The Point
Last updated: 02 August 2019.

...red sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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The Power of Education

 

Lewis Akers writes about something very important. Why socialists should be able and willing to learn - from events, from history and from each other.

 

Being a socialist is not a walk in the park. You don't join a socialist party just to pay your dues, sit on your hands and do nothing; you should join knowing that being a socialist comes with a lot of responsibility. This responsibility is not always easy to fulfil. Being a socialist means going up against forces much stronger than ours. This is why as socialists we need to be disciplined and seek to learn.

We each need a grounding in present day events and learn about our working class heritage and tradition. This is hard in the face of a ruling class's anti-socialist ideology that in deeply rooted in every crevice of society. For example my history teacher two weeks ago tried to claim the Marxist term "the dictatorship of the proletariat" meant an authoritarian dictatorship like fascism. Now as a socialist in moments like these I sometimes think I may have to just ignore such errors. But instead I argued against him by saying that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" refers to the fact workers are in the majority; it means workers’ power, workers’ control, workers’ democracy. Without an understanding of basic Marxist theory I would never have been able to defend my socialist ideas against an anti-socialist syllabus.

Socialists who dismiss reading, discussion,n and learning as "middle class intellectualism" do themselves a disservice. The class war is nothing unless it is a battle of ideas. They display what Lenin calls "workerism" were people try to dismiss education and learning and study as 'un-working class'.

This is nonsense.

Millions of educated workers in the past would do long hours in coal mines and factories and then come home and under candle light read authors such a Dickens and Darwin, Burns and Shelley. Self education is one of the most important issues we must address as socialists. Our working class history is completely written off by mainstream education in return for their so called 'liberal democratic' history.

 

James Connolly and John MacLean never dismissed socialist self education. Indeed Maclean use to teach Marxist economics to classes of hundreds in Glasgow in the period after WW1. The old mantra "Agitate, Educate, Organise" is as applicable to the left today as ever. But what many forget is that without education we cannot agitate. No one listens to someone who speaks nonsense. No one respects the opinions of someone who cannot rationally explain their world view. We as socialists have a unique worldview - one which cannot be put across in a half arsed manner that does more harm than good to our movement.

Our learning does not have to be reading alone. As someone who is dyslexic I know the struggles of reading. (And writing) The best way to learn is to discuss and debate with others. Marx once famously said 'Out of conflict comes clarity'. In other words discussing with those you do not agree with initially can be the most illuminating learning process. There are many ways of learning today than there ever has been. For members of socialist organisations the most important place to learn should be at your fortnightly branch meeting.

The most important type of education is learning from each other. We preach solidarity in every walk of life and we should learn from each other. The world is ours for the taking. But only armed with the facts can we ever achieve our goal. As Lenin said "There can be no revolutionary movement, without revolutionary theory." Education matters.

We should be aiming to have 150,000 members like the SNP. But in the meantime a hundred talented and well trained socialist cadres are more valuable than a thousand ill informed inactive members. Marx once said "philosophers have interpreted the world, the point however is to change it" but that can only be done if we are armed with knowledge and power.

 Lewis Akers is a 16 year old member of The Scottish Socialist Party and RISE. He is a Rise Youth Network Coordinator, the Young Scottish Socialists Organiser and is serving as a Member of Scottish Youth Parliament for Dunfermline.

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left

Greenpeace

The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books