Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/324/9615
ISR conference: Fight For Your Future!
THIS YEAR tens of thousands of young people internationally have taken part in anti-war demonstrations and actions, with many school students striking to oppose the war on Iraq and Bush's visit to Britain.
Many are angry at the way that Blair and Co say there is no money to properly fund our education, to pay us a living wage or to provide us with affordable housing, yet billions have been spent on the war and continuing occupation of Iraq. Young people want to know how this mood can be translated into real change.
This year's national conference of International Socialist Resistance (ISR) will be an excellent opportunity to get involved in the fight against a capitalist system which breeds war, exploitation and poverty worldwide. Young people from around the country will be meeting to discuss what kind of alternative society might be possible and the best way of organising ourselves to help bring it about.
Saturday 22 November, 10am-5pm.
University of London Union (ULU),
Malet Street, London WC1
Who are ISR?
International Socialist Resistance (ISR) is an international organisation run by and for young people. As well as in England, Wales and Scotland, ISR has groups in many countries: such as Sweden, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Northern and Southern Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, USA and more.
By building an international organisation, we aim to help link up the many struggles young people are involved in across the globe, against the policies of big business and capitalist governments.
Under capitalism, profit will always come before people. That is why as long as capitalism exists there will be no end to war, poverty, the destruction of the environment and the other problems that face humanity. And that is why ISR is against capitalism and is fighting for a socialist alternative.
Since its formation in England and Wales, ISR has continually built resistance against the actions of capitalist corporations and governments. We initiated the idea of student strikes against the war on Iraq and helped to organise many of them. We are involved in many campaigns, including fighting against low pay, racism, sexism, homophobia and all forms of discrimination and fighting the privatisation and commercialisation of education. ISR is a democratic, broad organisation and any young person who wants to help with our campaigns and fight against capitalism can join.
Speakers at this year's ISR conference include:
Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU, the postal workers' union
Ken Loach, film director
Denise Dudley, Youth Against the War, Australia
Matthew Dobson, Socialist Students
As well as a discussion on the war and occupation of Iraq, there will be workshops on a range of issues facing young people today including: low pay, racism, the battle against SATs and top-up tuition fees
Defend the right to strike and protest
THE ANTI-WAR movement and particularly the school and college student strikes showed the huge anger and resolve to fight back that exists amongst young people.
Suzanne Beishon and Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, London ISR
However it also exposed the determination to bully young people out of political activity in the form of police intimidation and, in some cases, brutality; threats of disciplinary action as well as school detentions, suspensions and exclusions for striking, organising meetings and even for just leafleting. The general backlash in the media was also an attempt to intimidate school students.
In London, students were locked in the school grounds when they tried to go on strike. In many schools and colleges students were threatened with exclusion for handing out leaflets or putting up posters. Students were told they are not allowed to hold meetings and in at least one case the school called the police to shut down a stall that took place outside the gates and after school hours.
On Day X (the day war started) in south east London the police prevented striking school students from going up to the protests at Parliament, dragged students back to school and arrested our international organiser, Karl Debbaut.
More and more students are getting picked on in an attempt to intimidate them and stop them being political at a time when more and more students want to get involved in the anti-war and anti-capitalist movements as well as local campaigns. The government, some schools and the police do not want us to think - they want to do the thinking for us. They do not want our generation growing up confident to fight back against their cuts and constant attacks.
If we don't defend the few rights we have they will try and take more and more away from us. They are scared at the idea of us getting organised because it means that when we campaign together on issues we have much more strength and much more chance of winning.
So we must defend the right of every young person to strike and protest and we must actively campaign for more rights such as the right to organise in school and college student unions.
- The right of school and college students to organise and participate in strike action.
- The right of school and college students and young workers to form unions to fight for better conditions.
Build the alternative to Bush and Blair
SINCE BUSH and Blair's war in Iraq turned into occupation, it's become obvious that the Iraqi people are continuing to suffer, despite their so-called liberation.
Although many Iraqis are glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein, the US and UK governments clearly think that roadblocks, checkpoints and control of the oil industry are more important than providing basic services and rebuilding the economy.
The demonstration on Thursday is very important in order to protest against the occupation and to make sure that Bush knows we don't support what he is doing, whatever he may try to tell the American people.
It is even more important to build an alternative to capitalism and imperialism - an alternative that does not exploit the majority for the benefit of a small minority. The reason I am going to ISR conference is to do precisely this.
Young people need to come together to discuss socialist ideas and how to campaign successfully, not only against the occupation of Iraq, but also against the constant attacks of the capitalist governments on the living standards of ordinary people throughout the world. The conference will give us an opportunity to do this. I would encourage every young person who is against the occupation and the actions of the imperialist US and UK governments to attend.
Young workers fight low pay
AS A worker in the public sector, I have an active interest in this year's ISR conference, in particular the workshop on low pay. Across the public sector, as well as in the retail and catering industries, young people are being exploited with hundreds and thousands struggling to survive and as many living in dire poverty.
Lee Ward, Durham
On 1 October 2003, the minimum wage was increased to £4.50 for those aged 22 and over. Workers aged 18-21 get a rate of £3.80 an hour. However, for those under the age of 18, there is still no minimum wage. This is an insult to young workers.
With New Labour continuing to plough forward with its plans to introduce top-up fees for higher education, working class young people simply can't afford to go to university. This leaves them with little option but to negotiate a diminishing job market with little prospect of finding a job that pays enough to survive, or has acceptable working conditions.
As a local government employee, I see many young people start work and fail to join a union that could defend their rights and represent their needs. Highlighting the importance of trade unions is an important priority of ISR and I would encourage all young workers to come along to the conference and the workshop on low pay.
I'M 23 now, and as far as I'm concerned I've only ever lived under a Thatcherite government. Going to school in the 90s, I saw teachers struggle without adequate resources in buildings that needed serious work.
Thomas House, Socialist Students, University of Sussex.
When New Labour got in, although I didn't have much time for Tony Blair, I hoped that things would get better. As it turned out, I was the first year to pay tuition fees as the neo-liberal attacks moved into higher education.
I'm currently studying for a PhD, and although I do get a grant my partner and I find it hard to make ends meet given the cost of living in the South East. I'll be going to ISR conference, and I'm encouraging all the students and young workers that I meet to do the same.
To fight fees, low pay and cutbacks, young people need to unite around socialist ideas and I think that ISR and Socialist Students will play an essential role in doing this.
In The Socialist 22 November 2003: