oa Historia - Nasionalisme en neutralisme en die uitbreek van die Tweede Wereldoorlog : 'n vergelyking van die faktore en omstandighede wat ontwikkelinge in die V.S.A., Suid- Afrika en Ierland bepaal het

Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



Nationalism and neutrality and the outbreak of the Second World War. The article presents an analysis of the circumstances and factors that played a determining role in shaping the policies of the United States of America, the Irish Free State and the Union of South Africa at the outbreak of the Second World War. The idea of neutrality was a lively issue in all three countries, although the governments reacted differently to it. In the case of South Africa a major political storm developed over the issue of neutrality leading to a government crisis which left its scars on South African political history for the next ten years. Congress dictated a policy of strict neutrality for the U.S.A. but President Franklin D. Roosevelt deliberately undermined this policy, and gradually drew America deeper into the War. The strange form of neutrality was aptly descriptionbed as unneutral neutrality. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour the United States took over a leading role in the Allied War effort. The Free State of Ireland remained neutral throughout the war although the government in Dublin took no measures to restrict trade with the Allied Powers or to curb the recruiting of soldiers in Ireland. The government deliberately turned a blind eye to these developments because of the economic benefits it entailed. The similarities and differences that evolved around the neutrality issue in these countries are outlined and compared. The important role of nationalism in all three is underlined, especially the strongly willed desire to demonstrate their independence and selfreliance. British power and domination was after all a dominant factor in the history and the contemporary politics of all three countries. There were, however, important differences in the practical manifestations of this nationalism. In South Africa it was mostly the Afrikaner who supported the policy of neutrality to demonstrate their newly won independence from Great Britain, the ertswhile conqueror of the Afrikaner republics. Irish nationalism was much more strongly developed and much more vivid than Afrikaner nationalism. The long history of struggle, resistance and antipathy left deep scars on Anglo-Irish relations. The unsatisfactory division of Ireland into two states made Irish nationalists determined to unite the Irish provinces in a single independent state. In the case of the United States the special relationship that developed with Britain since the First World War directed the energy of American nationalism in a different direction. It was more an expression of complacent isolationism than of a desire to leave Britain alone. While a dragged out constitutional wrangling between Congress and the President developed in America, the constitutional issue was of central importance in the case of South Africa and Ireland. South Africa's constitutional development was temporarily terminated with the enactment of the Status Act. This was not the case in Ireland where constitutional ties with Westminster were deliberately weakened during 1934-1937, culminating in the new unilateral constitution of 1937 which eliminated all references to the Crown. The opposition party in South Africa, the Purified National Party, was keen to stimulate a similar process in South Africa. They did not succeed to the same extent but the neutrality issue proved a very useful one. The main conclusion in the article is that if General J.C. Smuts showed more political finesse and followed the Roosevelt pattern of gradually involving South Africa in the war, the political history of South Africa for the next 5-10 years could have been different. The Irish example never presented a serious practical option for South Africa.

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