CPGB-ML » Posts in 'Education' category

Oppose cuts and privatisation in education

This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress

This congress notes the continued attempts to privatise the education system by both the Labour and ConDem governments.

Congress further notes that, with the so-called ‘austerity’ measures, education is facing its biggest cuts since the 1950s.

Congress believes that the proliferation of academies, which are replacing LEA-funded schools and which have brought private finance into the running of schools, are the precursor to full-scale privatisation in primary and secondary education. Along with the increase in religious, private and grammar schools, they are paving the way for the re-establishment of the two-tier system in state education, abolishing comprehensive schooling.

Congress notes that, in the area of further education, government cuts are set to remove the funding for adult education (those over 24) from September 2013, which will result in anyone wanting to pursue level 3 qualifications having to pay fees. This can only push more working-class people out of the education system at a younger age and lower stage.

Congress further notes that, in higher education, the continued increase in tuition fees, and now the introduction of ‘top-up fees’, has made the cost of university education a luxury rather than a right, with many of those who do make it to university facing debts of well over £30,000 when they leave.

This congress therefore asserts that, while private finance is being brought into schools to siphon profit out of the education system, the cost of actually providing that education is being gradually shifted onto those being educated, making it harder and harder for working-class people to remain in education. This is backed up by the fact that the number of young people in education is already rapidly falling, with 15 percent of 16-24-year olds not in education, employment or training nationally. In some areas, this figure now reaches as high as 25 percent.

Congress recognises that, under capitalism, the education system is not geared to developing the capabilities of all who live within our society. As the crisis of capitalism deepens, the ruling class’s ability to provide the sop of free education to the working class in Britain is diminishing, leaving behind a third-rate education system aimed only to fit us for wage slavery or the scrap heap of unemployment.

This congress recognises that only socialism will bring free universal education for all, where the needs of the whole of society are the priority. However, in the struggle towards the overthrow of capitalism, we recognise the need for raising the consciousness of those facing the onslaught of capitalism and for engaging with these struggles.

This congress therefore resolves to support campaigns against the cuts and privatisation of our education system and to demand:

  • Free universal education for all.
  • The abolition of all private schools; academies; grammar schools and religious schools.
  • The cancellation of all PFI contracts and a return to public funding.
  • A ban on all armed force and police propaganda and recruitment on education premises.
  • The scrapping of ALL tuition fees, including ‘top-up’ fees, further education fees and any other disguised version of fees for education such as the proposed ‘graduate tax’.

This congress also resolves to:

  • Actively spread awareness of the educational attainment of socialist countries such as Cuba, the DPRK, and the Soviet Union before its collapse, since they provide vivid and inspiring examples of what is possible when questions of maintaining minority rule or providing capitalism profit are removed from the education equation.
  • Bring all possible influence to bear on the National Union of Students to step up its campaign against ALL fees, as well as to break its link with the imperialist Labour party, in order that it might actually become a real fighting force for students in Britain.

Build our study classes to build the party

This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress

This congress recognises the hugely significant role that local study groups have played in the life of the party in the last two years and commends all those comrades who regularly take part.

Congress believes that these groups have played a role of decisive importance in building our party structures since the fifth congress. Establishing study groups that meet weekly has enabled the party not only to regularise its vital educational work, but also to strengthen its organisational structures, and increase its level of practical activity.

This congress affirms that a study class is not merely the place where comrades, new and old, are able to study the teachings of Marxism Leninism; a regular study class also provides the most practical forum for local members to arrange practical activities for the coming week. A regular study class is the obvious place to invite new contacts, recruit members and discuss important issues of the day. Our study classes, which are taking place around the country, are not turgid, sterile meetings but, on the contrary, are lively educational and social forums, forming the nucleus of really useful and active branches.

Congress therefore calls on the incoming central committee (CC) to do everything it can to strengthen support for these classes and expand our party’s network of study groups nationally.

Recognising that not all comrades live in close proximity to one another, this congress further calls on the CC to continue to help in organising monthly study classes in towns that are conveniently located for the greatest possible number of comrades living in any particular region – such as the series of meetings that have been held in Manchester this year. In areas where comrades are very isolated, the CC should continue its work of facilitating the process of establishing such classes and putting new comrades in touch with the members that are nearest to them, as well as giving guidance for individual and remote learning.

To British youth: each one, teach one; build the red bases!

This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress

This congress notes that the last five years of deepening capitalist overproduction crisis have imposed genuine and unaccustomed hardships on British workers, and have hit working and middle-class youth with exceptional ferocity.

Congress further notes that British capitalism in crisis has seen all three of the major (Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour) parties in administration, and has shown that any party that aims to preserve British capitalism through this crisis cannot but attack British workers in general, and can offer no prospect of a productive and meaningful life or prosperous and secure future for working-class youth in particular. Since our last congress in 2010, we have seen the intensification of a long campaign against education and welfare provision for working-class youth, coinciding with a precipitous decline in paid employment.

Congress commends those British youth who have responded with an increased militancy and growing political consciousness, which has indicated both to the British state and the wider working class their revolutionary potential.

Congress joins in the popular outrage felt amongst British youth and students in response to parliament’s abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and skyrocketing higher-education tuition fees, which were introduced by a Labour government, and have been ratcheted up to a staggering £9,000 per year since 2011 by their ConDem successors. When these fees are combined with increasing living and accommodation costs, the reason that applications to university are down despite rising rates of unemployment becomes clear. We are witnessing the end of the era in which British working-class youth could access further and higher education; capitalism has declared the education of workers to be ‘uneconomic’.

Meanwhile, this congress notes that the burden of unemployment is growing, and probably stands above 10 percent nationally. Official figures have been systemically ‘massaged’ and under-reported over the last three decades, and can be considered only an indication of the problem rather than a true representation of it. The present figure is now based on the number of benefit claimants, so does not include the growing army of unemployed workers who have been deprived of their benefits, or those who receive incapacity benefits, students, the part-time under-employed, those over the age of retirement who cannot live on their pensions and are looking for work, or those classed as ‘illegal immigrants’ or asylum seekers, among others.

Congress further notes that more than one million British youth are unemployed: between 20 and 25 percent of all 16-24 year olds across the UK. As an index of discrimination, it merits attention that a staggering 60 percent of young black men are jobless. As a result of endemic unemployment and under-employment, declining and often derisory wages, 3.6 million British children are growing up in poverty (between a quarter and a third of all children in the UK), and that this figure is set to rise. A recent report indicates that 1,000,000 children go hungry in Britain every day.

This congress believes that in a country whose ruling class has looted the resources of an empire and ‘sphere of influence’ that covered two thirds of the globe for 300 years this is absolutely inexcusable. There is no shortage of money in Britain.

This congress does not believe the government and media-peddled lies that in these hard times, “we are all in it together”. We are wage-slaves in a global capitalist economy, where the super-rich capitalist exploiting class are growing ever wealthier, even as they ruin the economies of entire nations. Recent estimates show that the world’s super-rich finance capitalists have stashed $38tr of their ‘earnings’ in tax havens, simply to avoid paying any contribution from their ill-gotten gains towards the social wage of the labourers they exploit. In the last analysis, all their wealth is the product of our labour. Truly, “their wealth is built upon our poverty, their joy upon our misery”.

This congress notes that Britain is considered a tax haven for the super-wealthy, a place where ‘non-domiciled’ Russian gangster oligarchs (who have robbed the Soviet people’s wealth), oil sheikhs (who have sold the birth-right of the Arab peoples to western imperialists) and Greek shipping tycoons, among others, can launder their money no questions asked, and without having their capital taxed by the British state.

This congress believes that the interests of the working class, not the financial capitalists, should be considered ‘too big to fail’. But under our ConDem and Labour governments, the City of London bankers have accepted £1.2tr of British taxpayers’ money, while all useful government expenditure (housing, health care, and education provision) faces a 20 percent cut across the board. This is more than unnecessary, stupid, and inexcusable; it is deliberate and criminal. Our entire ‘democratic’ political system is designed to facilitate this capitalist gang in looting the masses of the people and, quite literally, stealing our future.

Congress further believes that, as a consequence of this crisis in the system of wage-slavery, working-class youth are increasingly aware of their alienation and disenfranchisement. Lacking youth facilities, encouraged to cultivate individualistic, consumer-driven, and destructive sub-cultures exemplified by the ubiquitous presence of alcohol and drugs in our communities, and in many instances driven to survive outside the limited avenues sanctioned by a failing system, an increasing proportion of youth are facing problems that make them capable of being criminalised.

This congress affirms that it is a sign of the bankruptcy of British capitalism that police repression (rather than jobs, housing, educational or economic support) is increasingly British society’s first and only response to our youth. We are living in a police state. In addition to political policing of demonstrations, and criminalisation of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist sections of the population, working-class youth, whose problems the state cannot ameliorate, have become a constant target of police harassment, aggression and physical violence. While this has become a feature of life for all working youth, it is especially so for immigrant, black and Asian youth, who endure higher rates of unemployment and meet discrimination on every level in society, not least at the hands of our institutionally racist police forces.

Congress further affirms that British youth are angry and embittered at the prospect they face. In the absence of a strong and vibrant revolutionary movement to channel their anger and frustration, we have seen spontaneous outpourings of anger on the streets as never before. We are witnessing a change in the temper of our youth, students and young workers – as can be gauged by the spontaneous militancy shown during the London G20 demonstrations, the student protests of Nov/Dec 2010, young people’s overwhelming response to the TUC’s half-hearted call for action on 26 March 2011, to the Occupy and LSX movements, and, of course, by the nationwide youth uprising against police repression in August 2011, triggered by the latest cold-blooded police assassination of a young black man in Tottenham, and the clumsy attempted ‘cover-up’ that followed this murder.

Congress notes that Mark Duggan, a father of four children, was surrounded by 31 armed police in a taxi outside his home and shot dead. He was not armed, but, after his death, the metropolitan police lied to justify their actions. They claimed Mark shot at them first, and their act of murder was therefore ‘self-defence’. The disrespect accorded to his friends, family and the entire community was the final spark that lit the conflagration of nationwide anger against the police.

This congress believes that the CPGB-ML and Red Youth have been absolutely correct in refusing to equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor. The real thugs and vandals at work in Britain are the parasitic rich and their servants, the Camerons, Cleggs, Osbornes and Milibands; the politically-motivated judiciary and police. The real victims are the workers and youths themselves.

This congress further believes that education and organisation are our greatest weapons in the struggle to overthrow this parasitic order and build a new socialist society, but we refuse to renounce violent forms of struggle, for they too have their time and place. Meanwhile, our oppressor stands over us with a gun to our head, demanding that we proclaim ourselves non-violent and trust in his tender mercy!

This congress reaffirms that our task is not to disarm workers, but to combine their righteous and militant anger with a clear Marxist-Leninist understanding of the real enemy – capitalist imperialism and its representatives (all bourgeois parties, including the Labour party). What we need is not bourgeois pacifism but effective organisation and intensified struggle. We do not reproach those who rise up for their violence. Rather, we reproach our own movement for still being too small and weak to offer the kind of practical leadership that is capable of channelling their anger into more constructive acts of destruction. Spontaneous outpourings of rage, however justified, leave those involved isolated and subject to reprisal; they will not abolish capitalism, which is the cause of our misery.

Congress further reaffirms that capitalism can offer no solution to the problems faced by British youth. The level of police violence used against us is an admission by the British government and state, on behalf of capitalism, that they have no solutions to our problems. We must take our destiny in our own hands.

This congress therefore resolves to:

  • Oppose the victimisation of young people in all its forms, including attacks on our education, housing, welfare, and employment.
  • Oppose the criminalisation of young people, including all legislation and police powers that target working-class youth, the violent and discriminatory application of police powers and judicial sentencing against black, working-class and politicised youth.
  • Oppose anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs), introduced in 1998, and their proposed successor, the criminal justice behaviour order (or CRIMBO) as arbitrary punishments intended to lay the blame for the decaying capitalist order on its young victims.
  • Oppose arbitrary stop-and-search powers, which are used disproportionately against working-class youth, especially black youth.
  • Do everything in our power to loosen the grip of establishment, overtly capitalist and reformist ideology and organisations on working-class, youth and student movements. We will oppose the pro-capitalist propaganda in our media, educational institutions and mainstream political parties. Labour party social democrats, Trotskyites, revisionists, pacifists and anarchists of various hues remain the chief obstacles to building a vibrant revolutionary movement in Britain.
  • Promote the understanding that, while fighting for short-term gains and against the worst excesses of the capitalist economy and state, in the last analysis only a socialist planned economy administered by the dictatorship of the proletariat can solve the problems faced by working-class youth.

Recognising that Red Youth and the CPGB-ML have limited presence among the working class youth we seek to influence, this congress further resolves to take the following practical steps to increase the scope of our organisation and work:

  • Each one, teach one! All members, even if isolated, should actively seek to recruit at least one other friend, student, or colleague into the organisation in their community or place of work. This is the surest way to double the size of our organisation, double our reach, and multiply our influence.
  • Encourage all members to undertake a programme of personal study and participate in regular group study or discussion, wherever possible, using Proletarian, Lalkar and wider reading to strengthen their understanding in order better to be able to politicise the wider working-class.
  • Encourage every member to subscribe to Proletarian and Lalkar, and read each issue. If there is a perceived problem with the material, criticisms should be fed back to the editors so that it can be improved. Each member should take at least one extra copy to sell on, and think about increasing this number progressively. Increasing circulation will help create fertile ground for recruitment.
  • Encourage every member to maintain organisational contact with their nearest regional group, coordinate their action and attempt to attend regional and national events when possible. This will facilitate exchange of ideas and give each member a means of calling for help in organising local practical activity.
  • Encourage every member to identify local, regional and national events and activities in which the party should take part, bring these to the attention of the party and participate in them personally. These may be local workers’ meetings, galas, rallies or demonstrations, solidarity or strike actions, union conferences or broad political fronts in which we can promote the aims of the party and the political interests of the working class, meet progressive workers, influence their opinion and recruit them to the ranks of the party.
  • Encourage every member to read the available leaflets and party statements online. Copies can be printed off and distributed, using home, school or work facilities, or ordered in bulk from the party. Family, friends, school, university or the workplace may be your best avenue for dissemination, but members should consider the possibility of running regular street stalls where they calculate they can reach their target audience. If there is a particular issue that needs to be addressed that is not covered adequately by party literature, members should help write or commission the propaganda they feel is required.
  • Encourage every member to think about writing letters or reports from their region (to be printed in Proletarian, on our website or in our party bulletin), or to inform their region (via the regional organiser) or the central committee (via the general secretary) of the problems, opportunities and successes faced by workers in their area and in their organisational work. This will help us to target our activity to our specific needs and help us grow in your area.
  • Encourage all members involved in education to get involved in school, college or university debating societies, where they should seek to table debates on real political issues (Syria, Libya, war, capitalism, the economy, poverty, the food crisis, the environment, immigration, racism, etc) and invite party speakers. The party has been invited to speak at the Oxford Union in 2008, and at the Durham Union on three occasions. These debates, and many other presentations and speeches, are on our YouTube channel and can be used to support such a proposal.
  • To think creatively, study diligently, act boldly, and, if in doubt, seek advice from local, regional and national comrades as to the best form of action to be taken to advance the interests of the group, the party, and the British and international working class.

We must learn to target our enemies precisely, to be systematic and broad in the sweep of our movement, and to ally ourselves and coordinate our action with the widest possible sections of the working class in order to tackle the crucial task of overthrowing the ruling class – by any means necessary.

Gove’s ‘grade deflation’ farce

Capitalism declares war on education

Behold the miracles worked by the application of market principles to education!

Pretending concern over the number and differing quality of exam boards and the validity of the grades they award, education secretary Gove ignored the obvious solution (a single board under state control with a common set of criteria). 

Instead, he let it be known that in the coming ‘rationalisation’ the invisible hand of the market would fix everything, with weaker boards driven to the wall whilst fortune smiled on the survivors. Coincidentally he also dropped the hint that the key to survival in this competition would be the willingness to tackle ‘grade inflation’ – ie, stop awarding so many A, B and C grades.

Taking the hint, the exam boards fell over themselves to magic up a startling ‘grade deflation’, leaving thousands of students stranded in the ‘D’ and ‘E’ twilight zone specially reserved for those whom capitalism declares to be losers. Between January and June, the goalposts were shifted so that students who would have secured a ‘C’ in January were stuck with a ‘D’ in June, for producing exactly the same work.

As Gove presses on with his mission to transform every last LEA-funded secondary school into an academy, the agenda is clear. The harder it gets for secondary school students to score top grades, the faster Ofsted can declare their schools to be ‘failing’ and hence ripe for enforced rebranding as academies by private sponsors.

And now that schools have been told that the minimum percentage of pupils who manage to grab five high-grade GCSEs must be raised from 35 percent to 40 percent, Ofsted should have no difficulty in collecting the required quota of scalps.

Whilst Gove’s flat-footed tactics have had unintended shambolic consequences, there is nothing accidental about the underlying capitalist strategy: the abolition of free comprehensive schooling, dumbed-down education for the masses and a privileged education for the moneyed elite.

Whilst the NUT correctly calls for the immediate re-grading of July’s exams and mumbles about an ‘independent review’, working class students and their parents need to set their sights higher and campaign to abolish all private schools, academies, grammar schools and religious schools, establishing in their place free universal education for all.

It is the crisis of the capitalist system which is wrecking the educational prospects of a whole generation, a crisis which the working class did not create and for which they should refuse to take any responsibility. If capitalism is unable to provide for the educational needs of the workers, then let the workers look to the educational achievements of socialist countries like Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the historic Soviet Union.

New word arising from Gaza invasion: scholasticide

Via The Guardian.

A new word emerged from the carnage in Gaza this week: “scholasticide” – the systematic destruction by Israeli forces of centres of education dear to Palestinian society, as the ministry of education was bombed, the infrastructure of teaching destroyed, and schools across the Gaza strip targeted for attack by the air, sea and ground offensives.

“Learn, baby, learn” was a slogan of the black rights movement in America’s ghettoes a generation ago, but it also epitomises the idea of education as the central pillar of Palestinian identity – a traditional premium on schooling steeled by occupation, and something the Israelis “cannot abide… and seek to destroy”, according to Dr Karma Nabulsi, who teaches politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. “We knew before, and see more clearly now than ever, that Israel is seeking to annihilate an educated Palestine,” she says.

The Palestinians are among the most thoroughly educated people in the world. For decades, Palestinian society – both at home in the West Bank and Gaza, and scattered in the diaspora – has put a singular emphasis on learning. After the expulsions of 1948 and after the 1967 occupation, waves of refugees created an influential Palestinian intelligentsia and a marked presence in the disciplines of medicine and engineering across the Arab world, Europe and the Americas.

“Education is the most important thing – it is part of the family life, part of your identity and part of the rebellion,” says Nabulsi. “Everyone knows this, and in a refugee camp like Gaza, every child knows that in those same schooldesks sat your parents and your grandparents, whose tradition they carry on.”

Schooling and university studies are the fabric of life despite, not because of, circumstances: every university in the occupied territories has been closed down at some point by Israeli forces, many of them regularly. However, the closures and arrests of students (more than 300 at Birzeit university in Ramallah, says Nabulsi) only strengthens the desire to become educated.

In the current offensive, Israel began attacking Gaza’s educational institutions immediately. On only the second and third day of air attacks last week, Israeli planes wreaked severe damage in direct strikes on Gaza’s Islamic University. The main buildings were devastated, destroying administrative records, and, of course, ending studies. The Ministry of Education has been hit twice by direct hits from the air.

The Saturday of the ground invasion was the day on which most students in Gaza sit their end-of-year examinations. In the majority of cases, these had to be abandoned, and it remains unclear whether they can or will be sat again. Other schools were also attacked – most notoriously the UN establishment in the Jabaliya refugee camp where at least 40 people were massacred on Tuesday.

On Sunday, another Israeli air strike destroyed the pinnacle of Palestinian schooling, the elite and private American International School, to which the children of business and other leaders went, among them Fulbright scholars unable to take up their places in the United States because of the Israeli blockade. Ironically, the same school was attacked last year by a group called the Holy Jihad Brigades, and has been repeatedly vandalised for its association with western-style education.

The school was founded in 2000 to offer a “progressive” (and fully co-educational) American-style curriculum, taught in English, from kindergarten to sixth form, and was said by the Israelis to have been the site, or near the site, from which a rocket was fired. A night watchman was killed in the destruction of the building.

The chairman of its board of trustees, Iyad Saraj, says: “This is the most distinguished and advanced school in Gaza, if not in Gaza and the West Bank. I cannot swear there was no rocket fired, but if there was, you don’t destroy a whole school.” He adds: “This is the destruction of civilisation.”

The school has no connection to the US government, Saraj says, and many of the 250 who graduate from it each year go on to US universities. “They are very good, highly educated open-minded students who can really be future leaders of Palestine.”

Young Palestinians playing in Daniel Barenboim’s celebrated East-West Divan Orchestra – which this week again brings Palestinian and Israeli musicians together to play a prestigious concert in Vienna – say that music schools in their communities and refugee camps are “not just educating young people, but helping them understand their identity”, as Nabeel Abboud Ashkar, a violinist based in Nazareth, puts it, adding: “And the Israelis are not necessarily happy with that.”

Ramzi Aburedwan, who runs the Al-Kamandjati classical music school in Ramallah, argues: “What the Israelis are doing is killing the lives of the people. Bring music, and you bring life. The children who played here were suddenly interested in their future”.

In a recent lecture, Nabulsi at St Edmund Hall recalled the tradition of learning in Palestinian history, and the recurrent character of the teacher as an icon in Palestinian literature. “The role and power of education in an occupied society is enormous. Education posits possibilities, opens horizons. Freedom of thought contrasts sharply with the apartheid wall, the shackling checkpoints, the choking prisons,” she said.

This week, following the bombing of schools in Gaza, she says: “The systematic destruction of Palestinian education by Israel has countered that tradition since the occupation of 1967,” citing “the calculated, wholesale looting of the Palestinian Research Centre in Beirut during the 1982 war and the destruction of all those manuscripts and archived history.”

“Now in Gaza,” she says, “we see the policy more clearly than ever – this ’scholasticide’. The Israelis know nothing about who we really are, while we study and study them. But deep down they know how important education is to the Palestinian tradition and the Palestinian revolution. They cannot abide it and have to destroy it.”