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The case for socialism (2013 version)

Socialist Party books and pamphlets

The case for socialism (2013 version)

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Winning young people

A million young people in Britain are unemployed. Millions more are under-employed, stuck in insecure, zero-hour, minimum wage jobs.

Whereas once such jobs were seen as a 'step on the ladder' to something better, now they represent the whole future for a generation.

Nor is there any prospect of the situation improving. On the contrary, unless we fight back, young people in Britain will face a future ever more like the misery stretching in front of young people in Greece, Portugal and Spain, where youth unemployment is over 50%.

The latest fashion in the capitalist media is to claim that young people today are right-wing, or at best apolitical.

Just a few years ago, in 2010, a generation of young people gave the lie to that - when they took to the streets in the tens of thousands to oppose the increase in tuition fees to 9,000 a year and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) which many 16-18 year-olds used to receive to help them through their A levels.

In order to defeat the government that heroic movement would have needed to link up with the struggle of the trade union movement.

That this did not happen was mainly the responsibility of the trade union leaders, who continued to hesitate, only calling action six months later - the magnificent 26 March 2011 demonstration.

Nonetheless, at every stage a greater percentage of young people have supported the trade unions when they have taken action than any other section of the population.

Four out of five under-26 year-olds, for example, supported the public sector strike in November 2011.

To translate the natural sympathy of young people with the workers' movement into active participation it is urgent that the trade unions seriously undertake a fight to improve the pay and working conditions of young people.

If the trade union movement retreats to only representing older workers in secure employment it will create dangerous divisions in the working class.

A fight for decent, well-paid secure work for the next generation, for free education from nursery to university, and for the restoration of grants that allow young people to survive while they study - including EMA for 16-18 year-olds - needs to be central to the struggle of the workers' movement.

These demands - along with reversing benefit cuts and fighting for the rights of pensioners - need to be emblazoned on the call for a 24-hour general strike.

Such a strike would shake the government to its foundations, and give the working class enormous confidence.

Unlike in southern Europe, where general strikes are a far more frequent occurrence, a one-day general strike could force the government to retreat and even to call a general election.

This would be far more likely, of course, provided the trade union movement made clear that this was not a one-off, and that if the government didn't retreat, further action would be called.

Even so, a Labour government would not reverse austerity or act in workers' interests. Hence the urgent need to begin to build a political alternative to all the parties of austerity.

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