This speech was delivered to the World Anti-imperialist Platform’s fifth international conference in Athens in November 2023. At this conference, the first meeting of the WAP Youth League took place. Read more on Platform News.
Good afternoon comrades, my name is Dexter and I am a member of Red Youth, the youth wing of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). I’m pleased to see so many other youth delegates from around the world attending this important event.
It’s tough to be young in today’s age. Climbing rates of depression and even suicide are the result of a bleak future under capitalism. Many feel overwhelmed by climate change. People who don’t know what they want to do go to university to try and figure it out, only to be saddled with a lifetime’s worth of debt. Some go straight into work but struggle to find a full-time job or work on dodgy contracts in bad conditions.
The future, to many young people in Britain, seems bleak. Pointless, even.
You can’t really blame them, can you? How on earth is it the case that the world’s sixth-richest economy isn’t able to provide its people with work, isn’t able to give them a proper healthcare or education system, fails to keep homeless people off the streets, fails to provide affordable and healthy food to its people?
Many young people are rightfully angry about these problems.
And yet this is the system working exactly as intended. We communists know through our study of Marxist texts that unemployment is a feature of capitalism. Capitalists want cheap labour, so keeping a certain number of workers out of work ensures that those looking for work have to debase themselves in order to get a job – they have to accept lower wages and worse conditions – because they don’t want to end up on the streets.
This is the threat that stands behind the talk about ‘freedom’ under capitalism.
But, comrades, I should be very clear. Although there are many suffering in Britain today, compared with much of the world – or even with the Britons of 100 years ago – the level of deprivation in Britain today is nowhere near the level in the oppressed countries. Why? Because British workers have been bribed by imperialism.
A small portion of profits derived from the superexploited colonies and neocolonies is used to maintain a good enough healthcare system, just about functioning schools and basic unemployment benefits, which together constitute a social wage. This social wage means British workers can rely on the state when things get tough.
It helps stop many millions from falling into abject poverty and outright starvation – it maintains social peace – it prevents revolution by easing the lot of the masses.
Yet our rulers can’t keep this up forever. A multipolar world is on its way – a world in which imperialism is having its hegemony challenged. But, perhaps more importantly, British workers are becoming more and more disillusioned with ‘democracy’. And by that I of course mean bourgeois democracy.
The average Brit today understands that the politicians lie, that the newspapers lie, that the TV and radio stations lie. They can see that the national healthcare service – the NHS – is falling apart, slowly but surely. Young people are more disengaged from British democracy than ever before, and voter turnout rates – an important statistic for the liberal democracy-lover – are on a downward trend.
Overwhelmingly popular policies, such as the renationalisation of the railways, just don’t get implemented. How do these people in Parliament represent us if they don’t do what we want?
The British people are angry, comrades. All that is needed is a spark to light the fire.
Now, it is always in the nature of young people to rebel, certainly in western society. It’s part of our culture. A classic way of doing this is by being a ‘communist’, by hating capitalism, by despising all it espouses.
Yet why do people seem to ‘grow out’ of this communist phase? Why has society decided that communism is ‘just a phase’ that people grow out of as they get older and more ‘pragmatic’?
It is the state of the left-wing movement in Britain today that must take responsibility for this wasted energy.
The ‘left-wing’ movement in Britain has been overwhelmed by social democracy. The Labour party is one of the main social-democratic political parties in Britain, and most of the so-called ‘socialist’ organisations in Britain are intimately connected with it.
They are separate organisations in name only, owing to the fact that the overwhelming majority of them, even those having the guts to call themselves ‘communist’, in the end just tell their members and supporters to vote for the Labour party as the ‘least-worst option’. They act as pressure groups towards that party, not as really independent working-class organisations representing the real interests of the British working class.
So, when young people get involved in these groups that call themselves socialist but don’t even study Marx, or study him indirectly with the ‘help’ of study guides designed to misdirect people, they are doomed from the start. The fire within them – the anger – begins to die out and smoulder.
The lacklustre ‘Marxist’ education these organisations provide, which should be arming their members with a knowledge of Marxist science which they can put at the service of the wider working class, are pushing them away from Marxism.
This is a great travesty. Young people have an instinctive understanding of all the problems of capitalism, but their energies are being wasted and their enthusiasm destroyed by these so-called ‘socialist’ groups.
Young people understand, although perhaps not quite in these words, that capital’s constant search for new markets to exploit and new resources to plunder has led it to recklessly harm the planet and pollute far in excess of any reasonable metric.
They understand that the de-industrialisation of Britain, owing to imperialism’s drive to export capital to foreign countries where labour, land and raw materials are cheaper, has ripped millions of jobs away – mostly in manufacturing or in the production and processing of raw materials.
When these industries were carried on in Britain, they used to be the focus of strong working-class communities. And those communities were plunged into poverty and unemployment when the jobs went, leaving great masses of workers on the social scrap-heap and depriving the British working class of what had been some of its most militant and advanced sections.
Now, I’m sure all the comrades here know why these things have happened. It’s in the very nature of imperialism to desecrate its own homeland in this way – as long the result is a higher rate of profit. It’s in the very logic of capitalism that the capitalist becomes the physical embodiment of his capital.
A lot of young people have an instinctive grasp of much of this. It’s obvious to them that capitalists are greedy, that they seek out profit, and that’s why mining and manufacturing and all sorts of other jobs which used to be done at home are now being done in poorer countries.
However, they don’t understand why that really happens. By what mechanism are those big businesses led to act in this way? Why has our economy got to this stage where very little really useful activity happens at home? Why the hell haven’t people stood up to stop this? How do we go about changing it?
This burning anger, this passion, will eventually erupt. We must, as communists, do all that we can to stoke the flames. But until a mass organisation is built to handle this correctly, young people’s anger will bubble beneath the surface. Bourgeois politicians love to talk about ‘voter apathy’, sometimes calling it ‘hapathy’, claiming British workers are so happy they have apathy – they just don’t care much about politics any more. Why would they, when they live so well?
No, this anger will bubble beneath the surface and will continue to build with every false news story the lying media promote, and with every promise that is unfulfilled by hypocritical politicians. And as more and more reach the conclusion that this system cannot deliver for ordinary workers, that its representatives cannot be trusted, we communists must be there to educate them as to why that is and what the solutions are.
Our publications are hugely important – we must have a newspaper with a strong analysis to help give people the answers they are looking for. We must have books to provide the depth and knowledge. If what we write is well and truly thought out, people angry enough to take the time to do the reading will inevitably reach the conclusion that what we are telling them is right and correct.
Comrades, we must simply stand up proudly and put forth the truth! The masses have been presented with so many false news stories, with daily headlines that lie about the Ukraine war and lie about Palestine. Many workers are searching for the truth, but they have to wade through a quagmire of misinformation and misdirection to get to it.
Why? Because we in the Communist party are but a tiny section of the left wing in Britain. Comrades who have come to us have often been members of a number of other groups before they found us. This situation must be corrected, and it is only through valiant struggle and collective action that it can be done.
Engels once said that England might well be the last place to see a socialist revolution. I can assure comrades that we in the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) are doing our best to prove him wrong.