Youth, the workers and the struggle against war

Excerpted from a talk given at the Jan. 9 Workers World Party forum in New York City,“The growing U.S. war threats against Iran and Iraq: Resistance and international protest plans.”

As the U.S. continues its attacks on Iran, we must ask: How do today’s youth feel about the anti-war movement? The truth is that there is cause both for concern and for hope. 

Today’s youth witnessed the anti-war movement of 2003: the massive, beautiful outpouring of humanity, banded together in resistance to imperial war. And they also saw that war continue, unabated. They saw the unresponsiveness of the bourgeoisie. How does one react when they see millions making their voices heard, only to see those in power tune them out?

And yet, today’s youth are moving further to the left every day. They are more critical of war. More critical of the lies of the imperialist state. Less willing to cheerlead the march to war.

This is not a paradox. Nor have young people slid into the abyss of apathy, as many fear. The youth are critical of imperialism, and they are thinking critically about what it means to be anti-war. The youth are asking the question that needs to be asked: If holding a protest won’t stop the war, then what will? 

Young people today are not turning against anti-war protests, nor are they turning against anti-war protesters. Instead they are searching. They are searching for a long-term vision, for a path forward. With the audacity and arrogance of youth, young people are demanding not an opposition to war, but an end to war.

Today’s youth believe that we stand now at an inflection point in history. That tomorrow will not be like yesterday. That the future and the past are in a fight to the death — and that the future will win. The youth do not want to march. The youth do not want to hold signs. The youth do not want to take a single step outside their homes unless that step is a first step on the road to revolution.

But how? Do we abandon the methods of the past? No. Political agitation through protest is vital for raising consciousness. It also serves a second purpose — if we are willing to rise to the challenge. That challenge is to turn from a mere critique of state power and to embrace the power of the working class. 

The U.S. regime is the most powerful empire that has ever dominated the globe, and yet, its power is insignificant next to the strength of a united working class. A united working class — organized, educated and prepared for struggle. That must be our goal. 

Task of Marxist-Leninist party

If we are willing to unite the working class, if we are willing to go among the members of our class — to organize them, to know them, to struggle with them — then our power will be limitless.

This is the role of a Marxist-Leninist party: to engage relentlessly in deep organizing, training cadre organizers, going into unions, going into neighborhoods and forming the masses into political fighting units ready to wage revolutionary struggle. 

The path will be long and it will be hard.  At first the gains will be slow. The fear that energy is lost in vain will cast a dark shadow on the hope that we will succeed. But if we do this — if we have the courage to lead — then the youth will follow.

Through organizing, we can do more than fight the U.S. war machine — we can break it. The second function of the protest action is the demonstration of peoples’ power. When the masses are organized with us, the protest action takes on a completely different political character. With the masses behind us, we can seize the vital points of capital. With the masses behind us, we can stop industry and halt commerce. With the masses behind us, we can shut down ports and block highways. With the masses behind us, we can finally run the fascist police out of our communities. With the masses behind us, we won’t have to ask for the wars to end, we will make them end, and we will bring the war machine tumbling to the ground.


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