Harvey Dodds of the Leeds Marxists outlines why Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate offering a hope and a future for young people today. Marxist students must give Corbyn their full support and defend him against the manoeuvres of the right-wing. Vote for Corbyn! Fight for socialism!
Aside from being only candidate who will strive to reduce inequality, protect our NHS, and protect our welfare state, Corbyn is the right leader for young people. That doesn’t just mean young people today. It means for our children and their children after them. In short, the right leader for the future. However, intrinsically linked to this is the importance of viewing Corbyn’s potential (perhaps probable) tenure as Labour leader as a merely transitional goal and why it is imperative that we fight for socialism if and when he is elected.
For free education
What does he offer for the benefit of young people in particular? First and foremost are his policies on education which include, but are not limited to, the reintroduction of the EMA, free university education, and the creation of apprenticeships which will pay students a fair wage. The former two are of particular import for students who are from a low income background, especially given Osbourne’s recent changes to funding. With post-16 education now being compulsory, the reintroduction of the EMA would be a welcome move, as a lack of funds to continue education is often created when child benefit is stopped when a young person turns 16; the EMA will go some way to covering this deficit.
University – although not necessarily for everybody – is, for many, the next step forward after sixth form education. Aside from a university education providing students with the impetus to reach their full human potential, the university experience provides prospective students with important life skills and develops character like nothing else.
David Johnstone, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, further highlights the need for university education in talks to high-achieving students from low income backgrounds. He states that over 90% of jobs are never advertised – they are firstly offered around internally, to contacts acquired from university, to those who have networked with the employer, to those the employer knows socially, and jobs are generally filled before they need to be advertised. Most top post-graduate employers in the UK tend to target only from 19 different universities which are almost always exclusively Russell Group (The Russell Group currently consists of 24 universities). The very top will target no more than five universities. Such elitism is of course utterly wrong; but it absolutely highlights the intense scramble for jobs under capitalism and the importance of a university education for those that seek it in these days and times.
However, contrary to the somewhat popular wrongly held belief that students are lazy and live the life of Riley courtesy of their “generous” student loans, unless you have two parents willing and able to help financially, you are going to find it extremely difficult to fund going to university away from home. The “reforms” brought in by this Tory government will only worsen this. And, given the employment statistics previously referenced, a lose-lose situation has arisen: you go to university and are saddled with debt from your loans, a maxed-out overdraft or two, and god knows what else, before entering a life of wage slavery in order to pay it off; and the debt that sits on your shoulder entrenches the class divisions that already exist. Or you don’t go to university, don’t enter into a job that will enable you to move socially, and the class divisions that already exist are further entrenched.
The system is rigged against those that are at the bottom and Corbyn’s proposals to abolish fees will go some distance to combatting this – if we can afford to fight foreign wars on behalf of the capitalists then we can afford to invest in a better future for the youth of today. If not, and a system remains whereby all sections of society aren’t represented at university level, and top employers continue to only recruit from – at most – 19 different institutions, then we are in danger of a quasi-oligarchy emerging, where only those who can afford university education end up in the top jobs. It’s imperative for this reason that we as youth therefore fight for Corbyn’s election in the short term.
For a living wage and a home for all
Corbyn’s promises to provide properly paid apprenticeships are just as important as his policies regarding higher education. We need skilled workers and the way to achieve this is through the creation of properly funded apprenticeship schemes. But these apprentices have to be treated correctly while they undergo their training – it is abusive and exploitative for them to not be paid a proper wage, and the fact that Corbyn is the only candidate to address the fact that the national minimum wage for apprentices is an abhorrent £2.73 an hour is again indicative of why we must ensure he wins.
Young people are often told that Thatcher was before their time, so they have no right to complain about her. However, her destructive policies are still felt today – the causes of the crash of 2008 are linked to her reckless policies of deregulation, and the current housing crisis is completely linked to her quickfire sale of social housing. With recent reports suggesting young people nowadays will be at least 30 before they get a foot on the property ladder, housing policies offered by any Labour leadership candidate are of huge importance for young voters. Corbyn has committed to building council houses which will create homes and jobs, has committed to implementing rent controls around the concept of a “living rent” linked to local average earnings, and has suggested that tenants should be given more long term contracts. He would also allow those under 21 to claim housing benefit, which should definitely be welcomed because many young people, for one reason or another, often through circumstances beyond their control, are forced to find their own housing.
Corbyn’s sensible policies – especially regarding council housing – are particularly significant when considering why he is deserving of the youth vote. The housing market is a strong example of a need for a planned economy – it is testament to the absolute folly of the notion of a self-correcting market. Corbyn doesn’t go as far as to suggest that we finally take control and plan this man-made phenomenon, but the provision of state housing will give young people the chance to have a home, and Corbyn is the only candidate who seriously offers this.
Aside from offering Housing Benefit to Under 21s, Corbyn has a comprehensive programme on benefits for younger people in general. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is the ethos behind our welfare state. And, as nice as it would be to be able to pay into the pot before taking out, in so many instances, this just isn’t possible, often, like with so many other cases, because of circumstances out of our control. The fact that this Tory government is making it as difficult as they possibly can for young people to claim is not only disgusting, but also worrying, and for this reason, it is important that Corbyn will allow people under 21 to claim housing benefit and that he would introduce the same benefits for under 25s as those over. And, most significantly, that he would introduce a statutory living wage for all workers – not this farcical rebrand of the minimum wage that the Tories have offered us, which is not a genuine living wage in any shape or form – so that in-work benefits and corporate subsidies are ended.
Marxist students and youth: vote for Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!
And for those reasons it is imperative to vote for Corbyn and encourage others to do so too. But voting for Corbyn and doing our best to ensure he gets in isn’t enough. This is for two reasons: firstly – the right wing of the party aren’t going to sit there and accept defeat gracefully. Make no doubt, they will do their utmost to depose Corbyn from the moment he is elected and it is imperative we’re ready to rally around Corbyn and provide him with the legitimacy and strength to deal with these attacks. Secondly – Corbyn is the means and not the end. What Corbyn proposes is welcome of course, but these can only be transitional demands in the fight for socialism, as capitalism is not able to provide such basic reforms and needs.
Capitalism – as Marx himself states – has created wonders far greater than the pyramids. It is impossible not to marvel at the incredible infrastructure of the rail network, or the incredible technology of a mobile phone. But let us make no mistake: like all systems before it, it has outlived it’s usefulness. Inequality, exploitation, imperialism, and monopoly are all inherent traits of capitalism – the latter two especially so in the modern stage of capitalism.
The capitalists have used all their resources and thrown all their weight behind attempts to help the economic recovery. But most people haven’t seen living standards recover to pre-2008 levels, and many will feel unable to weather another crisis. Meanwhile, another crash is around the corner, such is the nature of this flawed system. This isn’t an attempt to be an apocalyptic doomsayer – it’s simply stating fact. It might happen next week, maybe next month, maybe next year, maybe five years from now. But it will happen, and will continue to do so.
And with each crisis of capitalism, more people are going to be unable to weather another. Again, not pessimism, but fact. As Marx stated, living standards for all but the very few who control the wealth in society will inevitably drop, such is the nature of capitalism. This is especially pertinent for those who are still early on in the journey of life.
Capitalism cannot offer hope, but young people don’t have to accept a system than can only offer declining standards of living and declining conditions of wage slavery. The fight for our future is intrinsically linked to the fight for socialism – socialism is the only system that can offer job security, a decent standard of living, housing, a pension, comprehensive healthcare, free education, and without a shadow of a doubt, most importantly, it is the only system which will protect our environment so that our children have a world to live in.
Capitalism reached its zenith a long time ago and the inability to fully recover from 2008 demonstrates it’s inevitable and continuing decay. The times we live in are volatile – perhaps the most we’ve ever seen, if not undoubtedly the most in living memory. One need only look to China and Greece to see that this is the case. The slightest change could lead to a tailspin. It is our duty to ensure that we are ready to offer a viable, positive, and hopeful alternative. There can be absolutely no compromise with capitalism because of the flaws inherent to it. The fate of Greece is testament to this. And – until the party of Labour realises that – we still have work to do.
We are like the elephant who has been tied to a wooden spike with a thin rope. For years we have submitted and been unresistant because we’ve forgotten our own strength. But look – we now only begin to tug on the rope that ties us to the spike and they run for cover! That’s not to say that this is going to be an easy fight – it won’t be, and final victory is by no means assured. But if we are organised and willing, then comrades, we will be unstoppable.