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‘Against fascism, war and economies’: the Communist party of Great Britain’s schoolteachers during the popular front, 1935–1939

Kavanagh, M 2014, '‘Against fascism, war and economies’: the Communist party of Great Britain’s schoolteachers during the popular front, 1935–1939' , History of Education, 43 (2) , pp. 208-231.

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The Popular Front line made the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) a more hospitable place for ‘brain workers’. The emphasis the line placed on mass ideological and cultural struggle against fascism meant that they became important allies to be won for the working class. As the principal transmitters of ideology and culture to the masses, schoolteachers could be perceived as being at the forefront of the anti-fascist effort, just as important as the academics, artists, writers and musicians more traditionally associated with the pull of British communism in this period. But communist schoolteachers on the whole avoided the exploration of socialist ideas in their professional practice. Rather, their primary focus was on achieving the greatest possible unity against fascism in their profession. This stance largely excluded critical discussion of the theory or practice of the education of children under capitalism, such as combating imperialist bias in textbooks; ending corporal punishment; advocating secular education; promoting workers’ control of schools and ameliorating the capitalistic nature of competitive examinations, all of which had been debated by communist teachers at various points during the 1920s. But as well as the tactical considerations of the Popular Front line, this avoidance of a qualitative critique of British schooling was encouraged by Soviet educational conservatism, and often overlooked continuities between the Popular Front line and its predecessor, ‘Class Against Class’. Drawing on the personal papers of British communist schoolteachers, contemporary newspapers and periodicals, and policy statements of the CPGB in the period, this article seeks to shed light upon the communist contribution to the teacher politics of the labour movement in England and Wales during the late 1930s, an input hitherto unexplored in detail.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: educational reform, communism, teachers, fascism, Popular Front
Schools: Schools > School of Humanities, Languages & Social Sciences
Journal or Publication Title: History of Education
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0046-760X
Depositing User: S Rafiq
Date Deposited: 02 May 2014 05:52
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2015 23:35

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