The Way Forward for Youth Movements

The establishment, propped up by virtually every political party from the Green Party to the Labour Party, has created an environment that’s impossible for young people to live in. These socio-economic conditions are stifling our generation, suffocating our lives and stealing away our energies. That is why youth activists are duty bound to mobilize a fightback. But what sort of fightback should we organize? What can we do in such an anti-youth environment and what obstacles should we overcome? In the words of Lenin, what is to be done?

Assessing the obstacles that stand in the way of youth activism we quickly come to the conclusion that it is not just the legislation passed in the Irish parliament that destroys us, it is also other youth movements that are so commonly found off and on campus. Young Fine Gael? Ogra Fianna Fail? Social Democrats Youth? Green Party Youth? Labour Youth? All of these serve the primary purpose of propagating the political positions of their mother parties. Their mother parties in turn wreak havoc at every given opportunity when in parliament. Of course, the more moderate of these have some excellent and terrific soundbites but none of that prevents their callous struggle for those charming pensions and perks that come with having a seat at the table.

A youth movement without a total investment in parliamentary personalities and intrigues has a much better opportunity to deliver on its objectives for the simple reason that it cannot be betrayed. It cannot be betrayed for the objectives of political careerists and opportunists, it is strategically solid. Additionally, if it is not subservient to the interests of a parliamentary party it is not sucked into the time consuming work of canvassing and can organically focus on addressing the issues that plague our generation. The youth movement must not exist as a lobby group within a larger party, but as a distinct, unique political entity that exerts political force and pressure in the advancement of its class objectives.

This youth movement will therefore not be placed in a situation where it must compromise for it does not need to compromise with the forces that enslave and undermine it. The youth movement is focused purely on achieving its goals and the empowerment of other young people around it. By overcoming this futile relationship or simply never getting involved in it, the youth movement has its hands free to do what it must, legal or illegal, in the struggle for emancipating our generation from capital.

What sort of political power do I mean when I mention it in the context of a youth movement? Well I refer to a different sort of pressure that is not reliant on elected office. Primarily a capacity to withdraw labour, more commonly known as striking. This is the fundamental basis of political power for a strong youth movement, for it places us definitively in a place where we can exert pressure and halt economic activity, at the heart of the structures that the political class derive their power from, and are in turn subservient to.

There are other forms of political pressure we can exert. Youth activists can identify and then target businesses that practise bad employment habits. This is a method of applying pressure but also engaging with other people outside and on the street and building awareness of their collective interests. It moves the daily threats and bullying tactics that employers use to maintain their profit and discipline their workforce from the shadows and into the open. This is the first step that needs to occur before young people can realise that their experiences are not isolated incidents, but part of a broader class experience.

Another prominent example which comes and goes is that when housing crises are manufactured by landlords and their government lackeys, it is young people that often take the initiative, identifying empty buildings and organizing their occupation. We toil and suffer under vast rent increases but almost always miss the inherent contradiction as we walk on our way to work past empty buildings. A youth movement with this skillset and the passion to drive it forward can, through a strategic political program, utilize empty buildings not only for the benefit of its own members who are under economic pressure but also of others in need of somewhere to stay.

These are but three small examples of what a youth movement can be doing. Of course to be able to carry out an action, the correct ideas, theory and direction are required. Very few if any youth movements have a program of objectives which resonates with a well thought out and principled theoretical analysis of contemporary issues. Both SFRY and WPY are very much attached to their mother parties and do not really exercise a distinct identity, working mostly on the initiative of their mother parties, which in turns work on the initiative of the parliamentary situation.

That is why a youth movement with a strong anti-capitalist identity and analysis can mobilize young people like no other. Without the chains of interdependence and subservience: What limitations does a youth movement have? We must fan the flames of radicalism of our generation and not hesitate to take as dramatic action as necessary to fight back against the brutal austerity inflicted upon us. We must abandon the liberal minded social norms of fraternizing with members of political organizations whose legislation dehumanises us and instead treat them for what they are: outcasts and enemies.

We shouldn’t establish social relations with members of opposite political parties, this normalises the idea that we can separate politics and personal feelings. How can you though? Can you stand alongside somebody in earnest if their party impoverishes thousands or forces them to emigrate? What about suicide, can you really look upon them without feeling anger at their conscious decision to remain part of such a movement? These social norms only bolster the capitalist enemy and undermine the development of a strong anti-capitalist youth movement. A revolutionary youth movement will form its own counterculture, its own interests and its own norms as it develops and pushes forward, all of which will only ostracize the useful idiots of capital.

As outlined above, it is not just social norms we seek to shatter but also political norms. We must focus, as young Communists, on uniting students and young workers into one galvanized force that can flexibly manoeuvre in and out of universities and workplaces and organise with a national mind-set that is fluid and not geographically limited. Cadres must be willing to go anywhere to organise workers and students, in any conditions. Only all of this factors taken together can deliver revolutionary politics, interwoven on the basis of a strong and well nuanced Marxist platform.

What must a youth movement therefore constitute?

First, it must be must be independent and critical of electoral politics. This ensures that its objectives cannot easily be compromised and that it is almost forced to, out of necessity, develop political power elsewhere. No party can legislate revolution, the revolution must already be existent in every community and workplace.

Secondly, a youth movement intent on change must be firmly integrated with labour. The easiest approach to this is to work through trade unions wherever and whenever. Through its integration with labour a youth movement will always be involved in the central line of confrontation: class versus class.

Thirdly, a youth movement must build its political power on the basis of what it can do to tackle capital out on the street. Sometimes this will overlap with trade union membership, sometimes it will not. Its success in praxis will come from solid and well defined theory of action.

Fourthly, a youth movement must not be entrapped within a subservient relationship with any other organization. The revolutionary youth movement does not exist to serve the whims of another political party, it is its own political organization that’s representative of youth issues and focused on tackling youth issues.

Fifthly, a revolutionary youth movement should not build social relations with political organizations that are supporting wars and military alliances, creating austerity or committing further acts of systemic violence against the working class. The terror they unleash must reflect in their social standing: they are parasites and enemies and must be treated with outright hostility.

Finally, a youth movement must not rely exclusively on one demographic of young people. Be it students or young workers, a versatile and flexible approach must be taken. Bring the struggle of working class young people onto the campuses and bring the struggle of students out into the world. Meld the two into one struggle: the struggle against capitalism and the struggle for socialism. Make universities the graduation halls of future unionized and class conscious professionals rather than incubators for a deluded labour aristocracy. Through this process, working class young people can become robust champions of their own class interests, armed with the tools to win them.

– AH
– FT

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