The Role of Youth

Why doesn’t the Socialist Party of Great Britain have a “youth section”, a sort of dumping ground for kiddies whom we’re ashamed to accept as real party members? After all, the other parties thrive on their glorious youth movements. You see, it serves two purposes: firstly, it gets rid of the hopelessly stupid kiddies who haven’t yet learnt to recite the respective “left” or “right”-wing crap adequately; and secondly, it serves as a launching pad for opportunists like Peter Hain (Young Liberals) and Tariq Ali (IMG) whose lack of political ability could only go unnoticed by a group of below average school-kids and a bunch of equally careerist university students.


Membership of the SPGB is based upon a test, not differing whether is a boy of ten or an Oxford don. Entry into the Socialist Party is based solely upon the acceptance of Socialism, not age, sex, race or intellectual ability. And then the “left wing” call us “sectarian”.


What then are the issues concerning young people today? Do they differ that much from their parents?


Education is one thing which modern youth are very concerned about. Most people are concerned about their job, the condition in which they do it and their relationship to their boss. It is quite right that young people should be equally concerned. Modern workers join trade unions, so do modern youth. The National Union of Students, despite its ridiculous political illusions of itself, has now gained some degree of respect from the trade union movement and fails rarely to represent its members. The National Union of School Students, possessing the same political illusions as the NUS and failing equally, is at least a start in the acceptance by the education authorities that school students have the right to negotiate conditions with them.


On the less “immediate” side, but something which on the whole most young people are “against”, is war. It would be fair to say that, if asked, most young people today would claim to be “against war”. The thing is had you asked Dad in 1930 or Granddad in 1910, they too would have been “against war”, but like the CND and the “pacifists” of today would be, they were the first in line to join the army when “Queen and country” called.


It is currently popular for young people to say that they are “frustrated” (or be told so by psychologists with nothing else to do). It is never quite clear what they are frustrated from doing. Indeed, of the truth were known, if the school lessons, the paper round and the endless nights “up the disco” were taken away, most of them would spend all day glued to the box getting even more frustrated. Being young is sometimes looked upon as a rather undignified status. “He’s not a Man yet,” says the wage slave, “because he’s not like me” . . . yet! It is thought of future life which causes frustration.


The problems confronting old and young people are exactly the same. Most people like decent working conditions, no wants to be killed in a war, nearly everyone is fed up. Why? The root cause of all the trouble is capitalism, the system of society, not based on the satisfaction of human needs, but the accumulation of profit by a small minority. If you’re fed up, it’s not because you’re young it’s because of capitalism.


Have young people recognised the fact? What of all this talk of “the new revolutionary youth” or Rhodes Boyson’s cries of woe about communist infiltration into the education system? The answer is that the modern youth are no nearer accepting Socialism than their parents were. But it is not for want of trying. They support parties like the Young Communist League, the International Socialists, the International Marxist Group, the Workers Revolutionary Party and even the Labour Party “Young Socialists”. Most become disillusioned after a while, few ever understand Socialism. Let the private armies rest assured, there is no “mass revolutionary youth”.


Today more young people are coming to Socialist meetings, buying Socialist literature, many are no doubt reading this very SOCIALIST STANDARD. They are beginning to see the stupidity of vanguardism, of violence, of Russian and Chinese nationalism, of Leninist and Trotskyist propaganda. As the “Left” declines, the more young people are considering and accepting the Socialist case.


What alternative does Socialism give to young people for the future? A world based on common ownership, not private or State ownership. A democratic society in which you are are your own leader and in which voluntary co-operation will take the place of State coercion. A system in which education will be not only for the young, but for anyone seeking knowledge. In which work will be for social need and personal satisfaction, not for wages. A world in which talent will be freely expressed, not stifled. Socialism is the world of the future for both young and old. Its establishment depends on your acceptance of it.


Steve Coleman