On the Marxist concept of learning & teaching

On the
Marxist conception
of learning and teaching

J. Posadas

Extract from The Revolutionary State,
its transitory role and the construction of Socialism, J. Posadas, 28 – 29 September 1969

 

Editors’ presentation

Although it was elaborated in 1969, the extract below is particularly relevant due to the  increasing tendency of capitalism to remove the schools from the public sphere and the national educational standards authorities. Faith schools are encouraged, schools compete against each other through the league tables, and from the primary level all the way to the Universities, education is being privatised. The result is competition between schools through League Tables, and parents moving to find themselves in the ‘catchment area’ of the ‘best schools’.

Over the last few years, right wing Labour politicians and the Tories have built a growing system of Academies in Britain. The local authorities have no longer anything to do with Academies, but the government presses them heavily in a commercial direction. independent from any national and integrated strategy. This is compounded by the fact that faith schools have been allowed to set up as well.

. The teachers are losing the security of  the national and standardised norms of professionalism that existed in the past. They see their workload increase and their remuneration decrease, along with a loss of their social authority. The teaching profession finds itself in a kind of war where it cannot use its creative capacity.

Along with the Academies, new faith schools have been allowed to set up. These inevitably bring elements of creationism that collides with the scientific heritage of State education in Britain. fragment the field of education themselves up, are expected to eventually ‘stand on their own feet’, raise their own funds and survive by making money. This inevitably stimulates schools to pay less attention to the children with special needs, and those whose parents cannot follow sufficiently their children’s development.

Education is being turned into a commodity and children are expected to consume knowledge at an increasing speed. Tests and exams are imposed on the young earlier and earlier in their lives. The government has hinted at the possibility of recruiting ex-soldiers in schools. Tory Ministers are favouring learning by rote and preparing systematically and strictly for exams.  This increasingly excludes learning to let intelligence blossom.

Schools that compete  will recruit children that allow them to make money, and boost the schools’ ratings in the league tables. They will be less and less interested in those with special needs, those whose first language is not English. There will inevitably be a tendency for a faith schools to choose pupils according to faith. Society will inevitably become more segregated, and the children of the better-off will be bound to win.

The document by J Posadas below shows that the struggle to have education

for Socialism is not the distant future, but is happening right now, in the Workers States (he mentions China under Mao), and in the Revolutionary States. Today, enough to mention Venezuela

In our epoch where capitalist overthrow is imperative, the task of education must be to reconcile the human being with nature and with itself. This is how education forms part of the construction of Socialism.

This transformation requires political maturation and leadership, but this is happening all over Europe. In Britain, mass mobilisations are running parallel to a process of clearances and selection in the Labour Party. The Peoples Assembly of 20 June 2015 (which has an International wing) showed the growing unification of the political left, the Trade Unions, the dispossessed communities, the students- teachers-parents and workers in struggle, and the teachers themselves seeking a greater unity between their unions.

The Posadists offer speakers on this subject, and call for the reader to organise meetings on education in light of this booklet.

Posadiststoday.com 30 June 2015

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Extract by J. Posadas2 on Education

It is clear that the Workers States are not entirely governed by the idea. The Party that leads them does not value at its worth the force of the idea, but this does not alter the fact that the Workers States have eradicated the worst aspects of human retardation. There is not always the need to strike in the Workers States, but this is always the case in capitalism.

Because strikes originate in the class struggle, the Workers States bring conditions where there is no longer the absolute need to dedicate hours, weeks and months making strikes just for the right to live. What a huge and unnecessary human burden these are! What a cost! Just consider for a moment what will be achieved with the same human effort, when the need to strike is no longer with us!

This is where the superiority of the Workers State is to be found, and this superiority must always be given in example. Even with the bureaucracy, the Workers State is the living proof that the need to struggle, wage strikes and mount actions for power – so indispensable in capitalism – is being eliminated.

Education is part of the organisation of human knowledge: It transmits to the student the wisdom of a society at a given level of social organisation. But in capitalism, you are dealing with ‘their’ society, the society of the capitalists. Hence those of us who are teachers are restricted and hindered in what they can teach.

The teachers cannot include Marxism in the curriculum but they can build foundations. Their methods must demonstrate the superiority of the collective human sentiment, for instance. The teacher must address the children and the youth in a way that shows that the struggle for Socialism is also their own.

J. Posadas

2 J. Posadas, in Culture, Science, Art, the Class Struggle and the Proletarian Revolution, 26.6.1968, in the Scientific, Cultural and Political Editions.

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On the
Marxist conception
of learning and teaching

J. Posadas

Extract from The Revolutionary State,
its transitory role and the construction of Socialism, J. Posadas, 28 – 29 September 1969

Scientific and technical grasp are aspects of knowledge, and knowledge is above all the form given to it by the use of intelligence.

The leaderships of the Workers States view Universities much as in capitalism, as places to educate cohorts of students. In China however, recent educational experiences show that this is anachronistic. The manner and the scope of the Chinese education system is not the most adequate, but with limitations, it is progressing in these matters.

What is the University for? It teaches how to use the experience of the past and how to transmit it. Granted, but are Universities needed for that? Is a University-mode of teaching required to achieve this? Why not a Factory-mode of teaching instead, or a Neighbourhood one?

In the Workers States3, the leaders generally consider that University education is best delivered by bearded and bespectacled professors. This highlights a lingering submission to capitalist pressure and oppression. This tells the students: ‘Stop! You want knowledge? It is outside you!

3 The Workers States in 1969 were the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and the ‘Socialist countries’ of Eastern Europe – amongst others.

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We are those with the power to impart knowledge, in this Learning Centre, this ten-storey building’. Why this particular building? Why not a field with two trees, if these could suffice? What do the ten-storey teach?

Teaching must not be divorced from what it is for – that is to say, from the actual use of science and intelligence. The Workers States are places where science and intelligence are really in use because what people are taught is in their direct interests. This makes people feel that they contribute to, and determine the development of society. This is why they learn in one week what takes years in other parts of the world.

In China and Cuba, people learn in one year what takes years in capitalism. If the Workers States were to push this advantage more fully than they do into the teaching of science and technology, they could remove all administrators, magistrates and managers. Those people live off the masses.

There is no need for administrators, magistrates and managers; their roles can be played by Factory Committees. This was started in some of China’s enterprises, but China’s development remained unequal and combined when this most advanced experience failed to be generalised. The Communist Party should have helped to generalise it more. As it did not, the uneven and combined aspects in China’s development were given an unwarranted pre-eminence over the generalisations made by the Party.

In building a society, whoever focuses solely on the productive capacity of the country ends up making a fetish of production – as Marx says. Productive capacity is entirely a matter of social capacity! This is why technicians and scientists are very much better formed on the shop-floor than in Academies.

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Faculties and Universities inculcate the notion that the individual stands at the centre of the relationship production-society-individual. It is the wont of institutions not to trust in the ability of the masses, only in their own.

Even in the Workers States, the technicians and leaders move with an arrogance rooted in a sentiment of property. Such people value status and they look for it in their functions. They defend their property, i.e. their knowledge and their status, which they sell. This warped comprehension blinds them to the fact that what they learnt at the University, the workers can learn in one year, one week or one day.

The Soviet and
the Soviet Plan of production4

In Revolutions where no weapons can be found, people get hold of whatever else. In the Russian, Chinese and Cuban Revolutions, the working class proved to be utterly resourceful and ingenious, with an inexhaustible capacity to find ways and means. The working class is quick-witted and versatile in the handling of weapons, elements and machines. In those Revolutions, the working class proved that it could bring down and build everything.

Why is it, then, that the workers are not doing this in the daily life of the Workers States? The reason is that their leaderships divert the course of their intervention, regulate it and make it fall in line behind managers, foremen and administrators. What are all the managers, foremen and administrators for? What do they do? What do they know? They coordinate production, but this is not needed because the workers do it on the shop-floor.

4 Read by J. Posadas: “What is a Soviet”, £10 p&p included. “Through parliament, capitalism diverts the political action of people away from the direct defence of their interests. The masses are unable to express themselves in capitalist society. Parliament prevents them from doing so because it is a ruling class instrument. The Soviet represents the will of the exploited masses. It is the organ of the masses. In it, people discuss, decide and apply their own decisions”, J. Posadas, 10 Oct. 1968.

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With Soviets and a Soviet plan of production, economic programming is easily centralised and decentralised. Decentralisation in the Workers State demands much less concentrated capacity than in the capitalist system because the managers, administrators and overseers of capitalism must protect private exploitation at all times. They are not employed to seek the best return from the productive effort, but maximum return from the outlay in wages.

In a Workers State where there is workers control, the effort to regulate and plan production decreases to the extent that the technical and scientific ability of the masses increases.

A serious Factory Committee that improves daily soon becomes irreplaceable. At this point, who needs managers and administrators? They become unnecessary, redundant.

Workers control is an economic conquest because it improves production, but it is a social conquest above all because it eliminates inequality. Workers control is the only way to eliminate unequal appropriation and unequal distribution. Where this is achieved, the sentiment of equitability and justice spreads among the masses. The equitable distribution of what has been produced fills society with a deep sense of justice.

This actually happens in the world; and where it does, it leaves a mark that no power or fury can erase.

Soviet functioning allows cross-training in any technical branch, no matter how particular. The workers cannot know all about mathematical equations, vehicle-building, steel- making or architecture, but give them a month and they will. Construction workers are very good architects even when they don’t know all about gravity, weight, force relations and material resistance. Formal knowledge alone does not stop houses falling down!

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The workers learn the theories quickly, the way they learn everything. Of course knowledge and study are needed, but simple studies. You only want for basic knowledge to lead a factory. Besides, technical and scientific ability are much better acquired at work than at a University.

Why train only groups of technicians and engineers? To exploit knowledge! To make these people appear above the common cut. In society, the training of no more than groups stimulates the private interest. It promotes the private sale of knowledge and the sale of existing knowledge.

The solution is to bring these trained persons into socially useful schemes. Since they are bound to be with us for some time, they must be enrolled in tasks that raise the level of everyone until the general level of society overtakes that of the Universities.

The role of the Party in the Revolutionary State

Since Universities and Learning Centres are bound to be with us for some time, one must oppose their in cathedra ways of teaching. The Party5 must intervene in what is taught there. The Party must open its functioning to the students, and organise them militantly to stop the practice of studies chasing after status in particular branches of the economy.

The assessment of students must rest on the repudiation of the private use of knowledge, and on the students’ disposition to put their knowledge at the service of the whole of society.

5 By ‘the Party’, the author generally refers to the Communist Party. Depending on context, he may be referring to a Posadist section, to the mass Party in a given country, or to the need to build the Party that represents exclusively the interests of the workers and masses.

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The capitalist forms and methods of teaching aim at creating categories of individuals to work in the capitalist bureaucracy. As these individuals feel above the rest, they help to partition society and segregate it. The more socially backward they are, the greater their tendency to social segregation. They either live off the sale of their knowledge, or derive a profit from the assets of society.

The remedy? Organisms of mass control! And in the workplaces, social organisms where all the branches of science can be studied by anyone and all the problems can be discussed scientifically. This type of organisation must be replicated in the countryside.

The Chinese Workers State started this kind of transformation. It became able to train surgeons in 6 months. And good ones, capable of operating! And if you think that 6 months is short, the Vietnamese managed to do this in 2 days! This can only happen in a society socially convinced that surgery is as simple as it is necessary. It is society that prepares the conditions for a surgeon to acquire the two key qualities of determination and ability to concentrate.

The task of the surgeon is to observe properly, and then – the most delicate part – to make the correct incision at the right place and time. In simple operations not requiring much anatomical knowledge, the Vietnamese6 created surgeons in 2 days. This happened because the State supplied template, confidence and social acknowledgement. For the student, all the rest was a simple matter of learning.

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6 Vietnam was at the centre of actuality when the author wrote this document. 10

Scientific progress
takes the edge off egoism

Capitalism creates groups of the selected few, and to the masses it says: ‘Pull back! Careful! Not this way! This is a mystery!’ But scientific advance creates growing layers of people who tear all this down.

Scientific progress takes the edge off egoism; it inspires sentiments other than the wish to exploit and usurp. It invites the love for calibre, the wish to be objective and the desire to impel the progress of humanity. This can be observed continuously in the workers and peasants who prove it in their political life, their mass organisations, in demonstrations, public meetings and assemblies.

The Revolutionary State must set up simple socialist means of education to explain the need for the socialist programme. People will respond to this, but they need social ‘organs’ where to express themselves. It is true that the masses can take to the streets without those social organs, but it is generally due to rights or historic conditions previously conquered. Even then, their lack of social organs keeps them dispersed and their unification is slowed down.

One must not live in the expectation that the masses are going to suddenly rally, support and intervene with a miraculous spontaneity. They need prepared organs for that purpose, organs with an impact on power. They need to have looked into the possibility of themselves intervening and deciding.

The role of the revolutionary is to help people set up the relevant organisations for this purpose, starting with organising the Trade Unions. The Trade Unions must operate independently from governments, and the idea of mass action and mass power must always figure in their programmes.

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The Trade Unions must support the Workers States and the Revolutionary States. They need to have workers’ plans of production, distribution and control; let the Unions call demonstrations and assemblies for the purpose of electing their sectors’ representatives! Let each Union link up with wider workers’ organisations, in the cities and in the countryside. And in the Unions themselves, let there be a constant life of deliberation and consultation to stimulate the Party, to ensure that the Party has cells, and that these cells live politically without interruption.

This is the true University, the Faculty of Humanity.

J. Posadas7 Extracts
28-20 September 1969

7 This text has been edited. It is translated from Spanish. All sub-titles and highlights are from the Editorial Board

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About the Author …

J. Posadas was born in Argentina in 1912 and died in Italy in 1981. He started his activities as a Trade Union leader in the shoe industry. He soon adopted the ideas of Trotsky and joined the IV International. He then developed as a writer, theoretician, political leader and revolutionary organiser.

In view of the process of Peronism and revolutionary nationalism, he created a movement in Argentina and in Latin America based on texts such as: ‘Five-Year Plan or the Permanent Revolution’ (1947), ‘Peronism’ (1963) and ‘From Nationalism to the Workers State’ (1966).

Those who belonged to the leading group of the IV International in those days greeted his ideas with incomprehension. J. Posadas separated himself from them as they were abandoning the Marxist principles needed to analyse the Soviet Union, the Communist parties and various mass parties like the Labour Party. In 1962 he organised the Trotskyist-Posadist IV International.

A flurry of his fundamental texts followed, such as: ‘The Construction of the Workers State and from the Workers State to Socialism’, ‘Partial Regeneration, Historic Re-encounter and the Process of the Permanent Revolution in this Stage’, ‘The role of the USSR in History’, ‘The Living Thought of Trotsky’ and ‘The Revolutionary State’.

In the more general field of Art, Science and Culture, J. Posadas has left many other writings. They incorporate into the Marxist analysis subjects ranging from ‘human relations’ to ‘the Communist future of humanity’. It all forms part of his History of the Human Civilisation which remained unfinished due to his unexpected death.

The works of J. Posadas and the example of his life champion the confidence and security of humanity. As he used to say: “Socialism is not only a necessity of history, but of life itself”.

His last words give food for thought: “Life has no sense without the struggle for Socialism, whatever the consequences”.

June 2015

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Recent titles by J. Posadas,
in Spanish,
in the Editiones Ciencia Cultura y Politica:

  • •  Iran: El Proceso Permanente de la Revolucion, Published Oct 2010
  • •  La Union Sovietica: Experiencia historica y programa imprescindible para la construccion del socialismo, Published Oct 2010
  • •  La Crisis Capitalista, la Guerra y el Socialismo, Published Nov 2009
  • •  La Musica, el Canto y la Lucha por el Socialismo, Published Nov 2009
  • •  America Latina: Del Nacionalismo Revolucionario al Socialismo, Published Jan 2009
  • •  La Cultura y la Construccion del Socialismo, Published Feb 2008
  • •  Estado Obrero y Sociedad Socialista, Published Feb 2008
  • •  El Estado Revolucionario y la transición al Socialismo, Published Jan 2007
  • •  El Peronismo: su Origen, Desenvolvimiento y Actualidad, Published Jan 2008
  • •  El Pensamiento Vivo de Trotsky, Published Feb 2006 Obtainable on demand fromThe address in Praed Street or from:mlsculturaleditions@yahoo.comPrices ranging from £3 to £10, plus postage.

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Read: J Posadas on Europe
the Referendum on the European Common Market, the Abstentions and the Socialist Solution to the crisis of capitalism in Britain ,

  • –  The US capitalists wish for a Europe unified … behind them
  • –  Advance the Labour Left to defeat the Labour Right
  • –  The building of the EEC is not an indication of strength
  • –  The abstentions are the signal of struggles to come
  • –  A Government of the Left with an anti-capitalist programme
  • –  The alliance Labour left/Trade Unions needs to become organic
  • –  Long live the Socialist Republic!The aims of the European Monetary System (EMS) and the European Parliament ,- The European Parliament
    – Use the European Parliament as a tribune
    – The Soviet Socialist United States of Europe
    – Committees in the factories and the enterprisesEnd

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