Is Michael Gove a secret Marxist revolutionary?

Francis Gilbert's picture
I have to say, you've got to hand it to Michael Gove for his chutzpah. His latest wheeze is to invoke the words and deeds of a dead working-class celebrity and a radical Marxist to show why his English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC) should be embraced by the teaching profession. He's clearly on the defensive, attacking anyone who questions the EBC in his latest speech to the Social Market Foundation. All the usual suspects get a good kicking for saying that the EBC is too narrow and elitist: the teaching unions, progressive educationalists, the Labour Party, blah, blah, blah.

A great deal of his speech is taken up with exhorting the memories of Jade Goody and Antonio Gramsci. Goody was from a working-class background and grew up in London. She appeared on TV a few times and made some remarks which caused a "tabloid" stir. Against the advice of doctors, she stayed in the Big Brother House, despite knowing she had cancer; this precipitated her tragically early death. Gove praises her in his speech for writing a will which meant her children went to a private school. He then uses the words of Gramsci, a Marxist philosopher who died in prison in fascist Italy, to justify why the teaching of facts should be paramount. This is a fascinating part of the speech; he re-hashes the arguments of the culturally conservative educationalist E.D. Hirsch who first noted Gramsci's defense of the teaching of facts. There's a fascinating correspondence in the Harvard Educational Review about Hirsch's "take" on Gramsci which can be found here. Peter Thompson has already written clearly and eloquently about Gramsci's educational and Marxist philosophy for the Guardian here. I myself have just talked to Andrew Gilligan for LBC Radio about the matter.

There's no question in my mind that both Hirsch and Gove have plucked Gramsci's quote out of context; Gramsci was radical Marxist who believed that the proletariat should seize the means of production and over-turn capitalist society. While he advocated the teaching of facts, he certainly wanted certain facts about the exploitation of the working classes and the need for violent revolution, that Gove and Hirsch would probably prefer was left out of the curriculum, to be taught. The vital question here, as I said to Gilligan, is not whether facts should be taught in schools, but whose facts should be taught. For example, Gove wants to downgrade the teaching about the British profiting from slavery in favour of more facts about kings and queens. But who says that the facts about kings and queens are more important than those about slavery? Gramsci would, no doubt, want the facts about slavery taught, and all the facts about the ways in which the British aristocracy have robbed the workers of their land and power. I'm not sure Gove would be too keen on  that...


Perhaps the chaos Gove has unleashed upon the nation's education system is the first part of a cunning plan to bring revolution upon our streets and set the working class free from their shackles? Perhaps the millions of alienated students that his policies will inevitably produce will become a baying mob, a revolutionary proletariat, who will rise up like lions in slumber and seize control of their own destinies, grabbing the resources of the private schools for their own and knocking the toffs and twits in government off their high perches...

Yes, perhaps Michael Gove is a covert Soviet agitator. There is, after all, a picture of him on a picket line in the 1970s on a picket line (see below). Was he recruited by the KGB back then and given a secret mission to bring down the English capitalist state? Is it possible that although the Soviet state has long vanished, Gove, like any good and true Marxist-Leninist, has continued to pursue his mission? Or maybe he's a Chinese Marxist, after all, he has professed his admiration for Chairman Mao.

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