‘Angels and Demons’? the Dutch Reformed Church and Anticommunism in Twentieth Century South Africa

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Fourie, Ruhan
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University of the Free State
Afrikaner memories of apartheid are filled with images of an omnipotent communist threat, or the so-called Rooi Gevaar (Red Peril). This thesis explains why and how the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa (DRC), the organisation with the widest reach and deepest influence in the everyday lives of Afrikaners, played a significant role in perpetuating an anticommunist imagination amongst twentieth century Afrikaners. It fills a lacuna in the historiography of South African anticommunism, which has up until now been confined to a state-centric approach. Drawing on international theoretical frameworks, this thesis expands the dynamics of South African anticommunism beyond a Cold War-paradigm and embraces the flexibility of the phenomenon. The DRC acts as a lens into the intricacies of South African and, more specifically, Afrikaner anticommunism. It offers an original account of South African anticommunism by integrating a wide range of archival sources from the DRC’s extensive records, those of the Afrikaner-Broederbond (AB), and personal collections of key roleplayers, including Nico Diederichs, Koot Vorster, and Piet Meyer, into a single chronological narrative. This thesis argues that the DRC formed the backbone of Afrikaner anticommunism throughout the twentieth century. It illustrates that the church was not always the main driver, nor was its influence consistent. However, as a vessel of moral anticommunist propaganda, the DRC fulfilled a critical role in legitimising overt opposition to and suppression of ‘communism’ in all its perceived manifestations, including black dissent, whilst also creating an Afrikaner imagination – even at times a moral panic – in which the volk remained convinced of the ever-present communist threat, and of its own role as a bulwark against communism. Anticommunism, argues this thesis, functioned as a vehicle for nationalist unity (and uniformity), a paradigm for Afrikaner identity, and a legitimiser of the volk’s perceptions of its imagined moral high ground.
Thesis (Ph.D. (Centre for Africa Studies))--University of the Free State, 2021, Anticommunism, Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), Afrikaner nationalism, Apartheid, Red peril, Nico Diederichs, Dan de Beer, Koot Vorster, Andries Treurnicht, Piet Meyer, Johan Heyns, Albert Hertzog, Dirk Kotze, Philip Nel, Richard Wurmbrand, Carl McIntire, Antikom, National Council against Communism (NCC), Sending onder Kommuniste (SOK), Afrikaner-Broederbond, Institute for the Study of Marxism at the University of Stellenbosch (ISMUS)