Last year, Latin America, the Middle East, and Hong Kong were shaken by mass movements where radical youth played a significant role. At the MSF conference, Marxists from across the country will be discussing these revolutionary events.
Ten years ago, capitalism entered into a deep crisis from which it has still not escaped. The ruling class attempted to overcome the crisis primarily through vicious attacks against the working class. But this has only destabilised the world’s social and political equilibrium. This is unfolding before our eyes.
In the last year, we have seen incredible movements in Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Ecuador, Chile, Columbia, Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, Kashmir, Hong Kong, France, Catalonia and many more places. This is a reflection of the world crisis of capitalism.
On Saturday 15 February, you can join Marxists from across the country at the Marxist Student Federation Conference 2020 to discuss these momentous events and the lessons they contain for revolutionaries.
MARXIST STUDENT FEDERATION CONFERENCE 2020
Saturday 15 February 10am-5pm
SOAS Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre
Visit marxiststudent.com for more info
In the space of just a few weeks in ‘Red October’ last year, spontaneous protests rapidly exploded onto the scene across Latin America – in Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Haiti. In some cases, these movements were of an insurrectionary character. The masses are taking to the streets and connecting with their revolutionary traditions.
For the younger generation, life on the continent has been a continuous circle of austerity, neoliberal policies, and state repression. For years there has been a burning anger and accumulation of discontent building beneath the surface, just waiting to erupt.
In Chile, the initial spark was the announcement of a public transport fare hike, bringing ticket prices to 30 pesos. But the slogan of the protests was: “It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years!” This clearly expresses that it is much more than the price of metro tickets that has pushed people onto the streets.
Similarly, in Colombia, there is a deep anger against right-wing economic policies, deep inequality, and cuts to education. This was especially seen after the government announced plans for a lowering of the minimum wage for young people.
In the first days of the protests, students set a student loan office on fire. Following this, student organisations joined forces with Colombian trade unions to form a National Strike Committee, calling three national strikes and demanding public control over oil companies.
In Ecuador, students aided workers and indigenous peasants in a three-day-long general strike, called to protest against the IMF-imposed elimination of fuel subsidies.
All across the continent, the fight continues. This is despite attempts to silence these struggles – either through state violence, or tokenistic compromises.
What these recent events demonstrate is that the smallest of sparks can ignite a mass movement, given the combustible material present. The world is a tinderbox, ready to explode.
In the Middle East, rising class tensions have brought the youth to the centre stage in the past year, highlighting the important role that young people can play within revolutionary movements.
In Iraq, we see how class unity has overcome religious sectarianism. Both Sunni and Shia teenagers have taken to the streets together in protest against inequality and corruption. For years, the government has fundamentally failed to implement any meaningful reforms to alleviate the suffering of the masses.
The ruling class have historically used religious differences to divide the working class, framing Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims as having fundamentally different and opposing ideas. But young people in Iraq are increasingly rejecting this idea.
Chants of “We are brothers, whether Sunnis or Shiites, we won’t sell our country!” at the protests show the potential for a united working class; a recognition that it is the capitalist establishment who are the true enemy.
The youth have also played a key part in recent protests in Lebanon. Despite having the highest billionaire-to-population ratio of any state in the world, austerity has been enforced on the poorest layers of the country to pay off Lebanon’s rising debts. The government even proposed a tax on WhatsApp messages and calls!
Young people in Lebanon are disproportionately affected by this collapsing economy, with an unemployment rate of up to 37%.
This has resulted in over two million people from across all religions and divides in Lebanese society taking to the streets in the last few months. “All of them means all of them,” protestors have chanted, as they demand the downfall of the whole regime.
It is increasingly clear that capitalism has nothing to offer workers and youth in the Middle East. The recent revolutionary developments in Iraq and Lebanon show the potential way forward out of the current capitalist nightmare.
Young people – often the most radicalised layer of society – have played a significant role in the recent Hong Kong protests. These mass demonstrations initially came about in response to a new law proposed by the Hong Kong government, allowing for the extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China of anyone that the Beijing government deems to be a criminal.
But these protests are symptomatic of larger socio-economic trends: the deteriorating conditions facing workers and youth in Hong Kong, with sky-high rents and growing inequality; and the increasingly authoritarian and imperialist stance of the Chinese regime, as it seeks to expand the influence of a rising Chinese capitalism.
As these symptoms become increasingly apparent, with the working class suffering as a direct result, young people in Hong Kong (and across China) are rapidly becoming radicalised. Students in Hong Kong have played a significant part in organising and mobilising the movement, with its mass demonstrations on the streets.
Not only have the protests been for basic democratic demands, but they have also – at their height – employed class methods, including general strikes.
The capitalist media in the West have framed the struggles in Hong Kong as being about ‘capitalism vs communism’; ‘democracy vs authoritarianism’; ‘Hong Kong vs China’. But this narrative ignores the underlying economic issues shared by the working classes of both Hong Kong and mainland China.
Without a clear revolutionary leadership at the forefront of the protests, the movement has unfortunately rallied around a liberal, pro-Western, pro-capitalist programme. Such slogans and strategy, however, represent a dead-end.
Only by overthrowing capitalism can the democratic rights and economic demands of Hong Kong’s youth be realised. And this can only be achieved through class solidarity between the students and workers of Hong Kong, and their brothers and sisters in mainland China.