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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 March 2012

A Socialist Party 2012 congress report

Young, socialist and proud to be!

Sarah Wrack

The stage was literally stormed when the chair invited contributions to the discussion on youth and student work. This reflected the enthusiasm for both the congress and the campaigning.

Claire Laker-Mansfield introduced an inspiring session. She pointed out that since last year's congress there has been a number of protests and movements involving young people - not least young workers taking a lead in the pensions struggle. There was the Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) Jarrow March, the Occupy movement, workfare protests and, showing what happens when young people's anger is not organised, the summer riots.

Young Socialist Party members launched YFJ in 2009, in anticipation of mass anger against youth unemployment. Movements internationally, such as the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, where youth unemployment was a spur, and the Indignados in Spain, are evidence of this. Reflecting the concern of capitalist politicians the issue even made it on to the agenda of the world economic forum at Davos.

Enormous respect and support for YFJ from trade unions (seven of whom are affiliated to the campaign) was built up through the 330-mile Jarrow March for Jobs. But contributions to the discussion from around the country demonstrated that Jarrow was just the start. Rachel Horwitz and Richard Brown talked about the need for trade unions to reach out to young workers.

There are plans for local YFJ campaigns in many areas, particularly demanding that local councils introduce an EMA payment substitute for students. James Ivens, youth organiser for Lambeth and Southwark Socialist Party, pointed out that Southwark has already done this. This fact should be used to pressure councils elsewhere to follow suit.

Suzanne Beishon, London youth organiser, outlined the crisis in housing in London which hits young people particularly hard. London YFJ has launched the campaign 'Forced Out? - Fight Back!' to highlight the scale of this problem in the capital.

Action and debate

Many good ideas of how to organise campaigning among young people were shared - including both meetings and action - with a flexible approach needed. For example Michael Wright spoke about the warm response to YFJ campaign stalls outside job centres in Bristol with further action planned for budget day.

Becci Heagney reported on campaigning in the East Midlands, saying that alongside action there needs to be a forum for debate.

Another important area of work for young Socialist Party members is in the colleges and universities. Sam Morecroft and Chaz Lockett talked about building Socialist Students at Sheffield University and the importance of having a constant presence on campus, particularly during the first term. Alex Moore and Rebecca from Leicester referred to the interest in international events among young people.

Recently the focus for Socialist Student members has been trying to build for the 14 March NUS walkout, many having to battle against resistant student unions. Nick Hart described this battle at Birmingham City University. Socialist Students played an important part in shutting the campus down almost completely on 30 November when lecturers were striking in defence of their pensions. The conference was outraged when Nick described a visit to campus by NUS President Liam Burns when he said that it was impossible for NUS to have a position against all education cuts.

Riannon, Lloyd and others spoke of their experiences of participating in Occupy camps and the lessons about organisation and the need for a political understanding of capitalism they had drawn.

Lizi Gray, organiser of the Slutwalk protest in Newcastle, described how Labour had written to her threatening to end her membership - after she had resigned. She wrote back explaining she had joined a party that actually fights cuts and included a 'join card' for the Socialist Party in her reply! Others spoke about their disillusionment with the Lib Dems.

24 speakers contributed to the discussion and highlighted what a broad range of youth work party members are involved in. In his reply Paul Callanan outlined the tasks facing young Socialist Party members in the next few weeks and months, including workfare protests planned around the country on budget day, 21 March.

Paul stressed the important role that the Socialist Party can play in youth movements by offering socialist ideas.

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In The Socialist 15 March 2012:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Resist Cameron's cold cruelty

Fight the cuts - for a workers' alternative

Fight back against attacks on pensions

Those fracking Tories

Them & Us

Socialist Party workplace news

Construction workers fight on

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

Widespread fraud alleged as Putin wins presidential poll

Kazakhstan: Oilworkers' lawyer freed from prison

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

National demo needed to save our NHS

Liberals' 'democratic' conference

Fighting Con-Dem attacks on education

14 March - Socialist Students get a response

Housing crisis in London

Library cash goes to supermarket bosses

Coventry: Fight for a socialist alternative

May Day greetings

Socialist Party congress

Socialist Party Congress 10-12 March 2012

World developments show - capitalism is crisis

Trade unions and workplaces

Britain: working class begins to 'rise like lions'

Building the Socialist Party: 'year of the branch'

Young, socialist and proud to be!

Reviews & readers' comments

'Westenders' - omnibus edition

The best of 'literary fiction'


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