This article by Jake Leigh-Howarth, a student at the University of Leeds, was published yesterday by The Tab. In it he complains that “self-styled Marxists” are out to demonize him for being a Tory. Eoin Breathnach, a Marxist student at the same university, responds to Jake’s complaints:
We’re sorry. We’re sorry about the shouts of ‘Tory scum’. We’re sorry about the pig masks. We’re sorry for the chants about burning the Tories. We Marxists are not really hateful people. Speaking for myself, some of my best friends vote Tory….
The thing is, though, the party you support is a despicable organisation.
There are some things the Tories have done which are in the past, and which for the purpose of this exchange we’ll ignore. So we can ignore the long history of Tory racism and imperialism dating from way back when; we’ll put to one side the destruction of industry and constant attacks on the collective powers of working people which characterised the Tory party of the 80s; we’re big enough people to calmly accept that the sexism, abuse and corruption which have plagued the party through its whole history are now relics with no bearing on the party which now governs this country.
It’s just that the modern Conservatives are doing a very good impression of their forebears, and we sometimes get angry when people try to excuse it, or even actively vote for it. It becomes hard to forget all the things in the past when we hear reports of bullying and sexual abuse in Conservative Future, and when the leader of the Tories talks of migrants as a ‘swarm’, and when the Tories are putting through a Trade Union bill which even one of their own MPs has compared to Franco’s Spain.
We Marxists take our fair share of bullshit. We’re told routinely to go back to Russia. We’re told that we’re ruining the country because we support free movement of people. We’re told that we’re youthful idealists and utopians, while simultaneously being bloodthirsty Leninist class warriors, as if either of those things are bad?! (Jokes). But we persevere because, well, that’s politics.
And that’s the point. Politics isn’t always some rarefied and polite activity conducted in comfortable surroundings with a Speaker or (in our meetings) a chairperson to moderate the proceedings.
Sometimes it gets ugly. Because when Tory policies load us with debt; when a Tory educational agenda tells us that Winston Churchill should be our hero (even though he would have hated us for being working class, or Indian, for example); when they cut our EMA; when they declare a willingness to only accept 20 000 of the most desperate people on the planet into the country and then go on, unthinking, with their lives of wild privilege – we on ‘the Left’ get really angry.
And when you identify yourself with the people doing those things, our anger may be taken out on you to some degree. We’re sorry about that. We know you’re not personally responsible for any of that, even if you vote for it. We know that even David Cameron isn’t wholly responsible for any of it, though he’s the head of the government doing it.
This is where we get to the real crux of the matter. When the Marxist Society do our stalls on campus, we’re not doing it to intimidate anybody – even Tories. We’re doing it because we think that, no matter how pleasant and personable you are, the whole social and economic system that exists, and whose defence is the express mission of the Conservative Party you support, is filthy with the blood and sweat and tears of millions of people past and present.
We think that, seeing as human society is the creation of us as humans, collectively we have the power to change it. And that we – as students loaded with debt, as working class people who are deprived of the fruits of our labour by our bosses, as people of colour derided in the press and by people in the street, as women brutalised and objectified, as LGBTQ people denied the right to develop our sexualities and our gender identities in their fullness – have a stake in overturning that system.
We’re sorry if anybody acts as if that gives us the right to sit on a high horse in judgement of Tories. You’re not a twat, Jake. You’re just making yourself complicit in a system which appalls us.