From the February 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
When our first daughter was eighteen months, there came through the post some pictures to colour, some stickers and a mobile. “Congratulations! You’ve won a FREE Rupert Funpack in our competition”, said the accompanying blurb. Which was news to me because I didn’t even know we had entered. You thought Rupert Bear was a creation with a taste for natty scarves and a propensity to talk in rhyme? Wrong. Rupert has become an investment adviser. Rupert has diversified into Unit Trusts.
The sales pitch is aimed at the emotional underbelly of the anxious parents who, being unaware of socialism, still realise that there is never something for nothing in capitalism. The investment can easily grow into the kind of money they’re going to need when it’s their turn to face the world, wheedles Rupert. Think of the cost of a car. the deposit on a house, think of all the money your child is going to need when they reach adulthood. How can you refuse an offer couched in those terms? Easy. Investigate socialism, a society based upon production for use, not profit.
But we’re still living in a capitalist society. Capitalists arc determined to keep it that way. A little indoctrination goes a long way. Especially when your child enters the laughingly-called education system. In May 1990, a guidance document on education for economic and industrial understanding was published by the National Curriculum Council. It outlined ways in which the government wanted to see schools introduce pupils to greater economic understanding and awareness. It gave examples of how pupils might be taught to develop an interest in commerce and the economy and learn how to handle their own finances. It suggested that seven-year-olds learn about money through tackling simple maths problems. John MacGregor, the then Education Secretary, said:
We have been encouraging too many of our brightest youngsters to go into non-profit-making activities. I think it is important that more of them understand that we live in a competitive world, including the need to make a profit by meeting customers' requirements.
The Education Secretary was obviously ignorant of the fact that profits derive from the economic exploitation of the majority by a minority ruling class. Or was he?
The enterprise education unit at Durham University is also doing its bit to instil free market values into children. With financial backing of £200,000, given by Marks & Spencer, the Durham University Business School has devised a scheme to teach children as young as five how to become “classroom capitalists”. They are to be encouraged to run their own business and enterprises. The scheme intends to show five- to eleven-year-olds, by the use of comic-strip instruction books, how to make a business plan and how to borrow money from a bank. Durham University’s David Absalom, denying that the scheme would brainwash children into Thatcherite thinking, said
"It’s not political. We hope the children will become more enterprising and have more confidence in their ability to communicate. negotiate and work with other people”. There has been an increase in the number of sightings of flying pigs in the Durham area recently.
The status quo
Emphasising other areas, such as law and order, nationalism and responsibility to society—capitalist society— reinforces the acceptance by the individual of an economically exploitative social system. Education for Citizenship, a draft report prepared for the National Curriculum Council, suggests that from the age of five children should be taught to be active citizens. It says a fundamental requirement placed upon all citizens in a civilized society is the need to acknowledge and accept the rule of law.
The success of the type of tactics employed on the young and impressionable is evinced by the results of a survey carried out for industry at the end of 1989. A survey of attitudes amongst 16- to 24-year-olds found that they were rejecting idealism, looking after number one. and turning against minority groups. A third of those surveyed were racist, a half were homophobic and ninety-four per cent thought that hard work was the key to success. (Young Britain: A Survey of Youth Culture in Transition). These findings, no doubt, give quiet satisfaction to the ruling class who can consider the money it costs them to train the working class and instil acceptance of the status quo into them well spent.
But the cost of training future generations of workers has to come from the total share of the surplus value expropriated from the working class by the ruling class. So why do the working class any favours? A study conducted by government education inspectors at the end of 1989 found that primary schools are increasingly relying on money from parents for a reasonable stock of school books. At the beginning of 1990, MacGregor ruled that schools could charge pupils rent for classroom lockers and parking space in bicycle sheds.
As my daughters reach their teens in the twenty-first century, what can they look forward to? They may come out of the "educational” system with a few certificates and the opportunity to encumber themselves with a loan to fund their passage through university. Perhaps they will think that continued training will result in their getting a "good job". What aspirations for their lives may they have? Well-paid wage slavery? Marriage? House owned by building society? Children? Will they still unconditionally accept a social system that limits their potential to experience the fullest possibilities of emotional, personal and social growth with its reduction of all human experience to a cash nexus? Will their continuing exposure to the prevailing ideas in society, those of the capitalist class. have turned them into homophobic, racist, right-wing, sullen youngsters?
Enough is enough
Capitalism is an anarchic market system—it lurches from boom to crisis with the regularity of the sun rising every morning. It is unnecessary for this generation or the next, or the next, to wait until life has become so intolerable under capitalism that the majority decide enough is enough and look for the alternative. By then it may be too late. By then there may not be a society or planet left to change. The alternative exists now. All that is standing in the way of a transition to a social system based upon production for use, not profit, is a lack of understanding of capitalism, and of a determination and political will on the part of a majority of the worldwide working class to alter the insane society in which we live, capitalism, for a sane one. socialism. It's not enough simply to create another life. That life has to have a future. Which future would you rather have for your children, capitalism or socialism?