Chapter One The Cohesive Forces of Cross-Racial Solidarity
1.1 Poverty Stricken White Farmers and the Blacks
On South African farms, white farmers become poor whites because of the lack of original capital, long-term loans and the environment of imperial monopoly. Poor whites and the blacks share the similar economic and social status, and it is possible for them to cooperate with each other and form the relatively equal relationships. In The Grass Is Singing, Lessing describes the poor situations of white farmers who run small-scale farms and lack money to expand farm area. The background of The Grass Is Singing is set in the time period between the two world wars. (Xu, 2019: 102) During this period, Britain was in the economic and political crisis and in the stage of imperialism, and the British government encouraged the whites who were lack of money to immigrate to Africa to run farms. In addition, British government promised to provide white immigrants with loans. However, rich farmers were the agents of imperial monopoly organizations, and they had the advantages of concentrating production and annex small farms. From the perspective of political economy, imperialism is monopolized capitalism, characterized by “monopolizing large producers and annexing small producers.” (Lenin, 1960: 77) White farmers who are lack of original capital and apply for loans are likely to be poor whites. As a result, poor whites are in the low class on the farms, as well as the blacks. As for the blacks, their poverty is mainly caused by the oppression from the white government. The white government controls all lands and resources, which deprives the blacks’ ability to develop the economy independently. The blacks lose their means and tools of production, so they must make a living in the white economic system. The blacks are forced to do high-intensity work with low wages. Both poor whites and the blacks belong to the inferior class on farms, so it is possible for them to connect with each other. Similar poverty of white farmers and the blacks creates the relatively equal relationship, which helps them to construct cross-racial solidarity.
1.2 Poor Whites and the Blacks’ Common Need for Survival
The climate of South Africa is hot and dry, which leads to people’s lack of water and food. In this harsh natural environment, poor white farmers are unable to plant crops by themselves because they are not accustomed to the climate. At this point, poor whites need black labors who are skilled at planting. For the blacks, they also need to work in farms to obtain survival materials. Therefore, both poor whites and the blacks have the common need for survival and they are willing to spontaneously build cross-racial solidarity. According to Freud’s theory, survival is one of the instincts that human must satisfy. (Sigmund, 2003: 31) “Instincts” are the basic requirements, primitive impulses and inner motivations in human life. Driven by instincts, people seek survival, development, and reproduction, full of creativity and constructiveness. In The Grass Is Singing and “The Second Hut”, poor white farmers represented by Dick and Major Carruthers treat the blacks friendly because of their survival need for labors in agricultural production and farm management. As Major Carruthers reveals: “It was walking on a knife-edge, but his simple human relationship with his workers was his greatest asset as a farmer, and he knew it.” (Lessing, 2000: 90) White farmers have to create harmonious relationships with the blacks to hire them as cheap labors, which is significant to the survival of farms. At the same time, the blacks also rely on white farmers for salary and shelters.
Chapter Two Cross-Racial Cooperation
2.1 Racial Equality as the Basis of Cross-Racial Solidarity
In Lessing’s works, poor whites and the blacks achieve cross-racial solidarity by reestablishing the value of racial equality and carrying out the cooperation principle in daily life. In “The Second Hut”, Major Carruthers encourages the blacks to help Heerden to build a hut, which symbolizes cross-racial cooperation among British whites, the Dutch, and the blacks. In this novel, for Major Carruthers, it is his responsibility to provide a hut for workers. Major Carruthers encourages black labors to build the hut because he needs a harmonious employment relationship to increase productivity. Building the hut is a kind of reciprocal behavior to ensure poor whites’ survival, to improve farm production, and to promote racial harmony.
Cross-racial solidarity can be achieved by people’s reestablishment of the concept of racial equality. (Hooker, 2009: 22). Major Carruther’s attitude toward Heerden changes from discrimination to sympathy, reflecting the principle of equality. After the Boer War, the Dutch became the enemy of British whites. When Major Carruthers sees Van Heerden, he immediately realizes that Van Heerden’s is his traditional enemy and has strong inherent dislike. (Lessing, 2008: 44) However, Major Carruthers overcomes his discrimination, expresses the sympathy and understanding for Van Heerden’s midlife crisis, and voluntarily forms the cooperative relationship with him. Since Heerden does not get along well with blacks, Major Carruthers tries to promote cooperative relationships between them. When the racial conflict firstly arises, the blacks are persuaded by Major Carruthers to make a compromise. By shaping the character of Major Carruthers, Lessing indicates that white people can eliminate their inherent racial discrimination and reconstruct the concept of racial equality.
2.2 From Jungle Law to the Survival Law of Cooperation
In the process of cross-racial cooperation, poor whites’ attitude toward the blacks changes from competition to cooperation. The whites’ competitive attitude toward the blacks is influenced by Jungle law of Social Darwinism. According to Zheng Jiaxin’s research, most white colonists in South Africa are the supporters of Jungle Law and Social Darwinism. (Zheng, 2000: 368) Affected by Jungle law, white colonists take competition for granted, and take others’ failure of survival as deserved. In “The Second Hut”, when the poor white Van Heerden follows Jungle Law and competes with the blacks in building his hut, he encounters racial violence from the blacks, and eventually loses his new hut and the little child. In Lessing’s opinion, Jungle Law is not appropriate for the survival of poor whites and the blacks because the environment of South Africa forces the blacks and poor whites to cooperate: the hot and dry climate of South Africa requires poor whites to get help from the blacks who are good at planting crops. In addition, the environment of capitalist economy in South Africa encourages cooperation between poor whites and the blacks to circulate labors and goods. Therefore, the realities of South Africa force poor whites to change their attitude from competition to the survival law of cooperation.
Chapter Three The Obstacles to Cross-Racial Solidarity........................................ 52
3.1 The Racial Conflicts Caused by the Blacks’ Loss of Lands ............................... 52
3.2 The Exploitation of Black Workers by Rich White Farmers ............................. 54
3.3 Discrimination Against Poor Whites and the Blacks ........................................... 58
Conclusion ....................................... 64
Chapter Three The Obstacles to Cross-Racial Solidarity
3.1 The Racial Conflicts Caused by the Blacks’ Loss of Lands
In Lessing’s novels, land ownership is a focal point of racial conflicts between the whites and the blacks, and these racial conflicts become great obstacles to the establishment of cross-racial solidarity. Land ownership is of great significant to people’s life. The blacks live on native lands and plant crops on there. However, the whites want to use lands to plant commercial crops for more economic benefits. When the whites control lands, they replace traditional crops with commercial crops, leading to serious environmental problems, such as soil loss. Therefore, the whites have to expand farms by dispossessing the blacks’ lands. As a result, there is a vicious circle：expansion-soil loss-expansion. The whites’ deprivation of the blacks’ land ownership intensifies racial conflicts.
The reason why the whites dispossess the blacks’ lands is the shortage of lands caused by severe soil loss on the whites’ farms. In order to pursue economic profit, white farmers replace traditional cheap crops with commercial crops, causing environmental problems such as soil loss and declining soil quality. In The Grass Is Singing, Charlie’s farm is barren and desolate because of the extensive plantation of tobacco. This story is set at the time period from the 1920s to the 1940s. At that time, high-profit corn cultivation in Southern Rhodesia declined, and tobacco cultivation emerged. (Scott, 1952: 189) In this novel, Lessing describes the severe soil loss in Charlie’s farm.
In The Grass Is Singing and This Was the Old Chief’s Country, Lessing expresses her concern for people’s survival situations in South Africa and her expectation for the future development of this country. In these two works, Lessing shows her idea of cross-racial solidarity. She believes that building cross-racial solidarity is a reasonable and practical way for South Africa’s economic development and social stability.
In general, cross-racial solidarity is an inevitable process in South Africa, driven by poor whites and the blacks’ common needs for survival, widespread poverty and the cultural hybridity. In these novels, Lessing describes the survival crisis of the blacks and poor whites under racism and colonialism. Because of the lack of original capital, long-term loans and the environment of imperial monopoly, white farmers are annexed by rich farmers and become poor whites. Poor whites have the equal economic and social status with the blacks, so they are classified as the inferior class on farms. The similar poor situations make it possible for poor whites and the blacks to understand each other and build equal relationships. Due to the harsh environment in South Africa, poor whites need to cooperate with black labors to maintain agricultural production and obtain survival materials. At the same time, the blacks also rely on poor whites to get wages and shelters. Therefore, poor whites and the blacks tend to construct cross-racial solidarity to meet their common need for survival. In addition, poor whites and the blacks influence each other and form the cultural hybridity. The blacks are affected by the white culture by imitating white language and identity. Poor whites who subjectively have close connections with the blacks are also influenced by the black culture, which is presented in the values of harmony between nature and human and harmonious interpersonal relationship. The cultural hybridity encourages poor whites to recognize Africa that it is a vigorous and prosperous land, and this recognition provides poor whites and the blacks with shared values of ecology and interpersonal relationship.