Every commerce endangers purity

– Ernst Fischer

Apartheid activist
Apartheid activist holds a placard

Ernst Fischer, a leading Austro-Marxist thinker said this in an article defining the revolutionary needs of a socialist party within the framework of a capitalistic society. We may paraphrase that every compromise, every business, every input from outside endangers the system of certain ideologies.

What was apartheid really? We know a lot of moral but also moralistic statements. Most substantial criticism came from the Marxist left but can we not also analyse and therefore automatically criticise it from a conservative, libertarian, or ordo-liberal point of view?

Yes, we can.

But before that, some considerations in principiis:

– We have to look at the essence of every system. As Thomas Aquinas said in De ente et de essential (‘On being and essence’), no concrete thing can be understood without a definition of its essence. Finally, ‘essence’ is defined as that which cannot be deduced from a given thing or system, without changing its substance. It’s the “it”.

– Therefore every system is based on a basic, principal consideration. But as the Austrian mathematician Schroedinger pointed out, the principal consideration can never be proven from inside the system, as this would be a tautology. Every system is therefore based on faith – or let us say on a decision based on our Weltanschauung. This wonderful German world says what it is: how we view the world, the universe.

– The decision for a system is also a decision about order and information. In cybernetics – the word derived from the old Greek ‘kybernethes’, meaning ‘helmsman’. It is said that “the degree of information within a given system is also the degree of order within the given system”.

–  Sir Karl Popper (again an Austrian philosopher) posited that every rational system, in order to be accepted as such or as science, must be ready to be falsified, not only in theory but also in fact.

– Therefore, we can recognize two types of systems: closed ones and open ones. Both aim at order but the closed one on order by command, the open one on order by a multitude of inputs. In another way: the one system puts ideology before real life, the other one, real life before ideology.

– The chosen system has consequences on the flow of information. It has also consequences for how powerful politics of illusion, self-delusion, organised propaganda, reputation management, etc. are. That means: what chance has a calm, rational, objective analysis to be heard and be accepted by the helmsman of the system?

– That means that in closed systems the politics and economies of illusions can dominate.

– Then these ‘command systems’ are much more vulnerable to the ‘march of folly’ as defined by the historian Barbara Tuchman. She put up the following criteria for political folly:

a) It must be, if viewed objectively against its own definition, in the long-term self-interest of a given group;

b) It must be a policy of a group, an organisation, a party – not of an individual who might be a madman;

c) It must have been recognized, at the given time, as harmful, negative, or damaging by others;

d) A clear and realistic alternative to the implementation of the given policy must have been possible.

– A further point is that closed systems tend to be ‘nominalistic as analysed by the (again, benign reader, you will excuse me) Austrian thinker Egon Friedell. Universalia sunt nomina – that means that the great terms and realities are just words, empty words – and that is the most dangerous conclusion, the delusion that man can change reality by changing the definition of words. Think of changing the name of ‘Bantu administration’ into ‘Plural relations’.

– The amount of the free flow of information also influences how valuable and correct you make investment decisions. As von Mises pointed out, a socialist economy must fail as there is no real way to get to realistic (that means fully informative) prices. The same goes with political systems.

Let us now analyse apartheid. It was not only about political power and control. It was not only about cultural hegemony.

But from where did the command system come? It may come as a surprise, but the Boer Republics had been quite libertarian. State authority was weak. It left people – especially black people – alone and no one less than Sol Plaatje described that after the South African War, blacks said that they had been better off under Kruger.

I may rather guess that the ‘command system’ was introduced by the victorious Imperialism which, for the first time, organized the whole South African territory according to a plan. Had Cecil Rhodes been a libertarian? I guess not  rather, a corporatist and reckless empire builder! Nevertheless, I definitely object the removal of his monument at UCT.

Also, the founding of the South African Union did not change that but emphasized it. Enter the Land Act of 1913. That certain territories had been reserved for the ‘natives’ was not the problem, but excluding all ‘non-whites’ from having and acquiring property and other real estate related rights in the so called ‘white’ areas was a stupidity of grotesque forms. Why do that? How many blacks could have acquired a house? And if so, so what? This Act did not only hamper the development of a black middle class, but was also detrimental to ‘white interests’.

Then we have to ask: why will the state order where someone may live, whom he may marry – within the limits of decency – which job he may ask for, which school he may visit? Why the need to ask the state for permission to relocate, or to move within a given political unit? Why destroy historical areas like ‘District 6’ – a shameful and absolutely stupid exercise in ‘group areas’ tyranny – or destroy Sophiatown, or deliberately neglect Alexandra township. Why administer for the sake of administering?

It was and it is perfectly understandable that Afrikaners feared for the essence of their existence if they would lose political control, but why believe therefore that they have to command everything: all social processes up to the last detail? It had a totalitarian element in it. Not to get me wrong, South Africa then was a constitutional order and had a freely elected parliament, an independent judiciary, a free press and a lot of opposition possibilities. Nevertheless, the concept of being able to steer the whole society and system was both frightful and unrealistic.

The idea of developing black homelands might have been honest but it lead to a massive misallocation of funds. The idea that blacks would return to and develop in the ‘homelands’ was a pipe dream. Already in the early 1960s Piet Kornhoof, later on a leading verligte, told dogma-ridden Verwoerd that all data points out that the influx of blacks into the big economic centres was increasing and non-reversible. He was ignored. Do we realize how much damage was done to all South Africans by delaying a proper urbanisation of blacks?

With the new political order negotiated, we opted for an integrated political system. No separation of voters along racial lines; no separation in social or economic life. I would like to call that system ‘respectful integration’. We all have to cooperate; to be constructive. We must not assimilate to one culture – real diversity and pluralism is recognized. That is fine. We may be very productive within this system and the good will of many, many South Africans from all groups shows it to us.

But why we are confronted with quota systems (and if you do not fit the quota as Jimmy Manyi pointed out, just relocate), race questions in forms, deliberate ways of creating black industrialists by ‘ordre de mufti’ – nothing against black industrialists, the more the better – but why believe in being able to create them by administrative fiat? Bureaucratic BBBEE processes only lead to fronting, a tendency to create legislation distrusting of the free market, a general talk about race but not about quality and productivity, a sterile and malfunctioning public service, bad government schools, bad government hospitals, a tendency where certain politics and politicians tell certain population groups that they are not really wanted, a SABC commanding a 90 percent quota for local music to be played without even asking who wants that (in fact ordering a certain taste and style and forgetting that listeners can easily switch to other radio stations), Africanist – basically voelkisch – philosophy on university campuses, trade unions which like to destroy ‘white monopolistic capital’ just for the sake of it (with no idea with what to replace it with), trying to divide us emotionally by scandalizing and hyping and making systematic ‘poisoners of wells’ prominent?

It is apartheid 2.0. Now I know that the usual suspects will scream and shout – so be it.

What is the alternative? Within the framework of a stable, well organized state the spontaneous order created according to von Hayek by the multitude of individual decisions – some excellent, some bad, some mediocre, some just sufficient – all together forming a system full of free flowing information, enabling the people to define themselves, position themselves, correct themselves, and change themselves.

Would that not, if we like to redress damages of past politics, be a fascinating alternative ?

Ab integro nascitur ordo. Dixit!

Dr.iuris Harald Sitta is an Austrian attorney emeritus and business owner who immigrated to South Africa in 2007.