Education: demand better!

Below Red Youth reproduce a speech from Zeno Casella, coordinator of the Swiss Independent Union of Students and Apprentices, made on behalf of the Communist Party (Switzerland). In the speech, made at the Cambiare il mondo conference in Italy, he reveals the common issues in education across Europe, namely that it is becoming ever more narrow and limited for the working class, not to mention the degredation brought by privatisation.

See the communists’ latest resolution on education for more.

Dear camarades,

I would like to thank the comrades of Fronte Popolare on behalf of the Swiss Communist Party for their invitation to this important conference.

The bicentenary of the birth of Karl Marx is not an opportunity to exhume a thought two centuries old, but to account for its validity and relevance. Scientific socialism as enunciated by Marx and Engels is not an old-fashioned and shabby intellectual tool, but a theory apt to guide a practice of social action. This is what binds us together here today: to grasp from the past the lessons and the method necessary to understand and act in the present.

My speech will therefore focus on a theme that is not very explored but extremely relevant for guiding some important struggles over the years. My role as coordinator of the Independent Union of Students and Apprentices (SISA) in Canton Ticino gives me the opportunity to find, in Marx’s texts, some valuable information on school and education in general.

1.

All the excerpts that I will quote are taken from the 1st book of Capital. The root of the educational problem is to be found for Marx in the division of labor typical of the capitalist mode of production:

“Manufacturing generates in every trade that seizes a class of so-called workers without skills, which was strictly excluded from the conduction as artisan type. (…) The relative devaluation of the labor force, which derives from the disappearance or the reduction of training expenses, immediately implies a higher valorisation of capital”

The devaluation of the workforce has extremely important consequences on the capabilities that a man must possess in order to perform his function in the productive apparatus. Marx writes:

“While simple cooperation leaves the individual working mode unchanged on the whole, manufacturing revolutionizes this way of working from top to bottom, and takes the individual workforce at its root. It cripples the worker and makes a monstrosity by favoring, as in a greenhouse, the ability to detail, by suppressing a whole world of impulses and productive dispositions.”

However, the very development of the productive forces creates a crucial contradiction in the formative needs of capital. With the words of Marx:

“For the big industry it becomes a matter of life or death to replace that monstrosity that is a miserable working population available, kept in reserve for the variable need for exploitation of capital, the absolute availability of man to vary the demands of labor; substituting the partial individual, the mere vehicle of a social function of detail, the totally developed individual, for whom different social functions are modes of activity that change one another”.

On the other hand, however, instructing the masses poses the problem of social control to the bourgeoisie: Marx reports in this regard the revealing words of Mr. Geddes, an English glassmaker:

“In my opinion, the greatest amount of education that has been used by the working class in recent years is harmful and dangerous, because it makes it too independent.”

Capital is therefore prey to a contradictory dilemma: is it necessary to instruct the masses to have available to the skilled labor force, or rather to keep them in ignorance so that they are more docile?

2.

The words of Mr. Geddes unfortunately correspond to those of the current ruling classes of the entire continent. After the massification of the studies of the second post-war period, dictated by the productive needs and by the more favorable relations of force to the workers’ movement, the neoliberal revolution began to dismantle the social progress achieved in the educational field. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and with it the need to support a “social” confrontation with respect to the socialist bloc, public education has been severely attacked, from the school network to scholarships, while education itself becomes a commodity on the market .

The student union in Ticino did not fail to relaunch the fight against education cuts, especially as regards scholarships: on Wednesday itself, as part of a national day of mobilization, SISA organized protest actions in seven high schools of the canton. Now we continue to demand from Parliament the examination of our petition delivered last April, which calls for a policy to strengthen aid, in contrast to the cuts of recent years.

On the other hand, the new conditions of the global economy, constantly revolutionized by an impetuous and uncontrollable technological development, need a flexible and easily relocated labor from one sector to another.

What to do then? Assure complete training, at 360° on human knowledge, to every worker to ensure that he can be “reallocated” in the event of delocalization or automation of production functions?

Well, no: capital has succeeded in formulating and imposing new pedagogical paradigms that are strictly functional to its objectives: the famous “teaching by skills” allows to “equip” students (that are future workers) with a set of attitudes and skills practices through which they can be easily and quickly adapted to each new production task.

In this perspective, the so-called “knowledge” is no longer strictly necessary and should be omitted, as easily perishable in a context that is constantly changing and just as easily recoverable in a computerized society like ours.

At the end of the day, both to be a rider, an Amazon storekeeper or a McDonalds cashier, you need to be able to manage an electronic interface, to work in a group, to speak verbally in one or two languages, but you certainly do not need to know when America was discovered, what is the chemical composition of water, or what the basics of computer programming are.

The new curricula, drawn up on the guidelines of centers of global capitalism such as the OECD or the EU, are therefore increasingly focused on the “skills” to be developed during schooling and put aside the teaching contents, which however constitute the main knowledge that the popular classes can take in their lives (as they are almost never intended to do higher studies).

The struggle for an emancipatory education thus also passes through the resistance to these new pedagogical trends: SISA has had to face the introduction of a new Study Plan focused precisely on teaching for skills. A pedagogical revolution challenged by a few, including some deserving magisterial associations of social democratic tendency but with some Marxist reminiscences or the Communist Party itself. In this regard, our deputy Massimiliano Ay sent a question to the cantonal government, which pointed out the various critical aspects of this approach to teaching (whose disastrous consequences have already been observed in the United States, where it is a reality from beginning of the 2000s). We are still waiting for an answer.

3.

In conclusion, I would like to draw your attention to some reflections developed by Marx in his work and to draw some “features” for a socialist education.

From the Marxian observation of the contradictory development of modern industry, an extremely interesting perspective for the student movement and more generally the scholastic movement was born. Marx writes:

“From the factory system was born the germ of education of the future, which will connect for all children over a certain age, productive work with education and gymnastics, not only as a method to increase social production, but also as the only method to produce men of full and harmonious development. ”

The author of the Capital states here what in the Communist Party Manifesto is defined as “the unification of education and material production”. A polytechnic education that reconnects education to productive work, to train fully developed men.

This perspective is however far from the forms of exploitation of young people such as those introduced in recent years: neither the Italian school-work alternation (often without any educational value) nor the Swiss apprenticeship (in which cultural education is completely left out, and in which the poor wages often do not correspond in the least to the production made).

We must fight against these forms of juvenile exploitation, against the deformities they have assumed, but without repudiating the educational value of productive labor, which must be combined with theoretical formation for a complete education of man. This is the perspective to be recovered and on which to work to found a popular, emancipatory, democratic school, in the wake of the socialist experience of the last century.

Red Youth at CPGB-ML congress

Red Youth play a central role in the 8th Congress of the CPGB-ML

Over a period of five months preparations were made for the 8th Congress of the CPGB-ML. Branches, study circles and regional groups began to undertake the official preparatory work in June and delegates who were entitled to full rights were registered in accordance with the party rules. It was with pride that Red Youth had a number of voting delegates at the Congress, full party members in their own right as well as a number of qualifying candidates who were permitted to attend without vote.

Our red youth were in the forefront in many of the debates on issues directly affecting British youth; housing, education, identity politics, racism and employment rights. Young trade unionists spoke of work they were involved in to reach out to workers in the ‘gig economy’ whilst others spoke about the plight of young unemployed workers, the struggle to get affordable housing, the pernicious influences of identity politics, and the right to education. Motions which were passed will be published alongside select speeches and contributions in the party press in due course. Our red youth acquitted themselves ably in the discussions and demonstrated a high degree of willingness to master the science of Marxism-Leninism during debates on proletarian culture, identity politics, philosophy and economics.

At the close of our Congress many delegates were returning to their regions with plans for improving their local work especially amongst young workers. One delegate has left his employment voluntarily to take up an opportunity organised by the party to undertake significant solidarity work with Korean workers. Our comrade caught a flight to Seoul where he spends this month in solidarity work jointly with the PDP, struggling against imperialism and for the reunification of Korea in meaningful solidarity work, speaking at meetings of workers and taking part in demonstrations against the US military presence in south Korea. A full report of his trip will be found on this site soon.

Birmingham Worker candidates

Birmingham Worker candidate speaks out on behalf of working-class youth

The following is the statement of Reuben Lawrence, made to a hustings meeting organised by Stirchley Forum. As Reuben was at work, he was not able to attend, and no-one was allowed to speak on his behalf. He was able to submit a brief opening statement and concluding remark, which are reproduced below.

 

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Communist Party of Britain’s General Secretary: “communism is unsustainable”

On the occasion of the centenary of the Great Socialist October Revolution, on the 6 November on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, CPB General Secretary Robert Griffiths was invited to speak amongst a barrage of anti-communist propaganda. Rather than countering the inevitable and obvious attack with a defense of communism and the Soviet Union, he merely added that “we have had to make a very serious analysis of what went wrong in the Soviet Union… we have to take seriously the reasons as to why in the end that system was not sustainable.” He then goes on to say that we need to replace British capitalism with a “fairer society”. Having just described communism, which was immensely successful in the Soviet Union, as “unsustainable” Rob now leaves us wondering what British capitalism could be replaced with?

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100th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Join us in Southall on Saturday 4th November!

On the 100th anniversary of the great Socialist October Revolution, join us to celebrate the victorious struggles of the mass working class. We will come together to celebrate this working-class revolution, which literally shook the world, and still indicates the path we must take to shatter all exploitation of man by man and nation by nation! We will be holding THE centenary celebration of this festival of progressive humanity in Southall, west London, on Saturday 4th November, at 4.30pm.

Venue: The Dominion Centre, 112 The Green, Southall UB2 4BQ

Map

Get your ticket here

Read more about the October Revolution here

At this meeting, we will bring together members and supporters from around the country and mark the continued development and growth of our organisation, while reminding ourselves of just what it is we are working towards.

Lenin and 1917: a new era

Over the years, the speakers at our meetings have examined in great detail all the most important aspects of the October Revolution. They have paid tribute to the men and women workers who carried out the revolution, and to the leading role of the Bolshevik party – the revolutionary organisation in whose footsteps we hope to follow, which enabled the workers to understand their enemy and to organise themselves to defeat it.

Importantly, in the present climate, our speakers have repeatedly stressed the vital role played by revolutionary theory – especially the immense theoretical contribution of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who advanced Marxist science by adding to it a precise definition of imperialism (the final stage of decaying capitalism) and who detailed the ways in which imperialism affects the struggle of workers and peasants of all countries for their liberation and social emancipation.

It was Comrade Lenin who created the template for a revolutionary party, working out in the furnace of intense class struggle the essential elements of communist organisation that enabled workers to make their efforts effective. All parties that are serious about overthrowing capitalism and building socialism still follow these organisational tenets today.

Lenin was also a master of strategy and tactics. He solved many important questions, such as the peasant question and the national question, by clearly and precisely explaining their relationship to the socialist revolution. He demonstrated the need for the proletariat to maximise its forces by galvanising as many allies for each phase of the struggle as possible, and showed how it was both possible and necessary to take on the various enemies of socialism one at a time rather than all together.

Unlike Trotsky and his modern-day followers, Lenin did not play at revolution, and was not at all interested in heroic failures. He understood that what was at stake was nothing less than the future of humanity, and he taught the working class how to think and act so it could win.

Read more!

Marxism-Leninism: Is it for Young People? – The Question of Education and Employment

One thing Red Youth needs to establish if it wants to be a genuine Marxist youth organisation is whether or not, and if so why, Marxism-Leninism is what the young people of Britain need today. Naturally, we would argue that Marxism-Leninism is exactly what the British youth of today need – and in this article we’re going to use education and employment as two major reasons as to why that is.

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Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Great Socialist October Revolution

Harpal Brar gives a message of greeting message on the significance of the 100th anniversary of the Great Socialist October Revolution.

We will be holding a centenary celebration of this festival of progressive humanity in Southall, west London, on Saturday 4th November, at 4.30pm.

Get your ticket here.

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General Election 2017 – what does it mean?

It was widely believed at the beginning of the election that the Tories would win a landslide, as Labour trailed 22 points behind in polls, and 80% of Labour MPs opposed Corbyn’s leadership, openly declaring him to be unelectable, along with their colleagues in the Tory party and the bourgeois media.
Even during the election campaign the majority of Labour candidates refused to acknowledge or support Corbyn, and many openly opposed his manifesto.

But Corbyn surprised his critics, fighting a dynamic and engaging campaign, winning the support of youth in particular with more new voters enrolling than in the Brexit referendum.

Despite this Labour lost the election but increased its number of seats. The Tories failed to win an absolute majority and were forced to conclude a grubby pact with the DUP, who even they find socially reactionary, though politically they are cast from the same mould.

Corbyn has secured his leadership of the Labour party for now. Despite all the talk of Corbyn being a rabid left-winger he has fought on a moderate social-democratic platform akin to many across Europe, and he certainly has not threatened the economic workings of the crisis-ridden capitalist system, which is the root cause of the austerity agenda he claims to fight.

Meanwhile Momentum continues to attract all the fake socialists who continue to believe in pie-in-the-sky solutions to capitalism. The truth is, without overthrowing capitalism there are nothing but hard times ahead for the British working class and workers of all countries.

The communists support every struggle of the working class to fight for improvements in their conditions, but this support seeks at the same time to convince workers of the need for proletarian revolution, not to lull them into the false but reassuring belief that their needs can be met within capitalism. No amount of tweaking at the edges of economic or foreign policy is going to make this parasitic and dying system serve the interests of the working class or cure the chaos in which we now find ourselves.

The programme of the Labour party is, at best, a prayer that the ills of capitalism can be solved within the capitalist system. Our position is that, with the best will in the world, they can’t. Workers’ salvation lies not with Saint Jeremy or Stern Theresa, but with the workers themselves. 

Unpalatable as this truth may be, ultimately we will not be able to vote our way out of the crisis. Either the crisis will lead the working class deeper into poverty and war, or workers will organise themselves to defeat the crisis by overthrowing capitalism and building a socialist society that is capable of meeting their needs.

Academies: One Step Further to Losing Our Education

It is important in the face of the government’s malicious project to downsize the NHS to the point of forced privatisation, that we don’t forget the other major attack currently being launched against the working class of this country – the academisation of our education system. The ruling class’ plan for “all schools to become academies”, as was announced in the 2016 Budget, and then clumsily retracted, is not a plan that is going to disappear for long; it is inevitable under capitalism. State education costs far too much for the government to manage, and it is much more profitable for them to hand over the responsibility to school ‘sponsors’. However, simply doing so in the public eye would never work, so they have hidden behind words like ‘academisation’ to disguise what is really going on here: privatisation.

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The Manchester bombing: a product of imperialism

The horrific bombing of an Ariana Grande show at the Manchester Arena, which has claimed the lives of 22 people, including several children, has its origins in the imperialist war against the independent states of the Middle East and North Africa. If we really wish to see such terrible acts stopped, we must stop our ruling class from sponsoring them abroad.

The bomber, Salman Abedi, was the 22-year-old son of anti-Gaddafi Libyan exiles, and reglarly made trips to Libya after the country was destroyed by western imperialism and its terrorist proxies. Libya, which previously had the highest life expectancy on the African continent, guaranteed healthcare and education, among many other fantastic programmes for its citizens as well as other African nations, had long been a target for destruction by European and US imperialism.

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