in die 1953-verkiesing het egter vinnig die onderskeie lyne onder die ou-soldate in die parlementêre politiek blootgelê. Die inploffing van die Fakkelkommando het tot die ontstaan van die Unie Federale Party en die Liberale Party na die 1953-verkiesing gelei. Die einde van die voormalige militêre identiteit, as ‘n samehangende politieke identiteit, het die verskeidenheid politieke sienings binne die ou-soldaat identiteit aan die lig gebring. Die spanning tussen die konserwatiewe en progressiewe oud-dienspligtiges in die UP het gelei tot die stigting van die Progressiewe Party in 1959. Laastens het die verhoogde regeringsonderdrukking van die radikale ou-soldate tot hul aanhouding in 1956 en 1960 gelei. Die daaropvolgende betrokkenheid van hierdie oud-dienspligtiges by die vorming van gewapende formasies, in die vorm van die African Resistance Movement(ARM) en Umkhonto we Sizwe(MK), bied kontinuïteit tussen die oorlog teen fascisme en die gewapende stryd teen Apartheid.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/109953
This item appears in the following collections: