World War I

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Afrikaner Broederbond leadership in 1918.

The Establishment of the Afrikaner Broederbond in May 1918.

In May 1918 a group of fourteen railway clerks, clergymen and policemen formed an organization, Jong Suid-Afrika (Young South Africa). A month later, it was renamed the Afrikaner Broederbond (AB). The formation of the AB was one specific organisational response to the social and political crisis that the Afrikaans speaking section of the White population found themselves in the period after the First World War. With the end of the war, the boom conditions for South African agriculture came to an end as post-war inflation escalated and banks withdrew credit facilities.

It was in the context of the growing impoverishment of landless Afrikaners and their proletarianisation after the war that the AB was formed. The proletarianisation of rural Afrikaners led to a profound change in their cultural and ideological orientation. Urbanisation had undermined traditional ways of life and worldviews, as both White and Black rural migrants had to contend with rapidly changing economic and social conditions in the cities. Both the Anglo-Boer War and the First World War had forever transformed their old material conditions of existence. In the cities they were exposed to new ideas of class solidarity, trade unionism and socialism, which provided a challenge to their traditional political affiliations.

Hertzog’s NP, formed in 1915, represented a fusion of the interests of small stock farmers, those most threatened by proletarianisation and a section of the petty- bourgeoisie of the small towns in the OFS and Transvaal. They had to compete with the Labour Party for the support of White workers in the cities. In the Cape, the NP represented a fusion of the interests of wealthy commercial farmers, the Afrikaner petty bourgeoisie and finance capital in the form of Santam and Sanlam. Formed in 1918, with the financial capital from wealthy wine and fruit farmers, Santam (Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Trust Maatskappy) was established as a short term insurance provider, while Sanlam was established as a longterm insurance provider.

The AB began its existence as an organisation of the northern Afrikaner urban petty bourgeoisie - teachers, clergymen, intellectuals, clerks, - a group whose material welfare lacked the prosperity of their Cape counterparts. Their allies were the poorer farmers, bywoners– those farmers who had become landless and were eking out an existence as tenants on big landlord’s farms - and the urban working class, groups that had been thrust into economic turmoil and insecurity because of the changes in social relations on the land brought about by the growth of capitalist agriculture. The AB saw itself as an ‘an organisation in which Afrikaner could find each other in the midst of great confusion and disunity and beable to work together for the survival of the Afrikaner people in South Africa and the promotion of its interests’.( O’Meara: 1977: 163-4)


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Last updated : 31-Jan-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 31-Jan-2014