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From Greece to Occupy Wall Street

A global youth rebellion

Published Oct 23, 2011 10:28 AM

Ben Carroll
WW photo: Rachel Duell

Taken from a talk by Ben Carroll, a Durham, N.C., WWP organizer, at the Oct. 8-9 Workers World Party National Conference in New York City.

At the end of 2010, around 80 million young people across the globe were unemployed. Youth unemployment is around 40 percent throughout much of Europe, 50 percent in Egypt and Tunisia.

Here in the U.S., youth unemployment is around 20 percent overall, and an almost unfathomable 50 percent for Black youth. Of course, all the official statistics are deliberately manipulated lower and don’t account for those who are underemployed, working part time, have given up looking for a job altogether, or are prison labor.

To a greater and greater extent, young people are faced largely with working a low-wage job with no benefits, joining the ranks of the unemployed, or getting locked up in prison. A whole generation is being shut out of the work force altogether, and this shows the severity of the crisis that the capitalist system is in the throes of now.

The austerity measures and budget cuts being adopted by state and local governments around the country have put every social service on the chopping block, all of which were won through struggle. Education is being hit particularly hard, as schools are closed or privatized or charterized, teachers and education workers are laid off, the school-to-prison pipeline grows, tuition at community colleges and universities is soaring through the roof, and the banks cannibalize the public treasury and force students to mortgage away our futures with student loans if we want to get an education.

And this is because education for the masses of young people, and particularly African-American and Latino/a youth, is regarded as unnecessary by the ruling class.

An international fightback is beginning to bubble up that in many cases is being led or initiated by young people, and while each has a different political character, all are set against the backdrop of the global capitalist crisis.

In many ways, it began in Tunisia and Egypt with the uprisings there that toppled the U.S.-backed dictatorships in those countries and took aim at mass unemployment there.

In Spain, demonstrations were held against austerity and mass unemployment, which stands at 20 percent generally and 45 percent for young people. Young people there began referring to themselves as “los indignados” — the generation without a future.

They have continued to hold assemblies that have been fighting against home foreclosures, defending people’s homes when there are attempted evictions or moving people back into their homes after they have been foreclosed.

In Greece, where the attacks on the workers and the austerity are perhaps the most severe and the fightback the most developed at this stage, young people have played a pivotal role in mobilizing and supporting the general strikes which have been called in response to the attacks.

The student section of the All Workers Militant Front, the union associated with the Greek Communist Party, has led walkouts of high schools and universities to support the strikes.

In August, Britain was rocked by an uprising against state repression, racism, high unemployment and austerity that was led by young people, particularly Black and immigrant youth.

In Chile, students have been on strike for several months, shutting down the university system there to demand free education, and have united with copper workers who have been on strike.

In the U.S. the struggle has grown from Wisconsin earlier this year, where young people played a pivotal role in building and maintaining the occupation of the state Capitol against the attacks on collective bargaining and other cuts, to all the young people throughout the country who took to the streets to stop the murder of Troy Davis, and now Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street erupted, sweeping the country like wildfire, and has channeled hopelessness and desperation into political action that is developing an anti-capitalist character. It is opening space to revolutionary ideas and is breaking through the isolation and alienation of our generation.

The struggle is a great teacher, and we must be there to summarize the lessons and advance an anti-capitalist program and help to develop revolutionary class consciousness and solidarity.

This is a tremendously important and exciting development that, while still in its early stages, is building rapidly, developing anti-capitalist and class consciousness among a broad section of society and putting thousands upon thousands of people across the country in motion against the banks and the big capitalists. n