At the end of September, the Department of Education (DfE) released new guidance for schools on how to ‘Plan your Relationships, Sex and Health Curriculum’.
In the report, under the sections ‘Using External Agencies’ and ‘Choosing Resources’, DfE officials outlined regulations preventing schools from using materials by organisations with “extreme” political stances.
The first on the list of examples given is “a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections”. Others include “endorsement of racist, including antisemitic, language or communications” and “opposition to freedom of speech”.
I am a teacher and this is my publicly stated desire to overthrow capitalism.— James McAsh (@mcash) September 27, 2020
As left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell has explained, on these grounds, it is now illegal to teach large parts of history and politics. This includes history about socialist movements in Britain – such as the Labour Party and trade unionism, which have at various times advocated the abolition of capitalism.
“This is another step in the culture war,” McDonnell correctly stated. “And this drift towards extreme Conservative authoritarianism is gaining pace and should worry anyone who believes that democracy requires freedom of speech and an educated populace.”
The effect of this two-line bullet point hasn’t gone unnoticed by those in education. In a recent Guardian article on the issue, one retired sociology teacher, Philip Wood, describes how we are now “moving from implicitly to explicitly rightwing-biased social and historical curricula”. According to Wood, this is the final nail in the coffin of teacher autonomy.
We live in a world with a social-economic system that has proven itself incapable of tackling the climate crisis; which leaves billions in poverty globally; and which consigns millions to the scrapheap of unemployment. And yet any criticism of this bankrupt system inside schools is illegal!
Banning anti-capitalist critiques – especially during the deepest crisis in capitalism’s history – won’t stop students and workers from looking for a socialist alternative. The terrible conditions faced by millions of workers and youth today are created by this profit-based system. And this is causing people everywhere to question capitalism.
The ideas that the authorities are trying to ban are the product of these dire objective conditions. As long as capitalism exists, it will always provoke movements – with radical ideas, beliefs and theories – that seek to overthrow it.
This move by the DfE will inevitably backfire. Simply erasing large sections of political and revolutionary history from our school textbooks doesn’t hide the endless horrors of capitalism. If anything, this further exposes them; it exposes the fear of those who try to defend a system that is in perpetual crisis, and who are trying to make a last ditch attempt to stop its collapse.
Freedom for whom?
The DfE’s new instructions are also riddled with internal contradictions. For example, it lists the danger of “opposition of freedom of speech” – yet it is silencing anti-capitalist thought and freedom of choice.
Moreover, in this report, it is implied that capitalism is entirely synonymous with freedom. This is a myth. In reality, the supposed ‘freedom’ of capitalism is freedom only for the capitalist class.
We are endlessly told that the ‘free market’ is the most efficient economic system possible. However, enough food is currently produced for 10 billion people to live comfortably. And yet millions die of starvation every year. Millions more die of entirely preventable diseases. Meanwhile, the super-rich get richer. What kind of freedom is this?
The fight against capitalism is not simply a battle of ideas. And this is where the ruling class have made their mistake.
The out-of-touch establishment believes that socialism is only a set of theories; that by eliminating the ideas they can eliminate the possibility of people fighting for an alternative socio-economic system. This is fundamentally wrong.
Marxism is the historical memory and theoretical expression of the working-class struggle. A society based on the private ownership of the economy; based on class divisions, exploitation, and oppression will never be free of class struggle. The elites can try to cut it out of the textbooks, but you can’t cut it out of real life.
This year alone has seen hundreds of thousands losing their jobs; BLM protests erupting globally; and working-class children demonstrating against their futures being snatched away by a discriminatory algorithm
These are the horrors that ordinary people face every day – to name but a few. To think that erasing the ideas of socialism from school curricula will hide these horrors of capitalism is a deluded fantasy on behalf of the ruling class.
This latest move confirms the fragility of capitalism, and the weakness of those who seek to defend it. And this, in turn, further proves the need to fight for socialism.
As American socialist Bill Haywood stated in his autobiography: “I’ve never read Marx’s Capital, but I have the marks of capital all over my body.”
This harsh reality is what will keep the ideas of socialism alive, no matter what tricks the Tories try to pull.
So if you’re struggling with your classes, join the class struggle! Join the revolution! Join Socialist Appeal!