CPGB-ML » Posts for tag 'Education'

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.

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.

Cuba’s outstanding human rights record

Cuban mural depicting the Miami Five

Cuban mural depicting the Miami Five

Via the Cuban embassy in London

Human rights

• The UN General Assembly declared 10 December to be ‘Human Rights Day’ in remembrance of the adoption and proclamation of the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
• Cuba shows remarkable progress and achievements in the realisation of human rights for all its citizens.
• Cuba has a long and honorable history in cooperation with all mechanisms of human rights, which are applied on the basis of universality and non-discrimination.
• Cuba has ratified a considerable number of international instruments related to human rights.
• The constitution of the Republic of Cuba establishes the rights, duties and fundamental safeguards of citizens, as well as the foundations for its enforcement, realisation and protection.
• All churches and religious beliefs are respected without discrimination. There are four thousand religions and religious institutions.
• Freedom of opinion and speech has in Cuba its full realisation.
• Information and Communications Technologies is a commodity service for all the people and the training in its use is free of charge.
• Access to the internet is promoted by means of centres and institutions of social and community interest, and also taking into account the restrictions imposed by the blockade and our economic capacity.
• Cuba has health indicators similar to those of developed countries.
• All Cubans have access to quality basic services without discrimination, namely: education, health, social assistance and security.
• Education is universal and free of charge at all teaching levels.
• The Cuban people has made significant progress and continues to further its revolutionary transformations aimed at building an increasingly just, free, independent, equitable, democratic, comradely and participatory society.

Counterrevolutionary Flotilla from 9 December

• The so-called Democracy Movement based in Miami is a terrorist and provocative organisation, which was established on July 1995.
• This movement promotes the so-called flotilla, which has violated Cuba’s territorial waters.
• The so-called Maritime Operation will begin on 9 December, which, in spite of being promoted with a humanitarian content, has assumed a military training.
• This will be the 17th flotilla organised by the provocative Democracy Movement.
• Cuba, in turn, has decided to use diplomatic channels to warn the American government about this dangerous event.
• We have condemned the terrorist and provocative record of their organisers.
• Cuba warns about the incapability to control those ships and their crews involved, some of whom opt for violent confrontation between both nations.
• The tacit approval of the provocation by the American government highlights its subordination to the whims of the Cuban-American mafia in Miami.
• The forthcoming 9 December will go down in history without significance. It will be another day of public peace for Cubans; one of those days which help them forge a better life through their work and
effort.
• The provocative day is intended to create tensions between the United States and Cuba and support internal mercenary groupings.
• We firmly condemn the US government interference in Cuba’s domestic affairs.

Ladies in White

• The so-called Ladies in White are family members of counterrevolutionary prisoners, who were duly prosecuted by Cuban laws, with full due process.
• They receive financing and supplies from officials of the Interest Section, diplomats of some European embassies and anti-Cuban groups based in Miami.
• They go on political demonstrations under the close surveillance of diplomatic officials of the Interest Section and European embassies.
• These ladies claimed they were not politicians, that they were just demanding the release of their relatives in prison.
• Currently, these ladies’ husbands are free but they continue to receive resources and instructions from the US Interest Section as well as funding from notorious terrorists.
• During political demonstrations that take place in the streets of the capital city, these ladies are accompanied by other women who do not have any relative in prison but follow them for the payment they receive.
• The so-called Ladies in White have not been denied the right to go on political demonstrations and they have been doing so for almost two years. The Cuban government will never prevent its people from going out to defend their streets.

The Cuban Five heroes

• The five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the United States are antiterrorist fighters.
• They were not seeking information related to US national security.
• They were trying to prevent the actions by the terrorist groups who act with impunity against Cuba from Florida.
• It has been proven that the nature of the case brought against the Cuban Five is, in essence, politically motivated.
• There have been numerous violations during trial and throughout the whole legal process.
• They have been imprisoned for 13 years already, which is a too long.
• The case of the Cuban Five has the support of governments, parliaments, religious, legal and human rights organisations.
• Personalities from all over the world, including 10 Nobel prize winners, have supported this cause.
• The habeas corpus presented in favor of Gerardo Hernández is the last legal resource within the US judicial system.
• The will of the US government to reject the habeas corpus in favor of Gerardo, will condition the decision that may be arrived at regarding the case.
• The new injustice being committed against the Cuban Five heroes, by imposing an additional punishment on René and make him remain in US territory, jeopardises his personal security.
• We make the US government responsible for the security and physical integrity of René González.
• By forbidding René to visit places visited by terrorists and violent persons in Miami, the US government acknowledges the presence of terrorists in its territory, which reveals once more, the double standard of the US policy in its struggle against terrorism.
• The only just and human decision that the US government should arrive at is to send René back to his homeland.
• The Cuban people appreciate the international solidarity, which is instrumental in the solution to the case of the Cuban Five.
• The Cuban Five maintain their unwavering resistance, unyielding resolve, optimism and conviction for victory.
• The US President Barrack Obama can use his constitutional prerogatives and release the Cuban Five.

Storm of student protest over Gaza gathers force

Via The Guardian.

A group of 15 students are sitting at the back of the lecture theatre. Some are wearing scarves associated with the Palestinian movement, others hold the Palestinian flag. They are silent, apart from the few words one of them utters at the beginning of the lecture explaining why they are there: as part of a symbolic silent protest to show solidarity with the people of Gaza.

On the walls are photos of the conflict, showing men carrying blood-splattered children and posters calling for the massacre in Gaza to stop. In the corner of the room is a pile of sleeping bags and a table stacked with bottled water and cartons of fruit juice.

Over the last week, a storm of student protests has gathered over 16 universities across England, suggesting that students are awakening from the political apathy of which they are often accused. It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye of ageing sixties radicals.

Starting at the School of Oriental and African Studies, occupations in protest at events in Gaza spread to King’s College London and the London School of Economics (LSE), then out of the capital to Sussex, Warwick, Newcastle, Oxford, Essex, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan, Bristol, Nottingham, Salford, and Kingston.

At Sussex, students have occupied the arts lecture theatre 24 hours a day sincea meeting with a controversial British Palestinian academic, Azzam Tamimi, on Tuesday night.

Simon Englert, 19, a second-year English literature and drama student from Belgium, is a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign on campus and one of the instigators of the 100-strong occupation. “It’s important for Universities to take a stand on this. We are told in history about the central role that students play in defending causes. So that is what we are doing today,” he says. “We invited LSE students along to our meeting and they helped to inspire this action.”

“The action has brought together socialists, Islamists and even students from the green movement who realise the detrimental effects of war on the environment,” says Gwen Wilkinson, a first-year psychology student from Newport.

A handful of Jewish students are involved in the protest, including Englert. “I don’t want to make a big thing about it,” he says, “but Israel doesn’t speak for the world’s Jewish community.”

The occupiers have issued the university with six demands including the issuing of a statement condemning the “atrocities perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip” and calling on it to disinvest from “companies complicit in human rights abuses”. At night they are using the internet facilities in the lecture hall to contact groups in the West Bank and are hoping to get through to Gaza.

Eleanor, 20, a first-year English and history student, has signed their petition. Although she says many students are attracted to Sussex by its radical history, she is reluctant to get involved in the occupation. “There are two sides to the story and Hamas were firing rockets into Israel,” she says.

And the occupation has passed some students by entirely. May Lam, a second-year media studies student rushing from the library, says: “I don’t even have time to do my own thing. It’s remote, in another country and there’s nothing I can do about it. There are so many problems here in the UK with a recession.”

At the LSE, veteran campaigner and politician Tony Benn told students: “I don’t believe in protesting, because that looks like you’ve lost the battle and don’t like it. I believe in making demands. This is more important than you realise at the moment, but when people get together and do something, that’s when history is changed.”

The numbers involved are a tiny proportion of the 2.5 million-strong UK student body, but they appear to speak for many more, and to have caught a wider mood. So far the protests have been peaceful and treated gently by the authorities, though some Jewish students have complained they feel threatened.

King’s students see the university occupations as a resurgence of the kind of action that took place during the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s.

The zenith of British student political activism in the 1960s does not warrant a mention now, not even the protest by LSE students against Ian Smith’s regime in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), let alone those in 1968. Presumably for today’s students, many of whom were born in the early 1990s, the sixties are ancient history.

Unlike the anti-apartheid protesters, today’s students have the power of the internet at their disposal. They have put it to good use, publicising their campaigns through social-networking sites, making regular updates on blogs, and supporting one another through emailed messages of solidarity.

All the occupying students have issued similar demands: a statement from their vice-chancellor condemning the Israeli bombing of Gaza; severing university investment or links with companies supplying equipment used in the conflict; sending surplus computers and books to students in Gaza; scholarships for Gazan students – and no repercussions for their activism.

King’s students also want the university to remove the honorary degree it bestowed on Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, last November. In Oxford, students occupying the historic Clarendon building called on Balliol College to cancel a lecture series in Peres’s honour.

University officials have on the whole agreed to help students fundraise and send equipment to Gaza, but vice-chancellors have carefully sidestepped demands to issue political statements condemning Israel’s conduct.

So far, four of the occupying student groups have claimed victory: at the School of Oriental and African Studies and the University of Essex (after two days), and at Oxford (after just 10 hours), and the LSE. At the LSE, the student sit-in lasted a week but ended peacefully when the director, Sir Howard Davies, agreed to meet most of the students’ demands.

In a statement, he said he understood the students’ concerns and that the suffering of civilians in Gaza was “painful to observe”. But he refused to issue an official university condemnation of the conflict or to publish regular financial statements spelling out the university’s investment in companies involved in supplying arms to Palestine and Israel.

Michael Deas, a third-year environmental policy student involved in the LSE occupation, said students were “delighted” with the outcome. “It’s a real victory for student activism, particularly forcing the director into making a statement,” he said. Police evicted protesting students at the University of Birmingham after 12 hours.

In recent months, student activists have not limited themselves to sit-in protests over Gaza. They have boycotted careers fairs over university links with companies of which they disapprove – distributing badges, draping banners over displays and even dumping bags of coal to make their point.

The ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict has driven hundreds of students to act. But they still a tiny minority. Officials at Warwick – where students have demanded an end to links with BAE, GE Aviation, MBDA, Qinetiq and Rolls Royce – pointed out last week that more than 1,000 students had attended a careers fair where those companies were represented. Careerists, it seems, outnumber the idealists.

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.”

October Revolution rally: speech by Joti Brar (CPGB-ML)

Transcribed from the rally held in Southall, London on 8 November 2008 to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the October Revolution. The video of this speech can be found at the CPGB-ML YouTube page.

I’m going to talk a little bit more from the perspective of someone of my generation: what does October mean to me, and why do I think it should matter to other people like me?

You know, I’m a pretty normal(ish) middle-class, mother of one – perfectly good job, got a house, got a family – so why is it, living in the imperialist heartlands, that I should give a monkeys about the socialist revolution, and about standing here today to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the October Revolution, something that happened thousands of miles away, 90 years ago to people very far removed from the kind of life that I’m living? [From the floor: I quite agree with you!] (Someone agrees: why do I?!)

Now, I grew up at a time of rampant anticommunism; I grew up in Thatcher’s heartlands, one of ‘Thatcher’s children’, as our generation were called. We were taught to be selfish, we were taught to believe that it’s the law of the jungle, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and that capitalism really is the ultimate expression of ‘human nature’, and that by being selfish, by thinking only of yourselves, by just fighting for you – and maybe your offspring – you are just reflecting reality, and that if society teaches you to be that way, it’s because that’s how people are.

Bourgeois ideology was truly in the ascendant when I was growing up, and there was no-one really countering this barrage of propaganda.

We had English literature lessons where we read Animal Farm and learned to repeat that Stalin was a crazy, murdering, stupid butcher and Trotsky was the true leader of the revolution. We had history lessons where we learned that Trotsky led the Red Army to victory and Stalin somehow hoodwinked and then later personally bullied the Soviet people into following him.

What was the aim of all of this? The aim was to teach us that revolution is pointless; that, no matter what your intentions, if you try to change society, it will go wrong; and to negate the real building of socialism in the Soviet Union by slandering the leader of that building. By slandering Stalin, by telling you that Stalin was an evil murderer, they basically say that everything that was achieved in the Soviet Union wasn’t achieved; it didn’t happen; it wasn’t true.

We were taught all sorts of stupid truisms that we just learned to repeat. These things become axioms because people say them often enough: ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’. They’re the kind of things people say to you and they think they’ve clinched the argument; they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about, but they’ve learned to say them over and over again, and whenever you talk about socialism to people, they come out with the same things: ‘It’s a nice idea in theory, it could never work in practice’; ‘It’s never been done, has it?’

And people can say ‘It’s never been done, socialism’s never been built’ because we’ve been taught all these lies about the Soviet Union and about Stalin’s leadership of the Soviet Union.

Anti-Soviet slanders are in every field of life. I did a music degree and it’s amazing how it creeps in. You wouldn’t think you could go and study music at university and several times a week get some kind of anticommunist slander, but we did.

The great music of Stravinsky and Shostakovich was produced at the barrel of Stalin’s gun! [Laughter] Somehow or other, they made great music – it would have been much better if Stalin hadn’t been there, obviously; if they’d managed to escape to the West, which was obviously what really wanted to do, everything would have been much better for them!

The fabulous child care and maternity provision provided by the Soviet Union? The children were treated like automatons! Their mothers were forced to work! The profession care was impersonal and uncaring!

All the artists, musicians, dancers, gymnasts, athletes that were produced in such amazing quality by the Soviet Union? They were coerced! They were overtrained! It’s not really human to be so good at things … [Laughter]

The victory of the Red Army over fascism? The soldiers were starving! They were forced to fight! Their best commanders had all been shot by Stalin, probably personally! [Laughter]

And to cap all of this hostility from the official sources – from the press, from the school curriculum, from the media – we grew up with a left-wing movement that was pretty much saying the same thing – denouncing and disowning Stalin and all the achievements of socialism.

People in the trade unions, people in the Labour party, the Socialist Workers’ Party, the Communist Party – these were the people who you came up against, who told you they were socialists; that they believed in the working class – they all agreed. When I was growing up, whichever one of these shades of ‘left’ you cared to talk to, they would all tell you: Stalin was a mass murderer, probably Mao was too, and Kim Il Sung the same; socialism has never been put into practice anywhere; Marx wouldn’t have approved of Lenin’s revolution; Lenin wouldn’t have approved of Stalin’s building of socialism.

So essentially, every step of the way, our generation – and probably several before and several after – have been demoralised; they’ve been cut off from their own heritage; cut off from the knowledge that another world is possible and that they’re capable of building it. [Applause]

They’ve been cut off from the science of revolution and from the ideology that offers them hope for a future free from war, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, degradation and disease.

Such has been the success of this sustained propaganda campaign, that even the few socialists that did defend the Soviet Union when I was young didn’t do a very good job of it. We’ve been taught to feel so culturally alienated [from the Soviet Union] that it’s hard to bring it to life; it’s hard to believe it’s really as good as we wanted to say it was.

The repeated assertions that I talked about earlier create an atmosphere of overwhelming associations about what life in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe was like: inhospitable, joyless, we think of gulags in Siberia, everything was grey, everybody was a bit of an automaton, there was no choice, there was no inspiration, there was no magic to life.

Stalin’s name is a swear word; you can’t use it, it’s synonymous with fear and loss of liberty, with the evil KGB, and with a Big Brother culture, so that even those who’d understood in theory that yes, socialism is a good thing, and think that probably what happened in the Soviet Union might have been alright, they couldn’t find the enthusiasm, they couldn’t overcome this barrage of propaganda that had been instilled into them – all this prejudice – to find out for themselves, and to actually stand up proudly and say ‘You know what? This is nonsense! This is not the truth about socialism; this is not the truth about the Soviet Union.’

But we do need to understand the significance of the Soviet Union. We need to read works of literature produced in the Soviet Union. They bring to life life under socialism like nothing else can. And we should read books about the years when socialism was being constructed in the Soviet Union. Novels like How the Steel Was Tempered by Nikolai Ostrovsky, The Zhurbins, Ivan Ivanovich, or books like Soviet Democracy or The Stalin Era; books that describe the life of ordinary people at a time when the Soviet Union was going from strength to strength.

From the time of the revolution up until the time of Stalin’s death, if you read these works of literature, if you read the works of eye witnesses, [you find out that] the Soviet Union was the most incredible place to live, and the Soviet novels illustrate really beautifully how socialism can unlock the tremendous creative powers of working people, imbue them with a spirit of enthusiasm for their work and with a feeling that they really can achieve anything that they put their minds to.

We need to disseminate these works and ideas; there’s a much bigger audience for them than you might think, especially now.

At this moment now, the crisis of capitalism is really providing the best opportunity that I’ve seen in my lifetime to talk to people. Suddenly all sorts of people who wouldn’t have been able to get past the word ‘socialism’ and hear anything else that came out of your mouth – today you can talk to them about child care in the DPRK; you can talk to them about the building of socialism in the Soviet Union and they’ll listen to you; they want to hear; they’re interested in answers now.

For a long time, people here haven’t had such bad lives, and when things were getting worse for them, they believed what they were told. Comrade Brar referred to it earlier – when Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher turned around and said, ‘Well, you know, of course, we’d like to provide you with a perfect education system, perfect health care, but these systems are under strain, we just don’t have enough resources to go around; we can’t just be giving things out willy nilly; we can’t just provide houses to everybody – where will the money come from?’

Where will the money come from? That’s what we’re always told. And it’s an unanswerable question. Where will the money come from? Oh, well, ok, fair enough, there’s not enough money, so that’s just the way things are, right? And people have swallowed that.

But it’s very hard to swallow that when suddenly £500bn is found for the banks – out of nowhere, apparently! [Applause] And I think that’s been the most incredible wake-up call for everybody. While they see that their pensions, their health care, their education are all under threat, that they cannot rely on their pay packet being there next month, that they cannot rely on their house being there next year, but that actually money can be found for the things that matter to the ruling class – and suddenly you see what are the things that matter to the ruling class and what aren’t.

My generation was taught to be nihilistic and cynical, and yet, however much we’re told that that’s the normal way to be, we fight it! If human nature is to be selfish and greedy, why doesn’t being selfish and greedy make us happy? Why doesn’t it make us feel good about ourselves? Why is it that we search for some other meaning in our lives? [Chair interjects: That’s also part of human nature! Laughter]

Why is it that our grandparents look back so fondly on the second world war, a time of such hardship? They talk about the ‘war spirit’. What was the war spirit? It was the collective spirit.

The reality is that people are collective animals; we feel best when we are contributing to something that isn’t just yourselves, our own little lives in our own little boxes. We feel happiest when we are working for something that feels like it means something bigger; we feel happiest contributing to society.

But we don’t get that opportunity. We look for it; we try to find it; we try to tell ourselves that our jobs are meaningful and we feel bad if we can’t find a way to believe that.

Even those who are comparatively wealthy in our society don’t feel it. They don’t feel it because there’s constant insecurity. Even quite well off middle-class people are only a couple of pay packets away from destitution, from defaulting on the mortgage, from losing out on their pensions, from not being able to provide their children with what they need for a decent life.

And that’s in the good times! And as we see now, you can’t rely on the good times. You play the game according every way you’ve been taught and you win, you’re one of the lucky few who does everything you’re told and it works out for you – you’ve got your savings pot, you think you’ve got what you need for your pension, you’ve invested in a few properties.

But tomorrow, maybe the properties aren’t worth anything, maybe the money in the bank isn’t there any more, or it isn’t worth anything any more; maybe suddenly tomorrow you have to pay for health care you didn’t have to pay for before, or your pension’s taken away from you.

You can’t rely on anything under capitalism; there’s no such thing as security no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you accumulate. And that’s why, no matter how much people do accumulate in this society, as they’ve been taught to – accumulate to find happiness – they don’t feel happy; they don’t feel comfortable.

It’s the secret of middle-class whinging – all these well-off people who always have something to moan about! Everybody thinks if they had ten grand a year more, they’d be happy. But the people the next ten grand up, they’re not so happy either – they think they need another ten grand!

And then we compare that with the picture of life in a socialist country. Can you imagine living in a world where every job makes a contribution to building a better life for people? That in itself would be such a great motivator and inspirer! That in itself would unleash the creativity of so many people, bring out people’s natural collective spirit.

It’s very interesting to me; I recently spotted a bit of a pattern. We met a comrade from China and he was talking about life in China and achievements of the Chinese people in the last 50-60 years, and he said to me, ‘You know, we Chinese, we like to do things for ourselves; we don’t like to rely on others, we don’t like to exploit others, we like to build things ourselves – it’s just what we’re like. It’s because we’re Chinese.’

And we were watching a film about the Cuban revolution, and there was a Cuban bus driver, and the interviewer was asking him about the problems with the transport in Cuba because of the blockade, lack of petrol, lack of spare parts, and he said, ‘You know, we’re Cubans, problems are to be solved! It’s because we’re Cuban – we find solutions to our problems, we don’t moan about them, we get on with it, we fix things.’

And I bet if you’d gone to the Soviet Union, you’d have heard something very similar. North Koreans will talk about their self-reliance, their pride in being Korean and achieving things by themselves for themselves.

Now I hope our comrades from these countries won’t take it amiss when I say to them that my belief is that it’s not because they’re Korean or Chinese or Cuban that they feel this way about their people, about their country, about their lives; I think it’s because they live under socialism. [Applause]

I think a socialist society inspires them to build and to achieve; it makes them feel valued, it makes them feel part of something, it makes them feel that their work is useful. They can see the fruits of their labour in front of them and it comes back to them and to their neighbours a hundred fold.

Imagine never having to worry about paying the rent; never having to worry about health care, education provision for your children, university fees.

Imagine never having to worry about whether or not you’ll still have a job tomorrow; never having to worry about whether there’s going to be food on your table or your children’s table today or tomorrow.

Cuba’s achievements in the fields of health and education are relatively widely known now, but it’s not so well understood that it was the Soviet Union that pioneered all of that.

It was the Soviet Union that was the first to provide these kind of things – and that at a time, not only when they had just fought a very debilitating war – first the revolution, then the civil war, then the war of intervention – but when the rest of the world was going through the great depression – the mirror of the crisis we’re having now.

The rest of the world was plunged into total poverty, but the Soviet Union was going from strength to strength; they were providing facilities – first class, world class facilities – for ordinary working-class people of the kind that before then had only ever been dreamed about.

Like the Soviet Union before it, if you go to the DPRK today, something that hits people when they go there (and I’m sorry to say I never have yet, but it’s something that’s always related to me when I talk to people who have been) is that there are no advertisements on the streets. Can you imagine a life free from that bombardment of rubbish?

You don’t appreciate how much it oppresses you and weighs down on your mentality – all the time, in your face – you have to learn not to look around you; learn to walk around in your own little bubble to keep it out, blaring out at you. You’re not even free from it in a petrol station forecourt, in Sainsbury’s – they’re advertising at you non-stop, all the time.

To live in a place where not only do you not have that, but instead you have people’s art in the streets; celebrations – statues and posters – artwork celebrating the achievements of you and your fellow people.

Ordinary people’s buildings made beautiful – turned into palaces. They have children’s palaces in Korea, and the Soviet Union did just that sort of thing, constructing the most incredible, artistic buildings where ordinary people were every day, like the underground system in Moscow; places where ordinary people go made beautiful, to uplift them, to make them feel respected, valued; to make them care about their society and feel that they in turn were cared about.

Comrade Brar’s already talked about how the Soviet Union provided for mothers and children. It’s something you can’t underestimate the impact of – and so far in advance of the rest of the world. It’s the first place where they really showed that the liberation of women is about practical things – it’s not just about allowing women to take part in jobs, but freeing them to do so: providing the best possible child care, where you feel happy to leave your children; providing huge amounts of paid maternity leave, both before and after the baby’s birth, for the optimum health of the mother and the baby. I was reading recently how as soon as they knew a woman was pregnant, they’d move her into easier physical work if she was in something that was quite taxing. The day the baby and the mother came home from the hospital, who came to see them? Not just the nurse – an obstetrician! In the house!

They really, really cared about the health of women and of children. They set up crèches, laundries, kindergartens, public dining rooms – all the services that Comrade Harpal talked about before – to free women and allow them to really take their place in society, and to give children an equal start in life.

There was recently a report published by the World Health Organisation. It talked about health inequality in the world, and the conclusion that they [the authors] came to – well, the conclusion between the lines was, we need socialism! [Laughter] – they said: people need jobs, they need decent housing, people need access to culture.

They talked about illness prevention, which of course was the core principal tenet of the Soviet medical system, and they talked about children needing an equal start from the beginning.

They talked about the importance of pre-school education; they talked about the importance of involving the whole community in that type of pre-school education – it’s not just a question of sending them off to a kindergarten for a couple of hours and bringing them back again, but a whole community really needs to take part in that.

But you need to have a community to do something like that; people need to be organised as a community in order to implement those kind of programmes. There are only socialist countries in the world today that do that – it’s only in Cuba, it’s only in the DPRK where you see those kind of programmes in action – and it was in the Soviet Union that you saw them first.

Imagine living in a world where education throughout life was the norm; where opportunities to develop your potential are provided as a matter of course to everyone, at no cost, with no penalty to your family if you decide to take them up or to have a change of career – where you don’t have to worry whether your children are going to eat if you need to retrain.

We live in a society that criminally squanders and suppresses the creative and productive potential of the vast masses of humanity. Even the best off workers often feel isolated and insecure, and the vast majority are only ever one or two pay packets away from destitution.

None of the main contradictions of imperialism can be solved without proletarian revolution. We will never have job or housing security or secure pensions as long as imperialism exists.

Our job as socialists under capitalism is to use the daily and hourly crises of imperialism to expose the system and explain to workers that as long as this system continues the rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, the crises will get deeper, the wars will become bigger and bloodier.

October showed us we have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the socialist revolution, which will free us all from poverty and insecurity. [Applause]

October proved that work under socialism is transformed from meaningless drudgery into a vehicle for unlocking the potential and creativity of the working class.

And it was October that proved that while imperialism continues to oppress and plunder and drench the world in blood, there is only one thing that can usefully be done with your life, with my life, with anybody’s life, and that is to join the fight against imperialism, to join the fight for more Octobers. [Applause]

Reply to Joti’s speech, Harpal Brar

Thank you very much Joti, but you were quite wrong in saying that I’d spoke your speech earlier; it’s quite different. And to the extent that there is some repetition, then I think it’s perfectly alright. As the old Latin saying goes: Repetition is the key to learning!

You have talked of the power of advertisements. We must advertise our ideology – the more often we speak about it, the better. I hope each speaker will be able to repeat some of the things, because they are essential.

We are in a minority and we’ll never become a majority unless and until we actually continue to insist on speaking the truth, whatever the cost.

We’ve somehow been thrown back in the imperialist centres to being in a similar position to that of the early christians – you know, you’re hounded from place to place, but you’re nevertheless able to convey what they used to call ‘the lord’s message’. [Laughter] In our case, it is the message of the working class.

We are the majority. Why are we such fools that we accept the propaganda of the tiny minority that actually keeps us in subjugation? We shall not accept that as being the fate of humanity.