Voltaire, the DA and Cosatu
When we silence those we disagree with, we silence ourselves.
I disagree with the DA on what the effect of their proposed Youth Wage Subsidy will be. For my full reasoning on this, click here.
But the DA march on Cosatu exposed an important principle, one that is being trampled.
It is the right I hold to be the most fundamental of all rights, and it is the right that Cosatu and its supporters who have called the DA action “provocative” are most willing to trample.
It is the right to disagree.
The Avusa building has had protests outside its doors before. These protests have largely been peaceful, but imagine for one second if we the people who work here started throwing stones at them.
It wouldn’t be a triumph of the free media, it wouldn’t be a matter of people saying the protesters were engaged in a “provocative” action, and the discussion wouldn’t be centred around how the protesters should have been marching somewhere else, it would have quite simply been wrong.
The DA march was legally constituted, and Cosatu had no right to deny the marchers their voice.
There are people who say this opens the door to Cosatu counter-marching on the DA’s offices. That door has always been open, Cosatu has every right to do so should they choose and if the DA greets them similarly the DA would be in the wrong.
The DA is in my opinion wrong on its policy – but that does not translate into it being right to silence their arguments for that policy.
Otherwise abusive employers could quite justly consider Cosatu provocative when it marches on their factories – and hire thugs to open fire. The government could very well proclaim striking public service workers “provocative” and shoot them down.
After all, those employers think Cosatu is wrong. Violence is not the solution to incorrect speech, the solution is more speech otherwise whether we are right or wrong; we all lose.
As Voltaire once said, “I disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”