By Anthony Butler
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Additional info for Democracy and Apartheid: Political Theory, Comparative Politics and the Modern South African State
It was only in the 1930s that the conscious effort by the National Party to mobilize Afrikaner ethnicity began to make headway. Afrikaner cultural and religious institutions pressed harder the need for unity of the Volk in the face of party division. 8 In particular, the celebration of the centenary of the 'Great Trek' in 1938 was used to catalyse wider ethnic mobilization. The Afrikaner working class, moreover, was courted by new Afrikaner trade unions, in an increasingly successful attempt to break the class unity of the White working class (and in consequence electoral support for the Labour Party).
Local chiefs, leaders of the clans or alliances on top in power struggles during the formalization of ethnicity, used creative histories and the idea of timeless ahistorical systems of African power to entrench their own positions, and to turn a temporary hegemony into a permanent rule. The new African middle classes- notably the teachers and intellectuals who were most exposed to the colonizers' interpretations of African history and social structure - could benefit from these processes by acting as both the interpreters of tradition for the colonizers and as interpreters of colonial practice for 'traditional leaders'.
The final stage in this periodization of South Africa has been left open-ended for now. The energy channelled into separate development could never resolve South Africa's social and economic problems. As elsewhere, however, it was the end of the postwar economic boom that brought underlying structural problems into clear focus for South Africa's ruling elite. Rapidly decelerating economic growth, and the increasing irrationality and economic unsustainability of the high apartheid state, led first to further centralization and militarization, but eventually to crisis and near collapse.