Bring back the pamphlet!

October 28, 2012 at 6:07 pm (AWL, Education, internet, literature, Marxism, publications, socialism, students, trotskyism, youth)

By Martin Thomas of Workers Liberty

THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO - KARL MARX FREDERICK ENGELS - INTRO BY LEON TROTSKY P/B

Material conditions for socialist education and self-education are better than they’ve ever been. Much socialist literature which previously you could read only if you could get into a good library is now freely available on the web. Vastly more has been translated.

Thanks to second-hand book sales moving onto the web, printed books which you’d previously find only by searching second-hand shops are now also easily available.

Thirty years ago, if a newcomer started reading the Communist Manifesto, and wondered who Metternich and Guizot were, they were on their own. These days the Workers’ Liberty website alone has more study guides and aids, available free on any internet-connected computer, than the whole of the left could offer then anywhere or at any price.

Even without a study guide, Google will tell you in seconds who Metternich and Guizot were. And Marx’s declaration, “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves” — maybe you thought it was in the Manifesto? You can check in a minute where he wrote it, what the context was, how exactly he put it.

Today 52% of young women, and 42% of young men, go through university. Not so long ago, many new recruits to the socialist movement would have left school at 14 or 15, and would at first find the language of the Marxist classics difficult.

Today many socialists have been trained as teachers, learning techniques which they can bring over from their paid work into our study sessions. In the old days it was often the straight lecture, or just collectively reading aloud.

It’s a lot easier to be a well-read socialist now than it used to be. Yet active, intelligent, university-educated young people in the AWL today usually read less than our young activists did 35 or 40 years ago. (We collected statistics).

Even the better-read young activists do not own their own little library of the classic Marxist texts, ready to lend out to new people who show interest, as they automatically would have done decades ago.

To do better, I think, we have to make a deliberate effort to bring reading pamphlets back into daily political life.

The root of the problem, I think, is that social science and humanities university education today often works to deter people from serious study rather than help them towards it.

I have a daughter about to finish a university degree in psychology. She is a conscientious and competent student. Yet her course has never required her to read a single book on psychology, rather than bits and pieces from the web.

Her university campus has a good library. The newer campus of the same university has a library with hardly any books. Most of its space is taken up by computers.

With the huge expansion in academic publishing, no university degree can cover more than a small fraction of the literature in its subject. So lecturers go for the easily available, the quick summary, the overview, the extract, the digest.

Research shows that on average people reading things from the web take in only one-sixth as much as when reading print. So what? The skill of quickly skimming a range of material, taking in a suitable one-sixth of it, and rehashing it fluently in an essay or assignment, is what employers want, not deep specialised knowledge.

The system thus works to deter people from deep study of substantive texts, rather than processed rehashes, and to train them in the idea that the deep study is too difficult.

Then, if the student comes into the socialist movement, the way to seem on top of the current debates is to skim blogs and Facebook, not to read books.

In the 1960s, by contrast, socialist meetings would have stalls piled with pamphlets. For Trotsky and Luxemburg we depended on pamphlets printed in Sri Lanka, which at that time had the world’s strongest English-language Trotskyist movement, but we had them.

The serious activist would always have one or another pamphlet in her or his bag or coat pocket; anyone who attended socialist meetings at all often would check out at least the main pamphlets.

There is no cause to idealise the system of socialist education which depended on pamphlets. Still, pamphlet-reading did something. It inserted serious study into the main flow of socialist activity. The pamphlets were in every activist’s bag or coat pocket, on every stall. If you wanted to know more than the minimum, your course of action was clear and ready to hand, and involved serious study, not one-in-six skimming. It gave a frame of more-or-less known references for debates.

We should use the new possibilities, but also bring back the pamphlet.

56 Comments

  1. Michael Ezra (@MichaelEzra) said,

    I love the pamphlet! One further advantage with the printed pamphlet over internet only articles is that it once distributed the words in the pamphlet are finalised. There is no way for the author to deny they ever wrote them. Screen grabs are not quite the same.

  2. daggi said,

    Martin sums up a big problem with the education system today (a degree which requires you not to read a single book is worth fuck all as far as I am concerned) and also the nature of the internet.

    But is “the pamphlet” not making a big comeback anyway? At least in Germany even major publishing houses are trying to capture a mood they seem to think exists with cheapish (priced ca. 5-7 euro) short pamphlets on current political issues, following the high sales of translations of the likes of “The Coming Insurrection” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Coming_Insurrection ) and Stephane Hessel (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St%C3%A9phane_Hessel#Time_for_Outrage.21 ). Publications by Owen Hatherley and Laurie Penny, whatever you might think of them, have also been translated into German (though we have been spared Lenin Seymour so far, and I hope it stays that way) and published in a similar format.

    Is there more of a demand for “ideas” in Germany or France compared to the UK, or (and I suspect this does play a significant role) don´t smaller, lefty/independent publishers exist who are small yet big enough to get into mainstream-ish bookshops (of course, the independent bookshops common here have largely vanished from the UK and the lack of a net book agreement in Britain also causes problems)?

  3. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    ‘There is no way for the author to deny they ever wrote them.’

    Why would anyone want to deny that your class and its structures of oppression and exploitation should be annihilated, by EVERY means necessary.

    • bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

      agreED. wonder if this will be deleted like wot my comments were

  4. bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

    “The theoreticians of the Popular Front do not essentially go beyond the first rule of arithmetic, that is, addition: ‘Communists’ plus liberals plus toytown trots plus hedgefunders add up to a total which is greater than their respective isolated numbers. Such is all their wisdom. However, arithmetic alone does not suffice here. One needs as well at least mechanics. The law of the parallelogram of forces applies to politics as well. In such a parallelogram, we know that the resultant is shorter, the more component forces diverge from each other. When political allies tend to pull in opposite directions, the resultant prove equal to zero.

    “A blerGGH of divergent political dilettantes is sometimes completely indispensable for the solution of common practical problems. In certain historical circumstances, such a blerGGH is capable of attracting the oppressed bedroom dwelling dickweeds whose interests are close to the interests of the blerGGHHerati. The joint force of such a bloc can prove far stronger than the sum of the forces of each of its component parts. On the contrary, the political alliance between the shiraz pseudo socialists and city of london corporate fuckpuppets, whose interests on basic questions in the present epoch diverge at an angle of 180 degrees, as a general rule is capable only of paralysing the revolutionary force of the revolutionary blErGGGerarti.

    “the blerggusphERE, in which the force of trivial tedium is hardly effective, demands of its participants the spirit of supreme self-abnegation. The BleRRRGGHing arseshites can assure victory only if they wage a struggle for their own self aggrandizement. Under these conditions, to subordinate the fake sochicalist blERRGHERES to the leadership of the HP Sauce shitheads means beforehand to assure defeat in the blerghHHersphere.”

    • Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

      Ahgreed bler4egHH omceonmretatry

  5. Jaydan said,

    The article is a joke. It makes an entire argument based on a guess.

    Do some simple sums. How many people study “social sciences and humanities” subjects? And of those, how many come into the socialist movement? Yet the lack of reading in such subjects is given as _the_ reason why people aren’t reading or works aren’t being published.

    There’s no evidence for this at all. It’s just a stupid assertion. What about the material conditions that people are experiencing – absolutely drowning in “information” in a way that they never were before, at a pace that the human brain _might not_ be able to handle, which _might_ render people unable to spend the time necessary on deep reading – something which by its very nature is a calm and slow activity. Modern media is so fast and so overwhelming, I would say that this is more likely to be a reason why people read less.

    But… ok instead we’ll say its because you don’t have to read so much at university. Keep going there, Martin. Give us more reasons to take you seriously.

  6. Juan said,

    “Yet active, intelligent, university-educated young people in the AWL today usually read less than our young activists did 35 or 40 years ago. (We collected statistics).”

    Maybe they read less from Marx and Engels, but I’m not sure they read less in general (statistics show that people are reading more, not less since the inception of the internet). And pamphlets is not in-depth reading. It’s usually repetition of cliches. The question is not to bring back the pamphlet, but to teach activists how to use new ways of access to knowledge better (i.e., how do you tell the wheat from the chaff on the www, etc). Strangely enough, it’s usually revolutionary organizations the ones more reluctant to adapt to new technologies.

  7. Abu Faris said,

    Is reading less of Marx and Engels a bad thing?

    • blergHhhhhhhhhhhh commemetayraryer said,

      Maybe not for a lickspittle bootlicker of the London’s financial elites like you Faris – you repulsive tory fuckpig. Faris is an HP Sauce Swamp dweller who recently successfully demanded that I be deleted from a Saucer comment thread. No bother to me, but it’s interesting that on the same thread Faris was cozying up to a mentalist called “Colin” who had this to say:

      “The middle class has it well organised: they invent multicultural Sainsbury’s for the poor to patronise and and (sic) reserve monocultural Waitroses for themselves, and then put down any criticism from the poor to chavvy (sic) racism.”

      What this BNP sounding fuckwit means is that there are too many ‘darkies’ in his local supermarket. How revealing that neither Faris nor any of the other Saucers can raise any critical remarks in response to this racist loonspuddery – there’s so much of this shit over there that it’s basically the norm. Dirty, dirty racist rightwing scum.

  8. Abu Faris said,

    It’s all about you and your manifold and manifest mental health issues, isn’t it?

    Poor you.

  9. Abu Faris said,

    “Maybe not for a lickspittle bootlicker of the London’s financial elites like you Faris – you repulsive tory fuckpig.”

    Gosh.

    “Faris is an HP Sauce Swamp dweller who recently successfully demanded that I be deleted from a Saucer comment thread.”

    That is, of course an outright lie.

    “What this BNP sounding fuckwit means is that there are too many ‘darkies’ in his local supermarket.”

    How this can be construed from Colin’s sardonic comment is quite beyond me.

    Look, troll – since you don’t like HP, why did you ever bother trolling there in the first place?

    Clown.

  10. blergHhhhhhhhhhhh commemetayraryer said,

    Another comment from “Colin” – who Faris is an apologist for – on that thread:

    “I live in a small to medium size city. The only mosque I know of in it is situated in the most multicultural – synonymous with poor working class – area of inner city streets. No middle class families with weekend homes in Billy Bragg land or in the Dordogne, anywhere to be seen. Just the opposite: middle class people make speeches about some la-la land that have never chosen to live in, only to evacuate at the first whiff of multiculturalism. Anyone here lives in Hampstead: does the church clock still strike at tea time?”

    Colin obviously hates the idea of being near foreigners – and sees their presence in working class areas as a problem. No wonder the pond life hangs around Harry’s Place.

  11. Abu Faris said,

    I give up. Why you put up with this lunatic is beyond me.

  12. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    The British govt used to maintain a list which was locked away in police stations. In the event of war with the USSR, brave British bobbies were to go around the people on the list — teachers, trade unionists, homosexuals, ‘coloured’ people, peace activists and anyone else deemed by the boss class to be a threat to good order — and shoot them in the head.

    It never seems to occur to the exploiting, biocidal scum that we might have a list too. I know the dear old AWL might be a bit squeamish about these things, but in the unlikely event that the should come, some of us are made of sterner stuff.

  13. Abu Faris said,

    Wow, death threats from sottish Trots. I am so scared.

  14. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    death threat? more of an IOU really. I’m not scottish not do I live in Scotland. Did I say it was a broad bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht?

  15. Abu Faris said,

    *sottish* not *Scottish*.

    Sheesh.

  16. Abu Faris said,

    The British govt used to maintain a list which was locked away in police stations. In the event of war with the USSR, brave British bobbies were to go around the people on the list — teachers, trade unionists, homosexuals, ‘coloured’ people, peace activists and anyone else deemed by the boss class to be a threat to good order — and shoot them in the head.

    This presumably in the 20 minutes before a rain of multiple nuclear warheads rained down and wiped out some 80% of the population?

    More paranoid confabulations from addled Trots.

  17. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    Drunk? Is that the best you can do, fuckwit? I’m having a mug of tea with my breakfast and had a half litre of lager yesterday evening. Worra pisshead.

    Not paranoid confabulations but actual powers granted the police by the leaders of your ‘great’ ‘democracy’ (which is neither, or is the oldest in Europe yadda yadda). There was even a documentary about it, perhaps Panorama or World In Action, in I think the 1980s. Roger may remember more about it.

    There were a group of enabling acts, the provisions of which were secret, which could be invoked in the ‘Transition To War’, meaning the UK was the stroke of a pen away from concentration and death camps. Still and all it would be worth it to ensure that the Eton boys remained on top come what may, what what?

  18. Sue R said,

    My daughter is doing her A?S levels at teh moment, and it is exactly as Martin Thomas says, everything is on the web or handouts. I remember when she started at secondary school, I expected her to drag a case full of text books to school every day, but zilch.

  19. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    In fact the UK has inly been an actual (notional) democracy since 1948, but the Tories would like to knock even that on the head — no representation without taxation. They can’t even make it contingent on military service (à la Robert Heinlein) as they’ll be outsourcing that to their mates in G4S and Serco next. Should the UK ever actually need to defend itself, it will be a matter of waiting for £6/hr ‘just in time’ slave labourers to report for duty. But, you know, as long as the right people get rich, it’s all worth it.

  20. Abu Faris said,

    Drunk? Is that the best you can do, fuckwit? I’m having a mug of tea with my breakfast and had a half litre of lager yesterday evening. Worra pisshead.

    Gosh, you don’t half reach, don’t you? Perhaps you should have thought about your one-time site’s nickname?

    Perhaps you would care to explain how the police would have time to shoot all the teachers and social workers in the UK in the period from launch to air burst over UK of a Soviet multiple warhead c. 1982?

  21. Abu Faris said,

    In fact the UK has inly been an actual (notional) democracy since 1948

    You mean ever since the Tories won the elections the previous year?

    More and more bizarre.

    Do you also think we are run by lizard people?

  22. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    1. I have never had a website twit

    2. what are you wanking on about? The Atlee govt abolished plural voting in 1948.

    3. UK is run by Eton toffs, they are way worse than lizards

    • blergHhhhhhhhhhhh commemetayraryer said,

      “UK is run by Eton toffs”

      Faris knows this all too well. He was delighted when the racist holligan and bullingdon club toff Boris Johnson re-won the London mayoral election, though he’ll probably pretend he wasn’t.

  23. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    Life imitating art yet again. Pace Kafka and Camus, I have no idea what these idiots are on about.

    Anyone who is actually interested might look into the ‘Government War Book’ and the Everest list.

  24. Abu Faris said,

    Faris knows this all too well. He was delighted when the racist holligan and bullingdon club toff Boris Johnson re-won the London mayoral election, though he’ll probably pretend he wasn’t.

    Fantastic lunacy. I don’t even live in the UK.

    • blergHhhhhhhhhhhh commemetayraryer said,

      Typical, still lying. After Johnson won the mayoral election you posted a comment on Harry’s Place with words to the effect of ‘well done to the electors of London for their sanity’. Are you seriously denying you wrote something to that effect?

      You’re a compulsive liar Faris. As well as a cunt for being a harry’s place groupie.

  25. Abu Faris said,

    Errrr…. please point out anywhere I have ever offered support to Boris.

    You are a lunatic and should be banned.

    • bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

      You were glad he beat Livingstone… are you denying that? You celebrated his victory on HP Sauce (HP Sauce backed Boris of course). I can’t quote you because HP Sauce comments aren’t saved. You know it’s true though – don’t be so coy tory boy.

  26. Abu Faris said,

    Dislikes Livingstone, therefore must like Boris?

    Are you thick, or just nuts?

    • bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

      You welcomed Boris’s election: ergo you supported Boris like I said. It’s not rocket science dickhead.

    • Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

      yes. all of that lot supported floppy haired donkey bowis – they are all tory boy scum.

  27. Abu Faris said,

    Show me where I welcomed Boris’ election. I did not.

  28. Abu Faris said,

    On your reckoning, Michael Ezra supported Boris because Michael Ezra blogs on HP. I would be fascinated to see you make this claim. Go on, I dare you.

  29. Abu Faris said,

    You see Michael Ezra supported Livingstone – and got a lot of flack for it on HP.

    Now that makes your “theory” explode, doesn’t it? You know the one which runs “blogs on HP therefore supports Boris.”

    You are a bloody lunatic, as well as terminally stupid. I feel for you, I really do.

  30. bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

    Like I said before, I can’t show you because HP don’t save their old comments (perhaps their only saving grace). Again, when Johnson beat Livingstone you personally welcomed this outcome on an HP comments thread – do you honestly deny this? Nearly the entire HP commentariat* took this view. In the months leading up to the mayoral elections HP ran a non-stop anti-Livingstone campaign and published a number of posts that defended Johnson. The overwhelming consensus was that Johnson was the lesser of two evils (‘rather a toff than a totalitarian’ as that deranged fuckwit sackcloth and ashes put it). You were part of that gaggle of objectively pro-tory activity: you welcomed Johnson’s election as a ‘sane’ outcome. Now quit being so whiny and at least have the courage of your convictions tory boy.

    * if you took Ezra’s ludicrous trolling – which contained such hilarious non sequiturs as ‘if you oppose Livingstone you must want to kill him – as serious comment, then you’re even denser than I had previously thought.

  31. Sarah AB said,

  32. Abu Faris said,

    bler4egHH omceonmretatry

    Is your entire day taken up with constructing wild accusations against others?

    Seek help, dear.

  33. Abu Faris said,

    objectively pro-tory activity: you welcomed Johnson’s election as a ‘sane’ outcome. Now quit being so whiny and at least have the courage of your convictions tory boy.

    Prove it.

  34. bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

    “Is your entire day taken up with constructing wild accusations against others?”

    That’s rich coming from a fan boy of HP Sauce – the web’s number one seat sniffing blERGGhhH (a blREGGGghH that recently caught Frankie Boyle in its counter-Jihadist net nonetheless). You know full well that I can’t prove my assertion because HP Sauce don’t save comments. You could take this opportunity to clarify your position if you like: do you welcome the fact that Johnson beat Livingstone in the election? Yes or no? Your cunt of a mate Sackcloth isn’t afraid to wear his blue rosette on his sleeve so how about you?

    Incidently, you appear to have a selective amnesia about your own comments. We’ve already seen you ‘forget’ that you demand I be banned on Harry’s Place on this thread. Here’s what you said:

    Abu Faris
    27 October 2012, 11:07 pm

    Can we be rid of this latest troll, please?

    http://hurryupharry.org/2012/10/27/frankie-boyle-gives-damages-to-cageprisoners-linked-campaign-group-reprieve/#comments

    There, while it’s still on record. I don’t know if you’re a daft twat who can’t remember what he’s written or if you’re just a compulsive liar…

  35. Abu Faris said,

    Yes, and you were banned (or at least moderated)… because you are a deranged troll.

  36. Abu Faris said,

    Prove I supported Boris. Come on, I am still waiting for some evidence, rather than your childish accusations.

    Look, I know your head exploded when it was pointed out to you that your ridiculous equation “writes on HP” = “supports Boris” was untrue… but don’t you think your present tantrums are rather… um… weird?

  37. Abu Faris said,

    There is nothing there, idiot.

    Another case of you making things up as you go along?

  38. bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

    If you’re going to be a compulsive liar and evasive bullshiter, try doing so in one post rather than wasting three you bucket of HP Sauce arse gravy.

  39. Abu Faris said,

    Calling people names without a shred of evidence hardly makes you seem balanced, fair or even sane.

    But we already knew that you were unbalanced, unfair and insane. So what is new?

    • bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

      You really need to learn to shut your trap.

  40. Abu Faris said,

    Oooooooooooo. You need to stop telling fibs, and get to a doctor to see about your manifest and manifold mental health issues.

    • blergHhhhhhhhhhhh commemetayraryer said,

      Your trap: shut it.

  41. Abu Faris said,

    *Yawn*

    Nope.

  42. Abu Faris said,

    I am lost in admiration for your searing, forensic style of debate.

  43. bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

    Abu Faris, the pig with his snout in the HP Sauce trough, has now throughly exposed himself as the apologist and friend of racist, rightwing scum that he really is. From a recent comments thread:

    censored by you
    6 November 2012, 1:59 pm

    And there are still people who think that the EDL are something to worry about.

    Abu Faris
    6 November 2012, 3:34 pm

    CBY may a right-winger – but he is, mostly, my sort of conservative. With him, on this, I am happy to stand.

    Faris is happy to stand with EDL apologists. Says it all really doesn’t it – the dirty quisling scum.

  44. bler4egHH omceonmretatry said,

    Update:

    “Abu Faris” has been exposed yet again as a far right scumbag. On the one hand the racist ex-pat piece of human garbage (“Faris”) regards the entire Egyptian population as apathetic, gullible antisemites and on the other he cosies up to anti-muslim, antisemtic ex-EDL scum:

    http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-watch/2012/8/26/harrys-place-and-the-bigots-it-works-with.html

    What a fucking cunt.

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