Think again Irvin Jim

Douglas Gibson on the NUMSA GS' bizarre attachment to Communism

President Ronald Reagan once said, “How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”

Mr Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), reads Marx and Lenin. In fact, he is an unabashed admirer of these gentlemen and he devoted his New Year message to promoting a new worker’s party, as yet unnamed and unformed, that every South African should resolve to join in 2018.

Jim stated, “We call on you to help us build a worker’s party which will fight in the interests of the working-class and the poor.” He carried on, “The struggle for socialism is not an end in itself; it is a struggle for a communist classless society which Karl Marx correctly described as: ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’. “

Of course, what both Karl Marx and Irvin Jim fail to understand is that while needs are infinite, the means to pay are not. Margaret Thatcher once put it neatly in a well-known retort, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Winston Churchill said, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” But to balance that he also said, "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

Irvin Jim correctly excoriates the ANC for the current economic situation in South Africa. It is such a pity that his solution is utterly misguided.

It is a fact that many people, not only the “working class” and the poor are struggling in an economy that is failing to deliver the goods. The Zuma years have been locust years. We are paying the price of a decade of policy confusion, the direct result of the unholy alliance formed between Zuma, Malema, Vavi, the SACP and many and various bandwagon-climbers, incompetents and corrupt looters. Anyone who would support Jacob Zuma was used, no matter where they stood on the economic questions of the day.

The Communist Irvin Jim is quite right to have no faith in the SACP. One does not know about the followers, but the leaders are mostly about as Communist as my Aunt Fanny. They fitted very happily into the Zuma cabinet and Blade Nzimande, their leader, promoted the idea of a law that would prevent anyone from insulting Zuma. IOL reported on 15 November 2012 as follows: “SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande says a law preventing people from insulting a sitting president is more than necessary because white South Africans have shown very little respect for blacks and their cultures.

“Nzimande became the first senior tripartite alliance leader to publicly back a call for the so-called insult law on Wednesday, saying whites have pushed their black counterparts to the limit with their disrespectful treatment of President Jacob Zuma.” He suggested that whites respected only Jewish and Afrikaner cultures. So much for the SACP’s non-racial tradition and a pathetic revelation of how thin is their commitment to the values of our Constitution.

In the sense that there is no real Communist party in South Africa, Jim might have a point. The serious question he and his followers need to answer, however, is the following: Does South Africa need a Communist party? F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote: “The important thing is that you should not argue with them (Communists)… Whatever you say, they have ways of twisting it into shapes which put you in some lower category of mankind, ‘Fascist,’ ‘Liberal,’ ‘Trotskyist,’ and disparage you both intellectually and personally in the process.”

At the risk of ignoring Fitzgerald’s warning, one must ask the Communists – and Irvin Jim and Numsa – exactly which countries follow Communist policies and succeed in creating a better life for their citizens? Which countries, on the other hand, have uplifted billions of people in a few generations by pursuing market economic policies?

Few countries today apply Marxist policies, although a number still pretend to be Communist; one that does is Venezuela. It has the largest proven reserves of oil in the world and was the richest country in South America twenty years ago. Jeremy Corbyn, the British opposition leader, like our own Julius Malema, was a great admirer of Venezuela’s Marxist policies and the reforms brought about by Hugo Chavez and his successor, President Maduro. Corbyn hailed Venezuela as a model of socialism — until it brought carnage, ruin and squalor to a once wealthy country.

Oliver Harvey wrote in The Sun on 2 June 2017 as follows: “Chavez… wrecked the economy with mass nationalisation, price controls and wild public spending even when oil revenues began to dry up. The farms he ruthlessly seized have failed and the people starved.

“Now…famished citizens in the capital Caracas are looting supermarkets and restaurants after prices rocketed and inflation climbs towards 1,600 per cent.

“Others are desperately killing and eating wild anteaters, alligators, parrots and flamingos and even the few animals in Caracas zoo that have not yet starved to death.

“Hospitals have run low of basic medicines and there isn’t even clean soap for doctors to wash their hands.

“One of the richest countries in the world has become one of the poorest inside 20 years.”

Think again, Irvin Jim. Surely this case study of Venezuela must ring an alarm bell in your mind. South Africa could no doubt do with a decent Social Democratic party. With a coherent programme suitable for 2018 and not for 1918, it could be an alternative to the open, opportunity market- oriented policies with a social conscience, pursued by the Democratic Alliance.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand. His website is: douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com.

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.