Was it appropriate to honour Bram Fischer with a doctorate from Stellenbosch University?

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  • A shortened version of the article below was previously published on LitNet.

Jan Casno of Donkiekamp, Griqualand, Northern Cape, writes:

The debate about whether it was appropriate to honour Bram Fischer with a doctorate from Stellenbosch University has now become stale.

Despite that, I would like to revisit briefly some of the considerations that were neglected in the course of the debate. (Ons ou diep plattelanders kom mos altyd laat by die paartie aan. Please forgive me.)

Let me come clean from the start. I am no expert on Fischer; my reading is limited to two of his biographers (Meredith and Clingman). I have also had a look at his friend Mary Benson’s autobiography.

Fischer’s celebrated “Statement from the dock” was recommended to me by a history teacher in Heuningneskloof as an illuminating document and as a possible point of entry into the complexities of the Fischer mind. She postulated that its spirit of humanity would captivate the sensitive and intelligent reader of this tour de force. After having read it I had to concede that she had a point. Although I was not exactly enchanted by it, it did soften my sympathies for the pro-Fischer viewpoint.

Therefore, armed with the biographies, the Statement, a general knowledge about communist and South African history, and a tendency to feed my own prejudices disguised as evidence back to myself, I proceed gingerly.

Fischer’s family and social background, his reputed caring and humane personality, his ostensibly peace-seeking style of political conduct and the moderating influence he appeared to have had on his sometimes turbulent communist comrades in South Africa made him seem like a dubious candidate for Bolshevism. The fascinating aspect of Fischer’s personality is that he was a keen Bolshevik revolutionary nevertheless.

Fischer was evidently passionately committed to the Marxian ideas that informed his praxis. One gets a sense that he was intoxicated to the point of exuberance by a belief in both the “scientific” nature of Marxism and the cult of scientism (the rather Utopian view that science can provide the instrumentation to remove the major imperfections that have hitherto plagued human societies). He was apparently indifferent to the dangers of social engineering.

As far as he was concerned, scientific socialist ideas were rationally constructed truths that serve no other interest than science itself. Unlike its rivals, Marxism did not present a distorted picture of the world under the sway of “false consciousness”. He regarded Marxism as a science “like biology and chemistry are”. He told his friend Mary Benson, “Marxists were working for a new world where everything could be scientifically worked out; therefore man’s possibilities were infinite.”

Fischer was protective of this Brave New World scientism, shielding it from the misgivings expressed by lapsed fellow communists who had lost their earlier enthusiasm for the Cause after having become convinced of what they regarded as the perversions of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Koestler is a case in point. Mary Benson reports, “At times he exploded in anger when talking of communism’s critics, like Arthur Koestler.”

According to Meredith, Fisher dismissed unfavourable reports about Stalin’s regime as propaganda distributed by the Western press. “When Khrushchev subsequently denounced Stalin for his crimes, Bram acknowledged the reality of them, but his loyalty to the Soviet Union was unshaken. He held fast to his beliefs with religious zeal.” Meredith also calls attention to John Laredo remark that Fischer saw socialism as a matter of life and death and quotes Denis Goldberg as saying, “He held on to this great strategic vision of how to defeat imperialism.”

Vir Fischer as Afrikaner-“aristokraat” het die vertrapping van die twee Boere-republieke deur die Britse imperialiste nie in sy baadjie gaan sit nie. Ook nie dat van sy eie mense te na aan die wind van die Duitse fasciste begin seil het nie. Die einste Duitsers wat so hittete die Tempel in Moskou ontheilig en sy held die steppe ingejaag het.

Fischer’s personal gravitas helped him to overcome the antipathy his views aroused in some of his friends. Meredith quotes the Trotskyite Baruch Hirson, who worked with Bram in the prison garden during their incarceration: “Talking to Bram about events in the USSR was an exercise in frustration. He steadfastly closed his ears to any criticism of what happened past, present, or even future. I disagreed with him on many issues and made clear my very profound hatred of Stalinism … but that never changed the respect and affection in which we held the man.”

The Statement bears testimony to Fischer’s reputed personal charm and strength of personality. The mood in this document is upbeat, humane, self-effacing in a confessional sort of way, even happy, spiced with revealing anecdotes and confident in the expectation that history is on our side and will not fail us. It carried a strong message of hope to those suffering under apartheid. He makes it clear that a searing sense of injustice about the racial order in South African society had brought him to communism rather than the way round. It has a sort of Lutheresque “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise” quality about it.

The claim that he was devoted to the cause of universal human emancipation and the construction of a better alternative to the form of capitalist and racially deformed society he thought he encountered in South Africa seems valid. With the advantage of hindsight one could regard it as a misguided devotion; reading the Statement, it is easy to persuade oneself that it was genuine at the time.

It is clear that Fischer was prepared to back up his militancy with self-sacrifice. This is confirmed not only by what he said in his Statement, but also by the very fact that he read it from the dock. It does not appear to be in dispute that the South African authorities were prepared to wave him through passport control if they were given the assurance that he would never return.

Fischer was a self-proclaimed enthusiastic Marxian revolutionary. Like the house of the Lord, the house of Marxian revolution is one of many dwellings. As Marxism spread from its home domain in the earlier industrial countries to the further reaches of the planet, it assumed many forms and different ideological and organisational incarnations.

So what sort of Marxian revolutionary was Fischer in South Africa?

One way of approaching this question is to inspect general Marxian theory to see if one can derive an answer from its tenets. This strategy should satisfy someone who, like Fischer, regards Marxian theory as a science and hence a source of truth-revealing and empirically reliable insights. What sort of revolutionary did Marxian “science” allow one to become? To give the question a Kantian slant: Given the nature of revolution, what sort of revolutionary would one be required to be?

Class consciousness as a motive force in societal change is central to Marxian theory. One of the principal “laws of societal motion” in capitalist societies that scientific socialism “discovered” and endorses is that the laws of history and the implicit ideas inscribed existentially in the proletariat are sufficient to bring about the enabling cataclysm that will bring the classless (and non-racial) society to birth.

Under capitalist conditions the consciousness of the proletariat is the fuel that drives the providential project of history. Proletarian consciousness emerges as a human response to the deprivations imposed on the working class by the material conditions of production in capitalist societies. Material conditions predict to class-consciousness. The Marxian social metaphysic, which Fischer believed to be a science, claims to have revealed this as a reliable empirical regularity holding for all societies at al times.

If that is so, it is not clear whether the historical process has any use for the huge intellectual, political and military (and largely unsuccessful) efforts made by bourgeoisie intellectuals to make a working class revolution happen in a capitalist society except, perhaps, in a “cunning of reason” invisible hand sort of a way.

Marxian theory insists that all consciousness is class impregnated and reflects the objective position its bearer occupies in a class-endowed social order. Proletarian consciousness is a truth-revealing instrument anointed by history to bring a just social order into being. Bourgeois consciousness is truth-obscuring, congenitally false. The ideas and actions it produces serve only to legitimise and reproduce the injustices of capitalism.

Where does this leave someone like Fischer?

If it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God, how would a bourgeois lawyer from Johannesburg approach his entry into the redemptive vrugwater (amniotic fluid) of proletarian revolutionary consciousness?

If being a dyed-in-the-wool proletarian is a requirement for becoming privy to truth-revealing class consciousness and the authentic revolutionary action it begets, is the role of revolutionary überhaupt available to Fischer the bourgeois? Would at least an attempt to expunge the disqualifying attributes of one’s class and to assume those of the proletariat – futile as it might appear in the light of “scientific” theory – not be required as a first step towards overcoming this restrictive epistemological hurdle?

As far as I can tell, Fischer did not regard any of these questions as constituting a predicament. He appears to have adopted the role of Marxian revolutionary in the sober, confident, and efficient no-nonsense style one associates with his reputed strong personality, in line with the rules of comportment prescribed for responsible members of his class. He offered his middle-class virtues and skills as a contribution to the revolutionary effort. He studied the depositions and arguments for a better world in the same way as he would study documents and exhibits in preparation for a court case. He assessed them in the manner of a competent lawyer. He would shape his arguments and cast his judgment. Like Oscar Wilde, he had only his genius to declare. If the revolution could find a use for a dyed-in-the-wool bourgeois, he was at its service.

The ascetic sackcloth-and-ashes, born-again style of, say, a Peter Waldo, St Francis of Assisi or Ignatius of Loyola, or some Anabaptist onderdompeling (full immersion) as a rites de passage to authentic communist awareness, would not have suited the likes of Fischer. The moment of conversion would not be marked by the sound of silver trumpets. If Fischer’s middle-class Protestant ethic insists on anything, it insists on detaching devotion from exuberant display.

In the Statement, Fischer reveals that the Damascene experience that took him beyond the restrictive boundaries of his Afrikaans upbringing had a true blue bourgeois pedigree. He suddenly came to realise the irrational nature of racial prejudice. Exercising the revolutionary option was a matter of informed rational choice. A rational discussion with a black friend in a car while returning from a conference tipped the scales. Eers was ek blind maar nou kan ek sien (Once I was blind, but now I see) entailed a rather more mundane procedure for him than it did for Saul of Tarsus.

In the Statement he seems to be reading from the liberal Book of Rational Moral Awareness combined with the Book of Rational Persuasion. He is revealing the sound bourgeois conviction that reason supported by evidence can deliver one from the superstitions of community solidarity or any other truth-distorting forms of custom and example.

His biographers report that except towards the end of his revolutionary career, he maintained the conventional lifestyle one can still observe in the leafier suburbs of Johannesburg. He remained well ensconced in the “objective material conditions” that nurtured and reproduced the false consciousness of his class. He continued to hold court with his Party friends and associates at his home in the grand manner.

Even so, the theoretical problem Marxian “science” poses for the would-be bourgeois revolutionary remains. If one accepts that cognitive authenticity flows from the experience of economic deprivation, the well-heeled bourgeois is indeed excluded from its benefits and confined to the bounds set by the “objective material conditions of production”. This sets a limit to the type of social agency that is available to him and hence what sort of a revolutionary he can be.

It is curious that Marxists in general have been blind to the self-undermining predicament inherent in their claim that Marxism is a truth-revealing science that tells us what the world is really like. For if individual consciousness and individual agency reflect social forces of which they are largely unaware and which unconsciously manipulate them, how did the bourgeois Karl Marx come by this knowledge? Uncle Karl’s problem is compounded by the fact that he claimed scientific validity for the contention that bourgeois consciousness (which happened to include his own) suffered from interminable falseness, the source of truth-concealing pseudo-science.

This is a variation on the old Greek paradox of the Cretan poet who claims the truth of the statement that all Cretans are liars. If the Marxist depiction of the nature of things is correct and individual consciousness can collapse into class consciousness, everyone would be reduced to being so-called soluble fish in an ocean of class consciousness.

The nature of things would not allow an exit from the confinement of class. Ergo the loneliness of the long-distance bourgeois revolutionary. The dustbin of history awaits him and his class. A blue collar, scuffed gumboots, poorly ventilated factories, bad diets, rotgut skokiaan, tedious work, starvation wages, backbreaking labour, blougebliksem deur die Boere and whatever other truth-revealing heuristic devices do not a bourgeois proletarian make. The option was simply not available to him.

One must, however, consider the possibility that Fischer was not a practising Marxian scientist in the sense of actively examining the logical coherence of the theory or testing the empirical validity of the propositions derivable from its tenets. One suspects that he took the claim that Marxism was a science on authority as received wisdom. His mentors in the Soviet state conferred scientific status on Marxist theory (in the form of Marxism-Leninism) by official proclamation, in a style similar to that of a papal bull validating the verities of the Christian Church.

Fischer’s Soviet friends subscribed to a peculiar sort of social science. It prescribed acceptance of the truth of Marxian theory as a given and recommended that any validating procedure should proceed from a method of investigation that would only solicit confirming evidence. Disconfirming evidence was subject to “the hermeneutics of suspicion”, and a state-sponsored intellectual nomenclature acting in the manner of a medieval inquisition, was installed to guard the sacred premises of the revolutionary Weltanschauung.

Fischer biographers offer no evidence that the above considerations tormented him or even entered his mind. Even if he did consider them and accept that his revolutionary agency was compromised in terms of the Marxist metaphysic there were other options available that allowed an escape from this predicament. One of them was Bolshevism. If he needed consolation, this was where he could find it.

Bolshevism was not fastidious about the entry qualifications for aspiring revolutionaries. It offered a hardnosed strategy to modernise backward countries like South Africa. To backward Russia it offered a combination of state-aggrandising projects in the style of the tsars with redemptive promises of salvation in the style of the late medieval Vatican. It presented caesaropapist solutions to the ills of the world. It also offered the kind of salvation that would entail “breaking many eggs to make the omelet”. No one ever said that complying with the demands of history was for the faint-hearted or that one could “make a revolution without getting your white collar dirty”. Lenin never failed to remind his comrades of that.

In short, the type of class consciousness (if it is class consciousness) that built the totalitarian Soviet state and shaped its role in the international arena was cut from a different cloth from that of the mature and self-conscious proletarian that Marx predicted would unleash the liberating cataclysm in the advanced Western capitalist states. The same applies to the type of revolutionary agency it offered its converts. No wonder Clement Attlee pronounced Russian communism to be “the illegitimate child of Karl Marx and Catherine the Great”.

One has to bear in mind that Stalin’s Soviet state, to the eternal dismay of Trotsky and his followers, spawned national liberation struggles, not proletarian revolutions. One need not be a Trotskyite to realise that Stalinism contributed more to the withering away of the proletarian revolution than to that of the withering away of the state. Under its auspices the international proletarian revolution ended up with an ice pick stuck in its medulla oblongata, so to speak.

Bolshevism preached that in a world where capitalism has entered the imperialistic phase of its development the capitalist system became international. Thence exploitation had become international. Internal class war had taken a back seat to interstate war. The decisive conflict became not the one between classes but the one between the exploiting and the exploited nations on the planet, between the socialist states under Soviet leadership and the imperialist states in the West. The outcome would determine the fate of humankind.

The world was thus divided into two camps: the exploiting and the exploited nations. In the Marxian logic of Bolshevism, the dynamics of class polarisation and conflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat within a capitalist society were transposed into a different configuration. Under conditions of imperialism, national liberation movements in the exploited colonial countries were presented as the functional equivalent of the proletariat for the time being and the Western capitalist states and their allies as the bourgeois enemy. Wars of national liberation from imperialism and colonialism replaced class war as the major emancipatory project of “progressive” humankind. South Africa suffered from internal colonisation, “colonialism of a special kind”.

It was this Gestalt that shaped Fischer’s revolutionary consciousness, rather than the world evoked by the scientific socialism of Karl Marx. Marx’s world was too fastidious in the epistemological hurdles it erected for the likes of Fischer. Under a strict interpretation it offered him no revolutionary agency at all.

However, the qualifications for becoming a card-carrying member of the Club of Exploited Peoples were not as strict. Bolshevism was catholic in its approach. Peasants, traditional chieftains, workers with or without the appropriate class awareness, workers without work, the racially downtrodden and insulted, gangs, bergies and militant middle-class lawyers, even proto-bourgeois formations sprouting from the ranks of the exploited, could be joined in the harness if that would help the exploited to shake off the shackles of exploiting imperialism. Perhaps even those Afrikaners who had been devastated in two anti-imperialist wars and as armblankes suffered in the Great Depression were eligible, provided that they could resist the temptations of the fascist racism that inspired apartheid. When Nelson Mandela invited, as he frequently did, the people of South Africa to join “the majority” it was this moral community that he invoked.

The middle-class origins of most of the Bolshevik leadership and the Third World revolutionary progeny sponsored by the Soviet state never appeared to perceive this as an embarrassment either to themselves or to their followers. Class origin did not count. What counted was commitment to serving the interests of the Soviet state and its so-called emancipatory role in the arena of international conflict. Stalin had no qualms about going into alliance with the bourgeois-dominated imperialist states of the West when fascism threatened his throne.

Mens kan jou voorstel dat dit Fischer moerig moes gemaak het dat juis die mense – sy mense – wat na “’n Eeu van Onreg” so gebuk gegaan het onder die juk van Britse imperialisme en wat as armblankes in die Depressie so verniel is deur die krisis van internasionale kapitalisme, nou ontvanklik geword het vir wat hy beskou het as Hitler se emosionele gebulder oor ras. Probleem is dat Hitler se bewonderaars in Suid-Afrika destyds baie dieselfde soort verdoemende oordeel oor kapitalisme uitgespreek het. Dit was deel van die zeitgeist. Die voorstanders van kapitalisme het omtrent oral, buiten in die VSA, slae gekry.

Fischer chose Bolshevism to inform his revolutionary praxis. Despite his fervently held view that Marxian theory was a science, Fisher in his choice of praxis deviated from the plot of history as revealed by Marx in his scientific writings. He succumbed to the opportunistic stage-skipping Bolshevik superstition that advocated the necessity of an intelligentsia-led avant-garde Communist party in conditions where, like in South Africa at the time, most of the proletariat were still rather lumpen and the bulk of the rest of the population trapped in the idiocy of rural life.

Bolshevism stipulated that the weapon of socialist consciousness had to be implanted in the spontaneous working-class movement from the outside. It adopted the idea of a proletarian party directed by intellectuals versed in theory – a party expressing “the authentic, scientific consciousness of the proletariat, which the working class was unable to evolve for itself”. The Bolsheviks issued themselves with a licence to play God. The Word as History became flesh and dwelt upon the earth in the form of the Bolshevik Party.

Even in Fischer’s day there was compelling evidence that millennial avant-garde parties capturing the instrumentation of power available to modern technologically well-equipped states in backward societies were prone to become vehicles for modernisation by terror. As we have seen, Fischer chose to ignore this and remained devoted to the cause despite learning of the terrors Stalin’s party visited on the people in the Soviet Union.

If one considers the brutal manner in which the Soviet state imposed its will on its client states in the Eastern Bloc and the way in which it vanquished ethnic minorities in the name of solving the so-called national question in the Soviet Union, one has to concede that even if Fischer himself remained a well-meaning idealistic humanist through all of this, he sure as hell made common cause with a mean bunch of omelet makers, as Louis L’Amour would say. One sure hopes that his oft-declared hostility towards all forms of nationalism did not stem from the same root as the one that inspired The Great Leader.

Fischer se biograwe hou hom as so ‘n schoengeist aan ons voor dat ‘n mens moet aanneem dat hy moes gedink het die Gulag was ‘n soort kibboets. As ‘n mens dit kan glo, sal jy seker ook kan glo dat die hillbillies in Boorman se Deliverance bok-bok wou speel met Burt Reynolds en sy maters. Mens kan jou ook voorstel met watter geesdrif die wit Afrikaner-koelakke in Suid-Afrika moes uitgesien het na die koms van die soort verwoestende verlossing van ongeregtigheid waarmee Uncle Joe en die Boys die Russiese koelakke in die asblik van die geskiedenis laat beland het.

One suspects that a residual Calvinist voluntarism lingering in his bourgeois breast predisposed Fischer to the Bolshevik hubris. As the Mensheviks never ceased to argue, Marx would not have approved of this sort of opportunistic Russian seitensprung, but then Marx is reputed to have disclaimed that he was a Marxist. Marx was prone to disowning “unscientific” socialisms.

If one’s commitment to science can be corrupted into a commitment to scientism one becomes susceptible to the Bolshevik caesaropapist heresy that the Soviet state has become the Vatican of Revolution and that its preservation was the suprema lex. After all, with all that capitalistic encirclement about, science needed a congenial host state to harbour the intrepid social engineers who were going to demonstrate to humanity what was available as an alternative to the decadent West. The exploited nations of the world needed an example of what the future could be like to serve as model for what they themselves could become. For Marx the developed capitalist countries presented a mirror in which the less developed ones could see their own future. For Bolshevism the Soviet Union would be this mirror.

Fischer should perhaps have sown more of his political wild oats before taking up the old rugged cross for Bolshevism. There were other answers available in South Africa to the “What is to be done?” question than the one Lenin provided. One can only speculate about why the eloquence of the social metaphysic that carried this message seemed so persuasive and so attractive to Fischer. Perhaps it was a residual element from his Calvinist education that prompted him to join the Bolshevik fraternity in jumping the gun of history.

In his influential work The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism the sociologist Max Weber offers an argument that proposes a systematic link between Protestantism and capitalism. The argument goes roughly like this: Early Calvinists, in the pursuit of their beliefs, suffered under a compulsive anxiety to demonstrate to God that they, despite predestination, perhaps deserved to be one of His elect after all. This demonstration would take on the form of deeds ad maiorem gloriam dei. God’s cosmic design is encrypted in nature, so the redemptive search for God’s plan enjoins the salvation seeker to investigate nature with a furious passion. The painstaking investigation of nature becomes a religious duty and a desperate act of securing an elusive salvation. The unintended consequence is to issue empirical science with a heavenly endorsed charter. The fruits of the (scientific) discoveries of nature’s ways remain subject to the injunction of the ad maiorem gloriam dei logic. Discoveries must be harnessed to actions which will embellish the creation with surplus value (as a Marxian Protestant would say). All of this takes hard work, but hard work is its own reward (in fact it becomes a vocation) and a sign of a fervent wish to please the Supreme Being. What is the surest sign that a sinner is intoxicated with the desire to please God? Work! Selfless work with no regard for the sinful gratification its fruits proffer. Shun material consumption! Defer gratification! Arbeit macht frei. Filthy lucre lines the highway to perdition. It not only rends us apart within the equal spiritual brotherhood of Christ but also serves as a sign of falling away from God and abandoning the quest for salvation. It engenders the sinful state of false consciousness.

Where concerted action throughout a society follows from the enactment of these beliefs, a process that delivers the sort of economic surplus that can make sustained economic growth possible becomes established as a culture. It nurtures the spirit of capitalism.

Perhaps the same song sung from a Marxian libretto nurtures the spirit of Bolshevism. Weber could not have anticipated that the logic of the Protestant ethic could become so prolific as to be associated with both the spirit of capitalism and, as is likely in Fisher’s case, the spirit of Bolshevism.

Bolshevism allowed Fischer to remain the devoted morally outraged bourgeois activist he never ceased to be and to disregard the constraints of the Marxian version of predestination. The praxis that would bring successful revolution to a backward country was available after all. It was not necessary to wait for The Historical Plot to move in its mysterious ways its wonders to perform. If we brought offerings of frantic deeds ad maiorem gloriam revolutionis as a sign of our anxious desire to please The Historical Plot, they might be deemed an adequate supplication for relaxing the conditions of entry into the workers’ paradise. The suffering people of South Africa could not wait. The ersatz theodicy of orthodox Marxism demanded too high a price in patience from the suffering masses to retain its powers to justify the ways of the Historical Plot. In the face of so much social injustice, the Historical Plot’s only excuse is that it does not exist (as Voltaire said of God). One surmises that Fischer would not have gone as far as Voltaire. After all, Marxian “science” underwrote the providential nature of history – the inevitable ever remained a possibility.

Fischer’s friend Mary Benson reports in her autobiography that he mentioned he had been reading the Bible that he used when writing letters in code. “There is so much love in it and goodness but now only we are carrying on those ideas. Can’t you understand that Marxism is the answer to the world’s injustice?”

 ‘n Oom Bey met belt en kruisbande. Die Bybel en Die Handves saam onder sy arm? Ons ouens wat so baie alleen in Griekwaland sê dat die veld rondloop op soek na sprinkane en wilde heuning, het ‘n neus vir dié soort van ding. Ons kan ruik Boerekommuniste is eintlik maar net Christen-ketters.

Perhaps Stellenbosch University, in honouring Fischer, dimly recognised that in Fischer’s case it was a magnificent achievement to have failed to bring about the inevitable. Maybe they recognised that it had not been his to bring about in the first place. He was now a pope without a Vatican. With the advantage of hindsight they may have decided not to judge him too harshly. After all, who but the Afrikaners benefited most from the inevitable’s not coming to pass?

The more venal among those clamouring to honour him might even have had their generosity prompted by a massive sense of relief that the expropriators were not going to be expropriated after all. We can keep (almost) all the ill-gotten gains that history has bestowed on us! Moreover, whom do we have to thank? Thank the Opium of the Intellectuals. Thank bad theory. Thank Bram Fischer. He deserves our unreserved gratitude because his ideological beliefs proved to be utterly wrong as a guide to working out the secrets of humanity’s historical fate.

Tempered by relief and gratitude, some looked past his hubris and cast about for the qualities that the Afrikaners as inveterate Christian sentimentalists universally admire in the likes of Jesus of Nazareth, St Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They found it in his acts of self-sacrifice and his fervent commitment to expending his considerable talents to the benefit of his fellow human beings. They could even share in his Communism – in the comfortable awareness that Communism is merely a heresy within Christendom and that we still hold the patent on the original.

The Fischer debate has come and gone. The issues that either consciously or subliminally prompted it have not been resolved. The issue of the traditional elective affinity between Stellenbosch University and the Afrikaans language community remains. The issue of “ownership” remains. The issue of institutional autonomy in the face of state encroachment remains. The issue of whether voluntary euthanasia of Afrikaans as a university language is the appropriate way of saving vernacular Afrikaans from extinction remains. The issue of what a clear and unambiguous operational specification of the requirements for successful and acceptable institutional transformation entails remains. Etcetera.

Until we get some clarity and take some direction on these issues, it looks as though we can expect some more Fischer-style debates in the future.


Ek hoop van harte dat julle ou lot daar op Stellenbosch nou rus vir julle siele sal kry.

Ou “Dimlight” Badenhorst wat hier langs my op Vaalpan boer, sweer dis julle getwis wat maak dat dit vanjaar so droog is hier in die Griekwaland. Hy dreig om julle aan te gee. Hy wil ‘n saak maak teen julle, maar ek sê vir hom dit is ‘n Hogere Hand se dinge dié – ‘n saak maak sal nie help nie. Ons moet ‘n ander plan kry.

Toe dag ek: Hoekom tree julle nie vir ou Modjadji van die Verre Noorde aan om vir ons ‘n ou klammigheidjie op die grond te kry nie? Gee vir háár ‘n eredoktorsgraad. Sy is per slot van rekening ‘n reёnkoningin en anders as al hierdie ou lamgat profete wat deesdae nie hulle bekke uit die weer kan hou nie, belowe sy nie net nie. Sy doen! Sy maak die soort toorgoed wat die aarde natkry. Sy is nou wel al postuum, maar ons het mos nou al gesien daardie klas van ding vat julle mos nou nie eintlik kop toe nie.

Ou Dimlight sê as die plan werk sal hy al twee sy pare grys skoene saam met hulle bokse in die vuur steek en nooit weer ‘n voet naby so ‘n verderflike stuk skoeisel sit nie.

Ek sê as die eerste groot druppels op Plooysburg-kerk se sinkdak val, dan sit ek vir julle die slagdingetjie op die trein.

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  • Anton Visagie

    Beste Jannie: Jou saak is uiters swak. Kom ek vra jou van watter politieke filosofie was jy 'n aanhanger? Wat ook al jou antwoord: enigiemand sou sodanige perspektief kan aftakel - histories, teoreties en polities. Ek dink die uitstaande bydrae in die stryd teen apartheid, soos in die geval van die eerbare Bram Fischer, kan onderskei word van 'n mens se politieke filosofie. Daar is definitief 'n verwantskap tussen die twee, maar 'n politieke bydrae teen apartheid staan op sy eie. Jy verwar die Fischer-bydrae met sy politieke filosofie. En dit is vir sy anti-apartheidsbydrae wat institusies vir Bram Fischer bekroon.

  • Reageer

    Jou e-posadres sal nie gepubliseer word nie. Kommentaar is onderhewig aan moderering.