Rhodes Must Stand

UCT Cape Town, Statue of Rhodes

Rhodes Must Stand

Arthur St Hugh defends a visionary Englishman

Earlier this year a statue to Cecil Rhodes was removed from the University of Cape Town on the grounds that it was ‘offensive to blacks’. One might ask why it was that the Afrikaners never found it offensive and had it removed when South Africa became independent, as after all Rhodes, more than anyone, was responsible for the ending of the independence of their Boer republics in a bloody war of imperial conquest. Perhaps the Afrikaners considered that Rhodes should be recognised for bringing into existence something that was actually greater than what had existed previously? Or perhaps the Afrikaners considered that the values Rhodes upheld – liberalism, parliamentary democracy, magna carta and the rule of law – were applicable to themselves, that they were indeed ‘universal values’ as David Cameron and the Conservative Party view them.

It is perfectly legitimate to question whether it was right for the imperialist Rhodes to seek to forge a federal union with liberal ‘universal values’ in southern Africa. Perhaps separate states with different values might have been just as right; and perhaps that is what will emerge in due course.

But Rhodes has been reconceived as ‘apartheid’s founding father’ rather than as effectively the founding father of South Africa. Clearly the current ruling race in South Africa does not wish to be reminded of the ancestry of the state they now possess. Rhodesia’s name was changed because it did not wish to be reminded of the creator of the state they had acquired; the statue of Rhodes in Salisbury has been gone for many years, and likewise the values that Rhodes upheld have long since been obliterated and replaced by the values of Mugabe.

However, it is not just from Cape Town University that offended blacks want statues of Rhodes removed. There is a Rhodes Must Fall [i] group here at Oxford University demanding its statue be removed too. Brian Kwoba, founder of the Oxford Pan-Afrikan Forum, believes that Rhodes is the “single most familiar symbol of European colonialism in history”. [ii] But it is not just the extirpation of the memory of British history that is desired. As one leading member of the group, “rapper”[iii] Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, son of Dali Mpofu[iv], has stated: “many other things must fall too”. [v] Brian Kwoba complains that there is a “lack of racial awareness among Oxford students” and that “[m]any Oxford students also remain ignorant of Britain’s imperial legacy”, [vi] something many patriotic Britons would probably agree with though one gets the impression patriotic Britons are not his primary audience. To the Rhodes Must Fall group Cecil Rhodes symbolises not just “European colonialism”, but also “symbolises the oppressive ethos that pervades [Oxford] university today”. One of the group’s activists, Annie Teriba, claims that the University “wasn’t built with us in mind”, [vii] the ‘us’ being “students of colour”; but seemingly it must be changed so that they are in mind. Brian Kwoba believes that “Rhodesian systems of oppression – like Eurocentrism, white superiority, and male domination – have colonised the education system”, [viii] implying, if taken literally, a deliberate (recent?) change from a ‘time before’. Cecil Rhodes has thus been transformed from an object in history into a whole range of subjective “systems” to which certain people can define themselves against. The group demands that the University ““decolonise” the campus and curriculum”. [ix] But it is not ideas that colonise, it is people. And so is it not they themselves who are seeking to colonise the campus and curriculum?

The “lavishly-funded leftist blog for academia”[x] ‘The Conversation’ promotes the message that the curriculum must be taken “back” (sic) from “dead white men like William Shakespeare”. [xi] Yet the dead white men being referred to is our culture, so they are saying that our culture must be removed (or given much less space) and replaced with the culture of their race. As Fanon noted in The Wretched of the Earth, a “national culture under colonial domination is a contested culture whose destruction is sought in systematic fashion.” Another stated aim is to increase the number of non-Britons in positions of leadership within academia, [xii] the replacement then of our people with their people. And as we know, it is not just in academia, but in all institutions, including government.

Toppling Rhodes thus becomes a Baudrillardian divergence between image and reality: the symbol is the fight against “oppression” whilst the reality is the improvement of the economic and political position of migrants and settler colonists to the detriment of the indigenous British. White collaborators unthinkingly rationalise acceptance of this activity as being ‘inclusive’ because to them the symbol has more meaning that the reality, indeed the reality has no meaning for them.

That groups like Rhodes Must Fall can act without rebuke is because the mainstream parties are doing little to tackle radicalisation among immigrants and settler colonists, particularly when in this case the radicalised migrants are repeating back to them the same left-wing phrases which they endorse. Radicalisation is but the self-realisation of cultural difference; it is the negation of integration and seeks to redefine supposed shared values. Those radicalised recognise there are no ‘universal values’ rather there are the values of an ‘us’ and the values of ‘the other’.

Outside the Houses of Parliament there is a statue of Oliver Cromwell, an idol offensive to Royalists and Irish Catholics, a man whose basis for government was the right of might not democracy or legalism. Yet do we believe that just because that statue stands that everyone in Parliament is a Puritan fanatic (or indeed a Christian of any sort)? Does the statue to someone who had a great many Irish men and women enslaved mean that Parliament cannot now pass laws against slavery? If a statue to a tyrant, someone guilty of the greatest crime that of regicide, a religious extremist who waged war upon his own people, is acceptable then how can a statue to Rhodes, someone innocent of all those things, be somehow worse?

One might also note that there is now a statue to Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square. Should we just accept it as an inexplicable irrelevancy, the statue of some foreigner who did nothing for the British and whom no one will remember in a few years anyway, or should whites be offended by it as certain blacks are by statues of Rhodes and perceive Mandela not as a figure in history but as the symbol of a hateful ideology which oppresses all Europeans? Do Britons need to be as radicalised as groups like Rhodes Must Fall? Either way, ‘universal values’ must fall.

[i] Facebook Rhodes Must Fall In Oxford
[ii] Cherwell Rhodes must fall, here and now
[iii] Beacon Reader The Music and Politics of Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh
[iv] Business Day live The top 10 Dali Mpofu controversies
[v] IOL News Rhodes activists gunning for Oxford
[vi] Cherwell Rhodes must fall, here and now
[vii] Sky News Oxford Students Want ‘Racist’ Statue Removed
[viii] Cherwell Rhodes must fall, here and now
[ix] The Guardian Oxford Uni must decolonise its campus and curriculum, say students ; The Independent Oxford University students call for greater ‘racial sensitivity’ at the institution and say it must be ‘decolonised’
[x] The Quadrant online A Rather One-Sided ‘Conversation’
[xi] The Conversation It’s time to take the curriculum back from dead white men
[xii] The Conversation There are fewer than 100 black professors in Britain – why?

ARTHUR ST HUGH has written for the London Swinton Circle

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