Deji Olayinka, Birmingham Young Socialists
The last few weeks’ Black Lives Matter demonstrations have brought young, working-class people onto the streets, enraged by racism and police brutality – but also by all the problems facing young people. The Socialist Party has most often been the only organised political force on the protests. So what is the Socialist Party fighting for to improve things for young people?
Many young black people have taken to the megaphone and shared experiences of racism in Britain. This has included police raids on family homes, family members who have suffered in police custody, and racism from bosses in the workplace.
Our ‘socialist charter for young people’ demands democratic, collective, community and trade union control of police policy and hiring, as a way for working-class people to fight for control over how our communities are policed. And more than this, it calls for a mass movement to unite working-class people against discrimination, to fight for decent jobs, homes and public services for all.
Many on the protests have linked the issue of police racism to wider issues. The generation to the fore has spent its teens under austerity. Now we are facing possibly the greatest economic depression in recent history because of the pandemic.
Young people were among the worst hit by the 2007-08 financial crash, and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) young people even more so. Unemployment among young black men doubled to 56% in three years.
The capitalist elite will attempt to make working-class and young people pay for their economic crisis again. Even many of those lucky enough to get to university and receive a graduate job offer have already seen those offers rescinded as companies announce hiring freezes.
The Socialist Party’s youth charter demands mass creation of decent jobs, and a £12 an hour minimum wage – without youth exemptions – as a step towards a real living wage of at least £15. And we call for fully paid training schemes, for socially useful work, with guaranteed jobs at the end.
A previous article in the Socialist newspaper described how BAME people have been particularly affected by the coronavirus (see ‘Black and Asian Covid-19 deaths: an indictment of capitalist inequality‘). We are more likely to be essential workers – and more likely to be living in cramped housing.
And it’s been three years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. There has still been no justice – and no improvement in the housing crisis. Young people are all too familiar with the disregard that most landlords have for their tenants, forced to pay huge rents for poor quality housing.
Most of us have no prospect of being able to own a home or get a council house. If we want to move out of the family home, our only option now is to be exploited by private landlords.
The Socialist Party’s youth charter demands councils introduce rent control with democratic oversight by the local community and trade unions, and start a mass programme of council house building.
A decade of austerity has severely weakened public services. Our youth charter addresses the need to provide young people with somewhere to go: youth clubs, libraries, leisure centres.
We demand that local councils restore these services, and lead a fight for the funding they need. And our call for a right to a job for all would play an important role in preventing a vulnerable minority from being trapped in a life of crime.
The charter demands free education and the cancellation of all student debts too. And at every level of education, a say in what we learn: democratic control of the curriculum by school workers and students. This is a vital step in ‘decolonising’ the education system.
The underfunded, part-privatised NHS has also struggled to deal with the pandemic. And the government has been making migrant workers pay an additional tax to use it – rather than taking money back from the billionaires.
It was only after intense pressure that the government backed down from making the very same migrants who work for the NHS pay this tax. However, many others still face it. We say the NHS should be free at the point of use for all – no charges for prescriptions, dentistry or migrant taxes.
But the Socialist Party’s charter for young people is not just a list of things we want. It also describes how we can start to fight for them.
Having never seen any effective change, or even an effective political alternative, our generation is looking for a path to a better future. The ‘Zoomer’ generation (those born around the new millennium) is majority anti-capitalist.
Many of us are searching for organisations to support our fight against racism and injustice.
In the workplace, trade unions are the basic collective self-defence organisations of the working class. We campaign for unions to actively recruit young workers to help lead the fight against racism and capitalist exploitation.
On campus, student unions often lag behind students’ demands to fight racism. And the National Union of Students has all but disappeared under a right-wing leadership.
However, Socialist Students has been an effective force for organising students on campus to fight for change. And unlike Labour Students and other societies, Socialist Students has been a visible force at these demonstrations, consistently rising to fight against racism.
And in politics, Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies gave many young people a glimmer of hope. However, the failure to battle the right-wing rot which dominates the Labour Party means Labour does not represent the demands of workers and young people.
Keir Starmer even called the pulling down of a slaver statue “completely wrong.” And he has failed to address racism against left MPs from officials in his own party, recently revealed by leaks.
It’s clear the Labour leadership is more committed to kicking out socialists than fighting racism. If you want a party which is 100% committed to fighting racism and capitalism, for a socialist society controlled democratically by the working class – join the Socialist Party!