WASHINGTON. — The stories coming out of South Africa exposing the regime of Frederik W. de Klerk as the funder of murderous conflict among blacks provokes an observation that is applicable everywhere, including in the United States:
Where black people are seeking power, or a political or social status that whites do not want them to have, the white man can always find enough black men who'll take money to do the dirty work of thwarting change.
Even as Mr. de Klerk was vowing to establish ''an equal political playing field'' in South Africa, his cops and other covert agents were spending millions of dollars on ''special secret projects'' designed to stall for years, if not forever, the transfer of power to the black majority.
The first goal was to keep blacks divided, killing each other in such a way that the rest of the world would say, ''These Africans are so tribal that they aren't ready to hold political and economic power.''
So the masters of apartheid secretly gave millions of dollars to Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, inspiring violent confrontations with members of the African National Congress (ANC) with which Mr. de Klerk is supposed to be negotiating a new constitution.
The South African Defense Forces secretly trained Zulu ''security police,'' some of whom are suspected of joining white cops with blackened faces in staging massacres on trains and in other places. These massacres intensified the hatreds and provoked more black-on-black killing (some 2,000 in the last year), pushing the day of black majority rule far into the future.
Not only was South Africa instrumental in keeping a civil war in neighboring Namibia going on for years, but it gave ''well over'' $35 million secretly to its preferred black political parties to try -- futilely -- to prevent the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) from winning the 1989 independence elections.
Mr. de Klerk says ''international ethics'' allows this kind of meddling in the internal affairs of another country. He cited U. S. funding of the opposition Contras in Nicaragua as an example of ''international ethics.''
Whites like Mr. de Klerk can always find some blacks who want money and a promise of prestige and a little power so badly that they will do the dirty work of the white boss.
I saw this in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and the Congo (now Zaire) where Moise Tshombe was the tool willing to lead a secession of the Katanga province so Belgian interests would still be able to exploit its mineral resources.
I watched Ronald Reagan put several black foxes inside the ''chicken coops'' of America's war on poverty, its efforts to deliver housing to the poor and middle class, its programs to equalize job opportunities and protect the civil rights of all Americans. In columns and books, I have named some of America's black Quislings.
I watch now as President Bush tries to use a black judge to give legal cover to the wiping out of many gains made by blacks, other minorities and women over the last half century.
Divide and conquer is still the strategy employed against blacks everywhere. I doubt that the sordid revelations about duplicity and double agendas in South Africa will cause the defenders of ''white power'' anywhere to abandon this game.
Carl Rowan is a syndicated columnist.