The mischievous deviousness of Jeremy Cronin
by The Editor
FEATURE: Jeremy Cronin, along with a great many other people in the alliance, constantly suggest liberalism was the source of much wrong in South Africa’s past, and should therefore be dismissed. They are wrong on the facts. But that’s not the point. If it’s historical injustice the SACP wants to speak out against, it should take a look in the mirror – because socialism is responsible for mass murder on an unprecendeted scale. If anyone has some explaining to do, its the SACP. And someone should ask them to start.
The mischievous deviousness of Jeremy Cronin
By: Gareth van Onselen
7 June 2012
The number of intellectuals within the ANC and the alliance is rapidly in decline and that is perhaps to be expected, demagoguery engenders populism, not considered thought. And so most of them have either run scared or been chased away. Thus, over the past few years, we have seen the rise of popular and, often, unthinking rhetoric. We are subjected to the painful experience of watching Jacob Zuma bumble through an interview, or Blade Nzimande stitch together a raft of incomprehensible socialist gobbledygook, or Irvin Jim savage reason, or Julius Malema butcher logic. It’s all rather excruciating.
And so I have a certain amount of time for Jeremy Cronin. Say what you want about his ideological belief system, at least he is vaguely coherent. His latest missive, however, seems to suggest he too has fallen victim to the stupefying effect of the ANC’s love affair with all things intellectually vacuous.
Amid a myriad misrepresentations, one particular piece of intellectual deviousness stands out: the way in which Cronin misrepresents liberalism in a convenient but dishonest way. The general thrust of his proposition is the following: ‘liberalism’ is responsible for a great many evils in South Africa’s past and so, we should dismiss it and certainly dismiss those that would advocate it today. It’s the kind of logic a child would employ: I believe your friend bullied me, therefore you are a bully. Wrong on the facts and wrong on the assumptions he makes from those misrepresentations.
Well, two can play that game. How’s this for a statement: socialism and the pursuit thereof have been responsible for a series of belief systems which, over the course of human history, have in turn seen millions of innocent people brutally tortured, deprived of their basic human rights, dehumanised and murdered, so people should dismiss the idea as flawed and dangerous.
I can see Cronin jumping to his feet with a thousand explanations. That wasn’t socialism. It was a perversion. You are simplifying the complex. You don’t understand.
Whatever, Jeremy; if you want to go around blaming ideologies for people’s behaviour and, from there, to project a range of false assumptions about its nature, take a long hard look in the mirror because there are very few modern ideological belief systems that have produced the kind of mass murder and brutal bloodshed that Stalin and Mao were responsible for, all in the name of socialism.
If anyone has some historical explaining to do, it’s the SACP. Indeed, the question I pose is a far more pertinent one because, as has repeatedly been demonstrated – again, and again, and again – socialism leads inevitably to dictatorship; if not, the complete and utter impoverishment of those people over whom it is imposed.
Perhaps it’s time for some of those explanations. I wonder, what does the SACP think of Mao? Of Stalin? Of North Korea? Pol Pot? The gulag? The trials? The torture? The poverty? Where are its statements condemning those historical and current aberrations? Good luck finding them. No, it’s fine quietly to advocate socialism to South Africa in a kind of blissful ahistorical and amoral bubble, as if it has no context – and then to go around preaching to others? Please. The SACP couldn’t be more morally compromised if it tried. It’s disgraceful really.
It’s a bit like having a modern day proponent of Lebensraum heckling from their moral soapbox without so much as a nod in history’s direction. Where’s the integrity?
I think it is fair to say, over the past 18 years, the SACP has yet to show an ounce of remorse for the massive suffering socialism has inflicted on humanity to date. It takes a special kind of arrogance to think you occupy the moral high ground when the history you represent is stained a deep red with the blood of millions.
I could spend hours disproving the various point-by-point mistakes Cronin makes in his piece but, ironically, it would be pointless. Cronin is interested not in evidence but guilt by association and misrepresentation, the last refuge of the scoundrel.
If the SACP wants to debate the merits of liberalism, I will put forward the realisation of those civil liberties that define the bill of human rights and on which our constitution is based – the vast majority of which came about in response to the tyranny of socialism and nationalism, not because of them. If the SACP wants to advocate for socialism, well, it had better have an outstanding explanation for those wide-ranging historical atrocities for which it is responsible – one which, I might add, seems to have elluded history’s authors to date.
Until then, a little perspective please. And some humility wouldn’t be amiss either. Likewise, perhaps some internal reflection: why is it exactly that Zuma’s socialst agenda is slowly but steadily transforming the ANC and the alliance into a demagogic play pen? Perhaps a little internal liberalism would help.
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I love reading your articles Gareth – this one, in particular, was most interesting and informative. I must confess that I had not thought of the points that you have made in it, but very valid. Keep up the great work. Regards Richard Bryant
Nice article. I was motivated to read it because from the ‘summary’ you provide, it almost sounded as if you were performing the very same mistake that you’re accusing Cronin of making — but upon reading the article it’s clear that your very point is that such logic is wrong.
Another good comparison is atheism. Conservative members of the church argue that atheism was responsible for communism and mass-murder (quite the hypocrisy, in that case). But we all know that atheism has nothing to do with communism or dictatorship, and that in fact, generally atheists are not an organised bunch.
Another example is the theory of evolution which was ‘kick-started’ by Darwin. Some of Darwin’s political and economic beliefs are controversial, there are also accusations that he was a racist. Does that make evolution wrong? Creationists seem to cling to the idea that since Darwin’s philosophies were bad, it’s better to live in a society without evolution.