Ian Douglas Smith
The Great Betrayal: The Memoirs of Ian Douglas Smith
London: Blake, 1997
After the end of the Second World War, it was only a matter of time for white-run countries in the Third World, especially in Africa. South Africa held out the longest before capitulating to the anti-white Left and allowing black rule in the early 1990s. A decade earlier, however, its neighbor Rhodesia had suffered the same fate, largely due to bullying tactics and deceit from Great Britain, as well as from South Africa itself. At least that’s how former Rhodesian Prime Minister, Ian Smith, describes it in his 1997 autobiography The Great Betrayal, which more than anything chronicles his beloved country’s slow-motion death spasms. Despite its failings, The Great Betrayal is instructive and even enlightening in many ways.
From a modern dissident perspective, The Great Betrayal disappoints more often than not, since Smith never wavers from his civic nationalist conservatism — even when such conservatism ultimately could not save his country from disaster. When it comes to race he’s not much different than Donald Trump or any of the current crop of America First politicians. He continually props up the benign treatment of “our blacks” as evidence of Rhodesia’s moral preeminence in the same way that Trump used to crow about low black unemployment under his presidency.
In chapter after chapter, Smith informs us that Rhodesian blacks had it better than blacks in black-run African countries. Here is an example:
Not only overseas visitors, but those who came on a mission seeking evidence, including a number of British MPs, conceded how much more we had done for our black people than had been done in all the surrounding countries. We had provided better schools, better hospitals, better houses, better recreation facilities, and a higher standard of living. We also had peace, which was exceptional and almost unique in the world, and a declining crime rate. Yet the UN, with the support of both Britain and the USA, had passed a resolution declaring that Rhodesia was a ‘threat to world peace.’
All of this may have been perfectly true, but the truth does lose some of its luster when it doesn’t really matter in the long run.
And as for Rhodesia not quite allowing blacks the same political rights as whites throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, Smith repeatedly reminds us that the Rhodesian constitution allowed for eventual black rule. Smith’s main bone of contention with the external forces trying to hurry up this process was that blacks were not as culturally developed as whites, and so needed more time to catch up when it came to maintaining high levels of civilization. Smith believed in “evolution as opposed to revolution,” and never stopped hoping for the day when black Rhodesians could run Rhodesia as well as their white counterparts.
With the advent of highly accurate neural imaging, as well as with sophisticated statistical analyses of IQ and race on a global scale, we now know that culture is the result of racial differences, not the cause of them, and these racial differences in IQ and temperament are indeed biological. In Smith’s day, of course, this was not common knowledge — but you’d think it would have been for a white African politician who’d been born and raised in the Dark Continent surrounded by Negroes in their own element. But apparently not.
Despite being cleared-eyed about the disastrous results of African independence after Harold Macmillan’s “Winds of Change” speech of 1960; despite knowing firsthand the violence, corruption, and poverty which inevitably comes with black rule; and despite knowing full well the threat posed by Soviet-backed black African terrorists such as Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), never in his 400-page autobiography does Smith question the Leftist dogma of racial egalitarianism. And despite effectively leading his country to ruin by ceding power to the blacks in 1979 and allowing it to be renamed Zimbabwe, he nevertheless stands by his belief that his civic nationalism had always been the right course to follow. The best he can do is lament that the Western powers never gave Rhodesia the chance to put it to the test. He ends his book by offering his full-throated support for the newly-elected black Prime Minister of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
The Great Betrayal is indeed disappointing and often tedious. Much of it reads like summarized diary entries, filled with extraneous material and the political ephemera of the 1960s and ‘70s. The events he describes are repetitive, and Smith doesn’t seem interested in filtering out the unimportant ones. He basically continually recapitulates the following formula:
- Smith was informed of a meeting with [insert Great Betrayer here] that could have helped to solve some of Rhodesia’s problems.
- Smith was cautiously hopeful.
- Smith discovered that [insert Great Betrayer here] is instead trying to betray Rhodesia.
- Smith was forced to make some small concession to [insert Great Betrayer here].
- Smith returned home disappointed.
Depending on the time period, the Great Betrayer could have been England, South Africa, or Robert Mugabe. Yes, after Mugabe took over Zimbabwe, Ian Smith had several meetings with the Marxist tyrant and attempted to work with him for the betterment of their new country. What makes The Great Betrayal so frustrating is that Smith has no excuse for doing this. With England and South Africa — as blameworthy as they were for the fall of Rhodesia in Smith’s eyes — there was always hope that bad actors could be voted out of office or swayed by public opinion. Likewise, England and South Africa did not resort to violence to get Smith to stand down and allow Rhodesia to cede power to its blacks. With Mugabe, however, Smith states several times that Mugabe used illegal and violent methods prior to 1980 to intimidate Rhodesia’s black voters. He states explicitly on pages 352 and 353 that Mugabe’s ZANLA was killing and raping villagers in the regions of Rhodesia known as Matabeleland and Mashonaland. Mugabe was therefore little more than a thug and terrorist.
But when this thug and terrorist “won” his election in 1980, Smith accepted it like a true patriot and attempted in good faith to convince this criminal to improve schools and restrain his anti-white ministers — or whatever. A few years later, when Mugabe became the brutal dictator he always wanted to be, Smith — thematically for his memoirs — felt betrayed.
While reading Smith’s autobiography, I initially built up quite a bit of respect and admiration for him as a straight-talking Western stalwart, but much of that went away once I read about his naïveté regarding Mugabe. What was he thinking in having truck with such a person? What did he think Mugabe was going to do, turn over a new leaf and start acting out of fairness and benevolence? After Mugabe’s fraudulent electoral victory, Smith was told that certain ranking members of the military were ready to step in, but he dismissed the idea as madness. Would military intervention have been any madder than the decades of poverty, corruption, oppression, and wanton murder initiated by Mugabe? I know 1980 was too early for hindsight, but what about 1997, when the book was published? Hadn’t Smith had enough time to admit that not stopping Mugabe when he had the chance may have been a bad idea? Apparently not. In his autobiography, Smith doesn’t second guess himself on anything.
I can’t recommend The Great Betrayal except for experts and connoisseurs of colonial African history, or for those who may have lived through some of the events Smith discusses. Nevertheless, a few useful lessons remain.
Aside from the chapters on his youth and exploits as a fighter pilot in the Second World War, which are interesting in their own right, Smith provides a clear and concise history of Rhodesia. He emphasizes how, when Cecil Rhodes and other white pioneers in southern Africa came across what is now Zimbabwe in the late nineteenth century, the land was largely uninhabited. The whites actually occupied the land before the Zulus did, and so, as Smith writes, “no one could accuse them of trespassing or taking part in an invasion.” Lesson number one right there.
From then until 1979, Rhodesia was a sterling citadel of, if not white, then Western Civilization. If anything, Ian Smith was an emphatic and uncompromising proponent of Western Civilization and all the Enlightenment ideals it stands for — not least democracy and freedom. He was also a pro-family conservative and staunch nationalist, and writes fairly eloquently about it:
Wherever the new settlers went, the first thing they did was to raise the Union Jack. This was part of pioneering a new country — something in which the people back in Britain had never participated. Nor did they know anything about the spirit of nationalism associated with the opening up of new lands in the name of monarch and country. These were the things that motivated pride and a belief in nationalism. There was a feeling of duty to believe in a cause, to make a stand to support and defend it.
Ian Smith really did love Rhodesia. And why not? During its time, it was peaceful, productive, and orderly. It remains a shining example of what whites can accomplish when they are determined and have confidence and pride in themselves. The problem is that Smith continued to love Rhodesia (or really, Zimbabwe) even as it was sinking back into the morass of Black Africa during the 1980s and ‘90s. It’s as if in his later years, he was forced to choose between blood and soil, and he actually chose — quite perversely, as it turned out — soil.
So the second lesson of The Great Betrayal is that civic nationalism alone is never enough. Any form of white or European nationalism which isn’t explicitly racial or ethnic will eventually fall to the Left’s universal egalitarianism. For white people, that will inevitably lead to oblivion.
The third lesson is that Rhodesia, South Africa, or any white outpost in the Third World should never have taken sides against the Third Reich. Smith often reiterates his anti-totalitarianism and seems to believe that his own and his country’s fight against the Nazis should have insulated them from pressure from their former allies decades later. He also argues that since most of Rhodesia’s black enemies were either Communists or Soviet pawns, England and the West had no grounds upon which to oppose Rhodesia.
Of his time immediately after the war, he states emphatically that
I felt a kind of frustration that there had not been more time to mete out more punishment to the Nazis and the fascists who had brought so much suffering, tragedy, and destruction to our world.
Yes, this is bad. To his credit, however, Smith lumps the Soviets in with the Nazis as equal baddies and claims that by not taking them out as well, the Second World War was “a job half finished.” But he doesn’t think his position all the way through. Had they won the war, would the undeniably race-realist and anti-Leftist Nazis have betrayed Rhodesia the way England and the West did? Would they have tolerated or even encouraged Communist-backed terrorism against an ally the way England and the West did? Probably not. And so it should have occurred to Smith at some point that perhaps he and his fellow white Africans had backed the wrong horse in the 1940s.
Lesson number four: You cannot rely on blacks to produce or maintain high standards of civilization. As a group, they are too lazy, unintelligent, violent, and easily corruptible to do so. Yes, there are blacks who are not like this, but they will always be in the minority, and will always be beaten out politically and militarily by the ones who are.
Shortly after ceding control to Bishop Murozewa in 1979 (the man whom Mugabe replaced a year later), Smith states:
The sense of urgency was lacking. At our security council meeting the next day, 13 June, the point was again stressed that our black cabinet ministers were not active enough as far as our amnesty plan was concerned. Zindoga was the only one to hold a meeting in the tribal trust lands. The rest were sitting back, enjoying life in their new positions.
Two weeks later, Smith recorded the following in his diary:
It was given headline prominence in The Herald with a big photograph of the new Prime Minister sitting on his throne, dressed up looking like a colorful rooster, and a bantam at that, sitting on a replica of the ox-wagons used by the Pioneer Column when they occupied the country in 1890. I cringed and closed my eyes. Murozewa and his ancestors had not even invented a wheel by the time the white man arrived . . .
On page after page, Smith carefully catalogues the incompetence, corruption, cruelty, and anti-whitism of the black African leaders who had replaced him and his cabinet in the 1980s. You can feel the growing disgust and frustration between the lines, especially when he describes how Mugabe ordered his North Korean-trained soldiers into Matabeleland in 1982, where they proceeded to kill 30,000 people. And the anti-white insults and perfidy from Zimbabwe’s black leadership only increased over time.
Towards the end of The Great Betrayal, Smith lashes out one last time against his enemies and those of his beloved Rhodesia. What he says is both tragic and poignant:
Moreover, in keeping with the incompetence and corruption associated with communism, the economy has collapsed. Inflation and interest rates, which were below 3 per cent in the days of the previous ‘racist regime’, rose to a peak in excess of 40 per cent last year. The Rhodesian dollar was on a par with sterling, worth 100 pence, while today the Zimbabwe dollar is worth five pence. It is difficult to find a black Zimbabwean these days who will not tell you that is standard of living deteriorated since the advent of ‘freedom’ fifteen years ago. There are frequent reports of starving people roaming the countryside in search of wild fruits and seeds to eat in order to maintain life.
When the peasant farmer complains about the unavailability of land, he is told, indeed the whole world is told . . . that his government is having problems with white racist farmers reluctant to part with their land. The truth, of course, is the very opposite. I can take you to a farm which was productive and earning foreign exchange, taken over by government a few years ago, which is now lying unoccupied with derelict and ransacked buildings. There are many such cases, involving more than a million acres.
The final lesson of The Great Betrayal is by far the most important. Rhodesia is gone. Ian Smith is gone. But the mendacious inheritors of both Rhodesia’s black and white enemies remain. They remain in power in Africa, and they remain in power in Western Europe and the United States. Despite the catastrophe that free Africa has become and the darkening West is quickly becoming, they have not wavered one iota from their Leftist ideological roots. And their job is not yet done. What they accomplished in Africa, they plan to replicate across the entire West.
There is no other conclusion to draw: The people who didn’t want whites in charge in Africa in the days of Ian Smith don’t want them in charge anywhere.
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