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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 July 2020

Young people have no choice but to fight the system

Wolverhampton Black Lives Matter protest June 2020

Wolverhampton Black Lives Matter protest June 2020   (Click to enlarge)

Helen Pattison, Socialist Party national committee

The killing of George Floyd will be fixed into the minds of our generation as we move into a new period. For many, the recent anti-racist protests were a first taste of the strength of working-class people in struggle.

They might have been some people's first protests, but for many they won't be their last. The floodgates have been opened, and young people are beginning to conclude that this system does not work for the majority of them. With racism, division, oppression and poverty, it's a system that lets us down.

The initial protest movement is beginning to ebb in some cities. But none of the issues which brought people to the protests have been solved, neither police racism nor the conditions in which people live. Therefore, anger will inevitably bring people out to protest again in the future.

Before coronavirus, there was a growing crisis facing working-class and young people. We've seen the spread of the gig economy, leaving people in precarious conditions and on poverty pay. There has been a housing crisis, forcing young people to live at home or in overcrowded conditions.

These conditions have also helped the spread of coronavirus, and are partially responsible for the disproportionately high death rates of BAME people.

There have been attempts by the far right to capitalise on the deprivation in society and sow racist division; these have often been countered by local young people who refuse to allow racist protests though their areas.

Even before the recent anti-racist protests, there were international movements against sexism, and a huge outpouring of anger against environmental destruction during the school students' strikes.

Now young people face rising unemployment because of coronavirus and the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. As well as this, there is a growing crisis in education, with rising tuition fees and a funding emergency in the universities.

So what will be our generation's response? From the huge solidarity, unity and anger shown on the anti-racism protests, clearly it will be one of action.

There can be a number of struggles which take up the multitude of issues facing young people. But the thread connecting these struggles will be the need to fight back against a system run in the interest of profit rather than meeting the needs of working-class and young people.

Austerity and cuts made by this and future governments to make us pay for the coronavirus pandemic have to be resisted.

In our workplaces we will have to organise against poverty pay, casualisation, and layoffs. During coronavirus there has already been an influx of people into the trade unions, and new layers organising for safety at work because it was clear both the government and the bosses wanted to put profit before workers' health.

But we will need to build a bold and fighting trade union movement, fighting to defend every job, for every improvement in pay, terms and conditions, challenging all forms of racism and discrimination and bringing workers together in unity.

Young people are facing the scrap heap of unemployment in their millions. They face being forced to work for their dole, as we've seen in the past with 'workfare' schemes, with bogus apprenticeships and training schemes.

This is just one way the government will try and make working-class and young people pay for the crisis. We will have to fight for the creation of socially useful jobs, on trade union rates of pay.

Austerity has also left young people without decent support networks or safe places to socialise outside of school. Cuts to leisure centres, libraries and youth clubs must be fought, and local councils should refuse to make cuts to services which the vulnerable, and young people, rely on.

We will have to fight for decently funded and free education. It will mean organising in our schools, colleges and universities, and for fighting students' unions that bring students together in struggle. It will also mean fighting for a say in what we learn, as well as a say in how our education system is run.

All of these struggles will expose the strength of working and young people to change society. After all, what has the coronavirus crisis exposed? That working people make the wealth in society. When we can't turn up to work because of lockdown, the economy is in crisis. We have to use that strength to fight for a socialist society, democratically controlled by the working class, and run in our interests. Young people have no choice but to organise to fight for a decent future for all.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 8 July 2020:

Workplace news

Fantastic virtual NSSN conference: "Fight for our lives and livelihoods''

Homerton hospital workers deserve equal pay and conditions

Jobcentre reopening: only union struggle will put safety first

Southampton UCU: election victory for combative rank and file

Tower Hamlets council workers strike against wholesale attack on terms and conditions

Nottingham unions fight council job cuts


Fight for every job, fight for socialism

Tory NHS betrayal

Young people have no choice but to fight the system

Leicester: End the scandal of sweatshop labour

Covid pandemic and Northern Ireland - workers must resist the bosses' offensive

1,600 less benefits if your job goes - while super-rich splash cash

Testing: Tories' 5bn gift to private sector

Johnson blames care workers for deaths

3bn green pledge: not enough for climate or jobs

Poverty rises again - especially for BAME workers

Them and us

No going back

No going back: Nationalise social care!


The best place to start - join the Socialist Party

Trans rights protests oppose Tory backsliding

Black Lives Matter - the fight is not over

International news

Hong Kong: The fight for democratic rights

Bangladesh: Stop closure and privatisation of Jute Mills

Readers' opinion

TV: The school that tried to end racism

Books that inspired me: The Fire Next Time

The Socialist Inbox


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