Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What they really don't teach you at Harvard Business School

One of the all-time best-selling titles in that loathsome and tedious genre of books on management theory is Mark ‘The Shark' McCormack’s ‘What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School’. And according to the website Blood and Treasure, one of the things that should be on the curriculum there is revolutionary socialism.

Blogger Jamie K takes issue with my recent series of posts on old Trots. According him, many students who sign up to Trotskyist organisations on campus are motivated by careerism right from the start:

‘Membership of any far left group at University is good career training … the trots and tankies are learning what really matters if you want to get on in the world – how to manipulate committees, control agendas, identify and neutralise enemies.

‘The generally venomous internecine conflict between far left groupings also provides a good grounding for life in more conventional achievement oriented environments. Anyone with the remotest talent for bullshitting gets first rate training, especially since the professional merchandising of opinion is now a considerable business in itself …

‘All this is true of mainstream student political groupings. But they offer a path direct into politics itself, Young revolutionaries can take this path too, following the dictum that "freedom is the recognition of necessity."

‘Even the existential futility of holding far left positions in the actually existing political order teaches the kind of persistence that a true go-getter needs. I am right eventually becomes I am right, and Lev Davidovich Bronstein, becomes, by slow degrees, Tom Davidovich Peters.’

Unfair, I think. Neither I nor most of my far left contemporaries at the colleges I attended spent much time packing committees. We were far too busy genuinely trying to orient towards the local labour movement and the wider working class, particularly during miners’ strike and the Wapping dispute.

I’d like to think I could have had a career as a braindead Labour backbencher if that is what I truly had wanted. Trouble is, I was never much good either at keeping my trap shut or at kissing the right arses. I suppose that’s why I’ve ended up an underachiever and proud of it.

Funnily enough, including stints as Trot full-timer or ghostwriter for Arthur Scargill on my CV does not seem to have helped me secure a job with a telephone number salary. What am I doing wrong, Jamie?

Far lower numbers of students join left groups than was the case in the eighties. But a number of the young Trot whippersnappers I have come across recently strike me as both phenomenally bright and seriously politically committed. I just wish they would recruit more of their mates, so we middle-aged curmudgeons could put our feet up a bit more until we qualify for our pensions.


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