Going along in South Africa

The Labor Party of South Africa has given itself a challenge that even today's doubters must hope in their hearts it can meet. As the largest party among the Coloreds (South Africans of mixed race), it promises to work for reform of a racially repressive government while accepting the possibility of participating in it.

Parliamentary participation for Coloreds and Indians in a power-sharing arrangement with the ruling whites is promised under a plan proposed by Prime Minister Botha. An Indian party is expected to join the Labor Party in agreeing to the plan before long.

Could these groups help to lift the apartheid system of racial segregation by efforts within a new ''multiracial'' government? No one denies the potential obstacles: the omission of South Africa's black majority from the plan; the possibility of Coloreds and Indians being co-opted, obtaining advantages for themselves but not the black majority; the possibility of creating new divisiveness and tension rather than reducing them.

On the other hand, suppose the rulers were actually to let the participation of Coloreds and Indians make a difference for everybody. Suppose the new participants pursued progress for their black countrymen along with themselves, and suppose they were allowed some success. The credit then would be multiracial, as well as the apparatus. A step would be taken on the road to the healing of this nation that has been wounded for so long.

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