On 5 November, Cambridge Marxist Society held its weekly meeting, this week focused on the topic of “Capitalism and Mental Health”. The meeting was attended by over 300 participants, with 340 in the call at its peak, which was an extraordinary number.
Participants tuned in from countries across the world, from Sweden to Canada, Iceland to Palestine, and across mainland Europe from Spain in the West to the Baltics and Turkey in the East. It was by far the largest meeting the society has ever held, aided by the Zoom format that allowed the international scale of the meeting focused on such an important issue.
It reflects the growing understanding among youth worldwide that we cannot divorce the problems of mental health from the crisis of capitalism.
The meeting began with a lead-off by Hasan, an activist with the Marxist society, who spoke expertly of the current mental health crisis and its relation to capitalism. He cited shocking national and worldwide statistics illustrating the scale of the crisis, and explained how these have worsened even further as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The figure that up to 10 million people in the UK will require direct mental health support as a result of the pandemic was particularly concerning.
Moving on, Hasan spoke of how this crisis is evidently and unavoidably rooted in the material and environmental conditions of the capitalist system. Austerity, cuts to mental health services (especially when these services are needed the most), prioritisation and competition for profit, the dull and uncreative work of many jobs, and proletarianization were some of many factors given for the rise in mental health conditions across the globe. Hasan made abundantly clear how capitalism and its modes of functioning are central to this crisis. This is only further emphasised by statistics that welfare recipients in the UK are 2.5 times more likely to have a mental disorder, and children born into the lowest household income percentile are 4.5 times more likely to experience a mental health problem. We see that, unsurprisingly, those who experience the brunt of capitalism’s brutality are also those most victim to the mental health problems that it provokes.
Following the introduction, the meeting split into eight breakout rooms, where these concepts could be discussed in more detail. Topics discussed at this more intimate level were varied, ranging from the isolation and division of workers, to alienation within the capitalist system. There were a number of engaging and informative contributions from both more experienced comrades and those who were less experienced but keen to discuss and learn more. The discussions were a particularly effective way to promote Marxist ideas to a wider audience, and for questions, clarifications, and contributions on the issues at hand. In the final twenty minutes of the meeting, all participants regrouped to summarise the diverse exchanges that were had.
The meeting ended by emphasising the need for organised struggle in the fight to overthrow capitalism. The numerous participants were firmly encouraged to get involved in the fight for socialism, wherever their location, which was met with an enthusiastic reception from the various comrades from across the globe.
by Owen Robinson – Cambridge Marxists