The electoral revival of the National Party in South Africa, 1934 to 1948
Stultz, Newell M
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The purpose of this study is the description, analysis and explanation of the electoral growth of the National Party in the Union of South Africa, from the founding of the (Purified) National Party in 1934 to the General Election of May 1948. Consideration is given the following: the rise of the National Party to parliamentary supremacy in 1929; its electoral collapse at Fusion--the political union of Generals Hertzog and Smuts and of their respective parties--in 1934; the revival of Afrikaner economic and cultural nationalism beginning in the latter 1930's; the ending of Fusion in 1939 and the resulting temporary political reunion of Afrikaners in Opposition; fission of the Opposition, 1940 to 1943; postwar consolidation of Afrikaner opponents of the Smuts Government and its defeat by the (Reunited) National Party - Afrikaner Party alliance in 1948. Special attention is paid to four general elections, those of 1929, 1938, 1943 and 1948. The results of these elections, as they describe the strength of the National Party, are compared. Research was done in the Republic of South Africa. Newspapers, both English language and Afrikaans, were the foremost primary source. Others included the South African parliamentary Hansard, official publications and reports, party literature and personal interviews. This work finds that there exists a considerable similarity between the extent and distribution of the electoral support which placed the National Party in power in 1929 and that which sustained the 1948 victory of the (Reunited) National Party - Afrikaner Party alliance. A difference lies in the fact of unprecedented urban support for the (Reunited) National Party in 1948, especially along the Witwatersrand. However, it is shown that growing urban support for the (Reunited) National Party followed the movement of Afrikaners to the cities from the traditionally-Nationalist countryside, and hence expressed a permanence in long-term partisan alignments among these Afrikaners, rather than the contrary. The General Election of 1948 is thus said to signify the electoral revival of the National Party of 1929. Several factors are found to have contributed to this electoral revivals intensification of Afrikaner nationalist sentiment in consequence of such as the Voortrekker Centenary celebrations of 1938; maladroit postwar management of the country by the Smuts Government and exploitation of the racial fears and prejudices of the white electorate in 1948 by the Opposition parties. But of greatest importance is deemed to be the passing of Fusion in 1939. Hertzog and those Afrikaners who followed him entered Fusion in 1934 assuming that their political cooperation with English-speaking South Africans was possible on the basis of the principle "South Africa First." The insistence of Smuts in September 1939 that South Africa declare war on Germany seemed to Hertzog and most Afrikaners to contradict that principle. It ended Fusion and released Afrikaners from their adherence to the United Party, which had been its embodiment. Various wartime circumstances sustained Smuts and the truncated United Party in power at the 1943 General Election, but these passed with the War, or at the same time. It was thus likely in 1948 that--momentary issues apart--the (Reunited) National Party - Afrikaner Party alliance would, in the absence of a successful attempt on the part of Smuts at re-creation in postwar South Africa of the United Party of the 1930's, gather such electoral support as had sustained the National Party nineteen years earlier. In fact, such a re-creation may have been impossible, for the ending of Fusion had done more than allow for a reunion of those Afrikaners who had divided in 1934, it had discredited the spirit of Hertzog, i.e., "Hertzogism," which, from the side of the Afrikaner nationalist, had made Fusion possible.
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