LSE lives down to its heritage

Students at the London School of Economics, one of our most exclusive universities, have issued a manifesto that must have been inspired by Mao’s Red Guards.

The Webbs’ spirit lives on

The manifesto, put forth by the LSE Working Class group, demands a full raft of radical measures. These include, inter alia:

  • A ban on all students educated at independent schools
  • Eradication of a student society devoted to the study of Friedrich Hayek (HyekSoc)
  • No-platforming of speakers who “are harmful to marginalised students”
  • Introducing minority quotas for the faculty, with an accent on hiring more black professors (this is called “decolonisation”)
  • The right to review the directors’ salaries

They stopped just short of a call to smash their professors’ “dog’s heads”, as their Chinese counterparts did. However, on the positive side, they also demanded that the LSE “install a David Graeber lecture series, to celebrate the life of the revered professor.”

Graeber, who died last year, was an anarchist activist who inspired the Occupy movement. Both he and Occupy may indeed be revered, but perhaps not as universally as LSE students would wish.

What I like about the manifesto is its laudable honesty. Those students haven’t yet learned to camouflage their diabolical views with quasi-liberal verbiage. Perhaps they should learn less from David Graeber and more from Herbert Marcuse or, closer to our own time, Tony Blair.

Now, you might think that no university listing economics as its main field of study could abolish Hayek, Mises and other Austrian champions of free markets. Think again.

As the manifesto explains, “HayekSoc promotes free market fundamentalist views which outwardly call for the oppression of working class people.”

Now, I’ve read most of what Hayek wrote, but – and it pains me to harbour such suspicions about students of this august institution – I wonder if they have. For nowhere does Hayek call, outwardly or otherwise, for such oppression.

This great champion of libertarian economics believed that, on the contrary, free markets promote upward social mobility by creating endless opportunities for social advancement. Moreover, his ideas have been empirically vindicated everywhere they’ve been tried (or rather approached) by indeed spreading prosperity wider than any other economic system ever has.

But I did compliment those students for their honesty, didn’t I? Hence they made a pronouncement that not many socialists have ever dared to make, even though most would agree with it tacitly:

“LSE Class War is opposed to the concept of ‘social mobility’. As we have noted before, social mobility means that only a few of the working class can transcend their class position. We want all working class people to rise together.”

In other words, there should be no working classes at all. All proletarians must ascend to middle-class comfort together, leaving a social and economic vacuum behind them.

One would be interested to know which historical economic model those youngsters see as a precedent to follow. For every society where similar ideas were proclaimed ended up enslaving the working classes, starving them to death and mowing them down with machineguns when they protested.

Here we come to the LSE’s heritage coded into its DNA. For its founders were outspoken champions of precisely such societies.

The LSE was founded in 1895 by Sidney and Beatrice Webb on behalf of the socialist Fabian Society, and the university was explicitly devoted to spreading socialist ideas.

The Webbs visited Stalin’s Russia in 1932 and produced two gushing books extolling what they called a “new civilisation”. They thus joined a small army of Westerners whom Lenin ungratefully called “useful idiots”.

The Webbs admired the Soviet prison system and especially Stalin’s secret police OGPU (KGB’s precursor), featuring a “strong and professionally qualified legal department”. I won’t insult your intelligence by describing how that body demonstrated its legal qualifications.

I’m confident that such facts are known widely enough. The point is that they were just as widely known then. Malcolm Muggeridge, who was related to Beatrice Webb, visited Russia at the same time, at the height of the artificially created famine that starved at least 10 million to death, mostly in the Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Unlike the Webbs, he was appalled by what he saw – and reported it in The Manchester Guardian, a Fabian paper. That piece of reportage put Muggeridge’s journalistic career on hold for decades, and he had to scrape a living by writing novels.

No such problem for the Webbs. They could have repeated the words of Lincoln Steffens who wrote, after a similar visit, “I have been over into the future and it works”. G.B. Shaw, perhaps the most revolting of the Fabian useful idiots, denied that a famine was killing millions, citing by way of proof the feast to which he had been treated at the Kremlin.

Such is the heritage of the LSE, and no nurture has been allowed to interfere with its nature ever since. For appearances’ sake, it has always had the odd token conservative among its professors, such as Michael Oakeshott and my late friend Ken Minogue. But its overall course has never changed, and it’s still steered with a firm hand.

In the late ‘80s my son did a semester at the LSE as an exchange student. On his first day he was regaled with the sight of a poster advertising an upcoming debate: “Resolved: this house shall assassinate Thatcher”. It’s always good to see an academic tradition lovingly maintained.

Today’s LSE students don’t yet call for violence against those who cling on to sanity. But give them time: I have every faith in our higher education.

2 thoughts on “LSE lives down to its heritage”

  1. I wonder if these incorrigible fools realize that plumbers, waiters, sewer cleaners, garbage workers, forklift drivers, warehouse workers, grocery store clerks, window cleaners, auto mechanics, etc., tend to respect free market economics; and look upon socialists as “wack jobs”.

  2. As a triple Economics graduate of the LSE in the late 1960s/early 1970s, my experience was of a rather conservative economics department and a wildly leftist sociology department, whose moronic antics during the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of May 1968 led to the closure of the School for a couple of months.

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