Banning Anti-Capitalist Works from English Schools is all Shades of Worrying for Climate and Social Justice... Here's Why.

Social Justice Sep 29, 2020

As an rabid reader, a lover of learning, and as an engaged activist that is vocally anti-capitalist, I find these guidelines downright terrifying.

Of course, free speech, fair electoral processes, and (true) democracy should be protected. Without a doubt, racism, antisemitism, and hate speech should not be tolerated. But, something stinks about this whole policy.

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash
  • The guidelines reject texts that oppose free speech, but by banning anti-capitalist texts the guideline is itself limiting free speech,  freedom of express, as well as freedom of education. Limiting education in this way a move towards authoritarianism. Read more about authoritarianism here.

  • Anti-capitalism is a legitimate social, economic, political ideology. How the hell can you teach sociology without studying a variety of political theories and other societal models and questioning their pros and cons in process? Expunging all stances that would seek to find alternatives to capitalism should not be considered extreme… It’s an education.

  • Capitalism is ONE BIG OLD SYSTEM OF OPPRESSION that includes racism and antisemitism. When the government sets guidelines stating that anti-capitalist works aren’t allowed, they are essentially saying they don’t want people talking about changing the oppressive systems in place. This fuckery shows that leaders want to continue oppressing where they can.

  • Including a line about excluding racist works is a red herring. If the government truly cared about eradicating racism they would allow anti-capitalism texts to be taught and read, because modern day anti-capitalist texts (like those coming from XR and BLM) take into account the ingrained inequality in society and seek ways to remedy it.

  • There are left-wing/progressive movements and organisations that will be impacted by these guidelines. Many people in the UK arrested at climate protests and actions are affiliated with Extinction Rebellion. Unless XR start to condemn disruptions that are deemed ‘illegal’ then any works published by XR would not be viable for discussion in the classroom. Similarly, Black Lives Matter calls for the dismantling of police – something that is likely to be seen as ‘overthrowing democracy’.

The banning of anti-capitalist works shows that climate and social activism are becoming a real threat to the status quo. I’m guessing the government is uncomfortable with how connected Gen Z are to the issues we currently and will continue to face if society doesn’t change, and it seems the government is trying to shape the thinking of the next generation in order to uphold the systems that build inequality between gender, race, class.

Photo by Alissa De Leva on Unsplash

What others are saying

The only extreme view here is the one which suggests that it's somehow illegitimate to even consider the validity of socio-economic systems other than the prevailing one – a system that has of course only been in existence for a comparatively short period of time.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs

On this basis it will be illegal to refer to large tracts of British history and politics including the history of British socialism, the Labour Party and trade unionism, all of which have at different times advocated the abolition of capitalism. This is another step in the culture war and this drift towards extreme Conservative authoritarianism is gaining pace and should worry anyone who believes that democracy requires freedom of speech and an educated populace.

- John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor

Also from John McDonnell:

Johnson/Cummings are desperately throwing dead cats all over the place to distract from their Covid failures but some like this one are too dangerous not to take seriously because they reflect the nature of Johnson/Trump politics, which knows no boundaries
How could both young and old people not read anti-capitalist analysis after 2008, or now with the virus going on and recessions looming all over the western world.” The guidance shows “how easy it is to lose a country, to slip surreptitiously into totalitarianism”.

- Yanis Varoufakis, Economist and Former Greek finance Minister

“The Tories think they can get away with banning those rights when it comes to speech that criticises the economic system that makes them and their billionaire mates richer at the expense of working class people.”

- Andrew Scattergood, Momentum Co-Chair

This, from the government's official schools' guidance, is McCarthyism. Desiring another form of organising society other than capitalism is a valid political opinion, and this would be used to target movements such as Black Lives Matter.

- Owen Jones, Author and Writer


Activist and organizer with Greenpeace Vancouver. Writes about climate and social justice, feminism, greenwashing, and fossil fuel fuckery.

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