Radical politics of Marxism
Laurie McCauley is standing for president of Sheffield University Student Union, where elections are about to begin. This is an abridged version of his manifesto
Most students are apathetic about union elections - who can blame them when there is so little meaningful choice on offer? Even the candidates who have some politics aren’t honest about them, and all limit their aims to being a good bureaucrat for a year, working within a system in which the university can veto any of their decisions.
Student politics can be about much more than this self-serving crap - and needs to be if we are to fight for our collective interests and win. A students union, for example, should surely fight for education to be available to all. Yet Sheffield and our national union has surrendered utterly to New Labour over top-up fees and abandoned the aim of free education. To fight the government and the decaying capitalist system we need a mass student movement based on the radical politics of Marxism.
The current education system - where students are burdened with massive debts and forced to take paid work to get themselves through college - must be ended. Under capitalism, the education system will never be about the pursuit of knowledge and furtherance of skills in order to enrich our life experiences, but about creating the next generation of exploitable office dolts.
With the introduction of tuition fees more students than ever before have to hold down McJobs and study at the same time, whilst the NUS pathetically whimper to the greasy politicians they later want to become for concessions to “keep the cap”. I will fight with students for the abolition of all fees; for grants set at a minimum wage level (not the slave-labour rate of the current minimum wage), and for the socialisation of our own education.
Students, alongside lecturers, teachers, pupils and parents, must be at the forefront of opposition to these attacks on our education system and demand an education that equips us for what really counts - changing the world!
My first involvement in politics was attending a protest against the war on Afghanistan and I was later part of the militant student action against the Iraq war. The recent wave of university occupations protesting Israel’s barbaric assault on Gaza have shown that students are not the passive, nihilistic beings we are often portrayed as, and that collective action can achieve results. But we must deepen the politics of this movement.
The election of Barack Obama means a change in only the image of US imperialism, not in its vicious role in the world, which is to ensure the continued dominance of American capitalists in the global order. The new president has pulled troops out of Iraq, but sent more to Afghanistan. He has also made clear that he backs Israel’s Zionist project as much as Bush.
Being against imperialism does not mean as a communist I support any old reactionary regime or group which also opposes it. Unfortunately many on the ‘left’ do fall into this sort of nationalist politics, and the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition are often heard cheerleading for various reactionaries like the regime in Iran (hangs gay people and tortures students fighting for democracy), Hezbollah (throw acid on women) and Hamas (want an Islamic state). As an internationalist and a fighter for human liberation I cannot just shut up about sexism and homophobia, oppression and murder.
I am a member of Hands Off the People of Iran, which, as well as campaigning against the threat of any imperialist intervention, war or sanctions against Iran, looks to build active solidarity with grassroots forces in Iran, the militant women’s, workers’ and students’ movements. Because of our criticism of the ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ approach, both Hopi and CS have been shamefully barred from affiliating to Stop the War.
The recession creates conditions for war; rising protectionism and falling profits will increase national tensions; there is also the matter of competition over dwindling natural resources. As the US economy declines, it is likely to lash out to try and maintain its status. It is necessary to build a movement which does more than just go on aimless marches and listen to the same old clichés from the platform. A movement flexible in tactics - but always principled in its internationalism.
In order to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the ‘war on terror’ the American and British regimes had to find a scapegoat to portray as the enemy, attempting to hold us in a constant state of fear so that we do not question their wars or their numerous attacks on our basic civil liberties.
These attacks also directly affect students. In a leaked document from the department of education and skills, university staff are asked to spy on “Asian-looking” or Muslim students and inform special branch of any dodgy-goings on. Communist Student candidates vehemently oppose these attacks on our basic freedoms and will fight to reveal what exactly is going on in Sheffield University.
I will argue for united campaigns with Islamic societies on campus in order to counter any surveillance or harassment of “Asian-looking” students, or in defence of any of our civil liberties and democratic rights - including organising ethnically (and sexually) integrated physical defence squads when necessary.
I am also a secularist and advocate the complete separation of state and church/mosque/temple in order to achieve the full equality of believers and non-believers. But I am not ‘neutral’ about religion. Marxists are atheists. We seek to overcome religious superstition and win people to a materialist outlook. As such I oppose political Islam, a reactionary and repressive political movement.
I stand against the prohibitions of the capitalist state and for the full legalisation of all drugs. This is because I do not believe any state should have the right to tell people what they can or cannot put in their bodies. Humans have experimented with drugs for thousands of years and it is not surprising that a curious, intelligent species like ourselves does so. The illegality of drugs keeps their supply in the hands of gangs and means users have no idea of the strength or of what other substances could be mixed in.
The communist alternative is simple. It is for the complete legalisation of all drugs and the socialisation of their use. The irrationality surrounding drugs tells us that the ruling class has no rational programme for society as a whole any more - all it proposes in response to real social problems are increased measures of authoritarian control. The ‘war on drugs’, however, cannot be won.
There is only so much food, only so many mineral deposits, and only so many trees and forests for humankind to put to use if we want to keep on living. The effect of fossil fuels on the global climate threatens to destroy whole ecosystems and render the Earth uninhabitable. Under capitalism the logical and planned use of resources is impossible. In a world of massive overproduction of food, millions starve to death.
The profit motive is the soul of capitalism and is the root of all misuse of resources and of unnecessary environmental damage. It is not profitable to feed the starving, it is not profitable to save the rainforests, it is not profitable to encourage free public transport, it is not profitable to make poverty history. I believe that this madness must end; capitalism must be positively overcome by the conscious control of the majority of the world’s population - thus ensuring the correct balance between meeting expanding human needs and ensuring sustainability.
Communist Students fights for the unity of Marxists, who are currently dispersed over an array of tiny ‘parties’, which are more or less dogmatic and, ironically, undemocratic. But our unity must be based on politics that can win. Not the politics of mindless activism in which students are seen as leaflet fodder, or the politics of hiding our real views to ensure we get voted in. We believe communist politics are true and necessary, and we aim to win students to those ideas and build a mass movement of Marxism. At a time when capitalism is in rapid decline, war looks set to spread and many working class people are again being priced out of education, the minimalist platforms of the other left candidates are a complete irrelevance.
Some of them are Marxists, but in public dilute their politics to a vague leftiness in order to get elected - and because they believe you, the students, are not ready for these ideas and must be led slowly to the truth! Arrogant rubbish. I support the other leftists standing in these elections - but critically. Their strategy is a failed one.
We need unity - yes: but it has to be on the basis of being open about our communist politics and fighting for them to become hegemonic. Those politics cannot be a long list of dogmas which members must agree with. Marxism is a strategy for human liberation. Differences are natural and inevitable, so freedom of debate and a healthy democratic culture, in which minority views can become the majority, are necessary for sustainable unity.
And if our class is to run society it must train itself in political discussion, and practise in its own organisations the democracy it wishes to see in the world.
It is clear as we enter this recession that capitalism has failed as a system, even on its own terms. For a while the true nature of the system is revealed more clearly: the so-called wealth generators, the capitalists, are actually exploitative vampires, who in collusion with the state are making the working class pay the costs of the crisis. The working class includes not just those in paid employment, but all who do not own or control the means of production. That includes the unemployed, pensioners and most students in a country like the UK.
This recession is not down to a handful of ‘bad apples’ making risky decisions; it is a crisis of the system as a whole. Capitalism lives through boom and bust, and in a recession it becomes necessary that swathes of production are left idle and resources destroyed. It is obvious that it is technically within our power to provide enough for all; that starvation and poverty are unnecessary. Yet the lives of millions are at the whim of abstract market forces, which take on a life of their own and which no-one really controls or even understands.
There is an alternative. Organising ourselves to take the means of production into the hands of the majority of society - and running them based on the principle of human need, not a tiny class’s desire for profit.
I am a communist because I believe that capitalist society - where the majority of the world’s population own nothing but their ability to sell their labour-power and production is based on the need for capital to accumulate - is the root cause of war, poverty and the destruction of our environment.
Communism is a strategy for the liberation of humanity through the liberation of the working class. As the exploited, propertyless majority of society, the working class has an objective interest in overthrowing capitalism. It has the social strength to abolish capitalism and can, with organisation, take over the running of society.
Communism is the end of classes, nations and money through the flourishing of democracy and conscious self-control, where production and distribution are based on the principle of human need and not on profit for the sake of profit.
For Laurie’s official video, go to: www.shef.ac.uk/union/student-voice/elections09/candidates/president-mccauley.php
To join the Facebook group to back him, go to: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6796797714 4&ref=ts
Or see his twitter feed to keep updated on the campaign: http://twitter.com/lauriemccauley
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