As capitalism plunges into a new period of crisis, young people face a potential future of unemployment and hardship. A socialist programme which says “we won’t sacrifice our future to capitalist crisis” is needed now more than ever. Two young members of the Socialist Party explain aspects of our ‘Youth Charter’. How can we ensure decent jobs and training for young people? And what can be done to build organisations to fight for that?
Young Socialists fighting for jobs
Amy Sage, Bristol Socialist Party
The capitalist Covid crisis has severely impacted pay, jobs and training opportunities, with young people being hit particularly hard. Workers aged under-25 are more than twice as likely to have lost their jobs in the last two months compared to older workers. With the second wave now well and truly upon us, and millions across Britain facing further lockdown restrictions, the number of young workers without a job is set to hit one million within weeks, sooner than initially expected.
For those still employed but unable to work during the second lockdown, the government’s extended ‘Job Support Scheme’ has been changed last minute, to be 80% of wages. As we saw over the summer, people were, unsurprisingly, struggling to survive with a 20% pay cut. That has not changed, the cost of living is no cheaper!
Described as a ‘sticking plaster at best’, the ‘Kickstarter scheme’ announced back in July, which claimed to create 350,000 six-month job placements, will do nothing to create permanent and secure jobs. As part of the Socialist Party’s ‘Youth Charter’, we are campaigning on a set of demands in relation to the pay, jobs and training for young people.
We demand full pay, for as long as is necessary, to protect jobs and livelihoods during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Workers can’t be expected to survive on 80% of wages, or on pitiful levels of Universal Credit. To those workers who are struggling to make ends meet, even while they are in work, we say that wages should meet the cost of living. The minimum wage must be increased to £12 an hour without exemptions as a step towards a real living wage of at least £15 an hour. Benefits should be increased in line with the national minimum wage, with no youth rates or delays in payment.
We demand that companies threatening job cuts and closures open their books to trade union scrutiny. By doing this we could plan how to use the resources to protect jobs and workers’ incomes. Any large company that declares redundancies or plant closures should be nationalised under democratic workers’ control and management, with compensation to be paid to the former owners only on the basis of proven need.
To address youth unemployment we need a massive programme of job creation. The government should invest in building the hundreds of thousands of council homes that we need, and develop green energy. All as part of a democratic discussion involving young people, the working class, and the trade unions, about what kind of socially useful jobs are required.
To Rishi Sunak, whose proposed ‘Kickstarter scheme’ is nothing more than an attempt to distract us from the unemployment crisis, we say no to bogus apprenticeships or training schemes. Young workers cannot be forced to work for our benefits, or be used to undercut older workers’ pay, terms and conditions.
We need trade union oversight and democratic workers’ control of any job creation programmes and youth training schemes to ensure we get the skills we need, as well as decent pay and conditions for all. We demand a decent job guaranteed for all at the end of training.
Take the wealth off the 1%
The resources exist to be able to afford all of this, and more. To those billionaires who have profited, while millions of us have suffered, we say, take the wealth off the 1%! We demand the introduction of an immediate 50% levy on the hoarded wealth of big business.
As an alternative to bailing out big business with billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, we fight for a socialist government to take into public ownership the top 125 companies and the banking system that dominate the British economy, and run them under democratic working-class control and management. This is a step towards a democratic socialist plan for the economy based on meeting need, not big business profit.
Building fighting organisations for young people
Alex Hutchinson, Youth Officer Hull and District Trades Council
The fightback is already taking place, and it is clear that young people will not idly stand by as the world crumbles around them. The wave of protests which swept Britain and the globe around the Black Lives Matter movement was predominantly led by youth.
In August, the fightback against the ridiculous A-level results fiasco, that forced this Tory government into another U-Turn, demonstrated to students that their direct action can have a massive impact on their futures.
Recently, hundreds of students at the University of Manchester pulled down the huge metal barriers which were put up around their campus, forcibly locking them in their accommodation. On top of this, we have seen mass movements internationally from Chile to Lebanon to Hong Kong as well as global protests over climate change.
Trade unions key
Key to achieving success in these movements is linking with the organised working class in the trade union movement. What the ruling class and the capitalist bosses fear most is workers taking action. It is the working class which, due to its relationship to production, has the power to shut down workplaces and industry. It is imperative that young people not only coordinate action with trade unions, but join them and enter their structures and help to establish democratic and militant youth sections in every trade union.
It is clear that if the unions are to take up a serious fight against mass job losses, education cuts and all the hardships young people are facing, then we must lead calls for this fight within the unions themselves. We must fight for complete democratisation of our union structures and for every official representative to be elected by the membership, with the right of recall while earning the average wage of the union member.
Build fighting students’ unions
As well as the wider workers’ movement, fighting organisations must be established within our schools, colleges and universities. We call on all students to get organised by forming and joining democratic students’ unions, through which action can be coordinated and our right to protest defended.
We call for the building of a fighting, national students’ union, to link the struggles within secondary schools, FE and HE colleges across the country in a national campaign against education cuts and for free education for all. Importantly, action should be coordinated with the teachers’ and lecturers’ unions, like the National Education Union and Universities and Colleges Union. Socialist Party members campaign for all of this within Socialist Students, based in colleges and universities up and down England and Wales.
Finally, we must look towards building fighting political representation. It is clear that the Labour Party under Starmer offers no alternative to the ‘business as usual’ capitalism which has dominated our politics for several decades. Our task now is to build towards a new mass workers’ party that can challenge the status quo, by putting forward a clear socialist alternative for young workers and students.
Young members of the Socialist Party will take part in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in next May’s council elections to start the process of building a new party of the working class. We call on young socialists, many who will have been inspired by Corbyn, to stand against right-wing Labour and the Tories, and fight for socialist policies in their local communities and at the ballot box.