n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - “Onkruid tussen die koring” : Oswald Pirow en die Nuwe Orde vir Suid-Afrika, 1940–1943

Volume 59 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0041-4751



“Weeds amongst the wheat”: Oswald Pirow and the New Order for South Africa, 1940–1943 

In 1940, after Germany’s crushing victory over France, and with Britain fighting for survival, South Africa was facing a period of political uncertainty. The popular feeling amongst many Afrikaners was that Britain had lost the war, and that for its own safety South Africa had to cut ties with the British Empire. Such a step required a new political order to replace the collapsing system of a British-dominated liberal-democratic capitalism. It was against this backdrop that Oswald Pirow (1890–1959), a former minister in the J.B.M. Hertzog government between 1929 and 1939, and a member of the Herenigde Nasionale Party (HNP), formed the New Order for South Africa (NO) on 25 September 1940 as a study group within the party to espouse national-socialistic ideals. Pirow was no conviction fascist and the founding of the NO represented an opportunistic trimming of the sails to prevailing political winds, to advance his own career. Highly intelligent, charismatic and an outstanding orator, at emotional mass meetings he was treated as a messianic figure, given his message that the Afrikaner had to follow the example of an authoritarian political system based on “staatsgesag” and “volksdissipline” which had emerged in Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. At the beginning of 1941 Pirow and the NO seemed unstoppable. And yet, by the end of the year he was marginalised, and by 1943 had become a pariah trapped in the political wilderness. This article argues that, after a few months during which Pirow was given free and uncritical passage to propagate national-socialism, the Afrikaans churches and the HNP launched an effective counterattack by condemning the principles of the NO as pagan and alien to the democratic traditions of the Afrikaner, while exposing Pirow’s opportunism. Ultimately, the Afrikaner churches and the HNP’s rejection of the principles of national-socialism, in a period when Nazi Germany was still winning the war, was the main factor leading to the collapse of the NO.

Hierdie artikel bied ’n ontleding van die redes waarom dit aanvanklik in 1940 vir Oswald Pirow – wat weens opportunistiese redes nasionaal-sosialisme aangehang het met die stigting van die Nuwe Orde vir Suid-Afrika – moontlik was om hierdie ideologie suksesvol te verkondig. Daar word aangevoer dat unieke omstandighede die politieke veld vir enkele maande vir hom oopgelaat het om nasionaal-sosialisme te propageer. Ná die Afrikaanse kerke en die Herenigde Nasionale Party daarop gewys het dat dit ’n heidense en totalitêre ideologie was wat teenstrydig was met die demokratiese tradisies en volksaard van die Afrikaner, is die Nuwe Orde met ’n toenemende kritiese houding bejeën. Gevolglik was Pirow teen die einde van 1941 ’n randfiguur en teen 1943 ’n gebrokene, vasgevang in die politieke wildernis. Alhoewel die aanklag dat Pirow ’n opportunis was wel ’n rol gespeel het, was die Afrikaanse kerke en die HNP se verwerping van die totalitêre aard van nasionaal-sosialisme (in ’n tydperk toe dit gelyk het asof Nazi-Duitsland besig was om die oorlog te wen) die beslissende rede waarom die Nuwe Orde ten gronde sou gaan.

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