The ideas you hold largely determine the actions you undertake in life. Your ideas, your philosophy, your ideology – these are signs that indicate your view of yourself, the world around you, and your role therein. Immoral ideas, ideas based on the use of force, lead to destructive consequences. Recent actions by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South Africa’s firebrand socialists and defenders of the working classes, prove this.
Over the weekend of 5-6 September, the EFF, led by Julius Malema, called for the closure of Clicks stores from 7 September onwards. Throughout the morning of the 7th, social media was awash with reports and images of various Clicks stores, where EFF members had either locked the stores with their own locks, prevented employees from entering, and vandalised some outlets. On Twitter, Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) shared these photos of a Clicks store in Witbank that was petrol bombed.
At time of writing, at least seven stores had been damaged. Instead of boycotting Clicks, the EFF decided the better path to take would be to actively prevent the thousands of mainly black South Africans who work and shop there from earning a living and picking up their prescriptions.
Since the end of March 2020, over 3 million South Africans have lost their jobs as a result of the government-imposed COVID-19 lockdown. Heading into the pandemic, over 10 million people were already unemployed. In the midst of such hardship and suffering, with a highly uncertain future and the prospect of even more job losses, the EFF chose the path that could result in Clicks employees losing their jobs too. EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu even referred to Clicks workers as “unfortunate collateral.” Look no further for a socialist’s unfeeling view of human beings – they are mere tools/objects, to be abused and discarded by the ‘leaders’ of the revolution. And if anyone happens to find themselves in the way, their livelihoods – and lives – are mere irritations to be trampled upon.
There can be no doubt that the Clicks advert that sparked the outrage was tone-deaf, insensitive, and ill-conceived. It implied that damaged hair and ‘black hair’ are intricately linked – and this was how many interpreted it. To then presume that the advert itself justified that the EFF take it upon themselves to literally attack Clicks, is quite another matter altogether.
That the EFF decided to take up the cause on behalf of ‘all’ black South Africans points to the paternalism that lies at the heart of any collectivist ideology. By virtue of a random characteristic – in this case, the colour of the skin you happen to be born with – you must necessarily think and feel exactly the same as everyone else who shares the same skin colour. Far from recognising the agency and dignity of individual people to do as they deem best, the EFF unilaterally decided to act in one way, as though black South Africans are incapable of deciding, assessing, and acting for themselves.
Socialism, the guiding ideology of the EFF, necessarily demands violence. Discourse and discussion can only get you so far – once an ‘enemy’ has been identified, violent methods are fair and will be used to suppress and attack those enemies. Never mind the individual workers at Clicks, who might lose their jobs if Clicks is forced to stop trading. They are merely “unfortunate” victims in the EFF’s glorious struggle.
Where is the real economic justice in this? Where is the economic transformation? Because the EFF cannot build, cannot imagine creating wealth through thinking and work, they can only entertain destruction as a method to ‘solve’ problems.
In general, we are resorting too often to methods of violence and blind action to address problems in society. The further we drift into the belief that only might makes right, that those who wield the biggest clubs should rule, the more we will see tension and conflict in virtually all aspects of life. The further we move to state control, and collectivist, tribalist thinking, the easier it will be for supposed ‘revolutionaries’ to tap into resentment and set different groups of people against each other. Of course, they will solve all our problems, provided we surrender enough of our freedoms to them.
The only real antidote to many of the ills that affect us lies in embracing individualism and respect for people’s ability and right to think and act for themselves. Allowing collectivist thinking to flourish only ensures that more people will resort to groupthink and violence to ‘solve’ problems. That is to the widespread harm of everyone in society.
Through voluntary association and trade – central features of capitalism – we can trade with those who give us value, and shun those with whom we disagree. What capitalism aims to eliminate is the daily – and necessary – use of force and fraud that is endemic to all socialist, communist, and fascist societies.