In 2008, we saw an increase in the mainstream political participation of young people. Sen. Barack Obama was an enthusiastic candidate out of the state of Illinois with a platform promising progressive change. In the past eight years of President Obama’s administration, we have seen young people become yet again disillusioned by two-party politics and a government that continually represses and opposes any grassroots efforts to change the conditions of workers and the oppressed.
In 2016, we are up against another bourgeois election dominated by the two big capitalist political parties. For the Republicans, one candidate is more reactionary and racist than the next, and openly so. The Iowa caucuses gave the United States insight on who may win in this political circus.
With Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton vying for the Democratic Party candidacy, many people — particularly young people — are excited about the prospect of electing a “socialist” into office. In Iowa, where 30,000 youth voters caucused for Sanders and Clinton, 84 percent of the youth caucused for Sanders. Recently, in New Hampshire, Sanders won again, with 60 percent of all voters and, according to exit polls, more than 83 percent of the youth.
The desperate state of young people
With a campaign slogan of “A Future to Believe In,” it’s understandable why so many young people are canvassing, advocating and voting for Sanders. What is important to consider is how the youth vote for Sanders is more of a reflection on the desperate state of young people, rather than on any real changes Sanders can deliver at this stage of permanent capitalist crisis.
From Black Lives Matter to the fight for a living wage, from immigrants’ rights to the struggle for a Free Palestine, young people are under attack. There are no jobs and the jobs that are available are underpaying. There are no affordable homes and the ones that are affordable are supremely neglected by government housing agencies.
The idea of an affordable higher education belongs to decades past, as young people are now used to taking out massive amounts of loans in order to access the academy. Youth of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth; and working-class youth in general are facing heightened levels of political repression and are being killed by cops and vigilantes.
So the demands young people are making are in many ways very simple. We want jobs, an education, housing and communities where we can be safe and free from fear and intimidation.
A global youth struggle
While some of Sanders’ promises seem appealing, we must think about what the impact of his capitalistic populist agenda means not just for youth here in the U.S. but also for young people all around the world. We should be clear that Sanders is committed to the same corporate-funded Democratic Party as Hillary Clinton, even if he is not officially a member. Of the two Democratic candidates, Sanders has shown more success in attracting young people.
Sanders knows how to speak to the urgent issues impacting youth when it comes to the economy and higher education, but his take on foreign economic and social policy is almost identical to that of any candidate running for president of the two capitalist parties.
Similarly, his hesitancy to speak directly and boldly about the role racism plays in preventing young people from obtaining jobs, housing and education exposes the real nature of his campaign. His program is not about socialism — where the wealth created by workers and the oppressed are in our own hands, where we decide how our communities will share and distribute resources. And it definitely is not about a kind of socialism that recognizes the necessity of dismantling racism, white supremacy and capitalism as a necessary part of uplifting struggling communities around the world.
Globally, youth are facing attacks, whether it be displacement triggered by U.S. trade policies in Latin America, violence from the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine or austerity measures in Greece, where banks and politicians are getting bailouts before the people.
It is important to have this global perspective when we consider the bourgeois elections in the belly of the beast: the U.S. empire. The election of any candidate from the Democratic or Republican Party in this country means, for the global youth struggle, continued war, displacement, economic crises and exploitation. No politician whose power relies on the subjugation of developing nations will put an end to the imperialist conquests for more capital acquisition and destruction that requires the stolen labor of youth.
Now is the time more than ever to express our solidarity with young people globally who will be negatively impacted by the continued violence of the U.S. empire. We can do this best by understanding how our struggles are interconnected and how the U.S. plays a significant role in preventing us from building a global youth struggle that relies on people power instead of capitalist politicians.
Why we’re building toward a real socialist revolution
It is clear that young people are looking for leaders who are bold, who have experience fighting for change and who have the vision to create a world where all people can thrive. Yet, we cannot continue to believe that the promises of capitalist politicians will be delivered without continued damage on the lives of workers and oppressed people.
Sanders says openly he does not want an end to capitalism, the system that relies on dividing workers through oppression. Sanders calls for reforms that provide temporary Band-Aids that still leave gaping wounds in other places of the world.
We need to build a real socialist revolution that prioritizes human needs and the self-determination of oppressed communities. The only way that this is possible is by organizing together — as youth, as workers and as oppressed people. A socialist revolution does not rely on the fake democratic process that is currently propagandized to us as the only option. We cannot vote our way out of the dangers of capitalism, we can only fight.
Workers World Party is running an election campaign because we want to expose the bourgeois elections and the capitalist system that they are wedded to, a system in crisis, under which young people are forced to believe we have no better options than the least of many evils. Our candidates, Monica Moorehead for president and Lamont Lilly for vice president, represent a 15-point program that seeks to address the most urgent demands of our communities while also offering a vision for a socialist society.
Workers World Party’s candidates want reparations, an end to the murders of transgender women of color, an immediate stop to the deportations and raids, and U.S. troops out of Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. We want to build a working-class struggle here in the U.S. and in solidarity with communities all across the world who experience the harm of U.S. imperialism.
The world we are fighting for
Youth, workers and oppressed people deserve a world where our needs are met: where access to jobs, education and housing is unquestionable; where we do not live in fear of police and state repression because we are Black and Brown, LGBTQ, homeless, with disabilities or poor; where we are not displaced from our homes because of gentrification or war; where we have control over our communities, our labor and our wealth; where the dangers of capitalism do not exist and in capitalism’s place, a kind of socialism that is revolutionary, radical and worth struggling for.
We are fighting for a world worth living in.
The writer is an LGBTQ youth organizer of Vietnamese descent in North Carolina.