For me, I only really became aware of politics in 2008, when the news became filled with a terrible crisis, people were in tears, news anchors in shock, experts in panic. People on the news had lost everything and arbitrary numbers appeared on screen with big downward signs. Unlike other major disasters I’d seen on TV this didn’t just go away. For months this “financial crisis” seemed to continue. Slowly it began to affect my own life as childhood shops like Woolworths closed down and my parents became increasingly worried.
I asked my Dad why was it that all of this was happening. He explained that the problem was capitalism, an economic system which continually created these crises, which meant the rich got richer and the working class got poorer. He talked to me about how capitalism is linked to wars, terrorism, and so many other horrors across the world. He then told me that when he was younger he had fought against this system and for a new, better system called communism, as part of a group called the Revolutionary Communist Party. He gave me a book called The Essential Left containing: The Communist Manifesto, Socialism Utopian and Scientific, Value Price and Profit and The State and Revolution.
From that moment onwards, I called myself a communist.
From the age of 10 I would continually pester my classmates about whether they preferred capitalism or communism and if so why? I would get responses like “why should a bin man be payed the same as a doctor?”, “what about human nature?” and “yeah but look at what happened in the Soviet Union”. Sometimes I could answer these questions and other times not. As I grew older I did more and more research. I still found a few of those classic Marxists texts difficult but I also watched videos on YouTube, scrolled through message boards, and talked to anyone I could find about these issues. Through a long and painstaking process these ideas became clearer and clearer to me.
However, it wasn’t enough just to understand, I had to act. What use was it to see the evils of capitalism if we could do nothing about it? At around 15 I had gathered a few like-minded individuals together and, though unknowingly, began following in the long communist tradition of producing a publication. We started a basic WordPress website called Brighton Left (my idea of the Marxist Revolutionary Collective was voted down as ultra-left). We wrote articles against the monarchy, nationalism, capitalism, Stalinism, the right-wing of the Labour Party, analysis of the Middle East, the United States, and even more. At times we had 20 people writing and editing the site at once, and we even started a fortnightly radio show.
Simultaneously, I was trying to win support and pass motions through school councils on a local, regional and national level. It was through this that many of the political lessons I’d learned in theory became crystallised on an even higher level in practice. When bus prices were hiked, mental health beds closed and youth services scrapped, I saw these things not as the product of the personal nastiness of an individual capitalist, but as a product of the iron logic of a system dominated by production for exchange with the resulting gaping black holes in council budgets that needed to be plugged.
As I was entering the twilight of my school years, I had hardened in my political ideas and my firm defence of Marxism had left me swimming hard against the stream. The remnants of my Dad’s old communist organisation that I had come across appeared more interested in arguing with the National Union of Students over freedom of speech campaigns than overthrowing capitalism. Whether it was teachers in school or media commentators, all the so called ‘Marxists’ I had come across never seriously entertained the idea of fighting to achieve a socialist revolution. The other left-wing groups I had come across like the SWP, the Socialist Party, Left Unity or a thousand others, appeared to see the sum total of socialism as the renationalisation of the railways, rather than the complete transformation of society. In truth, I had concluded that I must be the only Marxist in Britain today.
It was at this moment that a friend of a friend met the International Marxist Tendency through the Marxist Student Federation, and told me that they had a branch in Brighton. With a serious approach to Marxist theory and to the overthrow of capitalism I had joined the branch within two weeks and haven’t looked back.