National Sections of the L5I:

Liberation for the youth

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Everywhere the youth are oppressed. In many countries, young people receive no guaranteed education. Where they do, schools mirror the basic inequalities and power structures of capitalism, denying young people any right to participate in decision making and subjecting them to petty disciplinary controls.

At work, young people are especially exploited, receiving lower wages and weaker legal protection than other workers. Training schemes pay poverty wages, ignore basic safety standards and have no guaranteed job at the end of them.

Throughout Latin America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, western corporations employ children in sweatshop factories, on miserably low wages and without protection or decent conditions of work.

On the street, young people are victimised and harassed by the police. When capitalist societies go to war for profit, it is the youth they send off to die.

The root of the oppression of youth lies in the family. Capitalism, like all class societies, relies on the private family to perform basic social functions such as child-rearing. In the bourgeois family, the child is almost entirely without rights and subject to the dictatorship of the parent, a situation that poisons the relations between children and parents. This underlying inequality can and does give rise to resistance.

Every young person who wants to establish his or her own personal and sexual relationships, pursue their own interests and shape their own lives knows that at some point they will have to challenge parental authority.

For all of these reasons, young people have always been in the front ranks of the forces fighting for freedom. Today, it is the youth that form the largest and most militant detachments of anti-capitalist fighters confronting the summits of the IMF, NATO, World Bank and G8. In Palestine, the youth provide the bravest and most self-sacrificing fighters against the Zionist occupation. In December 2001, it was young people who came to the fore in the Argentine street battles that brought down the government of de la Rua.

In every country, revolutionaries must turn to the youth: to help them organise, to champion their rights, and to rally fresh forces to the fight for a future free from oppression and war.

We must end child labour. The exploiters’ profits must pay to educate the victims of economic child abuse and to employ alternative workers aged 16 or over on trade union rates of pay. We must fight for free education for all from infancy to the age of 16 and higher education and training to all who want it, at 16, on a guaranteed living grant. We need jobs for all young people on wages and conditions equal to older workers’. We must fight to scrap cheap labour training schemes – replacing them with apprenticeships on full pay with guaranteed employment afterwards.

We demand a massive programme of construction of publicly owned schools and colleges. We oppose all religious or private control of schooling and fight for secular, state-funded education. Curricula should be established and schools managed democratically by the teachers, parents and students themselves.

We fight to end all restrictions on young people’s cultural, sexual and political self-expression and for access to education about sex, contraceptives and, for young women, for abortion on demand. We need youth centres and decent housing, funded by the state but under the democratic control of the youth who use them.

The democratic rights of young people have to be increased with the rights to vote at 16 or earlier if they are employed – those old enough to work are old enough to vote! We oppose attempts to criminalise youth through lowering the age limit for criminal responsibility. No to compulsory conscription of young people into capitalist armies – but training in the use of arms should be available to all.

The labour bureaucracy fears the vitality and anger of the youth. Wherever reformist parliamentarians or trade union officials find it necessary to organise young people, in youth wings or movements, they always try to stop them voicing their own demands. They allow them no opportunity to debate democratically and subject each campaigning initiative emanating from the youth to deadening official control.

Revolutionaries fight to build the future, not to conserve the past, so they have no fear of the youth. On the contrary, revolutionary communists must everywhere promote the building of an autonomous, revolutionary youth movement.

Because of the specific condition of young people and the character of their oppression, the revolutionary party should not treat the youth organisation as a subordinate, junior department. Instead, it must champion the organisational and political independence of the youth movement.

Members of the youth organisation, which can be looser and more open than a disciplined combat party, must have the right wherever legality permits to make their own decisions, determine their own activity, debate and decide upon their own policies and, if unavoidable, make their own mistakes.

But this in no way means that the revolutionary communists abandon young militants to their fate and refuse to offer them leadership. On the contrary, members of the party must seek to guide and influence the non-party members of the youth movement, to win it to an effective programme of activity, principled tactics, a perspective of growth among the working class and radical youth, a spirit of internationalism and self-sacrifice and a revolutionary communist programme.

In many countries today, the seeds of this movement are emerging. They must be united in a global revolutionary youth movement.