The Department for Education has recently issued new guidelines instructing schools not to use ‘resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters.’One such ‘extreme political stance’ is advocating the abolition of capitalism. The Department goes on to justify this as protecting freedom of speech. Opposition to capitalism is, it seems, an ipso facto denial of freedom of speech.
The basic problem is that there are no criteria established as to what an extreme political stance means. Examples are given such as, ‘…a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism…to end free and fair elections, opposition to…freedom speech…of association, of assembly…of religion and conscience’.
The implication is that all of the above are equally culpable. So, advocating abolishing capitalism would be identical to advocating the overthrow of democracy as both are extreme.
Whereas, defending an economic system whereby the vast majority must sell their labour power for less than the value they create, simply to live, to the few who accrue to themselves the surplus value produced by that majority, is, obviously, reasonable and moderate.
The Education Mandarins either don’t understand, or deviously obscure, the absolute necessity of democracy in achieving socialism.
No democracy – no socialism. Such a society can only be brought about by the conscious action of the working class, the vast majority, acting collectively on their own behalf to bring socialism about.
Socialists most certainly have no desire to turn young minds against democracy, rather they want to enhance it to the point where it actually becomes effective.
Education has to deal with difficult issues. The transcending of capitalism by socialism is one such. Other issues around controversial topics are surely best addressed by examination and critical analysis of source material. This has to be the way democracy progresses.
It is not the origin of resources, but how they are used. As with all those elements listed as being ‘Examples of extreme political stances…’, simply excluding them, like disruptive students, does not actually deal with them or make them go away.
Democracy cannot be about banning ideas, and ‘freedom of speech’ is at best mere rhetoric if it is confined within safe guidelines. Difficult, hurtful, even dangerous ideas need to be confronted, exposed and effectively countered.
The threat to democracy is probably from those who view it as serving the interests of capital, that it should be limited to this end. Whereas true democracy is inimical to capital in that the world’s productive resources and means need to be brought under common ownership with democratic control to serve the interests of all.
From the perspective of the Department for Education this probably does appear extreme, but prescriptive guidelines cannot deny the necessity of socialism, even if they would deny school students the knowledge, if they could.