Toby Young has written an article in the Spectator about how young people get into socialism because the education system at all levels is run by socialists. This is a common trope on the right: that the system is run by people who are socialists, therefore they teach our kids to be little Marxists. On a similar tangent, Kate Hoey at Labour conference this week told a fringe crowd that the reason so many young people are pro-Remain is that they are indoctrinated at universities by pro-Remain professors. Forget the fact that both of these opinions come from the right and that both Young and Hoey would be the type of people to vouch for total human clearheadedness in making political decisions (thus why everyone knew exactly what they were voting for in the 2016 EU referendum) – is there a point here?
I don’t believe the young get into socialism because their teachers tell them to. Even if they were trying to teach our kids the value of Gramsci, I doubt they would get very far. Teenagers like to rebel; to do the thing that their elders disapprove of. Truth is, socialism is kind of sexy before you stop to learn anything whatsoever about it. It’s a windswept Che Guevara, looking hunkily into the mid-distance before turning around and saving some children from polio. It’s bringing down the system with a beret on and a Kalashnikov in hand, all so we can live in a paradise where there is so longer any want or need. Until you read about Stalin, the show trials, Hungary 1956, Pol Pot, actually find out what’s happened in Venezuela over the past twenty years, it all sounds very appealing to impressionable, young minds.
No, it isn’t the young liking socialism that is the problem here at all – and in fact, the true problem is embedded in the Toby Young’s thesis without him seeming to fully comprehend it. The real problem is the fact that so many older, middle-class people who should know much, much better like socialism too these days. People like, say, Jeremy Corbyn, for instance. People who just never got over the thrill of first reading about how a spectre is haunting Europe, or that first experience with “The Motorcycle Diaries”. Perhaps it is actually mostly nostalgia for their younger selfs. I don’t know, but whatever it is, that’s the problem here. If socialism were a mere teenaged phase, as it was for a while, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The fact that so many people over the age of thirty seem to think that socialism is worth another crack, despite its zero percent success rate in the 20th century in regards to avoiding mass murder, totalitarianism and economic meltdown, is what is truly worrying, not some increase in young people pretending to have read “Das Kapital” to try and look cool at university.
Jenny Barnes says
mmm. Hows that neo-liberalism thing working for you lately? Remember 2008, and how much money the banks needed from the taxpayer? Ofc THAT wasn’t socialism.
Paul W says
I think you are confusing the free market with poorly regulated crony capitalism. So improve free market regulation and deal with the cronies. Turning Britain into a bargain basement version of East Germany is not the answer. ‘Socialism’ really doesn’t work. East Germany collapsed and the state withered away, but not in the manner old Karl intended. And socialism wasn’t much cop in Czechoslovakia, Poland or Hungary either. But Corbyn’s Britain would be different, right? I’m not so sure. I remember the 1970s. As Marx also said, history repeats itself… “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Let’s not go there.
Okay but that just moves the question slightly from ‘why are they socilaists?’ to ‘why aren’t they growing out of socialism like they used to?’, and it doesn’t seem implausible that at least part of the answer is ‘because their teachers instead of teaching them what a terrible mistake socialism is are now indulging their teenage idiocity’.
So even if it’s not that teachers are indoctrinating the youth to be socialists, they aren’t challenging them out of it, and the end result is the same: a vicious circle where immature political ideas carry through into adulthood.
I don’t know what the solution is though. Those who become teachers tend to be those who couldn’t make a success of themselves in the real world, so they’re (a) going to be more likely to have a grudge against the system and (b) going to be the less sharp, and both of those are going to render them the ones who are more susceptible to the virus of socialism.
Mark T says
Almost as sad as the ‘the young like socialism’ trope is the ‘teachers become teachers because they couldn’t make it in the real world’. What is the real world, sorry? Sitting around in offices, having meaningless chatter over endless cups of coffee, playing Ballz on your mobile when no-one is looking and doing your shopping online? Most people in the “real world” wouldn’t survive five minutes in a secondary school, and most of the teachers I deal with everyday are decent, dedicated professionals who believe that working hard to deliver an educated, ethically-grounded workforce into society and shoring up wider problems in society is worth the candle. And when they are focused on doing that, there’s little time for the finer points of class war IMHO. The virus of socialism isn’t quite as deadly as the virus of ignorance.
Alexander Macfie says
You give credence to Toby Young?!?!?!?
ANDREW STEED says
It is all nonsense: so only 9% of teachers vote Tory, but it does not make the 81% socialists. It may be a distant memory but I can just remember similar polls where a majority of teachers were Lib Dem. Exactly when is this indoctrination meant to take place in any case? Sure in History and English, Politics and Economics you would hopefully discuss ideas-political ideas, but would that be the same in the sciences? Looking back I had a racist English teacher, but we all knew he was racist, I really don’t think he converted anyone. At uni, most students were pretty apathetic.