The book that made me a Marxist was Lenin’s State and Revolution, which I first read at the age of 13. It was almost revelatory in how it showed me the façade of the ‘democracy’ that we live in. This was no ‘free society’, with elections where people have a genuine choice and the media is an impartial body that reports on all things in a fair manner.
Rather, we live in a class dictatorship, where – whoever wins the elections – the capitalist class, the tiny minority of the population, will always stay in power. Any alternative, however slight, to the status quo, is slammed constantly by the ‘impartial’ media, as has been shown by the vitriolic campaign against Corbyn.
With the veil lifted, I decided I had to act. In the absence of a revolutionary organisation to join, I formed a ‘Marxist’ group shortly after reading Lenin. Of course, my political education was still at a very low level and I was the only one who co-ordinated my reading and the reading of the group.
The organisation eventually grew to about 10 participants, with weekly meetings where politics and organisation would be discussed. Nothing of any substance came out of this while in secondary school. My failure to firmly educate members in how to be a revolutionary, which I myself did not understand, meant that when I left the school the organisation there immediately died.
My next attempt was during sixth form. By this time, I considered myself someone who followed the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky and decided to try and rebuild the organisation there. What especially motivated me then was the unsurprisingly hostile nature of my course towards Marxism, particularly in history classes where we studied the USSR.
The October Revolution was portrayed as a dictatorial coup and Lenin was slandered as nothing but a power-hungry lunatic, who deviated from the ideas of Marxism. The ability of the working class to run and plan society for itself was derided.
Having gained a greater grasp of the ideas of Marxism, I was far more confident this time in putting forward socialist ideas against these slanders to my classmates. While in secondary school my efforts had been largely ignored by or unknown to senior staff, I was not so lucky this time. I was overheard one-too-many times and senior staff took notice.
The reaction of the school bureaucracy was to sit me down in a room and threaten to report me to Prevent for radicalisation. In order to sow distrust between me and those I was trying to win over to Marxism, they lied to me and told me that one of them had reported me; it was in fact a teacher. I was told that I would be put on a course to make me more ‘open-minded’. They said that I was being radicalised by a ‘group of people’ outside of school and stated that I would require their consent to join any such group in future.
Up to this point, I had never been a member or associate of any left-wing organisation, not even the Labour Party, a fact that would remain the case until I went to university. They argued that I was being indoctrinated. It was too hard for them to comprehend that a young person could take the time to study the ideas of Marxism, angered by the worst crisis in capitalism’s history and frustrated by the lies and slander that a capitalist education uses to attack socialism, the only alternative to this hell.
The threats were never followed up as far as I know and after a week, shortly before I turned 17, the whole incident was never mentioned again. In their minds they had won. The threats had silenced me. Isolated, with no political allies, I didn’t openly talk about politics again outside my circle of friends until I went to university. The incident depressed me greatly and I lost a great deal of confidence, both personally and politically.
It was this incident above all else that fully committed me to socialism. If, as we were told in school, Marxism was an irrelevant and dead idea, why was I threatened and silenced for advocating it? Prevent is supposedly a scheme for combating radical Islam and the far-right. And yet here it is being used to silence the Left!
The experience taught me was that I could no longer continue my development and activity alone. On my own, I could be crushed and demoralised easily. However, as part of a revolutionary organisation, I could develop as a Marxist far more effectively. It would allow me to organise, to carry out revolutionary work, and to fight for socialist policies in the student field and the Labour Party.
Once I went to university, I did not hesitate in joining my local Marxist Society, and within two months I had joined the International Marxist Tendency. I have never looked back.