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South Africa Without Apartheid: DISMANTLING RACIAL DOMINATION by Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley (University of California: $18.95; 315 pp.)

August 31, 1986|Reviewed by Peter Dreyer | Dreyer is the author of "Martyrs and Fanatics: South Africa and Human Destiny" (Simon & Schuster). and

Books about South Africa keep coming: The work under review is No. 39 in the University of California Press' "Perspectives on Southern Africa" series. Heribert Adam's "Modernizing Racial Domination" (1971) was No. 2--which gives some idea of the writings on the subject brought out by a single scholarly publishing house.

Adam is a German sociologist teaching at Simon Frazer University in Vancouver. Kogila Moodley, his wife and co-author, is a former South African of Indian descent who teaches at the University of British Columbia.

They are optimists. "There are reasons to hope for a more peaceful resolution in South Africa than in other divided societies," they believe. The South African struggle is not over ideology or creeds (as in the Middle East) but about power and privilege, and the competing groups are to a great extent economically interdependent: Blacks and whites need one another. Moreover, "an ethnic technocracy has begun to perceive the rising costs of apartheid domination and is engaged in modifying its control through reform."

There are, alas, forces that seek to prevent this happy outcome: Marxist extremists (linked here with the Black Consciousness movement and the Azanian People's Organization) and Afrikaner neo-Nazis (who regard P. W. Botha as a dangerous liberal). Between them, these fanatics are liable to polarize the conflict and make racial rapprochement impossible.

Luckily, however, according to Adam and Moodley, the African National Congress stands in the way of disaster. What's more, they feel, "the ANC option" should be "attractive to business"--for one thing, "the ANC could be expected to restore order in the townships . . . (And) hold in check the growing anti-capitalist 'ultra-leftist elements' (AZAPO, etc.). Since these tasks will probably involve strong-arm tactics rather than gentle democratic persuasion, business is unlikely to be much concerned about civil rights violations under the new regime."

Adam and Moodley would thus appear to see the ANC as the South African establishment's last line of defense. "Ironically, it may turn out to be the great historical mission of the ANC to contain the anomie (lawlessness) rather than instigate revolutionary destruction," they say. Though this agenda may raise cheers at the Chamber of Commerce, one can but wonder what the rebels in the townships would make of it. I certainly hope it will be communicated to them before the revolution.

The authors have been badly instructed in the history of democratic struggle in South Africa. "Congress (i.e., the racially organized umbrella movement of which the ANC became a component after the communist takeover of the organization in the 1950s) has always pursued an explicitly nonracial policy," they tell us. In fact, the call for a nonracial policy (which was taken up by the South African Liberal Party) evolved precisely in rejection of Congress multiracialism. This is a significant "mistake," because Adam and Moodley recognize the importance of nonracial policy in bringing about democratic change. And elsewhere in their own book, they note that "the many socialist critics of the Congress alliance have pointed out" that "its very principle of organization corresponds to the official race classification."

Adam and Moodley seem confused in more than one sense. "South Africa Without Apartheid" veers from apparent approval of capitalism and a market economy to yearning for "true social democracy." The book's great virtue is that it sets out to combat the deadly reductionism so popular among neo-Marxist academics. But the authors constantly lapse into Marxist jive themselves. You get the impression that they have not actually thought much about the meaning of the words they use. In the Cultural Revolution, they assert, for example, "Mao used organized youngsters to terrorize his bourgeois opponents" (emphasis added). Try telling them that in Peking!

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