‘The Great Trek Towards Nazism’: Anti-Fascism and the Radical Left in South Africa During the Early Apartheid Era

Asher Lubotzky*, Roni Mikel Arieli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In May 1948, three years after the end of World War II, the National Party rose to power in South Africa and started to implement its doctrine of apartheid. In response, activists from various sections of the opposition to apartheid regularly invoked anti-fascist and anti-Nazi rhetoric. Their anti-fascist language combined global concepts–heavily borrowed from the struggle against fascism and Nazism in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s–with the colonial and racialist realities in South Africa. By doing so, activists contested the alleged uniqueness of the conditions in South Africa–conditions that justified, according to Afrikaner Nationalists, the need for apartheid policies. Our study aspires to explore postwar anti-fascism in the anti-apartheid discourse of radical South Africans in the early years of apartheid. We argue that by using specific anti-fascist tropes in their political discourse, South African radicals appropriated this language within the specific South African context, giving it new–sometimes contradicting–meanings that served their local interests of opposing nationalist authoritarianism, apartheid and white supremacy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)135-159
Number of pages25
JournalSouth African Historical Journal
Volume74
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Southern African Historical Society.

Keywords

  • anti-apartheid
  • Anti-fascism
  • communism
  • South Africa
  • Unity Movement

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