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«THE RHODESIAN CRISIS IN BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, 1964-1965 by CARL PETER WATTS A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham For the ...»

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acknowledged: ‘In general, Southern Rhodesia did not capture the attention of the American public before UDI.’ 101 One student group at Princeton University found that there was so little news about Rhodesia in the United States – even though UDI was imminent – that it had to solicit information from a prominent British interest group. 102 In addition to lack of information, the effectiveness of the ANLCA was further undermined by the fact that it had no permanent office, which resulted in administrative weakness, such as the failure to publish its conference resolutions. 103 Finally, as British officials noted, although African-American leaders had the ear of the White House on domestic civil rights issues, it was by no means clear that they enjoyed similar leverage on U.S. policy towards Africa. 104 The last point is probably the most significant, since there is considerable evidence that President Johnson, and many in his administration, were determined to prevent the development of a distinct African-American voice in U.S.

foreign policy.

In December 1964 the ANLCA pressed the White House for a meeting with Johnson to discuss African policy. According to an NSC memorandum, Johnson made it clear: ‘He doesn’t think it at all a good idea to encourage a separate Negro view of foreign policy.

DeRoche, Black, White and Chrome, p. 101.

Rhodes House Library, Oxford: Papers of the Africa Bureau, MSS Afr. s1681, Box 258, File 10, David Wiley, Southern Africa Committee, National Student Christian Federation, Princeton University, to the Rhodesia Circle, Africa Bureau, London, 24 October 1965.

TNA: PRO, FO 371/176519, J. K. E. Broadley, British Embassy, Washington, to John Wilson, WCAD, Foreign Office, 12 October 1964.


We don’t want an integrated domestic policy and a segregated foreign policy.’ 105 The NSC suggested that as Rusk had a ‘particularly high standing’ with the ANLCA leaders he should try to deter them from pursuing a distinct African-American agenda on African

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administration’s position as baldly as Johnson had privately, but rather stressed the problems associated with U.S. policy, such as its strategic interest in the Azores base, which made its dealings with Portugal on African matters somewhat delicate. 107

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discovered shortly afterwards that the ANLCA intended to hold a meeting in order to create a permanent organisation for influencing U.S. foreign policy towards Africa, which Haynes saw as ‘an attempt to organize an “ethnic lobby” out of a heretofore relatively ineffective and loosely constituted interest group.’ 108 In order to remove the raison d’etre of such an ethnic lobby, Haynes urged a high-level U.S. ‘friendship tour’ of African states, which would combat the impression that U.S. interest in Africa was only triggered during times of crisis. 109 Clifford Alexander, one of Johnson’s special assistants, had similar concerns about the ANLCA, and suggested that the Bureau of African Affairs should ‘not give as much time and attention to representatives of the Conference as they LBJL: NSF, Africa Country File, Box 76, Vol. II (7/64-6/65), ‘Africa – General, Memos and Misc.’ [1 of 2], Komer to Bundy, 6 January 1965. Quoted in Krenn, Black Diplomacy, p. 134; and Lyons, ‘Keeping Africa off the Agenda’, p. 272.

LBJL: NSF, Africa Country File, Box 76, Vol. II (7/64-6/65), ‘Africa – General, Memos and Misc.’ [1 of 2], Bundy to Rusk, 7 January 1965. Quoted in Krenn, Black Diplomacy, p. 134.

LBJL: NSF, Files of Ulric Haynes, Box 1, Memorandum, Haynes to Bundy, 4 March 1965.

LBJL: NSF, Files of Ulric Haynes, Box 1, Memorandum, Haynes to Komer, 25 March 1965.


have in the past’. 110 Yet Haynes remained relatively relaxed about the ANLCA because he recognised that it lacked the organisational capabilities and financial resources to be effective. He also noted that other interest groups such as the ACOA and American Society for African Culture were ‘anxious to sabotage the creation of an all-Negro lobby which might diminish their respective importance.’ 111 Haynes concluded at the end of August 1965 that that the ANLCA ‘has proven itself to be a loose conglomeration of disparate organizations which lacks the expertise and background to be of any real help to us in formulating African policy.’ 112 Haynes suggested that Lee White, a civil rights adviser, should emphasise to the ANLCA leadership the importance of consulting with the State Department before taking public positions critical of U.S. policy, and should express the administration’s hope that the ANLCA would be helpful on African matters. 113 It may be argued that this clear desire within the Johnson administration to constrain the ANLCA during 1964 and 1965 was the most significant reason for its failure to influence U.S. policy towards southern Africa, which was compounded by organisational weaknesses in the ANLCA. Anthony Lake has commented: ‘It was an important failure, for this was the only anti-apartheid group with a natural interest in Africa’. 114 LBJL: NSF, Africa Country File, Box 76, Vol. II (7/64-6/65), ‘Africa – General, Memos and Misc.’ [1 of 2], Alexander to Bundy, [n.d.]. Quoted in Krenn, Black Diplomacy, p. 134.

LBJL: NSF, Files of Ulric Haynes, Box 1, Memorandum, Haynes to Komer, 14 April 1965.

LBJL: NSF, Files of Ulric Haynes, Box 1, Memorandum, Haynes to Lee C. White, 30 August 1965.


Lake, The ‘Tar Baby’ Option, pp. 71-72.

Conclusion The Johnson administration’s policy on Rhodesia can be seen as the result of compromise and conflict between different sections of the bureaucracy that competed to advance interpretations of how best to serve the national interest. There were sharp differences of opinion between policymakers on the degree of support to give Britain and Zambia as a consequence of Rhodesia’s UDI, but ultimately the advocates of a minimalist strategy prevailed. Several factors explain why the views of the Bureau of African Affairs were marginalised, but most significant among these was the inability of G. Mennen Williams to exert sufficient leverage with President Johnson, partly as a result of a clouded personal history and partly because Johnson had little interest in African affairs. U.S.

policy was also unaffected by interest groups concerned with southern Africa in general and Rhodesia in particular. Once again, the prevailing attitudes within the Johnson administration are crucial to understanding why pluralist influences were so limited. The bureaucratic politics and pluralist perspectives not only help to explain the process of policymaking in the Johnson administration, but also provide essential background for comprehending bilateral relations between the United States and Britain, which were explored in the preceding chapter.

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The Rhodesian Crisis in British and International Politics Reflections on the Rhodesian Crisis It is fashionable for historians to claim that their research is relevant to current events, not least because the chances of securing funding may be much improved by an emphasis on the relationship between past and present. This thesis does not stress such claims, but it is reasonable to agree with Lord Owen’s recent comment that the horrendous situation in

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pertinent to wonder how the history of Zimbabwe would have turned out had there been no UDI, and to ask whether there was a realistic prospect that a UDI might have been averted. Owen suggested that if the Conservative Party had been returned to power in October 1964 a UDI would not have occurred because the Commonwealth Secretary, Duncan Sandys, was ‘a very tough man’. Owen also observed that the Conservatives would have enjoyed the benefit of authority derived from continuity in office, which the Labour Government lacked. 2 On the other hand, it has been argued that relations between the Rhodesian Front and Labour were actually better than had been the case with the Conservatives, whom the Rhodesians perceived as too patrician. 3 Another point that Lord Owen, Plenary Speech, Rhodesian UDI: 40 Years On Conference, London School of Economics and Political Science, 5 January 2006.


Donal Lowry, ‘Cold War, Culture and Self-Perception’, Panel One: ‘Rhodesian UDI: The Domestic Context’, Rhodesian UDI: 40 Years On Conference, London School of Economics and Political Science, 5 January 2006.

militates against Owen’s counterfactual proposition is the continuity in policy between the Conservative and Labour Governments. The historian Anthony Low has suggested in relation to decolonisation that Harold Wilson was a prisoner of Harold Macmillan’s determination in the early 1960s to placate African opinion. 4 Indeed, as Chapter One of this thesis has pointed out, whilst Wilson was Leader of the Opposition he entered into a number of explicit commitments to bring about African majority rule in Rhodesia, which certainly tends to justify Low’s argument. Oliver Wright, who served as Wilson’s Foreign Office Private Secretary, has also remarked specifically on the continuity in

Rhodesian policy:

What was encouraging about it was that while Lord Home was trying to

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Wilson, when he took over at Number 10, continued this very much and tried to run Rhodesia keeping the Conservative Party on board. 5 This ‘national policy’ had profound political consequences in the wake of UDI because it splintered the Conservative Party and contributed to the decisive Labour victory in the 1966 general election. Aside from these obvious political advantages a number of other Anthony Low, ‘The End of the British Empire in Africa’, in P. Gifford & Wm. Roger Louis (eds.) Decolonisation and African Independence: the Transfers of Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), p. 64.

Churchill Archive Centre, Cambridge [hereafter CAC]: Diplomatic Oral History Programme [hereafter DOHP], GBR/0014/DOHP 17, Sir Oliver Wright, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, 1964-66, Transcript of Interview, 18 September 1996, pp. 12-13.

factors may also explain the continuity in policy between the Conservatives and Labour.

First, the resources available to consecutive governments do not differ significantly.

When the Labour Government was elected in October 1964 it found that the balance of payments crisis limited its freedom of manoeuvre in foreign as well as domestic policy.

Second, interest groups continually seek to influence government policy. During the Rhodesian Crisis there were groups on the left and right of the political spectrum that watched carefully to ensure that the British Government did not take action prejudicial to the interests of either the African nationalists or the Europeans in Rhodesia. Third, governments often inherit problems with certain options irrevocably ruled out. The Chiefs of Staff had consistently ruled out the use of force against Rhodesia since the early 1960s, which was a powerful constraint on government policy. Finally, the Civil Service is a permanent source of policy advice, which probably reinforced the continuity in

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Society tract acknowledged: ‘There is the traditional suspicion widespread in the Labour party that it is the Foreign Office which diverts a Labour Government from pursuing a radical course in foreign policy.’ 7 From a slightly different perspective Lord Norton, a This comment should be qualified with the observation that an incoming Labour administration is not permitted to have access to the political files of an outgoing Conservative administration, and vice versa. I am grateful to Dr N. J. Crowson for this information.

Rodney Fielding, The Making of Labour’s Foreign Policy (London: Fabian Society, 1975) p. 5. This is known as the ‘power-bloc’ model of ministerial-civil servant relations. Sir Nicholas Henderson has also commented that: ‘The Labour Government that came to power in 1964 were very (I think I may have reflected on this) very suspicious, not to say contemptuous, of officials. They thought officials were trying to oppose what they were doing.’ CAC: DOHP, GBR/0014/DOHP 32, Sir Nicholas Henderson, Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1963-65, Transcript of Interview, 24 September 1998, pp. 4-5.

respected academic, commented: ‘Insofar as they [civil servants] consciously exert influence over ministerial decisions, they do so not in pursuit of a particular party bias but rather in furtherance of what they perceive to be some “national interest”, seeking to steer ministers toward what one permanent secretary referred to as “the common ground”.’ 8 Yet whatever reason best explains the continuity between the Conservatives and Labour, it does not mean that the Labour Government’s Rhodesian policy was the right approach, or that it was the only policy that it could have pursued.

Continuity is only one of the remarkable features of the Labour Government’s Rhodesian policy. Another is the extent to which the Prime Minister dominated the formulation and execution of that policy. Philip Ziegler, Wilson’s official biographer, has observed that it is common for British Prime Ministers to take an interventionist role in foreign affairs and suggests that from the beginning of his time in office Wilson never intended to take a

back seat in dealing with international problems. In Ziegler’s opinion:

It can fairly be said that Wilson devoted a disproportionate part of his time and energies to a problem like Vietnam, in which the British interest was no more than peripheral. It is harder to criticise the time he devoted to Rhodesia, which was pre-eminently a British responsibility. 9 Philip Norton, The British Polity (London: Longman, 2nd edn., 1990), p. 221.

Philip Ziegler, Wilson: The Authorised Life of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx (London: HarperCollins, 1993), p.


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