1970s >> 1978 >> no-881-january-1978

Sociology and Marxism

Julius Gould, professor of Sociology at Nottingham University, has just led an investigation into Marxism in universities. (The Times, 14th Nov. 1977.) The report alleges that

British universities and polytechnics have been infiltrated by Marxists dedicated to indoctrinating students, and overthrowing the liberal and pluralist values of academic life.

We thought at first that professor Gould was joking, certainly about the quality of academic life, but it appears he was in deadly earnest. However, before we could say “London School of Economics”, out stepped another Professor of Sociology from that Tower of Babel in the person of Donald MacRae. He supported Professor Gould, and made his contribution to the confusion by adding: “The 1956 Hungarian Revolution meant the liberation of Marxism. It was no longer tied to Bolshevik orthodoxy.”

Another LSE man, David Martin, a Professor of Sociology, joined in and said in the same newspaper report: “The Marxists do not play fair. They never compare our society with any existing society, only with societies that do not exist.”

After studying the remarks of these three professors, we would agree that academic life is being seriously undermined, not by Marxists, but by these very champions of academic freedom who quite clearly know nothing of Marxism, and consequently are lacking in the knowledge of the subject which they purport to teach. First, a Marxist holds that capitalist society has outlived its usefulness and must be replaced by Socialism: a system of society which involves the abolition of wage-labour and capital and the legal relations which allow private property in the means of production to remain in the hands of private persons. Private property, according to the Marxist, also means state property, and so-called public property of all kinds. A Marxist does not separate means and ends, nor can there be differences between Marxists as to the method to be employed in establishing Socialism. Socialism is not a minority movement, and must be openly propagated and not disguised as some academic dogma. The socialist revolution cannot take place behind the backs of the working class, because they have to understand its implications and be conscious of the need to establish it. To do this they must democratically elect socialists to Parliament.

We are well aware that universities and polytechnics are infested with Professor Gould’s self-styled Marxists. When you examine their ideas, even superficially, there is everything in the far left of the Labour Party and the Communists, Socialist Workers’ Party, Trotskyists, IMG and others. Support for Russia, Black Nationalist movements and the Palestine liberation organizations; support and advocacy for reforms of every kind; “right to work” campaigns; general strikes. These phoney Marxists believe in leadership, minority action, “fair” wages, squatting, etc., etc. Like the butterfly, they live for the day. Practically all the alleged “socialist” societies in universities are composed of these elements.

Professor Gould (and his supporters) should be aware of this. If everyone called themselves sociologists he would very soon object on the grounds that they knew little or nothing about the subject. But being tainted with the herd instinct where it is fashionable to be obscure, he chooses to regard the variegated left-wing agitators in universities as Marxists, when they have nothing remotely connected with the theories of revolution, Marxism or Socialism. How would Professor Gould and other sociologists react if we were to announce (and on much stronger grounds) that genuine Marxists hold the view that the universities are being infiltrated by bourgeois sociologists like himself, MacRae and David Martin?

These professors are not prepared, or are unable, to teach sociology which will conflict with the property relation of existing society. Sociology is one important branch of social science, the other is the science of history. Both of these deal not just with single fields of social life, but with social life in its entirety. Sociology has to deal with questions such as “What is society?”, “What is the relation between the various groups of social phenomena, economic, legal and scientific?”, and “How is evolution to be explained?”. By evolution we do not simply mean the evolution from past form of society up to the present time. We mean the evolution and development beyond capitalism which will involve the social revolution, resulting in the abolition of capitalism. Sociology explains the general laws of human development; it establishes in general that forms of government or the political superstructure depend on the economic base. History furnishes the material at any given epoch for drawing sociological conclusions; sociology is a method of history.

Historical materialism, the method elaborated by Marx and Engels, is the sociology of the proletariat. It is proletarian science because it envisages social change. Sociology as taught by Professor Gould and his colleagues deals with superficial forms of social behaviour without ever discovering social causes. Universities are there for the training of capitalism’s wage-slaves — not for their emancipation. Their science is tailor-made to suit bourgeois requirements and not social requirements; that is, the interests of many as distinct from the few.

Some indication of what other academic figures think about present-day sociology is reflected in a statement by Terence Miller, director of the North London Polytechnic—

  I do not think Sociology is yet at a stage where it is a suitable subject for teaching to undergraduates. In scientific terms it is still at the level of development of alchemy, with a long way to go before it becomes chemistry.

(The Times, 14th November 1977)

Whilst this is true of sociology in general, Marxism is fully developed as a science, and it is precisely this science which will free society from the inhibiting influences of capitalism. The application of scientific methods to social questions means the end of the ruling class. How many professors of science in general, or sociology in particular, are prepared to go to this length?

Jim D’Arcy