R Arun Kumar
A RECENT media report revealed a startling fact: “Around 580,000 respondents in 35 countries were asked the question: Would you actively participate in large-scale uprising against the generation in power if it happened in the next days or months? More than half of 18-34 year-olds said yes”. This shows the latent discontent among the youth today. And it is not without reason.
Youth unemployment rose to never seen highs in the recent past. ILO (World Employment and Social Outlook 2016, Trends for Youth Report) estimates global youth unemployment in 2017 to be around 13 per cent, higher than what it was in 2015. Similarly youth unemployment rates in European region are around 20 per cent, while in countries like Spain and Greece it is around 48 per cent. Another important aspect that the ILO Report highlights is that nearly 38 per cent of working youth or 156 million are surviving in extreme to moderate poverty. An Oxfam Report, Youth And Inequality (August 2016), states that more than 500 million young people are living on less than $2 a day, and nearly 126 million of them cannot read a full sentence. It is in these general conditions of deprivation that modern youth are living with brewing discontent.
The discontent among the youth is getting expressed mostly through their anger against the ‘political establishment’ ie, the traditional parties in most of the countries. An analysis of the recent political developments establishes this fact. In some countries, popular discontent against the ‘political establishment’ is benefiting the right-wing political parties, while in some others we can see the growth of the Left forces (all of them are not necessarily Communist parties, but are thoroughly different from the established Social Democratic parties of the post Second World War period).
Analysing these developments through the election results of the various countries in the past two-three years, The Guardian, UK writes: “it is oversimplifying things to say the far right is suddenly on the march across an entire continent. In some countries, the hard right’s share of the vote in national elections has been stable or declined. In others – particularly the nations of southern Europe, which, with memories of fascism and dictatorship still very much alive, have proved reluctant to flirt with rightwing extremism – it is the far Left that is advancing...What is undeniably happening, however, is that the continent’s traditional mainstream parties are in full retreat. Across Europe, the centre-left social democrats and centre-right Christian democrats who have dominated national politics for 60 years are in decline”.
This trend is visible even in the US, where a Gallup poll done in 2015 showed that as much as 60 percent of the people surveyed stated that they were disgusted with the two ‘main parties’ (Democrats and Republicans) and wanted the establishment of a third party. This is the reason for the widespread support for Bernie Sanders, who was considered as an ‘outsider’, when he ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Similar are the reasons for the support for Jeremy Corbyn, who despite all the attempts of the Labour Party ‘establishment’ to remove him from the party leadership, is able to increase the voting percentage in the recently concluded elections in UK.
Katie Feyh, a professor at Syracuse University stated that the support for Sanders showed “how hungry progressives and Leftists have been for an electoral formation to the left of where the Democrats have been for decades”. In the 2012 presidential election, fewer than 18,000 people voted for socialist candidates, while in the 2016 elections, the Green Party's Jill Stein polled nearly 1.5 million votes, as Stein championed many Left-wing causes.
UPSWING IN THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENTS
After the victory of Donald Trump as the president of the US, there is a marked upswing in the progressive movements. Huge demonstrations against his presidency started right on the day he had taken the oath of office. Very recently, on the day of American independence, there were once again huge protests held across the US, demanding for his impeachment. In between, various occasions like the International Women’s Day were also used to mobilise large sections of the society, particularly youth and women against Trump and his policies.
Kshama Sawant, an Indian origin elected member of the Seattle City Council, who belongs to Socialist Alternative, explained the current political situation in the US: “There's no mood to negotiate. There's a mood to fight back”. This is one of the reasons for the large number of people participating in the protests on Trump’s order against immigration, orders scrapping several regulations placed on Wall Street and his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Accord. Sawant arguing that the present situation presents an “historic opportunity to introduce progressive politics to a broader audience”, correctly explained the tactics that need to be pursued. “We need to tie the demands for immigrants' rights to the demands of working people in general. It's no longer going to be viable to simply play defence. The entire labour movement and everything we've fought for all these decades is on the chopping block right now. If we are going to save it, we're going to have to fight”.
That the situation is ripe for the propagation of progressive politics is confirmed by a survey conducted by the Harvard University (April 2016). It found that 51 per cent of millennials – a loosely defined group of people aged between 18 and 29 – reject capitalism and 33 per cent support socialism. This is once again confirmed by a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre that has also found that ‘almost half of people aged 18 to 49 view socialism favorably’. In another survey conducted by YouGuv, it is found out that among those younger than 30, ‘43 per cent viewed socialism very or somewhat favorably, compared with only 32 per cent for capitalism’. No wonder that Al Jazeeera (February 9, 2017) reports that ‘socialist organisations in the US have reported an explosion in membership and interest’.
What has been proclaimed as an end of history is once again being proved that it is really not the end, but the beginning of a new chapter in the history of mankind. Capitalism, the predatory phase of human development, is today in such a deep crisis that it is grappling with means to come out of the morass it landed itself in, since 2008. Even before the world can be officially declared of free from the present crisis, commentators are predicting another much more serious crisis, if the problems afflicting the present day economy are not addressed sufficiently. Capitalism, cannot address these problems decisively or conclusively because inherently it is a crisis ridden system. As Albert Einstein, the great scientist had stated: “The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is the real source of the evil”.
Delving with the exploitation and ill-effects of a capitalist society, Einstein writes: “The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital, the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organised political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education)”.
The youth of today are turning against capitalism and are searching for an alternative because of their loss of faith in the present ‘political system’ and its failure to address their economic concerns, represent, reflect and resolve the genuine problems of the people. All the instruments of the State – executive, legislature, media, bureaucracy, armed forces – are proven to serve the interests of the ruling classes. It is in these conditions that the youth are moving towards socialism, though not all of them know the real meaning or content of socialism.
Utilising the prevalent positive atmosphere, it is upon us to further expose the capitalist system and explain what scientific socialism really means. Their anger against ‘establishment’ should be properly channelised and through our actions they should be convinced that it is only the communists who possess an alternative narrative and can establish an alternative society.
Hundred years since the practicality of socialism is established, history beckons us once again.
I am caught in endless strife,
Endless ferment, endless dream;
I cannot conform to Life,
Will not travel with the stream.
Therefore let us risk our all,
Never resting, never tiring;
Not in silence dismal, dull,
Without action or desiring;
Not in brooding introspection
Bowed beneath a yoke of pain,
So that yearning, dream and action
Unfulfilled to us remain.
– Karl Marx