What future for young people? We need to shape and change the future – what we have is death but what we want is life, hence the next generation taking responsibility...
This article is an edited version of a speech given at a CPBML public meeting in London last November.
November 2012, London: students march against cuts and fees.
All the talk about youth, young people, anything which creates special people or divides people, people who live to shop, people who cannot communicate without “social media”, really gets up my nose. So I want to say from the beginning that I’m looking at a continuous process, a sense of generation – passing knowledge from the older to the new and from the new to the yet to be born.
We are all walking contradictions: we are for change but like continuity; we want the next generation to have a better lot than we did or our mothers and fathers had but we don’t want to forget our roots. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes we made. But we want people to learn and you learn from practice and experimenting. So we trust the next generation to take up the weapons that we did, hone them, refine them and move the world forward. Do better than us.
What future for young people? We ask simply because we need to shape and change the future – what we have is death but what we want is life, hence the next generation taking responsibility.
Forwards or backwards?
Is the world going forward or is it going backward? The period from 1945 to 1979 was dubbed as a period of great social democratic compromise. We, the working class and they, the capitalist class, could all find an accommodation and live together. One grand happy home. That 34-year period, born out of the Second World War, has to be now seen as an aberration in capitalism's history. An illusionary era where people thought real social progress and justice was occurring not only in Britain but across the world.
What changed in 1979? The election of Margaret Thatcher and a bunch of ideologues basing their ideas on an ignored Austrian economist, Hayek, is what happened. No more living together. The great divorce. It wasn’t an accident: the ruling class had analysed class struggle in Britain during the previous decades, our strengths and weaknesses. And then we, organised labour, voted for her pie-in-the-sky, get-rich-quick, beggar-your-neighbour, greedy illusion that we didn’t have to be workers any more.
Hayek had one idea: all power to the market. In practice that means – because it is still being pursued by Cameron, Osborne and previous and present Labour Party leaders – the unprecedented domination of capitalism over us and the complete roll back of everything we, as workers, have ever achieved.
Millions of workers uprooted, cast adrift, cast on the scrap heap. Millions of people who are now so accustomed to being made redundant that they are anaesthetised and accept it.
So a future for hundreds of thousands of young people means no jobs, or non-productive jobs. No education. No housing. And no pension. No work means not in the union – no aspiration, no expectation, no hope
You can add all the European Union dimensions as discussed at our last meeting and covered in Workers. But mass importation of cheap labour, as with cheap goods, destroys our ability to build, plan and direct our future. What period in history has weighed down the next generation with millstones round their necks before they start as now?
What may have been won in the 1960s, 1970s but then rolled back in the 1980s, 1990s, to today, is not just because of some obscure fascist economist. Nor is it because we have some guilt trip about how we’ve let this generation down and not done enough. How silly. We’ll never have done enough until we’ve finally won. We’ll never finally win because struggle is dynamic: what you achieve today is not enough for tomorrow.
We have no more let this generation down than those workers one hundred years ago, who led such militancy and near-revolution – “The Great Unrest” – only to be slaughtered in the First World War. We are part of an on-going class war which has ebbed and flowed for hundreds of years. We are in retreat, and we have never faced such a period as this before. But we don’t need sackcloth and ashes and moaning about our lot in the world.
The TUC held a massive march on 20 October 2012 – and it was basically ignored across all media. What was the TUC calling for? “A future”, “You can make a difference”, “A better world is possible”. All motherhood and apple pie, business trade unionism and let’s have more flags and giant balloons.
So frightened are the trade unions that we don’t dare challenge the ideas of Hayek, the market, so-called neoliberalism and all the other junk language that they use.
We need to look to ourselves. We are workers, we know that ideas change the world; we know that ideas fight, ideas make things happen. We should be saying capitalism does not and never has worked. We must replace it. We must work out what socialism means for us in 21st-century absolutely declining, failing, dying British capitalism. This is not Russia, China, Cuba or wherever, it’s here, it’s us, it’s now, it's Britain the first capitalist country – and it will be the first capitalist country to destroy itself.
At the Armistice Day commemorations last November, Cameron said he wants every school to visit the cemeteries of France, and £50 million has been found to commemorate the forthcoming 100th anniversary of the First World War in 2014.
We should not let them steal our history. The millions of dead were workers, millions were young workers. We cannot allow them to commemorate a war among slave owners fighting to be the biggest slave owner in the world whereby we were the cannon fodder.
What solution for a generation without hope and work? Have another war! We cannot permit that.
A future for young people means we fight for peace not another re-division of the globe amongst the rich and parasitic.
For young comrades and friends in the audience I want to say a few words about the Party. As a Communist Party we do not divide our class, we do not divide our members over superficial difference. We do not have and do not need a youth wing, a women’s section, a gay and lesbian group, a black members’ section, an unemployed section. We are communists in a Communist Party. We have workers who understand the vital importance of being a Communist and being organised to deliver as a collective.
We work on the basis that clarity of thought and unity of purpose is what is necessary for today, tomorrow and the future. Today’s youth is tomorrow’s pensioner; the battle remains the same only the point in time changes.
The future for young people is and will be grim if we do not tackle today’s battles. We cannot understand today’s battles without understanding the protracted timeline of the struggles that we are engaged in, where we have come from and where we need to go. What we are fighting for has run over centuries, it will run over more.
The question is have you joined in the battle or not? Do you understand what needs to be done or are you looking in the wrong direction? Do you take the right decision or flounder around chasing diversions and cop-outs? Are you brave enough to make a lifetime’s commitment to struggle, and winning the future?
The Party needs to bring into its ranks the next generation; all bring some contribution, some experience, some value, all learn. Better that we keep mixing old and new wisdom to constantly create a heady, vibrant, dynamic and forward looking mind-set.
Clarity arises from studying, discussing and applying ideas, Marxist ideas. You get that focus of intensity and clarity by being in this Party. ■