September 15, 2009

Teens talk about: Communism!

Seeing red as way to change the world - living - Seeing red as way to change the world

March 17, 2007
Margo Varadi

You might think of communism as a dying system, an ideology that has never worked in practice. You might think any Communists left in North America would be older immigrants clinging to the ideals of a country they left long ago. This is not the case for members of the Young Communists League, a youth group operating in cities throughout Canada.

Frustrated by a political system that shuts out young people, those in the YCL see communism as a way to be involved in grassroots movements and feel as if they're making a difference.

(Andrew, the first teen interviewed, wishes to use a pseudonym over concerns of publicly labelling himself a Communist.)

# "When you're in the Communist movement, it's not about communism, it's about seeing the struggle in a certain way and agreeing on the issues that the Communist party takes up. It has to do with social justice. I don't think there should be homeless people. I don't think we should treat the native people the way they do. I don't think my friend should be sent over to Afghanistan. Any youth who's ever worked in a job knows how much they're exploited. I've worked in call centres, greenhouses and restaurant kitchens. The boss is always trying to pay you less and cheat you in different ways.

"In the YCL, which I'm a part of, we don't talk about communism. We talk about the issues we're doing, like organizing anti-tuition increase stuff, fighting military recruitment, raising-minimum-wage campaigns and working with the student union. It's the same stuff as any activist would do but with a Marxist-Leninist analysis.

"We work on issues that have to do with the youth of today. We're not telling them to raise arms and fight tomorrow. You have to understand the situation and work with it as best as you can. In some ways, it would be easier not to call ourselves Communists because people would be less afraid and have fewer prejudices against us. It's not easy being a Communist. You belong to a party that's never going to win the election. I've tried to organize stuff with other groups but, once they find out we're Communists, they don't want to work with us anymore.

"My great-grandparents were Austrian Jews and they had leftist sympathies. Lots of people in the movement today have a history of leftist policy. The Communist movement was where I felt I could do most. We're just fighting for the same things that working people have always been fighting for: better jobs, shelters, peace and general equality for everyone."

/*Andrew*, 19, The Annex/

# "I'm the organizer of Toronto for the YCL. I got involved in high school through the peace movement. I like to tell people we're not about Russian communism but Canadian communism.

"I've been surprised at how open youth have been to different alternatives. In a lot of grassroots initiatives, you'll see youth there but you won't necessarily see them voting. It's indicative of the change youth are looking for. It's not something they see happening through voting alone.

"The primary goal of young Communists is democracy and not democracy that's, like, `Let's elect the best white rich guy.' We think in order to have true democracy, the people have to be involved. The working-class people should be in the government themselves."

/*Shone Bracken*, 19, St. Jamestown/

# "I've read the Communist manifesto but I'm more geared toward socialist democracy than anything else. I have an interest in the league because I'm interested in the ideology. One of their objectives is to lower tuition fees, and every student wants that....It breaks my heart that so many people are homeless and have no resources.

"I don't think the youth today really care. They're more interested in having money to buy things for themselves or tuition. The Young Communist League, just the name, won't attract people. `Communist' has such a stigma. I remember in my Grade 7 and 8 classes, they made communism sound like fascism or totalitarianism."

/*Carmen Chan*, 18, Markham/

# "The biggest issue for me right now is that we don't have the right to vote till 18. It should be lowered to 16, which the YCL is working on....My family is generally opposed to communism, as are most people. They'd rather me be in the NDP than the Communist party. Sometimes, people will say the cliché `f---ing Commie.'

"Communism actually talks about youth issues and real change. I want a society where nobody lives in poverty and accumulates a majority of the wealth. Me and my friend operate a non-profit record label that distributes socially progressive music. We're very opposed to copyright, we support `copy left.' Everyone that wants music should get music and shouldn't have to pay for it."

/*Jeff Tomlinson*, 17, Ajax/

# "In high school, I had a moment where I wanted to be part of something good. I looked up communism online and found the YCL website. I like how communism is all about equality and helping each other out. A lot of youth are in middle-wage jobs, so if there's communism, everyone would be taken care of. Plus, they'd have more say of what the government does.

"I feel more comfortable around other Communists because they're more accepting. I feel like I'm having an impact because I'm helping out with campaigns. There should be a world revolution for communism.

"That's why we have /Rebel Youth /magazine to show young people that communism relates to their lives. I support the ideals of communism, I support it as a system and I want to make it work and that's why I'm part of the YCL.

"Capitalism is oppressive."

/*Taylor Rothbell*, 18, The Annex/

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