Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/868/21326
Youth Fight Austerity
Young and angry?
Helen Pattison, London Youth Fight Austerity organiser
Whether you are studying, working or unemployed in Britain today, you come up against the Tories' agenda. Austerity bites.
That's why Youth Fight Austerity is getting organised against the weak Tory government who want to heap further misery on our generation. We were part of the crowd who 'welcomed' in the new Tory government with angry protests in central London and around the country.
Since the economic crisis, young people have faced a battering. When the crisis first hit, young people found themselves pushed out of work. Youth Fight for Jobs organised a repeat of the Jarrow march on its 75 anniversary. Unemployed campaigners marched hundreds of miles from Jarrow to London, demanding the government stop the attacks on benefits and on services, and create jobs.
For those growing up in austerity Britain, stints of unemployment are the norm. But casualisation, temporary, zero-hour contracts in low paid jobs with very few rights are also common. Rather than investing in public services and creating jobs, governments and big business opted to reduce people's rights at work. Using contracts which offered employers ultimate flexibility, millions of people get up every day and wait on the end of the phone for the possibility of work. Wages stay down while rents and the cost of living seem to be constantly on the rise.
Now the task turns to tackling the Tory government and the new attacks they want to heap on us. From the scrapping of housing benefit for 18-21 years olds to the exclusion of under-25s from the new so called 'living wage,' the budget represents a declaration of war by the Tories on youth. It's time for a national fight back against the government.
The protests that have happened since the election show the enthusiasm we can bring to the movement. And protests are important, they pull us together against a common enemy and show the Tories that there will be resistance. As part of a wider strategy protest can help bring down governments.
Ordinary people have a lot of strength when they fight together. There aren't enough bankers or politicians to fill the roads in central London but on the 20 June, hundreds of thousands of us did on the 'end austerity now' demo.
But people in their workplaces, organised together in a union are also extremely strong. The RMT (the union for London Underground and transport workers) can bring the city of London to a standstill and cost big business and capitalism huge amounts of money. For this reason the Tories are trying to limit trade union rights and stop them taking strike action.
Young people have used similar methods to the trade union movement when organising in schools, colleges and universities. Students at Prendergast School in South London organised huge protests against privatisation. They linked with parents and staff, who took strike action, to succesfully block plans to turn the school into an academy. Students stood on picket lines with the teachers on strike days and protested on the days when school was open. It drew media attention and showed the school head that teachers, students and parents were united in opposition to academy status.
Students even held democratic ballots on academy status when the head blocked a parent ballot. The student ballot saw nearly half of all students vote and 98% were against privatisation.
We need to fight on the political field too; it's a lie that young people are apathetic. During the Scottish referendum on independence 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote. There were record turnouts in that election which showed that when young people see the real impact they can have on a situation then we grasp it. The main parties though are painfully similar, its understandable young people don't bother to go out and vote for them. What is the point in going out to vote for the Labour Party if it isn't even going to oppose the welfare bill? It abstained, gaining its MPs the nickname of 'Lab-stainers'.
Yet many of the people who didn't vote Labour in the last election have now signed up to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election. When there are political parties or leaders who show a lead in the fight against austerity or campaigns such as at Prendergast School, young people have demonstrated they can play a vital role.
Through Youth Fight Austerity we can make our own links with those who are also fighting the Tory attacks such as the National Shop Stewards Network, who will be lobbying the Trade Union Congress in Brighton on 13 September, calling on it to take action against the Tories anti-trade union bill.
Colleges and universities are filled with people who can only remember austerity and crisis ridden capitalism, as do a huge chunk of low paid and exploited workers. This system has only ever failed our generation. If we want education, jobs and homes it means fighting for a different kind of system. Not one based on bigger profits for the 1% but one that meets the needs of the 99%. Socialism is the only alternative. We need campaigns and parties that are prepared to challenge a system that has demonstrated its unwillingness to afford us jobs, education and housing. We can't afford that system.
In The Socialist 2 September 2015:
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