Today, we are in a health crisis, and, increasingly, an economic crisis. But it is not simply a “natural crisis”, an “act of god”. This pandemic and the crises it cause have partly political roots, and require political solutions.
This crisis heightens, rather than decreases, the need for serious political education, agitation, and organisation. Political education is necessary to arm and guide ourselves in the struggle against our bosses, our government, and capitalism; and for a fairer, democratic, socialist society. We needed this before, we need it now, during the Covid-19 crisis. We will continue to need political education, and what we have learned through it, after the pandemic subsides.
Political education and the ideological front of the class struggle are at the core of what Workers’ Liberty does. The pandemic forces us to modify how we educate ourselves and others, but not to do less of it. Perhaps more.
We’ve done online study courses before. Now there are better technologies for that. Zoom, for example, allows for shared reading, and a shared whiteboard which every participant can write on, as well as listening and talking. And we’ll be experimenting a bit with other media. Readers and supporters of Solidarity should engage with our different platforms, familiarise yourself with them, and spread the good word!
Discussions, debates are a crucial part of political education. We have a packed schedule of interesting online meetings, on a wide range of topics. (See “Covid-19 cri sis: online resources” to the right.) We have been organising these by video-call, so all participants can hear and see each other as in a normal, in-person, meeting.
Earlier this evening, as I write on 23 March, I took part in an enjoyable and interesting meeting in the series on trans rights. Twenty of us took part. We had no technical hitches. It was easy, dynamic and felt natural. We use the software “Zoom”: you install this on your computer, phone, or tablet, from zoom.us/download, and then open a link specific to each event. Even “technophobes”, or people who were anxious or sceptical about online meetings, have found video-calling better than expected. Video guide: bit.ly/zoom-vid
We have a large and expanding quantity of audio available to listen to, download, or “subscribe” to: see box. Our audio is fairly and I think increasingly popular, is more accessible for some people than text, and can be listened to while washing up or cooking. Links, and an explanation of how to do this, online.
We’re once again boosting our efforts to add new videos to our sizeable collection.
Our wealth of written content isn’t going anywhere. You can still order our excellent books and pamphlets (see right) on a large range of topics, and our website is an even more expansive treasure trove.
Historically, many socialists have had long periods in jail. The Bolsheviks’ rule of thumb, in Russia, was that they might last six months in each spell of activity before being jailed and exiled to Siberia.
An essential part of being a socialist, for them, was to re-dedicate themselves, while incarcerated, to systematic study. Not just reading this or that article or book in an ad hoc way, but studying systematically and critically to arm themselves for the future.
Such systematic study is always important. In this period many of us can, and should — like our imprisoned comrades — use the opportunity for even more. We have a wealth of resources — see “Study guides” box — and are organising online courses on some.
Promoting political education
Some individuals find some media better than others to learn from. And of course, learning is best done by using multiple media to approach the same subject: one online meeting is no substitute for reading (or listening to) a whole book. Try them all out — you might be surprised! And share them: maybe share a video or audio recording with a political activist or friend, or invite them to an online meeting.
For a democratic, activist approach to political education, we must not only share content, but that we feel empowered, and empower each other, to produce it. Challenge yourself: film a short political video? It’s no more difficult than talking in a meeting!
Finally, one to one political conversations are one of the backbones of political organising, of political education. Phone activists, colleagues, friends, to talk — about the Covid-19 crisis and more — they’ll appreciate it!