Fashionable Marxism is No Revolution

Why are rich kids into Marxism when they haven’t done their reading? MONA EBERT discusses whether it’s just to ruffle a few feathers and upset Daddy.

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I recently encountered my new favourite species of undergraduate. The skinny young man will be fresh out of public school, play the guitar to an embarrassingly amateur level, and boast finely-chiseled cheekbones. After several rounds his friends will shout, ‘Commie, come for a fag?’

Surprise surprise, he’s a ‘Marxist’. Half-formulated ideas which emerged in Sixth Form over coffee in Costa with fellow ‘revolutionaries’ are being intricately discussed on the way to Fez. Fifteen minutes later and young Trotsky loses all ground. When questioned about his reason for writing for the Marxist Appeal he answers, ‘Because I hate rich people’.

Apparently, ‘it’s not a lifestyle choice [the hammer and sickle posters in his intellectual boudoir are misleading, perhaps], I just think everyone should be equal.’ So why didn’t you leave your 28 grand-a-year school and pave your own path? ‘Daddy wouldn’t let me’.

So who would such a young man vote for in a general election? One friend recently revealed: ‘it’s difficult because our Conservative MP in Oxfordshire is a family friend, so it goes without saying that my local vote went to him’. On a national level, the Liberal Democrats seem ‘alright’; and Labour have naturally ‘lost their edge’. But in theory, he assures me, ‘I’m a Marxist.’ This is the point of my confusion; semi-educated monologues about equality are juxtaposed with votes for Cleggles and a local double-barrelled Tory.


It seems like a half-hearted rebellion. In the attempt to try and tackle an age-old stereotype – the tailcoat-clad Cameron supporter with two homes – a new one is being created. Voting LibDem but privately preaching about Marxism appears to be the ‘hip’ thing to do. It’s on a par with clubbing in Shoreditch (Camden was so GCSE summer), fake glasses and going vegan for two months.

But isn’t the trend for Marxism and rejecting everything your parents ever gave you not only ungrateful, but also undermining the movement? Is ‘hating rich people’ and the school you went to ever a reason to join a serious political party? Perhaps it is a matter of guilt. I deduce this from various song lyrics, recorded in basement studios which are now up on Myspace.

I am not suggesting that a public school background should inhibit you if you have true, revolutionary ambitions. Take Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell. A King’s Scholar at Eton, Orwell explored England’s city slums, spent a night in a common lodging house and voluntarily dressed like a tramp. True research into pressing matters. His social activities reached a climax during the Spanish Civil War – fighting on the side of the Republicans against fascism.

If you harbour ambitions of flying the flag of political activisim, you could be in no better place.  Now you’re at university, you have (hopefully) won your place here on the same terms as everybody else – personal merit. Surely that is enough for a fresh start. Becoming a Marxist on a short-lived whim will only make you a laughing stock. Instead, perhaps you should be joining one of the underpopulated societies of the three main parties, which would actually give you a real shot at changing something.

I defy the Cambridge Marxist Society’s newest members to get their hands dirty. Perhaps some campaigning in Cuba? A week of anti-capitalist chanting outside parliament? Thought not. When it comes down to it, it’s big words, not actions. But then again, why bother? Surely this recession is a sign. The second red revolution will naturally follow. While we’re all waiting though, please stop preaching. Leave that to those who have read Das Kapital.