education for the people the struggle for democratic education
Communist Party pamphlet
Britain’s Road to Socialism
Authored and edited by the Communist Party Education Commission
The new edition of Britain’s Road to Socialism, the Communist Party’s programme, adopted in July 2011; presents and analysis of capitalism and imperialism in its current form; answers the questions of how a revolutionary transformation might be bought about in 21st Century Britain; and what a socialist and communist society in Britain might look like.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the publisher.
The BRS was first published in 1951 after nearly six years of discussion and debate across the CP, labour movement and working class. Over its 8 editions it has sold more than a million copies in Britain and helped to shape and develop the struggle of the working class for more than half a century. Other previous editions of the BRS have been published in 1952, 1958, 1968, 1977, 1989 and 2000 as well as multiple substantially revised versions.
Published by the Communist Party May 2013. Copyright © Communist Party 2013. ISBN 978-1-908315-11-3
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the nature of the crisis in education Education, we are told, is the most important thing shaping people’s futures and determining their life-chances. If you want to get a job, if you want a future at all, you have to get a good education, get into a good school, get a degree. In an era when unemployment and under-employment in low skilled jobs is becoming once again a major social reality, these messages of course wield a huge power. Policy-makers in the political mainstream argue about whether education is the key to economic success in the knowledge economy or whether it is vital in preserving the social order and preventing the kind of riots seen returning to Britain’s inner cities in 2011. Yet for all the noise made about education, the reality of what is happening to our economy and our society and the reality of what is happening in our schools, colleges and universities tells a diﬀerent, more complex story. Just as the British economy is being further wrecked by austerity policies that reinforce its already deep structural weaknesses, so the education system appears increasingly incapable of delivering on either of its supposed purposes, let alone fulﬁlling any progressive vision. The Coalition government has returned to the policies of the Tory governments of the 1980s with a vengeance, further fragmenting the education system, fostering damaging competition, promoting the private sector and continuing the state centralisation of control over the content of education. Yet for all its aspirations to make education fulﬁl a dual role of rendering proﬁts for its City friends and maintaining the social order, it cannot fully stiﬂe the frustrations caused by its attempts to rein in democratic access to education. These aspirations and frustrations are ﬁnding expression, whether in the form of student protests or alienated urban riots. Similarly, the idea that education can substitute for the role that redistribution and industrial policy used to perform for social democrats has been fully exploded. The ﬁnancial crisis and the austerity assault, and the chronic weakness of the UK economy, coupled with the rise of high-skilled economic competitors in China and India has revealed Britain’s focus on skills at the expense of creating jobs and new industries to be an empty delusion. ‘Education, Education, Education’ was always an empty slogan, not just because it issued from the mouth of Tony Blair, the struggle for democratic education education for the people 1
but also because the fundamental idea behind it was rotten. In this pamphlet, the Communist Party argues that it is time for the labour movement to go back to ﬁrst principles about what education is, what role it plays in society and what it can be made to do to serve the working class and its allies. We argue that the left and the labour movement needs to base its analysis on a sound understanding of the role that education plays in capitalist societies. This will enable a better understanding of how it can be made to fulﬁl its potential in assisting the forces pushing toward an alternative path to socialist development. This also means basing our immediate demands and our immediate objectives on a sound understanding of where we are now. We have to understand not just the immediate balance of class forces but also how the current conjuncture is rooted in the historical development of our education systems in the context of the development of British capitalism. The task then is to articulate a progressive vision of what education is and should be for. This must be based on an understanding of what beneﬁts the working class and its allies and the emancipatory role that education can play, but it must have its eye ﬁrmly on the current balance of class forces and the prevailing ‘common sense’. To repeat the old adage, we need to start from where people are, not where we would like them to be. The Communist Party oﬀers some proposals as to what should be at the core of a progressive education programme for the labour movement, as a contribution to an emerging debate on the broader left and in the labour movement. Our proposal is that a future progressive vision of education needs to be organically rooted in an Alternative Economic and Political Strategy. We are not in the business of dealing in utopias, but of developing an education programme that forms part of and reinforces the struggle for national economic and political renewal and which advances the political and economic interests of the working class in the process. The pamphlet then goes on to make some suggestions about the form and content of an education system that could give 2 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
expression to the kind of programme we set out. Too often, debate about education on the left starts from the wrong position. Too often debate is shaped by an understandably reactive response to government attacks: the need to defend this kind of school or that kind of funding pot. Instead, we are urging that the left and labour movement start from what we want education to do and begin to debate and discuss the kind of education system that could achieve this. Finally, we argue that if the left and the labour movement are to begin to achieve any of this, then there must be a period of sustained movement building around a common programme based on the immediate needs of the hour, but which can also be seen to open up the way for further advances of a more socialist character. We oﬀer some suggestions about the way in which a movement for education might be built.
1 Brian Simon, The State and Educational Change, (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1994), p. 3.
The nature of education and the place of education systems The kernel of truth within the much-abused idea of lifelong learning is that education is about more than what happens in schools, colleges and universities. It is a wider and more profound human process that takes place within society and it’s important that we properly locate the role of education systems within this more complex whole. This was powerfully described by the educationalist and historian of education Brian Simon in a passage that is worth quoting at length: “Education is about the empowerment of individuals. It is about discovering, and providing the conditions which encourage the fuller development of abilities and skills in every sphere of human activity – artistic, scientiﬁc, social and spiritual. But, more general, education has been strikingly described as ‘the mode of development of human beings in society’, and seen in this light, the process of education involves all of those formative inﬂuences, including the family, peer groups, the churches, apprenticeship, neighbourhood and civic relations, with which all are involved from the earliest times; relationships growing in complexity, of course, as society becomes more complex. Within these sets of inter-relations, organised schooling, which until recently only aﬀected a small proportion of the population, now plays a central role. Together with the family it is the chief means by which new generations are inducted into the future.”1 the struggle for democratic education education for the people 3
Moving from the very general to the more speciﬁc, the way in which education has played this role in capitalist societies is crucially determined by the inner dynamics of capitalist class society. In capitalist societies, the bourgeoisie dominates and controls the state. But as the Marxist philosopher and political theorist Antonio Gramsci showed, as they have developed, school, college and university systems form part of civil society, not formally part of the state, yet strongly shaped by the political hegemony of the bourgeoisie. So, education systems have relative autonomy from the state and while subject to the ideological hegemony of the bourgeoisie, they are open to ‘counter-hegemonic’ pressure from the working class and its allies. As such, education systems play a dual role in capitalist societies. On the one hand, they perform a hegemonic role in reproducing existing social and other inequalities and giving them ideological legitimacy. On the other, education systems are the product of the historical struggle to free access to formal education from the clergy and the aristocracy, involving the bourgeoisie mobilising sections of the working class in a democratic ﬁght and then the working class subsequently taking that ﬁght up in its own right. With the development of the working class as a political force, educational institutions and systems have come under pressure to fulﬁl their ‘democratic’ potential and become progressive forces, assisting in the further liberation of working people. So what kind of education assists in the liberation of working people? For Marxists, at its most abstract, education is the development of human powers, intellectual and manual. This development takes place not through the passive reception of ideas by pupils or students - what Paolo Freire called the ‘banking of knowledge’. Rather development of the intellect and productive powers takes place through the dynamic, dialectical interaction of humans with the circumstances in which they ﬁnd themselves. From this emphasis on learning as a part of transformatory practice, it follows that there can be no real separation of intellectual or productive activity. For Marxists, the working class has an interest in education as part of its struggle for political and economic emancipation. This means that the working class has an interest in raising its productive capacity and its critical 4 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
understanding. Once again, Gramsci is instructive here. Gramsci argued that the working class had an interest in developing ‘schools of labour’ in which the mass of the people could be given the chance to develop skills and a professional culture that would raise the productive powers of the people and the nation. Yet at the same time, he also argued ﬁercely against the tendency to create purely vocational education for working people, ‘incubators of little monsters, aridly trained for a job, with no general ideas, no general culture, no intellectual stimulation, only an infallible eye and a ﬁrm hand’.2 At its most general and abstract level then, progressive education for the working class and its allies is that which develops their productive abilities to the full and raises the general level of productive capacity in society, while enabling the most general development of independent, critical thinking and intellectual abilities. This dual purpose is important. Progressive education is neither the simple extension of access to vocationalism, for example, nor is it extension of access to academicism, even in its radical guise of ‘education for liberation’. It is the dynamic combination of both. For the bourgeoisie, by contrast, education is useful insofar as it supports the maintenance of the social order, the current division of labour and the needs of capital and industry. Crudely, academicism serves the purposes of the reproduction of cultural superiority among those sections of society with access to capital. Vocationalism serves the purpose of restricting the vision and aspiration of working people, limiting their education and training to narrow competences in those immediate skills needed by capital itself.
2 See ‘Schools of Labour’ and ‘Men or Machines’ in David Forgacs (ed.) The Antonio Gramsci Reader (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1999), pp. 60-64.
To summarise, education systems play a key role the wider educational processes that ‘induct people into the future’. The extent to which they are able to achieve this in a way that is progressive or reactionary – which assists in changing society or which alternatively reproduces existing hierarchies - depends on the balance of forces in the wider class struggle. The progress of the wider class struggle determines the extent to which the working class can loosen the hegemonic grip of the bourgeois state upon the institutions of the education system and subject them to its own organisational and political pressures. Moving again from the very general to the more speciﬁc and the struggle for democratic education education for the people 5
concrete, we can see these processes at work through a brief discussion of historical developments within the British education system.
the struggle over education and periods of advance The period from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s saw a continued struggle to extend access to education to working people, characterised by periods of stagnation but also three periods of substantial advance, during the 1870s, the 1940s and the 1960s. In each phase, the ruling class was forced to concede the extension of schooling to working people and the widening of access to colleges of education and universities. In the 1870s, decades of pressure from working people’s organisations, coupled with arguments about the need to develop industrial skills and to educate men who were in the process of winning the franchise, forced the aristocracy and the industrial bourgeoisie to concede the creation of a basic system of elementary schooling for working people. The 1880s saw alliances of local industrial capitalists with sections of the working class to create pressure, particularly around industrial cities, for new educational institutions, technical schools and colleges and some universities. Yet these advances were inserted into and existed within a highly segmented and stratiﬁed system of schools and universities. In the 1940s, there was a new wave of popular pressure for educational change, built on sustained pressure from the organised working class, coupled with the experiences of the catastrophic 1930s and the galvanising eﬀect of the war in mobilising national and popular debates around politics, society and culture. Combined with the weakness of the ruling class at the end of the Second World War and the fear of Communistled revolution, this prompted the National coalition government to concede to some of the labour movement’s demands. The 1944 Education Act opened the door to local authorities to create a national system of secondary schools, making it possible for progressive authorities to start the drive toward creating comprehensive schools under democratic control, teaching a broad curriculum. Under the Labour government in 1945, more local authorities embraced comprehensive schools, while the
6 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
funding for universities and colleges began to be increased with the avowed intention of meeting national needs. Yet, the tripartite system of schools with the fee-paying independent schools and grammar schools on top was left in place and comprehensive education expanded slowly, with only 10 schools by 1950. By the 1960s, labour movement and popular pressure was again growing for educational expansion. The advances of the earlier period and the emergence of new social strata demanding access to higher education, coupled with the perception that Britain was being left behind in industrial development, encouraged both Tories and Labour alike to begin the expansion of university places in the wake of the Robbins report. Under the Labour government after 1964, there was renewed pressure for and encouragement of a push to increase the coverage of comprehensive schooling. In addition there was sustained pressure to erode hierarchical practices and assumptions that had been imported into the new comprehensive schools, replacing practices like streaming with a genuinely progressive universal pedagogy. There was also a push to enable comprehensive pupils to progress to university. Once again, the advances were partial and incomplete and wide social inequalities remained ingrained in its institutions and practices. Under Anthony Crosland, higher education expansion took place within a binary system of colleges for technology and â€˜academicâ€™ universities, rather than the unitary system envisaged by Robbins, while university intake was overwhelmingly from the more aďŹ„uent sections of the working class, as well as being male and white. In spite of the major advances in comprehensive education, it was still the case that by 1970, only 30% of secondary education took place in comprehensive schools.3
3 This account draws on Brian Simon, The State and Educational Change (Lawrence and Wishart, London), pp. 2344 and Brian Simon, Education and the Social Order, 19401990 (Lawrence and Wishart, 1991).
Yet these were periods of advance in which progress was made toward the construction of a unitary system of comprehensive schools under democratic control, with greater access to further and higher education and a more radical educational environment which recognised to some extent, the importance of developing the full potential of all the British people. What characterised these periods of advance? The key determinants of progress were periods of ruling class weakness and sustained labour movement pressure, together with the struggle for democratic education education for the people 7
temporary alliances with sections of the industrial bourgeoisie who saw the need for the creation of a greater skills base and national technological infrastructure. Yet progress was always uneven and partial. Private schools and the fee-paying ‘Public’ Schools and grammar schools continued largely untouched, for example. Fundamentally, this uneven progress was a result of the fact that at no point was the political power of the ruling class under suﬃcient threat to prevent it making concessions that eﬀectively divided the coalition of interests pushing for change. Neither was suﬃcient progress made to rule out a determined counter-attack. That counter-attack was launched in the late 1970s.
the great counter-attack: If the period from the 1940s saw uneven, stop-start waves of advance, the years from the late 1970s have seen a steady counter-attack on all this progress, conducted during some periods, with particular ferocity. The roots of this counter-attack lie deep within the development of British capitalism during the 1970s and particularly the rise of ﬁnance capital. The relative and absolute decline of manufacturing and the consequent weakening of industrial capital in Britain, partly as a result of ﬁnance capital’s role in blocking modernisation, led to a political and economic realignment in the British ruling class. As the Thatcher governments aligned themselves with the interests of the City of London, so the political pressure for investment in industrial skills diminished. Instead, the City increasingly captured the institutions of the state and reoriented government’s priorities around its own desire for international capital freedom and the creation of new asset markets out of public sector utilities and services.
The Tories and the New Right The great counter-attack began in the last years of the Labour government from 1976 onwards as the IMF cuts were imposed and the Callaghan government began to abandon Keynesian economic assumptions. However, it was the rise of the ‘New Right’ neoliberalism that gave it full ideological expression. In this ﬁrst wave of neoliberalism, monetarist economics was coupled to attempts to begin to break up public services through 8 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
their marketisation and ultimate privatisation. In education, think tanks like the Institute of Economic Aﬀairs and politicians like Keith Joseph began to formulate a neoliberal vision of education as a competition for skills in which the most intellectually agile would thrive by wielding their education vouchers in a system of ruthlessly competing schools, colleges and universities. In this vision, democratic and egalitarian structures represented just so many fetters on the free play of market forces. In the 1980s, this neoliberalism was coupled to a ﬁerce class attack on the liberatory vision of education and its democratic structures. These attacks were characterised by a hostility to the power of local authorities, the centralisation of both funding and the ‘licencing’ of education providers, centralisation of control over the curriculum and a fundamental attempt to reinforce the traditional social control function of education. This began with the cuts in spending on education under Keith Joseph, the attacks on teachers, their professional autonomy and their unions and the ﬁrst ﬂoating of the idea of voucher systems. It continued with the Kenneth Baker’s major piece of legislation in 1988. This made it possible for schools to opt out of Local Authority control again for the ﬁrst time. It also removed polytechnics and Further Education colleges from under the control of Local Authorities. At the same time, grants for university were cut and competition among schools was promoted by the Department of Education through its reshaping of funding.4 New Labour: slowdown but continuity The pace of neoliberal reform slowed under New Labour. Some attempts were made to mediate the relationship between universities and colleges and government, for example, through the Regional Development Agencies. Education received more funding under New Labour. Yet for all that, the fundamental direction of travel in policy-making continued. New Labour was wedded to an essentially neoliberal conception of the economy and of the position of skills. In place of industrial strategy and redistributive policies, New Labour believed that Britain could maintain a position of global prosperity through open markets coupled with the promotion of a highly skilled workforce. Britain would be alright as long as it remained a ‘brain’ country in the new ‘knowledge economy’. Accordingly, the government set a target to get 50% of young people through higher education, attempting to use the higher 4 Simon, Education and the education system to compensate for the failure of employers to Social Order, pp. the struggle for democratic education education for the people 9
provide high levels of training and the collapse of apprenticeships.5
5 For criticism of New Labour’s education policy, see Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley, Lost Generation? New strategies for youth and education (Continuum, London, 2010); Ewart Keep, ‘Education and the Economy’, in Ken Spours and Neal Lawson (eds), Education for the Good Society, (Compass, 2011) Philip Brown, Hugh Lauder and David Ashton, The Global Auction: The Broken Promises of Education, Jobs and Incomes (OUP, 2011).
6 Brown, Lauder and Ashton, The Global Auction, pp. 49-64.
Yet while widening participation looked, and to some extent was, democratic, it was pursued through the Tory strategy of trying to deliver public services through new partnerships with the private sector. New Labour promoted private ﬁnance initiatives like Building Schools for the Future. New Labour introduced tuition fees to attempt to hold down the cost of expansion in the HE system. New Labour encouraged competition between schools, colleges and universities and promoted the use of Ofsted as a punitive tool against teachers. It was New Labour too that introduced Academy Schools into the system to deal with ‘failing’ schools, and which encouraged the entry of new providers in further and higher education. The lines between vocational and academic pathways became hardened. The poverty of the knowledge economy and its associated ‘human capital’ theories was cruelly exposed in 2008, when the ﬁnancial crash prompted a recession among the so-called brain nations, leading to the return of mass unemployment, a new generation of NEETs and cohorts of graduates struggling to ﬁnd employment in low skilled jobs. By contrast, Socialist China, supposedly a ‘hand nation’ in the global division of labour, had embarked on a massive state-led investment programme designed to create entire hi-tech industries in biotechnology, nanotechnology and photoelectronic materials, connected closely to a state-led programme to expand new research centres and massive new university capacity as part of the creation of a national innovation system.6 China’s economy was less aﬀected by the global recession than the UK, US or eurozone economies. Yet in spite of the obvious lessons, the formation of the Coalition government in 2010 saw the resumption of the class attack on education, and the neoliberal oﬀensive, conducted now with renewed ferocity under Michael Gove and David Willetts.
Renewed ‘Shock Therapy’: The Coalition In 2010, using the cover of the need for austerity policies, the new government announced its intention to cut higher education teaching grants by 80% and then late the same year, David Willetts forced a snap vote on the raising of tuition fees to £9000, eﬀectively replacing grants with a voucher 10 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
system not that far removed from that which Keith Joseph had toyed with in the 1980s. The immediate eﬀects of this were softened by an upfront loan system which is set to swell the national debt over the next 20 years, yet a system that requires students to saddle themselves with a lifetime of debt is unlikely to do more than further entrench the existing inequalities of the system in the very best scenario. The government has also eased the entry of private, private equity or US-backed for-proﬁt companies into the higher education sector by handing them access to public subsidies, and removing regulatory barriers to their ﬂourishing. In early 2013, it created the ﬁrst for-proﬁt university and more are likely to follow. As a consequence, universities and higher education colleges are now pitched in a destructive competition that some of them cannot possibly survive while they attempt to race to the bottom. Michael Gove has picked up where Kenneth Baker left oﬀ. The organisational assault on local authority power and democratic accountability has gathered pace. Through a sleight of hand, the government pushed through an amendment to its 2011 Education Act allowing Further Education colleges to dissolve themselves as corporations as a prelude to full privatisation. Gove has launched a frontal attack on local authority schools, using Ofsted as a lever to beat governing bodies and local councils into submission, forcing academisation where he can’t bribe them and promoting the importation of Free Schools. This has resulted in a massive centralisation of the school system, with over half of all secondary schools now academies, individually contracting with the DfE and eﬀectively run directly out of the Department. But as recent press reports and publications from the hireling think tank Policy Exchange reveal, the real ultimate agenda here though is to repeat what happened in the US with the Charter Schools movement and to allow chains of US and Swedish education businesses to move into the newly deregulated sector, buying up struggling academies and Free Schools and running them for proﬁt.7
7 See for example, James O’Shaughnessy, Competition Meets Collaboration: Helping school chains address England’s long tail of educational failure (Policy Exchange, 2012).
Gove has continued the centralisation of the curriculum, with his attempts to reform examinations and impose the ill-fated Ebacc. The essence of the government’s project here is to push schools back toward a grammar school-style education, emptying it of its developmental content and making it a competition to display the simple attainment of accreditation through examinations. He had the struggle for democratic education education for the people 11
also continued the attack on teachers’ pay and terms and conditions and his attempts to downgrade the professionalism of teachers through assaults on the university basis of teacher education. Vocational education seems set to continue being emptied of any broader educational content with the government’s turn toward employer-led apprenticeships and employer-led funding and design of Further Education courses. What is the legacy of this long counter-attack on education? While the advances of the 1960s in particular enabled the creation of a mass education system in secondary, further and higher education, progress was always marked by structural inequalities that mirrored and reﬂected wider social inequalities. These have been reinforced and further entrenched by the long counter-attack. At school level, class division and diﬀerentiation in educational attainment remains among the widest in all the OECD countries. In spite of the advent of ‘mass’ higher education, only 4% of those eligible for free school meals at 15 continue to study at university. As the OECD has itself pointed out, more market-oriented school regimes tend to increase schools’ segregation, whilst those characterised as more comprehensive and publicly regulated tend to reduce it’. 8 Yet the government presses on with its determination to privatise education and now these failures are to be compounded by rampant proﬁteering.
8 Emma Perry and Becky Francis, The Social Class Gap for Educational Achievement: A review of the literature (RSA, December, 2010), pp. 5-12.
9 Ewart Keep, ‘Education and the Economy’, in Ken Spours and Neal Lawson (eds), Education for the Good Society, (Compass, 2011), p. 49.
an alternative strategy for education Such has been the ferocity and depravity of the Coalition’s attack on education that simply to have it stop might seem enough. And it would certainly be a signiﬁcant step to see the end of the Coalition. Yet for the labour movement and the working class and for the cause of progressive education, there can be no return to the errors of the New Labour period. To restart the progressive advance in education will need a recognition of the limits of education, as well as its potential. The failure of New Labour’s education policy was in part based on a persistent over-ambition about what education systems could achieve and a failure to recognise that low qualiﬁcations, low skills and high levels of inequality were expressions of problems located deep within the political economy and labour market of Britain.9 There can be no return to the delusional fantasies of the
12 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
knowledge economy or its empty mantras about the power of education. The fate of our education system, our national economy and our political culture are closely intertwined. Without an alternative economic and political strategy, we cannot begin to solve any of the deep educational problems we face in Britain. Yet at the same time, education has a key role to play in any alternative economic and political strategy. An Alternative Economic and Political Strategy The Communist Party has long proposed that Britain needs an alternative economic and political strategy that fundamentally reorients the economy away from ﬁnance capital and slavery to big business in key industries and utilities, while driving up living standards for working people in the immediate term. This strategic approach also lies at the heart of the People’s Charter and other publications like the recent ‘Building an Economy for the People’, while it ﬁnds echoes even in Compass’s ‘Plan B’ document.10 Common to these alternative programmes are policies to: n Take full public ownership of at least part of the banking sector, using nationalised assets to create a national investment bank which can invest in new hi-tech green industries, a modern communications infrastructure. n Begin a massive programme of social housebuilding and retroﬁtting existing houses to make them energy eﬃcient, to kickstart construction and economic growth and provide housing for working people without recreating the private housing bubble. n Take back public ownership of the major utilities and transport infrastructure. n Taking public stakes in new green industries to start the recreation of a hi-tech manufacturing sector 10 Communist Party, Britain’s Road to Socialism (New edition, October 2011); ‘The People’s Charter for Change’ (http://www/thepeopleschart er.org/); Plan B: A Good Economy for a Good Society (Compass, 2011); Jonathan White (ed.), Building an Economy for the People (Manifesto Press, 2012).
In addition to these economic measures, the AEPS and its related programmes also have a closely related political dimension. At the heart of this is the recognition that ending the dictatorship of big business and the market can’t just mean a series of measures to take ownership at the level of the state. In addition, the AEPS will require a thoroughgoing democratisation of society and the economy. Suggested policies include: n the
democratisation of publicly owned industries, utilities and
the struggle for democratic education education for the people 13
services to involve unions and service users in their planning and delivery; n the breaking up of media monopolies and support for alternative media n the use of public stakes in new industrial companies and legislation to promote trade union freedom and collective bargaining; n the re-democratisation of local authorities; n legislation to end discrimination and oppression of all forms in workplaces and society; n the active promotion of a participatory and collective democratic culture. Democratisation is central to the various versions of the AEPS and the People’s Charter because it is about devolving power away from big business and involving the mass of the people in the active pursuit of and support for a programme of national economic and political renewal. It is clear from this that education has a key role to play in supporting this strategy. It’s also clear that certain priorities for the development of education policy ﬂow from the strategy. Education and the AEPS Democratisation and education are closely intertwined. Education has a vital role to play in preparing and enabling people to be active, collective citizens, questioning the inequalities and injustices in society, understanding the potentials and limits of human collective action, understanding how societies, economies and cultures change and able to locate themselves and their own agency within these processes. This is education for transformation and this progressive educational content would have to be infused into every element of the system. But there are some obvious priority areas for a left government enacting an AEPS. n A programme of construction in sustainable social housing, together with a national programme of sustainable energy 11 See for example, A Green retroﬁtting of the existing housing stock would require a major New Deal: Joined-up policies to solve the triple crunch of the expansion in the numbers of construction workers trained in credit crisis, climate change and ﬁtting sustainable energy sources. For example, the New high oil prices (New Economics Economics Foundation has estimated that £10 billion invested in Foundation, 2008); Jenny Bird, training a new ‘carbon army’ could lead to the reskilling of 1.5 Green Jobs: Prospects for million people.11 creating jobs from oﬀshore wind in the UK (IPPR, 2009); The Good Jobs Plan: a new approach to industrial strategy (New Economics Foundation, 2011).
the development of a blue skies and an applied research base, connected to government and new hi-tech green
14 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
and clean industries will require the strategic identiﬁcation of priority industries and research areas. Then there would need to be a state led project of sustained, targeted investment to create a long-term innovation system around these industries, including developing blue skies research centres and ensuring a ﬂow of graduates in these technologies to move into applied research centres and development at industry level. Both the USA and China have undertaken such state-led strategic investments in key future industries in general technologies like nanotechnology or ones with massive future export potential like greentech and cleantech.12 n Tackling
the barriers to women entering the workforce, boosting working class families’ earnings and tackling one of the bases of discrimination in the workplace could be hugely assisted by the introduction of a national nursery system, building on positive moves made under New Labour but greatly extending it and making it free at the point of use. These are democratic goals in so far as the provision of education would be inﬂuenced by the nationally determined support for a programme of economic, social and political renewal. But the deeper democratisation of society at the heart of the AEPS and its allied programmes also lead inexorably toward educational policies and priorities.
most fundamental need would be immediate moves to regain some democratic control over primary and secondary education and ensure that it was able to perform a democratic function in terms of providing a good school for every child and in terms of preparing them for active democratic citizenship. This would mean decisive moves to reinvigorate the essence of the old multilateral, comprehensive vision of education and to rein in damaging competition, the development of specialist schools or the privileging of either a hollow vocationalism or an empty culture of academic attainment.
12 See Brown, Lauder and Ashton, Global Auction, pp. 4964; Mariana Mazzucato, The Entrepreneurial State (Demos, 2011).
functional literacy and numeracy are essential to the democratic ability to participate in society, so the funding of adult learning in basic literacy, numeracy and English for Speakers of Other Languages would have to be re-prioritised.
retraining of a carbon army must be done through new vocational adult learning course that include appropriately the struggle for democratic education education for the people 15
tailored broad based educational components, to enable the constant development of critical and intellectual abilities, ending the one-sided emphasis on employer-led course design, which has produced weak and impoverished vocational qualiďŹ cations. Lifelong learning must be given full meaning through the creation of broad-based adult learning courses that facilitate critical thinking as well as developing skills. n At
higher levels, there must be action to open up anew the pathways to higher education, but realising the full complexity of that task. Higher education teaching and research across the full range of disciplines could be given an explicitly new democratic task, enabling academics to build on existing relationships with local, regional and national bodies and to develop a critically reďŹ‚ective body of research work around social and economic problems facing the government and its allies and analysing policy initiatives. In short, the democratic aims of the AEPS would be supported by educational policies that were aimed not at propaganda for Socialism, but at enabling the development of the kind of citizens who are committed to their own transformation and that of society. Equally, the AEPS will help deliver on the democratic objectives of educational reforms by narrowing inequalities and eroding economic and cultural barriers to educational development. In the next section, we will look more closely at what kind of system would need to be built to fulďŹ l these social, economic and democratic objectives.
what kind of system for a democratic education? The shape of a future education system cannot be laid out in this pamphlet. It must be debated and developed in struggle by the left and its allies. But if we accept the kind of social and democratic objectives laid out in the previous section, we can look here at the broad outlines of the kind of system it implies. We can also examine how far away from this we are now and begin to ask how we go about getting there.
16 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
Early Childhood Education Early Childhood education in Britain is under-developed and prohibitively expensive. The lack of a good early years education provision reinforces patriarchal structures in society and strengthens the barriers to women’s equality in the labour market, in addition to consuming huge quantities of household income. Yet educationalists are increasingly agreed that this is a critical period in child development. Positive moves were made by New Labour through SureStart but these were too modest in ambition and that progress is being rolled back by the Coalition with more than 400 Surestart centres closing in the last two years. There is an urgent need for the introduction of a national Early Childhood education system, modelled perhaps on the best features of the Nordic systems, free at the point of use, universal and professionalised. This system should be holistic in its approach to child development, supporting development in nutritional and health needs, emphasising play and creativity and adequately staﬀed by trained, professionalised and properly remunerated carers. A democratic school system In the school system, we are almost back to the chaos of schools confronting the labour movement before 1944. Local authority comprehensive schools now constitute a minority at secondary level, sitting alongside maintained schools, ‘additional Academies’, ‘Converted’ Academies, Academies with private sector sponsors, Free Schools, not to mention the enduring scar of the private school subsystem, many with diﬀerent legal forms, diﬀerent relationships with their property and diﬀerent relationships with local and national authorities. The most urgent democratic priority will be imposing some form of universal framework over this chaos of schools, making them democratically accountable to bodies tasked with ensuring the fulﬁlment of democratic goals. This cannot be done by a central government regulator.
13 As proposed by David Wolfe and the Campaign for State Education (CASE) ‘CASENotes’, Issue 48, February 2013, http://www.campaignforstate education.org.uk/
The simplest measure would be new legislation to end the promotion of Free Schools and Academies and to override the individual funding arrangements of privately contracting schools and bring them all under a single regulatory framework, determining a set of features and standards that democratic comprehensive schools must meet.13 The objectives of democratisation could be built into this legislation, by ensuring the struggle for democratic education education for the people 17
that these schools had proper democratic accountability structures built into them, both external accountability to the local communities they serve and internal accountability to teachers, parents and pupils. External accountability would mean placing a requirement on all schools to collaborate with and reach agreement with a revitalised and redemocratised middle tier, most likely local authorities. Internal democratisation could be promoted by legislation setting democratic benchmarks for governing bodies. Legislation would not be enough, however. Local authorities, local communities, teachers and governors would have to be encouraged to promote greater internal democratisation of their schools. Schools should ‘strive toward their own development as fully democratic institutions’ as Michael Fielding has put it, becoming ‘schools for democracy’ that embody in their practices as far as possible the organic connection between education for transformation and empowerment for democratic participation.14 What would democratisation mean for the curriculum and the evaluation of quality? The national curriculum’s emphasis on an educational content that privileges the learning of ‘things’, could be replaced by a national democratic framework that set out national priorities and the requirement for a comprehensive, broad and balanced education but which placed the emphasis ﬁrmly on processes of thought, on teaching people how to think. The precise curriculum content could then be the subject of greater negotiation between national and local bodies and teachers. As CASE argues, examination and evaluation processes must be taken out of the hands of external examining bodies and ‘regulators’. Assessment must be devolved to schools and teachers, externally moderated as in higher education. Assessment should be formative and supportive with standards maintained by a lighter touch national body.15 14 Michael Fielding, ‘Schools for Democracy’ in Spours and Lawson, Education for the Good Society, pp. 34-39. 15 ‘CASENotes’, Issue 48, February 2013, http://www.campaignforstate education.org.uk/
Devolving power over education and maintaining standards in great measure to teachers would mean breaking with the attempt to drive teachers’ pay, pensions and working conditions into a downward spiral. It would also break, decisively with the the punitive regulatory regime imposed by Ofsted But there should be no return to older bourgeois notions of professionalism or professional autonomy. Instead, professionalism itself needs to be democratised, to recognise the wider societal role of the teacher
18 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
and their immersion in complex social relations. Education unions, schools and a progressive government could negotiate the creation of genuinely democratised professional and regulatory bodies. These would incorporate not simply ‘student voice’, but the vital relationship with national-level democratic bodies, strategically important economic interests and progressive social movements. These bodies could promote the idea of a ‘democratic professionalism’ a form of professionalism that recognised the wider social and democratic role of teachers. This would reward an ‘activist’ notion of the teacher as a progressive force, engaged, active and collaborating with parents, students, communities, local democratic bodies, social movements and all organisations striving for education to play a role in progressive social and economic renewal.16 Adult learning The ﬁrst step in democratising adult learning would be to reverse recent measures to restrict access, including replacing the new fees and loans for level 4 and above courses and committing to replacing the funding for ESOL and ELQ courses, cut by the new Labour administrations.
16 See for example, Geoﬀ Whitty and Emma Wisby, ‘Moving beyong recent education reform – and towards a democratic professionalism’, Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies 38 (2006), pp.43-61. 17 This has been argued by Ken Spours and Ann Hodgson, using their model of ‘devolved social partnership’. See Ann Hodgson and Ken Spours, Collaborative Local Learning Ecologies: Reﬂections on the Governance of Lifelong Learning in England (IFLL Sector paper 6, NIACE, 2009).
The next step would be to ensure that adult learning was reconstituted on a basis that properly recognised its transformative potential in addition to its narrow vocational emphasis. As indicated above, this would mean that vocational qualiﬁcations like NVQs would have to be reformed to include broader educational content that emphasised critical skills, democratic practices and which enabled the questioning of power structures in vocational areas, for example. It would also mean recognising – and providing funding for - the role of ‘informal learning’ in beginning the process of transformation. Control over the development of qualiﬁcations and the everyday monitoring of standards should be devolved to colleges and lecturers, within a new broad national framework, under the broad guidance of a single national body, rather than competing examining bodies. Course content should be the result of democratic discussion and agreement by a wide range of partners, including local employers, universities, democratic authorities, community organisations and social movements. In general, the content, assessment and evaluation of adult learning should be devolved to allow colleges to play a new role in their communities, reskilling people for their local economies, developing them as democratic citizens, equipped to question the struggle for democratic education education for the people 19
power structures and work collectively to solve problems.17 The chaos of colleges and private training providers that make up the further and adult learning world would have to be addressed. In the immediate term, funding should only be provided for notfor-proﬁt companies and driven as far as possible toward colleges to prevent the naked proﬁteering that has taken place in workbased learning, for example. The same legislation that brought all schools under a single framework could be used for colleges and private training providers. This could then be used to drive the democratisation process at the level of colleges and companies, including new requirements to have proper democratic governing bodies, collective bargaining arrangements and to require them to collaborate with local, regional and city-based democratic organisations as well as local employers. As with the school system, the devolution of power over course content and the monitoring of standards implies a new pressure on colleges to agree national collective bargaining agreements that raised the eroded pay and status of lecturing staﬀ. And again, as with teachers, devolving power cannot simply mean a return to an old, bourgeois idea in which the lecturer asserts their control of the craft. Instead, a new ‘democratic professionalism’ must be negotiated between a progressive government, unions and education bodies so that it is founded on recognition of the wider societal role of the lecturer and their accountability within a democratised system. Any professional and regulatory bodies must be similarly democratised to draw in the full range of ‘stakeholders’ with an interest in post-secondary education. Higher education Such have been the attacks on higher education in recent years that there is now an increasingly widespread revolt against Coalition policy. Some of the expressions of this revolt have assumed the a nostalgic and one-sided form that reinscribes the idea of the university as an independent, autonomous, critical space – a zone of freedom within the bourgeois world. This is in itself a bourgeois idea of the university, which has both mainstream liberal and radical left versions. Common to both is a tendency to gloss the dual role of universities within education systems, in reproducing inequality as well as questioning it, for example. That is not to dismiss the important role of higher education, or the university as a particular form. But the political economy of higher education has changed so much that renewing social and democratic advances in higher education means addressing the 20 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
role that some of these sacred idea about universities have played in creating the current crisis. For example, the idea of institutional autonomy - the independence of the universities has been used to drive the marketisation and restructuring of higher education to the point where entire university leaderships have internalised the market, making uniﬁed resistance to the attacks on HE impossible. Academic freedom and ideas of autonomy in fact need to be protected from the market. A democratic oﬀensive in higher education would obviously have to tackle the issue of the Coalition’s system of fees and loans, which is erecting a new permanent social barrier to working people. In the ﬁrst instance, fees could be cut to £6000 as Labour have proposed, but as part of a programme of phasing them out entirely, before the debt burden on students and the public grows much larger. But it would also be necessary to democratise what it is that students in higher education access. This would mean developing new connections between the courses and qualiﬁcations oﬀered and the broader educational content of both school and adult learning courses, with support for broader content at degree level and an emphasis on general critical abilities and democratic content even in more specialised courses. It would also mean making more organic connections between the courses oﬀered and the democratically agreed national priority areas of the AEPS on the one hand, and the needs of regional economies and social movements on the other. Teaching and research should not be determined by either the short-term needs of individual employers or the esoteric notions of freedom, but by democratic negotiation and agreement by academic professionals, employers, social movements and regional and national democratic agencies. Examples of this kind of planning and collaboration already exist in many places, but the current higher education ecosystem is incapable of supporting the generalisation of these microexamples. It is atomised, fragmented and dominated by the need to secure short-term returns in student numbers and research funding. For example, the creation of a new innovation system, in which basic and applied research support the development of new hitech industries, would probably need the creation of new national level public academies and research institutes, under the struggle for democratic education education for the people 21
democratic control, with university staﬀ perhaps seconded to them while maintaining a teaching role in universities.18 Similarly, exercising democratic control over the universities might mean including them in the legislation described above, perhaps under a blanket act that reconstituted them as public bodies, or which established a new framework for the receipt of funding, laying down democratic criteria for their external relations with democratic agencies and for their internal governance and ensured that they operated on a not-for proﬁt basis. Funding could be removed from institutions that did not come under the new framework. All funding would be removed from companies operating on a for-proﬁt basis. 18 This idea was put forward back in the 1930s by J. D. Bernal in his The Social Function of Science (1939), pp. 261-291.
As with schools and colleges, the structures of external audit should be pared down and replaced with internal self-evaluation, under a lighter national framework. Staﬀ in colleges and universities would be paid on nationally agreed scales, with damaging forms of casualisation phased out. A speciﬁcally higher education form of ‘democratic professionalism’ needs to be developed, one that recognises the proximity of higher education teachers and researchers to the boundaries of knowledge but which does not mystify this particular skill. Instead, a democratised higher education professionalism might be developed on the basis of recognising and valuing social engagement. This would not be in the crude accounting form of ‘impact’, but on the basis of evidence of engagement, collaboration and negotiation with social and economic issues at whatever level, while at the same time, providing funding, support and shelter for basic research, particularly in democratically identiﬁed strategically important areas. Far from representing an attack on academic autonomy, this would in fact grant real freedoms from the restrictions of the market to academic staﬀ. Academic staﬀ would gain a new level of control within their institutions, encouraging them to work on a more democratic basis in relation to the needs of their regional societies and economies and giving them greater control over their work process and the product of their labour.
Summary The kind of steps outlined above would not represent the creation of a socialist education system. Far from it. But they would establish a new level of democratic control over the education system. They 22 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
would end the dictatorship of the market, private companies and private ﬁnance and create new ways in which our educational institutions could be put to the service of working people. They would create levers of democratic inﬂuence at all levels, from the national priorities of the democratically elected government and its programme for national economic and political renewal to social movements, democratic agencies and employers at regional and local levels. They would also enhance the status and control of the staﬀ who make up the education system. This would represent a decisive step forward that would support the AEPS and make possible, and necessary, further advances.
how do we get there?
A movement for democratic education Some of the areas of democratisation laid out above could be legislated into existence by an incoming Labour government, but by no means all. Large areas of this programme would rely on broader societal pressure. In addition, it is the case that current Labour policy is, at best, some way away from these objectives. Even allowing for a sympathetic Labour party, a programme such as that indicated above would trigger immense resistance from the forces of conservatism and privilege. Private companies in education, the bourgeois mass media monopolies looking to break into the education market themselves, private schools, many Academies and Free Schools, Conservative local authorities and others would quickly line up to resist democratic encroachment on their privileges, their proﬁts and their dubious freedoms. Facing such a prospect, how do we begin the process of winning a democratic and social education system? The answer is, of course, the same way that every progressive transformation and democratic advance in education has been won. Through sustained political pressure from a broad movement, built on a wide coalition of forces with the labour movement playing a leading role. The leading role of the labour movement: The education unions are obviously on the sharp end of the renewed ‘Shock Therapy’ in education as their work come under attack from the government determined to de-skill the profession, erode its control of the ‘craft’ and replace it with a pseudo-professional but actually ‘proletarianised’ culture of credentialism. As well as the direct attacks on the value of their wages and pensions, teachers, lecturers and other the struggle for democratic education education for the people 23
historically professional strata are experiencing a range of human resource techniques designed to make them behave more like commodiﬁed labour and produce greater value at lesser cost. In further and higher education, casualised contracts are commonplace. In all professional roles, education staﬀ face threats from a combination of technology and the ‘unbundling’ of the professional role. Skill is consigned to ‘managerial’ grades with responsibility for developing curricula or leading courses, and emptied from pure ‘delivery’, assistant or assessment roles responsible for delivering oﬀ-the shelf ‘content’. Once these latter are created, the logic driving toward their devaluing and their insertion into online systems of delivery and assessment becomes inevitable. Support staﬀ face similar de-skilling and the additional threat of outsourcing as a ‘non-core’ service. Education professionals and support staﬀ have an obvious interest in resisting these pressures and are doing so. For professional teaching and research staﬀ, there is an obvious interest in asserting their professional role in the educational process in a system that is nationally controlled and regulated. All are united by a dogged perception that the public service ethos still obtains in education and should mean something. This arises from a basic understanding that education should be a public service. This understanding forms a basis for linking direct struggles over the labour process and in the labour market to wider struggles for control of the educational system of provision, struggles that themselves call into question the entire economic and social system. Industrial action can play a critical role in mobilising and politicising education professionals. Yet it must be used with care and waged over popular struggles that unite members rather than frittered on ﬁghting everywhere at once. Perhaps more than anything, unity is desperately needed. Craft and political distinctions have bases in reality and history but they are less and less relevant. They are also luxuries that can no longer be aﬀorded and the longer they obtain, the more damage will be done to education. Unity must be built across the profession now. Unity must also be built with the wider labour movement. The labour movement has played a critical role in the historical development of progressive education, forming its own education institutions and promoting workers’ education, adult learning and universal education. Education is part of the social wage won by past generations of working people and all unions 24 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
have an interest in rebuilding a movement for universal and democratic education. But one critical lesson from the history of education is that periods of advance like the late nineteenth century, the 1940s and the 1960s depended on the creation of broad social alliances, able to exert sustained political pressure at a time when the ruling class was under more general pressure from the labour movement. The Communist Party argues that the social basis for the formation of such alliances exists now. Broad social alliances for education The only fraction of the economy who really stand to gain from the outright privatisation of the education system is ﬁnance capital, the very same interests who brought the British economy to the point of ruin. The same interests have little commitment to the creation of a skilled workforce, as they are able to suck in the labour they need from a global labour market. Just as the social basis for a programme of economic and political renewal based on the AEPS exists among the working class and fractions of industrial and other capital, so alliances for educational advance can be built on the same interests. These alliances will have to be articulated at national level, in particular to pose a direct challenge to the Labour Party. The education unions and labour movement should attempt to win the widest unity in favour of policies to build a democratised education system, encompassing employers’ bodies and industrial sector organisations wherever possible. These alliances should also be regionally articulated with Regional TUCs perhaps playing a key role, alongside regional economic bodies, chambers of commerce and democratic agencies like city councils. Perhaps most importantly of all, the movement needs to be built at local level among working class communities. Some good local and national campaigns have been built around the defence of local authority schools from Academy conversion or around communities of those who depend on FE colleges, like learners of English for Speakers of Other Languages or other adult learners. Other good local campaigning alliances have been built between university staﬀ and students, particularly around campaigns to privatisation in the wake of the raising of tuition fees. Unions have played key roles in these campaigns. But too few school or university campaigns locally have properly mobilised large numbers of their users. The work of uniting ‘producers’ and ‘users’ of education must now be moved away from purely reactive campaigns and turned to the work of developing sustainable local campaigns that put the struggle for democratic education education for the people 25
democratic pressure on the local education system and start to raise democratic demands. This is partly because the sheer scale of the break-up of the school, college and university system demands a new response from local campaigns. For example, when more that 50% of local authority schools have now become Academies, it can no longer be sustainable to build campaigns predicated on ﬁghting school by school with teachers and industrial action in the front line. Instead, there must be a renewed eﬀort now to build broad-based campaigns that mobilise parents not just against the break up of the school system, but in favour of democratic demands for the future. Similarly, campaigning solidarity with students must be built not just on resisting privatisation but in favour of a new vision of a democratic higher education system with concrete democratic gains to be won. A Charter for Democratic Education In this pamphlet so far, we have looked at the outlines of a future democratic education system, a system that could support a progressive government committed to an AEPS. But what immediate demands could mobilise people in active local campaigns? The Communist Party suggests that the following ‘Charter for Democratic Education’ could provide the basis for establishing active and sustainable local campaigns that can unite parents, students, education professionals and the wider community. n Education is a democratic right and everyone should have an equal right to a good quality education in our schools, colleges and universities, regardless of their social class, race, religious faith or ethnic origin. n Education is a democratic tool and everyone should have access to a broad, balanced and rounded education throughout their lives, enabling them to participate in society as active, critical and thinking citizens, as well as giving them the skills needed for productive employment. n Education should be democratically run and everyone who provides education should be democratically accountable to their communities, their staﬀ, their pupils and students and the general public who funds it. n We shall encourage debate to raise consciousness about the threat posed by the privatisation of education and the need for a progressive, democratic education system capable of truly serving our communities n We shall support campaigns to defend local schools, colleges and universities wherever they are threatened by the creeping 26 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
privatisation of our education system. n We shall actively campaign to put pressure on those schools, colleges and universities already outside of democratic control, encouraging them to adopt the highest democratic standards of publicly accountable educational institutions and to ensure that they serve our communities in a democratic way. n We shall seek to build unity between similar campaigns in our communities, regions and across our nation. We should argue that this Charter does four things: 1 It accords with ‘common sense’ notions of education – research indicates that most people believe everyone has an equal right to an education, disagree with socially stratiﬁed opportunity and that most people just want a good local school for their children. 2 Most people dislike the idea of private proﬁts being made out of education, in much the same way that they dislike the idea of proﬁteering on healthcare. 3 Democratic education has greater resonance than public education, although in reality, the one practically implies and can best be delivered by the other. 4 The Charter’s demands make it possible to build a wide variety of campaigns to hold institutions to account even after they have passed out of formal democratic control, placing greater barriers in the way of proﬁt-seeking companies, raising the conﬁdence and consciousness of working people in the process and contributing to the building of a wider movement. Conclusion The Coalition government is attempting to complete a great reversal of history. It is attempting to wind back the clock on a century in which advances in the cause of progressive education were made. They were partial and uneven advances and there were periods of stagnation, but they were real and they represented real gains for the working class in Britain. This is precisely why they are under such sustained attack. The Coalition is at one and the same time the expression of two related interests: on the one hand it expresses the interests of those fractions of the ruling class, the wider bourgeoisie who have always hated the prospect of generalised working class education as part of a broader socially emancipatory project. On the other hand the Coalition is also the expression of a narrow fraction of capital in Britain, the ﬁnancial sector. It wants to roll back progressive, universal education and lifelong learning, empty it of emancipatory and the struggle for democratic education education for the people 27
transformatory potential and return it to its role in maintaining the social order. It also wants to use this opportunity to create a new class of ﬁnancialised assets out of our schools, colleges and universities. This is part of a fundamental attack on democracy in Britain. Yet because of this, the Coalition is running up against and creating resistance and opposition. Its attacks are beginning to mobilise teachers, lecturers and their unions in struggles to defend their members’ wages, conditions and role in the labour process. Its attacks on access to education and its attempts to reinforce inequality and re-embed privilege through the promotion of competition cut across basically democratic commonsense ideas about education that remain current in the wider working class. The urgent task now is to build unity and mobilise a broad coalition of interests, based on the working class, around an alternative vision that radically breaks with the policies of the Great Counter Attack. The Charter for Democratic Education we have set down here is not a programme for a socialist education system. The vision we have indicated here is no hazy utopia but a set of steps that are rooted ﬁrmly in the current reality but which also ﬂow from the strategic objective of moving towards a universal education system that develops the productive powers and the transformatory potentials of working people. This pamphlet is a contribution to a discussion urgently needed in the labour movement about how we begin to move forwards again and build an education system ﬁt for the people.H
28 education for the people the struggle for democratic education
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