Last week the Department of Education (DfE) released their new guidance for how to ‘Plan your Relationships, Sex and Health Curriculum’. In the report, under the sections ‘Using External Agencies’ and ‘Choosing Resources’ they laid out their plans to stop materials from organisations with “extreme” political stances being used in schools. The first on the list of examples given is “a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections”. Others on this list include “endorsement of racist, including antisemitic, language or communications” and “opposition to freedom of speech”.
As John McDonnell has explained, on these grounds, it is now illegal to teach large parts of history and politics including british socialism, the Labour Party and trade unionism, all of which have at different times advocated the abolition of capitalism. He states: “This is another step in the culture war and this drift towards extreme Conservative authoritarianism is gaining pace and should worry anyone who believes that democracy requires freedom of speech and an educated populace.”
The effect of this two line bullet point hasn’t gone unnoticed by those in education. In a recent Guardian article on the issue a retired sociology teacher, Philip Wood, describes how we are now ‘moving from implicitly to explicitly rightwing-biased social and historical curricula’. He states that this is the final nail in the coffin of teacher autonomy. It is ludicrous that in a world where increasingly our current social-economic system proves its inability to tackle the climate crisis and global poverty, that any criticism of it in education is illegal!
Banning criticism of capitalism, especially during the deepest crisis of its history, won’t stop socialism being the alternative. The terrible conditions faced by millions of working class people today, conditions that are created by a system based on profit, are causing people to question capitalism. The ideas they are trying to ban come directly from these objective conditions, and as long as capitalism exists, it will always provoke ideas and movements that seek to overthrow it.
This move by the DfE will inevitably backfire. Simply erasing large sections of political and revolutionary history from our school textbooks doesn’t hide the endless horrors of capitalism, if anything it further exposes them. It exposes the fear of those who try to defend a system which is in perpetual crisis and is trying to make last ditch attempts to stop its collapse . It also uncovers its internal contradictions. It lists the danger of “opposition of freedom of speech” yet is silencing anti-capitalism, and freedom of choice. All are equal however some are more equal than others.
Moreover, it’s interesting how capitalism, in this report, is implied to be entirely synonymous with freedom. This is a myth. The supposed “freedom” of capitalism is freedom only for the capitalist class. We have a free market, supposedly meant to supply at the point of need, which produces enough for 10 billion people to live comfortably, and yet 9 million die of starvation every year while the super rich get richer. What kind of freedom is this?
The fight against capitalism is not simply a battle of ideas, and this is where the ruling class have made their mistake.
The ruling class believes that socialism is only a set of theories; that eliminating the ideas eliminates the possibility of an alternative socio-economic system. This is fundamentally wrong. Marxism is the memory and theoretical expression of the working class struggle. A society based on the private ownership of the economy will never free itself from class struggle. You can cut it out of the textbooks, but you can’t cut it out of real life.
It is fanciful for the ruling class to believe that in a year where hundreds of thousands have lost jobs, BLM protests have erupted globally and working class children have the futures snatched away from them by a discriminatory algorithm (to name a few things); that erasing the ideas of socialism from school textbooks will hide the horrors of capitalism. These are horrors that people face every day. This decision has been made during a month in which people have been evicted from their homes during a global pandemic in the fifth richest country in the capitalist world. It confirms the weakness of those who seek to defend capitalism, proving further the need for socialism. As Bill Haywood stated in his autobiography ‘I’ve never read Marx’s Capital, but I have the marks of capital all over my body’. This is what will keep socialism alive, no matter what tricks the Tories try to pull.
If you want to find out all about what it is they’re trying to keep you from learning in school then get in touch with the Marxist Student Federation!