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The future’s ours – if we want it

By K D Tait

Across the world young people are in the forefront of mass movements for democracy and human rights and against the exploitation and oppression of a system which enriches the 1% at the expense of the 99%.

From the teenage women stitching Nike shoes for poverty wages in China to the radical school students in Chile fighting the cops, demanding free education, young people are in the vanguard of struggle. The Arab Spring has been a movement of young people. This disproves the lie that ours is an apathetic ‘ipod generation’. But the fate of the revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia also proves young people can’t rely on established parties to look after our interests.

When we fight and even die for freedom the result all too often is that the fruits of our struggle are picked up by old established parties. Revolution gives way to counterrevolution; our networks that mobilised hundreds of thousands are unable to seize the power to really change the world. Repeated mobilisations without fundamental change in our daily lives eventually lead to despondency and disillusion.

We need to organise ourselves to make change permanent. We don’t need to reject politics – we need to reject every attempt to patronise and manipulate us. We need to find our own way – our own political strategy and way of organising – that can bring about a radically liberating, equal and revolutionary society.

The surge of support for Left Unity – the appeal for a new working class party to fight the cuts – has the potential to make a real difference for millions looking for a party that finally puts their interests first.

Everyone’s talking about uniting the left – uniting revolutionary groups, uniting independent activists, uniting disillusioned Labour party members. This is a welcome step forward.

But no one’s talking about young people.

It was young people who first stood up to the millionaire Tory rulers. We smashed up Tory HQ – a symbolic statement of intent: if you wreck our future, we’ll wreck your system.

Nine days later more than one hundred thousand young people walked out of schools and colleges against the Tories’ attempts to make young people pay for the capitalist crisis.

But fast forward to 2013. Many of those young people are among the one million 16-24 year olds without work, education or training. Many are working in compulsory workfare schemes. The minimum wage has been frozen for the youngest workers.

In Britain young people can be exploited fulltime at 16 but can’t vote till two years later, we aren’t allowed to create their own democratic organisations at school. And at work bosses pay us lower wages and we have little or no union representation. In the classrooms, the factories and the home, young people are bullied and exploited.

But despite – and because – of this, young people are often the first to say enough is enough and fight to change things for the better.

It was the young people in the Socialist Worker Student Societies who stood up to the bullying SWP Central Committee, over the outrageous way the latter treated the complaints of rape and sexual harassment levelled by young women members, who faced expulsion but whose rebellion has shaken the bureaucratic centralism of the party to its foundations in a way not seen for decades. It is these young SWSS members who are setting out to build an autonomous revolutionary socialist youth organisation in Britain.

Why so radical?

In the first place it’s because young people haven’t been ground down and demoralised by defeat. We haven’t yet been forced to buy into the system – although families often rely on income from their children, young people don’t yet have their own families and children to provide for.

Neither are we so quick to look to the existing leaders for answers. Without unions and without the right to vote we aren’t bound by a hundred social and political ties to the reformist sell-outs in parliament and trade union leaderships.

Capitalism and democracy promise a lot but perform little. A good education leading to a decent job is a fast receding prospect for most of us. And governments and the millionaires who own and control the media manipulate its hollowed out democracy. Young people have shown they are not afraid to say so.

It’s this relative independence from the dead hand of capitalist socialisation which is our greatest strength. Defending and extending this independence to our forms of political organisation is the key to making sure that we can campaign in joint struggles without being manipulated as a stage army.

What is to be done?

In wealthy countries youth unemployment is rocketing under the economic crisis. 50 per cent without jobs is common and 20 per cent plus is now the norm. In the exploited countries outside of Europe and North America, young people are used to drive down wages and denied freedom of thought and action.

Young people see an environment being devastated by capitalism that threatens a future of epidemics, floods, droughts and famines – which the system is unable and unwilling to do anything about. They see “humanitarian” invasions and occupations that leave hundreds of thousands dead or homeless. They see the racism – from the police or from fascist gangs that persecute people because of the colour of their skin, their religion or their culture.

Where should we look to change this?

Most young people are part of the working class. It’s the working class that collectively produces all the wealth in society – but has no say over what is produced or how the wealth is shared out. Because working class people own no means of producing what they need to live, but at the same time must work together to produce all the things which society needs to function – this is what makes the working class the only social force with both the capability and the necessity to struggle for a world organised in a completely different way.

Young people have to be part of this struggle for a world where things are produced according to what people need and not to make profit for the millionaires – this is the struggle for socialism. We can bring our own methods, which take the best of the old and new; we can develop our own organisations which defend our right to think through politics for ourselves, develop our own tactics and strategies but fighting every step of the way with our older brothers and sisters and our parents in the working class.

We can have solidarity without subordination. We can build a movement based in the schools and colleges, in the workplaces and amongst the unemployed young families across the world.

We can campaign for a world without racism, war and exploitation, without sexism, inequality, cultural deprivation and the destruction of our environment.

To do this today we will be most effective if we build our own organisations, prepared to work alongside every progressive ally, but reserving to ourselves alone the right to decide for ourselves, by ourselves how we can win socialist liberation for our generation and those to come.

We can do this by building an organisation with revolutionary politics that is created and run by the young people in the schools, colleges and workplaces.

This will transform our radical actions from spontaneous uprisings that all too often miss their target and see others reap all the rewards, into a conscious struggle for the power to change the world – alongside a revolutionary party which spearheads the working class’s struggle for self-emancipation.

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