Equality, education and striving for change: An interview with Lancaster Marxist Society
‘This society is for those with an open mind for real change and real student-led democracy’
The establishment of a new society on campus can be an ideal way to fill the gaps in your schedule between lectures and evening drinking. However, there are instances where a society is formed with far more grandiose intentions, with the recently created Lancaster Marxist Society being evidence of this.
Marxism is the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. This revolves around the discussion politics, philosophy and economics.
The initial reaction to the Facebook announcement of this new society generated a plethora of responses, many positive, many negative. Therefore, the Lancaster Tab reached out to the founders of one of Lancaster’s newest and most controversial groups. First-years Asad Naqvi, Will Gedling and Nicholas Whittaker have discussed their motivations, methods and merits behind their society.
What led you to forming the Marxist Society?
Nicholas told us that one of the main reasons this society was started was because there is a lot of confusion around the idea of Marxism. He said: “We want to provide channels through which people can learn about Marxism and interact with social movements through that lens to bring about change.”
How long have you been interested in Marxist ideology and what was the cause of this?
In response to his interest around Marxism, Asad said: “Personally, Marxist values have resonated for me as long as I have been interested in politics. Long before I actually read or understood Marxist theory, I was sympathetic to the plight of the working class, but I think the translation into actual Marxism came from the 2015 election.”
What do you do in an average meeting?
For a typical meeting, Will told us that they aim to have an “open, inclusive political discussion” around pre-selected topics. Will continued to say: “We usually base this off either a specific text or maybe an event. After this, we usually talk about current events associated with student activities nationally and on campus.
The emphasis here is really on membership-led discussion, hopefully allowing us to learn and take action on the world around us.”
What is it that you would ultimately like to achieve with this society?
Asad reiterated that Marxism is an often “misunderstood and misrepresented” theory, their goal is to spread awareness and clarify real Marxism to eliminate confusion and aid a better understanding.
Asad said that they want “to use this new-found understanding to link students on campus to the workers’ movement en-masse. There is a real political alienation felt by many students around the country and we want to fill this gap, we want students to feel heard, and most importantly, significant enough to make real change.”
How are you aiming to distinguish yourselves from the pre-existent Lancaster Socialist Society?
In response to this question, Nicholas said: “One of the primary distinctions would be that we are committed to Marxism in particular, as opposed to socialism in general, which has a variety of interpretations.
There is however room for a lot of co-operation between us and the socialist society, especially in direct action so we hope to have a productive and complementary relationship with them.”
How has the feedback been in general to your new society?
Asad explained that the feedback they received illustrated the importance of the society in order to help people understand the the meaning of Marxism.
He told us: “The initial Facebook post was quite divisive, with some aggressive hostility. I think this is a perfect depiction of why we need this society: the lack of understanding of what Marxism means. Over a long period of time, the idea of Marxism has been distorted (both by faux communist states and capitalist ones), and propaganda upon propaganda compiled to discredit the movement.”
The society has gained 14 members, and their Facebook page has over 200 likes.
What would you say to the people that think that this is an insensitive society to set up due to Marxism’s association with certain regimes?
Nicholas said that the reaction was “quite understandable considering the repression that took place in a lot of self-described Marxist regimes.”
He continued: “However, we would argue that the ideas of these states were distortions of the genuine ideas of Marxism and that the practical consequences were in many cases condemnable. I can personally relate to the sentiment you describe. As someone whom was born in and spent most of their life in Latvia (a former SSR), I was led to oppose Marxism before I began to learn more about it.
We would encourage people that feel this way to attend some of our meetings so that we might distinguish Marxism from a lot of the regimes with which it has become associated.”
What lessons do you think that the average Lancaster student can learn from the teachings of Karl Marx?
Asad said: “There’s a lot of anger and a growing sense of injustice in students around the world, including in Lancaster University, especially after a very politically polarizing year. It’s as though many of Marx’s critiques of the capitalist state are well known to students, but the links between them, and the solutions for them, are missing.
Marx, through class analysis, provides us with a link between a wide array of social struggles which we can only begin to address through collective action, grounded in the workers’ movement.”
Why should Lancaster students join the Marxist society?
Will told us why he believed that Lancs students should get involved with this society, he said: “We think that what it comes down to is now more than ever, there is a real need for the values of Marxism to enter our day-to-day life. From the already-embedded wealth inequalities in our capitalist system, which has increased to horrific proportions during this pandemic, to the pressures on mental health caused by poverty, demoralizing labour and unachievable social expectations, we face more and more suffering on a daily basis.
In this context, our society can be a tool for this generation to enact real change, especially in the face of climate change, which is the biggest threat to human existence. This society is for those with an open mind for real change and real student-led democracy.”