Marxist era dawns in Glasgow

March 31, 2000

The University of Glasgow has appointed a professor of Marxist studies.

The personal chair, thought to be unique in the United Kingdom, goes to Hillel Ticktin, an expert on political economy and the history of socialism. He left his South African homeland after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, studied at Moscow University and has been teaching in Glasgow since 1965.

"I'll be doing exactly what I was doing before. There is no change," he said. "But I think this is a very impressive commitment to academic freedom by Glasgow University. It is a recognition that a Marxist theoretical approach is itself acceptable. That was not always the case."

Professor Ticktin, a Marxist since adolescence, fell foul of former education secretary Sir Keith Joseph (later Lord) when he set up a centre of socialist theory and movements at Glasgow. "I don't really know what he was objecting to. He probably just saw the title, and it was a red rag to a bull."

But Professor Ticktin is used to what he believes is unjustified criticism. "The body of Marxist thought is profound, and I do not know any critic of it who actually knows that body of thought. Most of the time they are off the point, to a large degree criticising Stalinism, which is not Marxism."

Stalinism distorted nearly every Marxist concept, its aim being to try to protect the elite in the Soviet Union, while Marxism's goal was to achieve the most democratic society possible, Professor Ticktin says.

In past decades, he may have been seen by some as part of a vast radical socialist movement within higher education, but Professor Ticktin insists this is far from the reality.

"In the 1970s, quite a lot of people were drawn towards it, but never a large percentage. I could never understand why there was this kind of critique of the left in higher education when it was so small."

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