Welcome to the first ever Harry Pollitt School!
Over this weekend, I hope that we all learn and continue our studies. That we go away with a sense that education isn’t simply something that the ruling class imposes on to us, so we can be more effective in producing capital for them. I hope that we will be able to return to our communities, our workplaces, our campuses, and aid our class in raising our heads that little bit higher.
Education has been one of the primary tools of the ruling class on imposing their will. Whether that’s through an education system that’s unable to teach our youth how to think critically about their lives and conditions, or a media that blasts us with bourgeois propaganda on an hour to hour, minute to minute basis. Propaganda that runs thick through our culture, in the books we read, in the music we listen to, in the television we watch. Intense individualism that tells us not to stand together and to simply accept the lot that we’ve got.
With all this stacked against us, it might be easy to think that revolution is impossible, that we’ll never be able to defeat the capitalist class. But it is possible; it has happened before, and it’ll happen again. The Great October Revolution swept away the Russian capitalist class, which inspired a generation of revolutionaries across the world, including Britain. One of these revolutionaries was Harry Pollitt, former general secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
Harry Pollitt was brought up in a working class community in Lancashire and came to socialism through looking at the conditions his class were facing, incensed with anger against the indignities they were subjected to. Talking about the revolution he said:
“The thing that mattered was that lads like me had whacked the bosses and the landlords; had taken their factories, their lands and their banks… that was enough for me. These were the lads and lasses I must support through thick and thin.”
Pollitt understood that, despite the Russian working class being at the other side of Europe, he had much more in common with them, than he did the British capitalist class.
This is especially pertinent at a time of competing nationalisms, where worker is turned against worker. Where we’re taught to have love for those who oppress us and speak with venom about workers of differing nationalities. That’s what ruling class education does to us. It seeks to divide and conquer.
Harry Pollitt and the Communist Party sought and still seek to educate our class in a new kind of patriotism: patriotism for our class. It’s pride in all that we’ve achieved, pride in our victories however big or small. Pride in working men and women who have realised that their ambitions as a class are possible.
This form of education is impossible through simply copying bourgeois teaching methods. These methods are based on filling us with knowledge that we’ve simply to regurgitate when asked. We’re told ‘don’t you dare question this’, and if we do, we’re punished one way or another.
It’s often said by bourgeois figures that education is the way out of poverty. We all know that the way in which they mean it is under the false god of aspiration- where all we need to do to get ahead in life is study and work hard and soon, we’ll be able to oppress people who were once our peers. However, I would say that education is part of the way out of poverty. Education that’s fulfilling, education that helps us realise our power when we stand together, education that helps us to believe that actually, the misery of capitalism isn’t indefinite- that it can be defeated- that’s how we overthrow the system that necessitates poverty.
Our form of education, Communist education, is one where working-class people are active participants. Communist education forces people to think about their situations, how they got there, why they’re still there, and how they get out.
This isn’t an education that’s resigned to textbooks and classrooms; it’s an education that’s in our everyday life. It’s a living and breathing thing, constantly progressing, regressing, and progressing again.
We learn from our achievements, our mistakes. We learn from struggle. We learn from being at the coalface of the fight against capitalism.
This is why there’s a false dichotomy often presented between theory and practice. “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” as Lenin said. Theory is the evaluation of practice and practice is the implementation of theory and so on. The quality of each is predicated on the quality of the other.
That’s what I want the action points of this weekend to be- to think and to do. To pledge that we’re going to be fighters for our class, but not fighters who punch blind. Fighters who evaluate their enemy, look at their strengths and weaknesses, and work out how to deliver the knockout blow. That’s how we will win the final victory comrades. Not without knockbacks, not without failures, not without what looks like outright defeat. But with raising the confidence of working people, helping them realise that the strict confines of capitalist education can be broken, and building solidarity so that when we punch, we all punch together.
That’s what the ruling class fears, comrades. It fears an educated working class that acts without doubt. It fears us standing together, shoulder to shoulder, saying not only that enough is enough, but that actually, we demand better.
When we leave here, we’re going to launch an all-out offensive to conquer education. To put education in the hands of working people. Working people who are fundamental to building socialism. When education is in our hands, we can wield it against our enemy. It’s a weapon that will allow us to conquer our future.
Josh Morris, is the YCL’s Education Officer