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[19.12.2006] Knowledge, competition and rebellion

By the end of June the Ministers of Education of the OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) met in Lagonisi, a lovely place at sea outside Athens. The general secretary of the OECD declared that they had to talk about the definition of higher education, while the Greek minister of education said, that “the social and institutional mission of universities had to be reexamined under the light of the new social and economic evolutions.”

No need to stress that the political leaders of capitalist economy have to adapt time and again its superstructures –whether you talk about education, justice, political or social institutions – to what the neoliberal market dictates to them. A nice wording for this is “a competitive European economy of knowledge.”

Universities in turbulence.

While writing this article Greece’s students community had been protesting for at least a month: actions, demonstrations, occupations of schools. This was going on during the days that the OECD meeting took place. The reason for this was the draft framework of a bill for higher education, which the government submitted as a “pre-draft for dialogue.”

However, the whole philosophy of this draft is so much in contradiction with the people’s interests that the students community’s answer was “the only possible dialogue is struggle.” Therefore the MP’s of the Communist Party (KKE) refused to participate in the special meeting on this issue of the relevant parliamentary committee.

By the end of May a debate on education took place in the Greek Parliament at the level of party leaders upon the initiative of the KKE. In this debate prime-minister Kostas Karamanlis made it clear, that privatization of higher education is a central issue for the government. The “socialist opposition” of the PASOK party as expressed by its chairman George Papandreou considered the wish to establish private universities a leftist position……

Of course within capitalism having state universities is not a panacee. Only rarely research has been financed by the state and the subject of research is not determined by the needs of society as a whole, but by the needs of business live – which only at an extremely low percentage might coincide with the interests of the population – and is not controlled by universities. Educational reforms as being proposed by the OECD and the European Union etc. aims at a broad reproduction of the capitalist system. So adaptation in the light of the new socialeconomic evolutions is the keyword, as the Greek minister of education put it. This might make it clear that no changes in a positive direction are possible, if you don’t get into conflict with the existing (capitalist) socialeconomic relations.

Education: a sponsor’s paradise.

So higher education will be strongly linked to the needs of neoliberal economy (the psychological-mental preparation for this starts already in previous stages, at highschool and even at elementary school….). “This means,” Aleka Papariga (general secretary of the KKE) said in above mentioned debate, “that each university like any enterprise must go out for profit making, enter the market, advertise its products and try to cooperate with other enterprises and organizations, for instance NATO and EU or the state to get money……and all this in circumstances of worsening competition between the enterprises, which try hard to reveal each other’s dirty wash.”

But the largest part of state financing, if any, will go to universities having the best contacts with the world of business. This brings the marginalisation of those sectors of science, which are not directly applicable to the market and consequently do not attract the interest of enterprises. This leads undoubtedly to a loss in prestige of scientific research and of the scientists themselves. Aleka Papariga pointed out as well that in this way the genius and creativity of scientific researchers might be forced into a disastrous direction, for instance the invention of war material.

The struggle between science and ethics is as old as class societies are, but humanity reached a stage now, in which this contradiction is growing dangerously. Part of this story is, that more research and study will be carried out as regards how you can mislead and manipulate public opinion in the best possible way. This research, too,could be carried out at privatized universities.

To what extent all this can be either realized or avoided depends on the resistance of the people. Anyway, a hopeful slogan of demonstrating students in Lagonisi was: “No subordination to the imperialists. The only superpower are the peoples.”


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