Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/399/4869
ISR - youth on the march
INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST Resistance (ISR) is an international socialist organisation which is run by and for young people. We have members and groups all around England and Wales, as well as sister organisations in Ireland North and South, France, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Brazil, Russia, Israel, Australia and many other countries around the world.
We held our founding conference in December 2001 in Brussels at the time of the anti-capitalist protests against the EU. We recognised that more and more young people see the problems of the capitalist system and are looking for an alternative.
ISR took the initiative in calling school students' strikes in several countries on the day that the war with Iraq started.
Our aim in setting up ISR was to provide a socialist wing to the movement for those who see the need to fight for an alternative to capitalism. Since then we have held a national conference every year, where we discuss and debate our policies and plans.
If you want more information or to join ISR:
ISR PO Box 858, London E11 1YG. Tel: 020 8558 7947
Fighting low pay... from England and Wales...
We live in a period of neo-liberal attacks on the living standards of the working class. Low pay affects a majority of the working class, particularly young workers.
Glyn Matthews, Low-paid shop worker, ISR England and Wales
The minimum wage was a small step forward for very low paid workers, but in many cases it also acts as a maximum wage. The structure itself is divisive - there are three tiers for young people. 22 year olds receive £4.85 while 18-21 year olds only get £4.10 and 16 and 17 year olds currently have no minimum wage (although from October it will be £3 per hour). This allows for vast gulfs in the wages of young workers for the exact same jobs.
Young workers must organise themselves, join trade unions and fight for decent wages and conditions.
ISR in Britain launched a Young Workers' Pack in 2004 to give young workers the information they need to join a trade union and start organising in their workplace. ISR branches regularly hold days of action where low-paying bosses are outed - a 'Wall of shame' is erected in the town centre and young people are invited to write up the name of their employer.
Through these campaigns we have been contacted by groups of workers around the country and have provided advice and support to help them organise and fight the bosses' attacks.
Five hundred students strike against Howard government
The last day of school in Melbourne, Friday 24 June, before the mid-year break, saw a 500-strong student strike and demonstration against the John Howard government in Melbourne. The protest was organised by UNITE, a campaign against low pay and rights for casual workers, which was initiated by Socialist Party (CWI) youth.
Anthony Maine, Socialist Party, Melbourne
The demonstration started at Federation Square, with several speeches including high school and university students, an electrical apprentice and an organiser from UNITE.
The students then marched to the Nike superstore where they were addressed by Yarra City Socialist Party councillor Steve Jolly. Steve spoke about how Nike and other multinational companies exploit young workers both in Australia and in poorer countries like Indonesia, where people work for a few dollars a day.
The noisy and energetic students then marched down Bourse Street mall, chanting: "Hey ho! Johnny Howard, its time to go". The lunchtime crowds were very supportive of their demands, including, "Education for all, not just the rich!" and "Equal pay for equal work - no junior wages!"
The march grew as it went through the mall and then down Elizabeth Street, where the students stopped outside a McDonalds outlet to listen to Kylie McGregor, UNITE co-ordinator. Kylie spoke about the lack of apprenticeship opportunities for young people: "We have had enough of John Howard's McJobs; we want real jobs with decent wages, not low paid, dodgy traineeships". Back in Federation Square, the students stayed to listen to four more bands, including three bands made up entirely of high school students.
Youth stand up to Howard
Howard is attacking education, training and industrial relations. The increases in university fees, and the introduction of 'voluntary student unionism', will mean education will only be for the rich, and student services, and the right to organise on campus, will be diminished.
Over 50 students signed up at the UNITE stall and over $150 was raised on the day. One Year 7 student said this was her first political demonstration but it would not be her last: "We can't stop fighting until we kick these people out of power," she said.
The student strike marks the start of countrywide protests and strikes against Howard's new attacks on workers' rights and conditions. A half-day general strike in Victoria State, which includes Melbourne, takes place on 30 June and other protests are planned throughout Australia. Around 100,000 people are expected to turn out for protests in Melbourne, the biggest workers' demonstration in the city for years.
- The immediate introduction of the current trade union minimum wage demand as a step towards £8 per hour (for a 30-hour week).
- An end to exemptions and lower rates of pay for young people.
- The right to a job, training and free quality education.
- No to employment agencies which cream off huge percentages of workers' wages.
- Scrap the New Deal for young people, job seekers' allowance and welfare to work. For full benefits without compulsion.
- For a right to free quality education for all.
- A fighting democratic trade union which represents all workers including agency and casual workers.
Belgium - Youth march for work
On 19 March, 80,000 trade union activists and young people demonstrated in Brussels. A part of this demonstration was the Youth March for Work.
Nikei De Pooter
The youth march was called by the Left Socialist Party (LSP-MAS - the Belgian sister organisation of the Socialist Party) and taken up by the youth sections of the trade unions.
One in five young people are unemployed and for those lucky enough to find a job, it is mostly low paid and temporary.
Finding a way out of low pay through education is also becoming more difficult. The education system is being 'reformed' like in Britain, with higher tuition fees as a result. To hide their drive for profit, the bosses use racism to divide the working class and to divert attention from the real problems in society.
The youth march was our answer to these attacks. On 19 March, thousands of young people demonstrated around a number of demands: Fight unemployment, not the unemployed; stop the 'flexible' labour market and low pay; for a 32 hour working week without loss of pay and to create more jobs.
With these demands, we linked the fight of the youth to the fight of the whole European labour movement against the neo-liberal attacks.
During the march, we organised a lively contingent with about 500 participants. But this demonstration is only the beginning. We will use the enthusiasm generated by this campaign to take other initiatives and build the LSP-MAS to fight to end the attacks of big business once and for all.
School students fight back in France
The young members of the Gauche Revolutionnaire (GR - French section of the CWI) have been organising amongst school students against Education Minister Fillon's education bill, organising successful pickets and mass blockades of schools in Rouen.
A member of Gauche Revolutionnaire
On 10 March, thousands of school students joined the one-day strike of public and private sector workers. When the law was passed, Fillon declared that it was necessary to stop the school students' movement - by force if necessary. This happened in Lille, Toulouse and Paris where police attacked demonstrators.
On the 10 March strike day, young people united with and marched alongside workers - GR organised a contingent of school students in the demonstration. Thanks to the work of GR and its young members, many school students had been successfully won to the idea of a joint strike of workers and youth - workers are also fighting privatisation and for better wages and conditions.
The movement against the government will grow and will draw in new layers of young people. By putting forward socialist ideas and the need for a new workers' party, we also successfully showed that capitalism is not the only system, and that a real alternative is possible and necessary.
In The Socialist 30 June 2005: