Perhaps nowhere is the political emergency of the West becoming so clear as in the recent developments in South Africa, which by now most if not all of my readers will already have heard. Under the leadership of the new South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the parliament has initiated the process to establish a constitutional amendment permitting the uncompensated seizure of land on the part of the government. One should specify—as if it were not perfectly obvious—that this means the uncompensated seizure of White-owned land.
In the estimation of Dan Roodt, co-founder of the Pro-Afrikaans Action Group, the usually sluggish ANC has every intention of stepping lively in the present case. Indeed, Ramaphosa has made this policy one of the centerpieces of his presidency, and the constitutional committee which has been tasked with preparing a report on the proposed amendment must submit its work by 30 August of the present year. It is then back to parliament for the final debate and the final vote. The amendment will require a majority of either two-thirds or four-quarters if it is to pass, depending on what parts of the constitution the committee deems will be affected. And as matters presently stand, the proponents of the amendment already have their two-thirds.
Julius Malema, leader of the so-called “Economic Freedom Fighters” (scoundrels in our day always favor pretty titles), has claimed that land redistribution is a question of “justice.” That is a wide word to fit into the mouth of a thief. The defenders of the Boers (the group that would be worst wounded by an amendment of this kind) have multiple ripostes, to wit:
The Boers settled the territory in question generations ago, in some cases as many as four centuries;
In many cases, if not a majority of cases, the Boers took nothing from the indigenous tribes, but rather homesteaded empty and idle land;
The entire idea that the Boers stole something from the Africans cannot be maintained for the simple reason that the indigenous tribes in those days had no concept of personal property, so that the derivative concept of “theft” is both anachronistic and legally void;
The current expropriation of land cannot help but result in economic and social disaster in an already destabilized and fragile country, which cannot be a consequence of a just act;
Many of the Blacks who stand to favor from land redistribution are in fact not descendants of the original tribes of that area, but are rather descended of later immigrants from the regions immediately north of South Africa;
Many of the original and immigrant Africans belonged to various tribes of the Bantu, a violent and expansionistic aboriginal people who themselves massacred many Boers;
Most if not all of the inhabited land occupied by the Boers was taken from tribes that had previously taken it from other tribes, thus complicating if not altogether voiding the question of original right;
If the Boers, who have owned and worked the land in question for centuries, must relinquish their land to its “original owners,” then surely the same precedent must hold in any number of other cases, such as that of the Israelis, the Chinese (e.g., in Tibet), the Turks (with the Kurds), the Americans, and the Australians. This, however, is patently absurd, and any attempt in such a direction (which in truth could not get off the ground to begin with) would be resisted steadfastly by the countries in question.
No doubt other arguments could and should be added to this list; and though we entirely endorse their energetic use by our South African brethren, who have need of all the means at their disposal in their present desperate struggle, they are quite beside the point: for in a certain sense justice does not enter the question at hand.
The battle presently underway in South Africa, despite its conscious façade of legality, is in fact super-legal. Not the soundest arguments in the world will budge these contestants, because the essential interests that each side defends are fundamental to it. Each side is, for vital and unshakable reasons, already convinced of where right lies; each side, lawyer-like, but adduces post hoc arguments in favor of what it already believes; and what each side believes cannot be reconciled with what the other side believes. In consequence, the direr grows the situation, the more these antagonists will resort to whatever means can pragmatically be used to deliver their victory.
Thucydides expressed these insights immortally through the Athenian delegate in the famous Melian dialogue:
Justice in the affairs of men is determined between equals, while the strong carry to term what they are able, and the weak suffer what they must. (The Peloponnesian War, Book 5, §89. Translation mine.)
But if this is really how matters stand—if the day goes merely to the strongest or the most ruthless—what then? Realpolitik, and have done with it? Is debate and argument merely futile, so much wasted breath and squandered ink? But on the contrary. In the first place, debate and argument are urgently necessary, not to convince our enemies, but to rally our allies; the debate that we bring against the opposition is in fact always aimed, directly or indirectly, toward our slumbering kin. More fundamentally yet, justice does not cease to exist where it ceases to be effective: it is indeed precisely a fundamental principle of justice to see to it that justice is able to rule. But this can be achieved only through an awareness of the effective conditions of justice.
Justice exists only within an ordered nation. A society of human beings can be considered a nation (from natio, Lating for birth) only if it is composed of groups which are fundamentally akin or which are fundamentally capable of becoming kin. Barring this, there can be no grounds for establishing an overarching legal right. Between groups which are essentially and in all ways strangers to one another the natural mode of interaction is through power struggles, and the law in such struggles transforms into a tool or a weapon.
This dynamic is taking hold throughout the West, and has become indeed obvious for anyone not blinded by the dogmas of egalitarianism. It can be seen in the increasingly divisive and racialized politics of the United States; it can be heard in the ever more imperious demands of the Muslims throughout Europe to accept their Sharia law, to build their mosques, and to reverence their holy men; it can almost be touched in events like the recent violent mob of Blacks in Florence which “protested” the murder of a Senegalese man by smashing shop windows and overturning dumpsters and literally spitting in the face of the mayor. These are all clearly disputes, not between members of one and the same nation, but between members of several nations who live in disastrous proximity to each other.
From any extra-national viewpoint (and all interactions between nations or peoples of extremely different customs or origins necessarily occur extra-nationally), right is either taken or it is ceded. It is taken by ruthless force, or it is ceded by magnanimity or by the decline of a will to rule; in both cases, it is the powerful alone who dispose of right. The idea of “universal rights” or of an “international law” which lacks a governing body capable of enforcing that law, is fundamentally empty—or better say, such “rights” and such a “law” can finally only pertain to the interactions of those groups of people who carry the law and right within themselves, and who are bound, by an internal sense of honor or fairness, to abide by the restrictions imposed by such a feeble giant as, for instance, the United Nations.
The leaders of our South African kin forfeited their right to govern in 1994, and the Boers and Afrikaners must now live with the consequences of that choice, employing the slender means at their disposal to defend what is theirs. We in the other parts of the West are yet in time to preserve our command of our regimes, our lands, and our ways; but we can only do so if we see clearly that the right to rule which we presently possess was neither a gift of chance nor a divine dispensation: it was won by our forebears in long and bloody contest against alien peoples. That right is itself possible only within the context of the societies that they have erected, and that we maintain and govern. No other people of the world, within or without our societies, will recognize these, our rights; foreign peoples are neither obliged to, nor in general willing to, recognize any interests but their own. That is, in its way, a principle of justice itself.
Let this then be the rule which we bring to our fellow men of the Occident: justice among brethren, rights among kin. And as for our dealings with all those peoples and parts that belong to the remainder of the world, may it come to be again as Virgil sang it: may we learn once more, in high Western fashion, to “spare the humble and vanquish the arrogant.”