The most significant turning point in my life to date was a brief conversation in the Fitzroy Tavern in central London, after a demonstration against tuition fees in 2011. My friend had taken me along to meet some supporters of the organisation she’d got involved with that summer, the International Marxist Tendency, and I brought along a few leaflets that we’d used to try – largely unsuccessfully – to get fellow students from our sixth form to come along. The leaflets were OK, but one of these communists I was meeting for the first time tactfully raised one crucial issue:
“You see here – it says, ‘these cuts are ideological’. That’s the only thing I’d really correct, if you don’t mind me saying. You see, it’s not just that the Tories are just nasty people that hate the poor. The cuts flow from capitalism.”
He explained that the crisis flowed from the inability of capitalism to develop the productive forces beyond certain limits, leading to a crisis of overproduction. The 2008 crisis was simply capitalism’s own limitations catching up with it. It wasn’t that the Tories just hated us. No matter who was in power, if they accepted capitalism, they had to accept the laws of capitalism and carry out austerity. The only solution was a socialist revolution, the common ownership of the means of production, democratic workers’ control and a plan of production.
I don’t know if it was obvious to him at the time, but in that moment my mind was absolutely blown. It was from then on that I became a communist.
Before that, I was just angry, disillusioned, and approaching a point of political depression. Brought up in a family of left-leaning Labour supporters with a liberal streak, I’d been raised to think that my generation were the lucky ones. Things could only get better! I was 13 when the crisis hit in 2008 and by the G20 demonstrations and the expenses scandal in 2009 I had developed a healthy hatred of the establishment. Shortly afterwards I developed a naive love of Nick Clegg. We all know how that turned out. He betrayed all hopes in him by going into coalition with the Tories in 2010. But around this time there was a growing head of steam around protest movements all around the world. I devoured news reports about the Arab Spring where people were demanding the overthrow of some of the most repressive regimes in the world.
During the anti-tuition fees movement in 2010, myself and a friend organised a walk-out at our school. It was so easy – nobody needed convincing, just a little coordination. The sense of anger, and of betrayal by the Lib Dems, was palpable. The next year I was excited to be moving to Camden School for Girls, the only school in the country that had followed the example of the university students by going into occupation in 2010. With my leaflets, I was trying to get a similar response, but it fell flat. Nobody was interested. The leadership of the student movement, lacking a real plan or a desire to fight, and facing folded arms from the government, had allowed all the energy of the previous year to collapse. Without good leadership, the fight went out of the movement.
The fight would have gone out of me, too, if I hadn’t had the good fortune to meet the International Marxist Tendency. Armed with Marxist analysis, I could see why the student movement had been defeated: the timidity of the leadership, whose main tactic was simply moral pressure and who sabotaged the movement when it began to go too far for their liberal tastes. But I could also see that, as the crisis of capitalism deepened, the movement would only come back stronger, as it did in 2015 with the movement around Jeremy Corbyn.
I’ve learned that class struggle ebbs and flows, and I’ve seen lots of people write off the working class and its ability to change society, as a consequence of that. But the truth is that the crisis is not going away, and people can only put up with so much. So, whatever the liberals say, the working class will have to change society just to survive!
This is why Marxist ideas, and an organisation to spread them, are so important. Because these are the ideas required to change society through socialist revolution. So why do I fight? Because Marxism gave me confidence in the working class, confidence in young people, and confidence in our ideas. I fight to win!
by Moses Levi, Cambridge Marxists