Student Marxist Association of South High (SMASH)
“What we set out to do is to educate students, to empower students with that same stuff, equip them with this theory and with these connections specifically to agitate students into developing an actual movement here,” said Zach Moore, one of the founding members of the SMASH club, a new group at South.
Moor wanted to create SMASH after he took his economics class and found it problematic. Robert Panning-Miller, a history teacher, said, “when I’m talking about capitalism, and socialism, and communism [in my class], I basically clarify to students that when you have a class that’s called econ or econ 101, it’s capitalism 101.” The individuals, systems, and markets of capitalism are what are taught in economics. The class is to teach students to be responsible economic citizens within capitalism. Mary Manor, a teacher at South, agreed referring to economics as a class about the American Government, not economics.
Moor attempted to get a lesson in his class about wage labor but was told that “there wasn’t time for it.” Moor’s economics teacher brought him to Manor because they knew that Manor would be better equipped to help Moor. Manor contacted Panning-Miller because “I know Robert is a committed and a long time communist.”
Soon after talking to Manor and Panning-Miller, Moor reached out to friends and other people who were interested in Marxism. He said, “I was talking with some other comrades of mine and we were like ‘hey, that needs to be rectified.’ If this is supposed to be a place of learning, we shouldn’t be swallowing all this bourgeois BS.”
Moor promoted the club with an ad on the cafeteria monitors, flyers, talks in some of his classes, and social media. One comrade, Leila Rae Yorek Sundin, a member of the club, was immediately interested in the club. “I have found it really difficult to find people who have a similar ideology to me and that is something I like to bond over people with.”
Marxism offers people an opportunity to fight for class revolution. Moor says, “Marxism-Leninism is a scientific method by which we can analyze capitalism and by which we can analyze the class struggle.” The Communist Manifesto explains this method, for understanding class exploitation. When the club first met, the members read sections of Marx’s Communist Manifesto to become more familiar with it and learn from it.
Panning-Miller and Manor try to let the students run the group, but offer assistance when needed. “I sort of approach this as a student led group and so I’ve been just trying to like ‘what do you need from me?’, rather than, ‘here’s what you should do,’” said Panning-Miller.
In addition, Sundin also wants to work with other groups across the Twin Cities, such as the Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota. Moor added that there are many groups fighting for the same things, and uniting will solidify these movements, “we want to build a united front within our school particularly to unite students in all of these movements… We are fighting for the same things. It absolutely vital that we develop that united front and to develop better consciousness among the students about these issues.”
In an effort to start this coalition the group reached out to other clubs at South such as Unidos, the Asian Student Association, and the Black Student Union. The BSU responded and the two groups have been working together. They organized a panel with Frank Chapman, a former Black Panther Party member and a Marxist, to discuss the connections between the Black liberation movement and socialism. Chapman’s talk on February 7th 2020 drew a large crowd that came to hear him discuss the Black liberation movement and socialism’s inextricable interconnections argued that they are irrevocably interconnected. He also explained the ties between racial capitalism and the prison industrial complex to the prison system. He described his own experiences and offered strategies students could use to fight back. Chapman told his audience, “you have nothing to lose but your chains, and the world to gain.”