Political systems and civil society in apartheid South
The preceding chapter compared political development in both conflict areas, particularly during the periods covered by the research. In looking at the relationship between the dominant and dominated sides, it clarified existing political realities and the way the two conflicts emerged, developed and were framed in terms of causes and resolution. It also provided a brief account of the context in which the respective political systems and civil societies act/ed. Chapter 2 moves further towards studying protest groups in both apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel by examining the theoretical framework of the study, i.e. the relationship of the two political systems that exist, or existed, in both these ethnicnational states with their respective civil societies. The first is the independent variable, while the second encompasses the dependant variables: the politics1 and roles of protest groups. In both cases, civil society’s relation with the state or the political system2 is/was fundamental in shaping the space that protest groups enjoy/ed and in which they function/ed. Before examining the state political system and civil society in the two cases, it is important in this introductory section briefly to highlight some issues and/or notions relevant to their study. First, this chapter does not examine the concepts of ‘political system’ in general terms, since a broad study of the ‘political system’ and the different kinds of political system would overload the book and would not serve the specific focus of the research. However, a more limited and restricted examination of the kinds of political system that exist/ed in the two case studies is essential in arriving at an understanding of the respective ideologies that are/were in power, the existing political culture, and the kinds of relationships that were built between the political system and other societal spheres; particularly civil society. These three aspects help in inferring where both political systems and their respective civil societies stand in the political spectrum of exclusivity versus inclusivity, i.e. whether they represent closed nationalism, open nationalism or a point somewhere in between. In the study of ethnic-national states, an awareness of this spectrum is important, as is the ability to deduce where each political system is located. The details of this spectrum provide the basis for defining the
kind of system that exists in terms of being democratic, non-democratic (totalitarian or authoritarian), or representative of a restricted exclusive ‘democracy’ for the master race/group in power. In addition, this study is well aware that both political systems under study (have) developed a hegemonic and corporatist structure towards other spheres of society, and particularly civil society, that left its marks on the latter’s position in the inclusivity-exclusivity spectrum. This is discussed later in the chapter. Second, the chapter does not address the concept of civil society in general terms; however, before examining civil society in the two case studies, it is important to remind the reader of a number of relevant ideas. It should be noted that the concept of civil society is an elusive one that has travelled over time, and that its meaning has developed many dimensions, according to the existing context. There are no definite answers about its functions,3 components4 and its relation to other spheres of society.5 The study therefore adopts a broad definition of civil society. Civil society is the space between the individual and the state, and is a product of socio-economic and political developments in a certain place at a certain point in time. It has a dialectical relationship with the other spheres of society – the state, political society and the market – and the dynamics of this relationship affect its behaviour, its capacity to influence, and its modes of action. The blurring of the lines between these four spheres (state, market, political society and civil society) contributes to a continuous process of shaping the political culture, moral order, and the legitimacy of the political system. In principle, this space is open for free associational life and for freedom of expression. Within it, organized groups and active individuals take steps to raise awareness on specific or general issues, advocate certain (sometimes conflicting) values, exert pressure to protect or defend certain interests, and lobby for social, economic and/or political change. The size and nature of this space varies with regard to degrees of independence and of inclusivity (being liberal or ethnic, and so on). In cases where a corporatist system is put in place by a state’s political system, civil society finds itself coopted.6 Under an authoritarian regime, civil society is most likely to be limited, and its members are either co-opted or, in different degrees, are in a confrontational relationship with the political system. As the system moves towards (participatory) democracy, the size of civil society expands and its roles are (supposedly) expected to develop further and become more influential. Based on this, there can be many types of civil society, each with its distinct context, characteristics and roles. But alongside the distinctions there can be many similarities. It is important to note that, if one chooses to associate civil society with specific universal pluralistic values in order to exclude from the realm of civil society those with racist, separatist, caste, tribal, violent7 and/or militaristic leanings, then care must be taken. While the author believes that universal civic values are core components in defining a civil society, she is also aware that she might be accused of bias, or of artificially restricting the civil society space that in reality is not restricted. It is open to all, both with and without universal civic
values, to compete for interests and to shape public opinion. In such cases, civil society would incorporate uncivil values such as militarism or exclusive, racist notions. These values contradict those of the liberal democratic system that, at least legally and procedurally, stresses values of pluralism, deregulation, egalitarianism and tolerance. It can be argued that issues of independency, inclusivity, citizenship and equality are, or can be, controversial in examining civil society. Independency is difficult to assess, given the overlapping and blurring lines between the different spheres and especially in cases of ethnic-national states that developed corporatist structures. Inclusivity, citizenship and equality are very much connected. If the model of a political system that adopts liberal democracy of equal citizenship is applied as a criterion, many civil societies will fall below the standard. If a scholar labels such models as having no civil society at all, he/she runs the risk of not relating to the whole picture of organized popular initiatives. This means that each case can represent a different level of inclusivity, a degree of citizenship rights, and a degree of legal and practical equality, and will thus represent a different degree of democratization. In the two case studies examined here, it will be seen how civil society has not been inclusive, but has instead been divided along ethnic and religious lines in both ethnic-national states. It was also to a certain extent split, in the case of apartheid South Africa, along ideological8 divisions within the white community; but this was not so in Zionist Israel. Enjoying part of the space that forms societal values (such as tolerance, pluralism, communitarianism, universalism, closed nationalism or open nationalism), civil society can be a key contributor to processes that shape the moral order of a society and a state. The weakness or strength of the state decides the margins and the influence of civil society. Strong democratic states are more able to create a balance between the two, where independence and freedom of association and expression are guaranteed for civil society, and law and order are preserved by the state. In such a case, it would be assumed that both the state and civil society would adhere to principles of equality, equal citizenship and inclusivity, and that both would agree on the rules for preserving the legitimacy of the system. In exclusive ‘democracies’ and/or non-democratic states, respect for these principles varies. As noted earlier, there would be degrees of civil society independency, degrees of freedom for association and expression, and degrees of citizenship and, subsequently, of inclusivity. This chapter applies the definition above and checks the values of both civil societies vis-à-vis the values of a liberal democratic system. It also shows how a centralized system, i.e. a ‘strong’ state, can have a substantial effect on the nature of civil society. Both states adopt/ed exclusive ideologies that promoted ideas of case uniqueness and peculiarities, and justified discrimination against part of the population. And, as will be explained, both systems developed hegemonic relations vis-à-vis the different spheres of society. The chapter also reveals how the nature of both political systems, while producing a consensus and having a corporatist structure, were able to limit deviance and space for an autonomous civil society. It displays the nature and the
limits of civil society, and explains the nature of the space enjoy/ed by civil society in the two cases. Consequently, it serves the aim of this study, which is to examine the politics, political platforms and roles of both protest groups, and to ascertain whether, in the quest for peace building, their roles were substantive or insignificant. Did such roles promote an inclusive, just peace or a partial settlement that benefited the status quo? The chapter has four sections. Following this introduction, it looks at the political system and its underlying ideology in apartheid South Africa, and at the kind of civil society that existed there. It does this by addressing three topics:
1 the organized civil initiatives of the Afrikaners in a historical perspective; 2 civil society under the ethnic centralized political system of South Africa; and 3 a definition of South Africa’s civil society.