Summer School 2024

University of Worcester, St John’s Campus, Henwick Grove, St John’s, Worcester, WR2 6AJ

Our understanding of the kind of society we’re living in is shaped by our circumstances: our home, our work, our finances, our communities.

Recognising our own place in the economy, politics and history is part of developing a wider awareness of how capitalist society functions.

Alongside an understanding of the mechanics of capitalism, political consciousness also involves our attitude towards it. Seeing through the ideologies which promote accepting our current social system requires us to question and judge what we experience.

Realising that capitalism doesn’t benefit the vast majority of people naturally leads on to considering what alternative society could run for the benefit of everyone.

The Socialist Party’s weekend of talks and discussion explores what political consciousness is, how it arises and what we, as a class and as individuals, can do with it.

Friday 16th August
19.15 – 20.45

Keith Graham on Political Consciousness: What Can We Learn From Marx?

Karl Marx’s views on political consciousness are best understood in the context of his wider views about human society in general and capitalist society in particular. This talk will assess the plausibility of the relevant elements in these theories and consider what implications they hold for the transition from capitalism to socialism. In particular, the question of inevitability will be addressed.

Saturday 17th August
10.00 – 11.30

Brian Gardner on ‘They are many, we are few’ – the political consciousness of the capitalist class?

Brian Gardner presents a talk on political consciousness that he dubiously claims was given at the annual convention of the global capitalist class held in the Swiss Alps at Davos in January.

Allegedly smuggled out in a delegate’s complementary Faberge egg, the secret talk celebrates the diverse and inventive propaganda efforts passed on by each ruling class throughout history to help preserve their position of privilege over the ungrateful global masses – from royalty, religion and racism, to patriotism, consumerism and culture wars.

To help maintain the current order, concerted acts of good old-fashioned violence are of course still an option available to many of the rich. But in this snowflake era, concepts such as democracy and freedom are gaining strength, and brutal, semi-genocidal state terror does carry significant PR and reputational downsides.

The talk supposedly goes on to warn the global elite attending that many of the old ideologies used by the 1% – and that could previously be relied upon to distract, divide and demoralise the 99% – are just not proving to be so effective anymore. Our citizens are increasingly reluctant to fight our turf wars for us. They are unwilling to ignore economic crises and pandemics. And despite being effectively trespassers on the planet, they appear to think they have some interest in its health. “Fooling some of the people some of the time” may have proved a sufficient strategy over the centuries, but there are worrying signs that “the few” may be running out of new arguments to manage “the many”. Our authority was once unquestioned, conveniently handed down by various Gods. Then we found we had to actually argue the point by championing capitalism. Now, our PR advisers tell us not to defend capitalism but just try and change the subject. We once had philosophers on our side, writing passionate speeches for Margaret Thatcher to deliver. Now it’s GB News and Liz Truss.

The alternative is to join Elon Musk’s rocket trip and escape to Mars. But if the prospect of bunking down for six months in class solidarity with the likes of Nigel Farage, Prince Andrew and Michelle Mone doesn’t attract you, what arguments are now left for the poor, misunderstood, class-conscious elite? … And, most of all, what might the workers be making of it all?

14.00 – 15.30

Paddy Shannon on Political Consciousness – Could GenZ Be Onto Something?

Class consciousness is all about passion as well as politics. The revolution is not an academic exercise. It needs workers to rage against the machine, not just stand around enumerating its functions and labelling its parts. But passion is an unreliable guide. We worry that today’s educated first-world workers have no interest in class politics, and are instead motivated by moral imperatives like social and climate justice, concerns about emotional health and interpersonal relationships, and a pious desire not to oppress others. Few foresaw that identity politics would become such a battleground, one which some Marxists argue is a big mistake and a distraction from the class struggle.

That could be an overly dismal view. Was 20th century anti-racism a distraction from the class struggle, or an intrinsic part of it? What if 21st century progressive workers, rather than drifting away from class unity, are actively struggling to confront one of the last barriers to it?

19.15 – 20.45

Cat Rylance on Communist Future

Cat Rylance of Communist Future will give an introduction to the organisation, which is “both a political collective and an affirmation that a world beyond capitalism is possible”. This new project has been established in Manchester, where Cat stood as a candidate in the recent general election. Communist Future holds that “The political power of the majority — the working class — is a force that can transform the world. The communist future would not result in replacing the dominance of one group with another, but through collective ownership would do away with the need for a class system at all. This is what we mean when we speak about revolution: an overcoming of the limitations of the system, an absolute reorganisation of society as a whole”.

Sunday 18th August
10.00 – 11.30

Darren Poynton on Socialist Consciousness, Solidarity and Democratic Virtues

What is required for socialist consciousness can be thought of as comprising two parts. One: a theoretical understanding of capitalist relations as a form of social compulsion that inevitably constrains the actions of both workers and capitalists. Two: a practical capacity to organise in a democratic and active way, that is required for both the establishment and continued reproduction of socialism. This talk will focus on this second aspect.

Our venue is the University of Worcester, St John’s Campus, Henwick Grove, St John’s, Worcester, WR2 6AJ.

Full residential cost (including accommodation and meals Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) is £150. The concessionary rate is £80.

Or, you can make a booking by sending a cheque (payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain) with your contact details to Summer School, The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN.

Day visitors are welcome, £20 with meals, voluntary contributions without, but please e-mail for details in advance. Send enquiries to spgbschool@yahoo.co.uk.