Students who feel crushed by capitalism can find their utopia in the open embrace of the Marxist Student Union, a Registered Student Organization, at The University of Memphis.

The MSU was founded in 2003 by a group of students interested in Marxism, who were interested in teaching the campus community about Karl Marx and his social theories, said associate history professor and adviser to the organization, Dennis Laumann.

‘I think the group serves a lot of purposes,’ Laumann said. ‘One of our purposes is to provide the students, faculty, and staff of The University with a chance to learn about Marx’s theories.’

Karl Marx was a German socioeconomic theorist known for his critique of capitalism in his revolutionary book Das Kapital, or Capital, along with The Communist Manifesto. Marx contextualized capitalism as another part of human social evolution and predicted it would collapse like its predecessors, Laumann said. Marx also provided a political outline that emphasized the next step in human social evolution as socialism.

In the past, the MSU has held study groups dealing with Marxist literature, hosted guest speakers visit campus, and shown films related to Marxism. John Jester, President of MSU, currently leads a study group for those interested in Marxism.

Jester, a self-proclaimed socialist, entered The U of M in 2005 and became interested in the group after seeing one of their flyers.

Although most people know of Marx only as the ‘father of communism,’ Laumann said Marxism includes more than communist theory.

‘Marxism isn’t just communism,’ Laumann said. ‘Within Marxism, there are different perspectives, there isn’t just one view. Marxism is a theory to understand almost everything, while communism is more of a political ideology.’

Over the years, the MSU’s members have ranged from communists to socialists to even a few anarchists. But the group isn’t exclusive in its membership, Jester said.

‘It isn’t a political party or anything like that,’ he said. ‘The group is open to anyone interested in revolutionary social theories.’

Not only does the group learn about Marx and his theories, but also they help educate the campus community about the work of the United Campus Workers. The UCW is a group of faculty and staff from colleges across Tennessee who advocate keeping tuition down and fighting budget cuts in Tennessee public universities.

‘The MSU is helping to educate students about the union’s efforts,’ Laumann said.

The MSU is also involved with different peace groups and anti-war efforts, as well as anti-racism efforts in the Memphis area.

Marx and his social theories are still current, Laumann said, pointing to a 1999 BBC poll in which Marx was voted the greatest thinker of the millennium.

‘Marxism continues to shape how we think about the world,’ Laumann said.

The MSU is planning to show a film entitled ¡Salud! in the fall, which deals with Cuba’s medical missions in the developing world. They will also have a representative from the Communist Party of the United States of America who will talk about the state of labor unions in the U.S.

For senior international business major Catherine Bryant, Marxism seems to have been swept under the rug but is still very important.

‘I’d love to join,’ Bryant said.

Other students, like senior international business major Ifeoma Gilyard, said the idea of joining a Marxist group is unappealing.

‘I think the theory is interesting, but I wouldn’t subscribe to it,’ Gilyard said. ‘I can honestly say ‘no’ to joining the Marxist Student Union right now.’

Source: The Daily Helmsman


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Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.