More Groucho Marx Than Karl Marx -Free Schools

In a moment that can only be described as satirical and farcical, something to be found in abundance in Groucho Marx’s sketches, Michael Gove has roped in Karl Marx to support the proliferation of free schools. Writing in today’s The Guardian newspaper in an article titled, ‘Wrong again, Ed’ the Education Secretary presents his evidence in a manner that would be more suited to a multi-faith leaflet which calls upon the followers of major religions to act together for a common greater good.

Gove cites most of the major political groups – Conservatives, Liberals, Classical Republicans and Marxists (yes, that’s right) – and states that they ALL support free schools. The killer punch lies in the line: ‘Marxists support free schools because they embody the ideal of the soviet, a self-managing institution run by workers in the wider public interest’. 

Quite extraordinary given that Michael Gove despises the Left and groups them all together as ‘communists’, which is a slur political term by the right, more commonly used by American Republicans.

Having sat through much of the Marxism Festival a few weeks ago I know enough to recognise the main flaw in his statement: Marxism was about centralisation. By contrast, power is devolved to free schools from local authorities. Ironic really when you consider that the term ‘Soviet’ means ‘council’ which, in turn, denotes a governance structure of elected representatives. Free schools and academies are run by private individuals and private companies. Marx did not advocate selective entry and free schools have been accused of being selective in their geographical location and the students that they take in.

Marx’s dictum that the bourgeoisie cannot exist without revolutionizing society could have been an observation of the Free School movement. It is a revolution in education that chases the tail of neoliberalism while stealing the revolutionary aspect of Marxism to sell it. As a mother I find this mish mash of political theories rather alarming and can only hope that a deliberate rewriting of great thinkers is not a tactic being used to sell political ideologies.


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