A full test of the generalizability of the organizational mediation theory of protest is beyond the scope of this book. However, preliminary analysis of the South Africa antiapartheid struggle and the Northern Ireland republican movement demonstrates the promise of its broad application. These cases differ from the Palestinian national movement with regard to the culture and social structure of the populations involved and the international and regional contexts in which they were embedded. Nevertheless, important commonalities indicate a sound basis for comparison. All three are self-determination movements that developed through various stages over the greater part of the 20th century. Each viewed its struggle as that of an indigenous population against dispossession that occurred when another people, facilitated by imperial power, settled their homeland. Conflicting claims to political power over a single territory spawned protracted conflicts in which insurgent national movements fought a state, as well as another ethnic, sectarian, or national group. In this context, the South African, Northern Irish, and Palestinian movements employed a mixture of armed and unarmed strategies. They ultimately engaged in peace negotiations as well. Along the way, each movement struggled with the challenge of unifying its ranks, asserting command and control, and instituting legitimate rules for the resolution of internal disputes over strategy, ideology, and external alliances. Each movement’s success in doing so depended on the extent to which its organizational structure was made cohesive through leadership, institutions, and collective purpose. In turn, this organizational cohesion or fragmentation systematically mediated the movements’ abilities to engage in nonviolent protest, as well as their propensities toward violence.
European penetration of what became South Africa began in the 17th century with Dutch and other settlers from northwest Europe, who came to be known as Afrikaners. Colonists from Great Britain arrived later. In 1910 the Union of South Africa combined these British colonies, Afrikaner republics, and neighboring African kingdoms as a dominion of the British Empire. The country’s white minority proceeded to establish its domination over the 75 percent of the population that was not white. It did so through a series of informal and formal rules, such as those confining the right to vote to whites, restricting Africans’ landownership to reserves, requiring nonwhites to carry passes at all times, and barring them from skilled trades. By the time South Africa attained independence in 1931, racial segregation and discrimination pervaded all areas of politics, economics, and society.