Divide and Rule
No one can deny that many young workers are having a tougher time of it. Many see their future prospects fading and find themselves in low-paid positions or on zero-hours contracts. With the relentless rise in property prices, even relatively well-paid young workers are priced out of the property market and have to make do with paying extortionate rents. Those who have been through the higher education system are facing crippling debts. In the current pandemic, many have lost their jobs in the hospitality sector.
It is no wonder that young workers feel that the economic system is rigged against them. This has given some capitalist media commentators the opportunity to pit the younger generation against the older one. While ‘Generation Rent’ struggles to pay their rents, the baby boomers, who own property, bask in their rising values. The older generations benefited from free further education which was taken away by a Labour government run by baby boomers in the 1990s. The Conservative/ LibDem Coalition government of 2010-2015 tripled student tuition fees while also introducing a triple lock on old age pensions, where the state pension would rise each year either by the inflation rate, average wage growth, or 2.5 percent, whichever was the highest. To top it all, in 2016, the vote to leave the European Union, supported disproportionately by older voters, deprived younger workers of access to job opportunities in the EU job market and the Erasmus Programme, an EU student exchange programme.
Simon Heffer in the Sunday Telegraph (‘Natural Justice demands an end to the triple lock’, 1 August) states that due to the pandemic, earnings could rise by 8 percent next year and that this would create an increase of £3 billion in the annual tax bill to pay for the rise in the state pension necessitated by the triple lock, He then argues that it would be young people, with their own financial struggles, who would have to shoulder this burden. So, for the sake of fairness, the triple lock should be scrapped. In fact, the tax burden falls not on the working class, (whether old or young), but on the capitalist class. The suspicion here is that this is where Heffer’s concern really lies. Polly Toynbee in the Guardian (‘The pension triple-lock is an insult to the UK’s young people’, 1 July) makes similar arguments for abolishing the triple lock on pensions, but, unlike Heffer, acknowledges there are poor pensioners, who, she believes, should receive higher pension credits.
These divide and rule tactics draw attention away from the real cause of young peoples’ woes, which is not the selfishness of older people hogging society’s wealth, but from their position as workers in the capitalist system itself. The children and grandchildren of capitalists, such as Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffet, do not face the same problems as mentioned above. Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the working class who produce the wealth of the privileged minority owning class, which leaves them in relative or absolute poverty. It also generates economic crises, such as the 2008-2009 downturn, which disproportionately affects younger workers, especially those who have just left school or university. Workers of all ages have an interest in abolishing capitalism and establishing socialism.