January 15, 2012

Our view: the youth and student struggle now

Main Political Resolution, 

YCL-LJC Central Committee

Jan. 15th, 2012

Since our last Central Committee, we are still being told by politicians and the corporate media that the economic crisis is over.  At the same time, the crisis is blamed for aggressive budget cut-backs.

The economic crisis of capitalism is the main fact dominating the struggle of the youth and students today The latest Euro-zone sovereign debt crisis is a continuation of that crisis.

The Eurozone crisis: more crisis of capitalism

The sovereign debt crisis forcefully imploded across the European Union over the past several months. It began with the capitalist governments of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain suddenly announcing they could not refinance their national debt to the Banks (ie. the country is bankrupt). Consequently, they experienced a major downgrading of there credit ratings by finance capital, further aggravating the situation. Even France‘s credit rating has just been downgraded.

The crisis was not simply sparked by the quantitative amount debt of these countries. Because of the domination of banking and financial capital (that is non-value producing or parasitic) and its ever-greater concentration and centralization within the interconnected Eurozone, when a country like Greece defaulted there was a qualitative change: a domino-effect of defaulting (and a resulting political crisis; for example, in Italy the Berlusconi was suddenly replaced by high level administrators or “technocrats.”)

Nobody has a crystal ball, but the future of the entire EU is being drawn into question. The EU is now in a recession that has even hit Germany.  Can it be confidently said that Canada is immune? Not at all.

The people are owed everything!

The so-called “European social democratic model” helped the working class and youth at the negotiating table here in Canada.  But, as the political declaration from the 9th meeting of the European Communist Youth organizations recently said, the gains of the European workers and youth were a direct result of the victory of the Soviet socialist revolution. Now, the future of the youth is being stolen through austerity budgets. For example, Norway is now the only country where Post-Secondary Education is free for all in fabled Scandinavia.

Who pays the bill for social programmes, and military spending? In the anarchy of capitalism (and facing the objective tendency of declining profits) European big business successfully lowered corporate taxation to survive global competition and put the bill in the hands of the state, as debt – borrowing money from the capitalists.

Crisis of social democracy

After the 2007-2008 financial crisis, debt spiked as the state borrowed more money from the same banks and corporations they were bailing-out and backing-up. Now the same capitalists are demanding proof that they can be ‘repaid‘.

The social democratic ‘third-way’ cannot continue with the Eurozone crisis because the reality is that these states are still under the control of big business – and this is true more generally.

This situation therefore sharply exposes the fundamental contradictions of capitalism as well as the ideological bankruptcy of social democracy and reformism. In the words of the December conference of Communist and Worker’s parties in Athens, there are two paths to social development – the capitalist path of exploitation, war, and misery; or the path of liberation with immense possibilities for promoting the youth and worker‘s interests, the path of socialism and communism.

Difficult but promising times

The only way forward to liberation is persistent organized, militant united struggle and work.

Hundreds of thousands and even millions of people are participating in general strikes and demonstrations in the streets of countries like Greece, Portugal and Britain.

Much of Latin America continues to advance as an anti-imperialist front.

Revolutionary uprisings which burst forward across North Africa and the Middle East, after years of persistent, organized struggle, are continuing (for example, Egypt).

For students, 2011 has been the year of Chile. 

After students joined the general strike of the miners in in the summer, a political strike was launched calling to replace the Pinochet-era constitution with a new charter guaranteeing accessible, free quality education. 600,000 marchers hit the streets in a country of 15.1 million. Neo-fascists burnt the offices of the Communist Party of Chile and a government official tweeted about Camila Vallejo, a member of the Central Committee of the Young Communists of Chile and a leader of the Chilean students: “Kill the bitch and the pack falls apart”

We send our full militant solidarity to comrade Camila, and to all the students of Chile in their magnificent struggle that has demonstrated strong unity between university, high school students, the working class and labour!

The global occupy movement

In cities around the world, young people came together en mass under the banner of the “indignadtos.” We can not characterize these movements with one stroke. In some conditions, trade unionists, progressive political parties, and especially youth joined in the mobilizations.

Elsewhere however, different forces influenced the indignados and they advanced demands that do not provide a constructive alternative like ‘spontaneous a-political (anti-political party or anti-labour) rage.’ Nevertheless, the youth have shown that they will not be passively flattened by the capitalist steamroller. Societies such as the USA or even Israel are not without class contradictions, nor youth who are committed to struggling for a better world.

There is no country where the people are not willing or somehow able to rise up for their rights.  The most direct and effect way the youth break the capitalist’s assault is for youth to stand with the people and labour – organized, united and prepared to struggle.

WFDY meetings in Portugal

This was the message reported back from our delegate to the 18th General Assembly of WFDY in Lisbon, the largest Assembly in over twenty years. While we could not also directly join in WFDY’s solidarity mission to occupied Western Sahara and to Palestine, we send our firm internationalist greetings to the Polisario youth and reaffirm our steadfast solidarity with the Palestinian people, fighting to win state-level recognition at the United Nations.

The YCL should also make a special effort this year for the Che Brigade and solidarity with the Cuban Five heroes.  We are proposing here that it becomes a project that the Central Committee also takes on, helping our members see a living socialist country.

The drums of war

The WFDY, the World Peace Council and the Canadian Peace Congress have all warned of the increased aggressiveness by imperialism, underscoring the deadly relationship between economic crisis and war. Old imperialist alliances are being strengthened; NATO has just sprouted a new puppet regime in Libya following its rain of death from the skies.

But new alliances in the global capitalist-imperialist pyramid are also forming. US military exercises off Iran in the Straight of Hormuz have drawn sharp condemnation from China and justifiably so. Further aggression could be a much larger conflict. Imperialism also used the pretext of leadership transition in the DPR of Korea to mobilize troops onto high alert and war-games.

In answer YCL Canada says –

No new wars in the Korean Peninsula!
Hand’s off Iran and Syria!
The United States and other imperialist powers, with the Harper Tories support, are fuelling a civil war in Syria by arming thugs and opposition groups in the country. This is a way to further threaten Iran. The internal conflict in Syria and the struggle against the theocratic regime in Iran are for their own sovereign people to resolve. The people of these countries need our solidarity, not a foreign intervention putting those people under the domination of imperialism.

The struggle in Canada

In Canada we are heading into a new year with continued high and record levels of youth unemployment and underemployment.

Harper attack on young workers

Young workers lost over 17,000 jobs in December. Official youth unemployment is again at 14.1%.

Transnational corporations just locked-out several hundred aluminum workers in Alma, Quebec and at the Caterpillar Plant in London, Ontario – where the company is demanding a 50 per cent wage cut.

The Postal workers and then the Air Canada lock-outs, forcing CUPW and then CUPE into binding arbitration, are dangerous denials of the fundamental right to strike. Public government pensions are now on the Harper regime’s chopping block.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt even suggested “the economy” should be declared an “essential service” (CBC News, Oct 21).

At the last Central Committee we warned of the coming attacks from the new majority Harper government. We said that the primary and decisive area of struggle would be almost exclusively extra-parliamentary. This has shown to be correct.

Bombs yes, jobs no

We can see the Harper government‘s standards when it wastes nearly $500 billion on military purchases over the next five years with the Canada-first Defence Strategy, then turns around and accuses the Aboriginal community in Attawapiskat of misspending and a lack of transparency – leaving the First Nations in such an extreme housing crisis the people are living out in tents in a sub-Arctic winter.

Harper’s gang in suits have thrashed the Wheat Board, the gun registry and pulled Canada out of Kyoto.

Our response must be for a sharp break with this direction

Full employment for youth!
Defend the right to strike and worker‘s rights!
Save the Wheat board!
Re-instate the gun registry!
Canada, support climate justice now!
The Tory bill on crime (cynically branded “Safe Streets and Communities Act,” Bill C-10) is particularly vicious “omnibus attack on human rights” as People’s Voice newspaper said.

Canada’s Young Offender’s legislation has already resulted in more Canadian youth being in jail thant almost any other industrialized capitalist country.  However, despite falling crime rates, mandatory minimum’s high cost and it’s failed track-record (even in US states) the main direction of all the legislation is to over-rule judges, and throw people in jail more often, for longer, and with more lasting consequences.

For example (following the US example of boosting prison population through minor drug convictions) selling marijuana to someone under 18, or growing over five pot plants, now triggers mandatory minimum sentences.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has said “this is only just the beginning” (Globe and Mail, Sept 21).

New attack on the rights of youth

At the same time, a new police squad has been created in Quebec – Guet des activités des movements marginaux et anarchistes, or GAMMA (which translates as Surveillance of Marginal Movements and Anarchists).  GAMMA has already swept down and arrested four well known left activists and four student leaders.

C-10 and GAMMA, but also events like the 2010 G-20 mass arrests in Toronto, show that the attack on the rights of youth has ratcheted up. It has gone from a general attack – on employment, access to education and other public services, etc. – to a draconian plan of punishment and curtailment of democratic rights.

Youth and student fight back

Tens of thousands of Canadians joined in the Occupy movement. Many were at their first protest. Unlike anti-globalization and anti-war demonstrations, the Occupy movement was basically advocating class demands.

Occupy Canada

The inspiring mood, and Occupy‘s contradictory approaches, came out in a conference call of YCL activists By the end of the call written or oral reports had been received from Vancouver, Kamloops, Windsor, Guelph, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax (about half of the major actions that took place and including the largest rallies) showing the YCL is not an arm-chair organization.

In the US it was exposed that Department of Homeland Security, FBI etc. closely coordinated evictions. In Canada the evictions (violating Canada’s Charter rights) also took place in the same time-frame and using the similar unilateral police tactics, with Winnipeg being the last major action to be evicted in December.

‘Permanent occupation,’ like ‘permanent revolution’ is at best difficult to sustain. The ‘spontaneous’ strategy and tactics of the Occupy movement were partly a result of there being no genuine coordinated and labour-led fight back. Yet Occupy potentially could have developed into a much bigger and wider movement. Nor has the movement itself wound-up  – and it has influenced political debate.

Coming student battles

Likewise, the coming major student demonstrations are objectively no less confrontational. The coming CFS cross-Canada day of action of February 1st and the National Quebec student strike in March which is expected to shut down a large number of campuses, will also draw thousands of young people into major struggles for the first time.

This meeting should send a clear call for all progressive youth to march on February 1st – access to education is a class issue.

The people’s struggle a road with many unexpected turns – and it takes persistent work.  One example given at the recent successful YCL student conference was McGill university. Less than a year ago many progressive activists felt almost nothing could be done on campus. But after a major strike of campus workers, the launching of a mobilization squad, participation in demonstrations students occupied the president‘s office.

Charter of Youth Rights

Our best critical response to the current situation faced by youth and students is direct participation in actions and especially the campaign for a Charter of Youth Rights. The Youth Charter has taken some positive first steps since we last met. It needs to grow now, and take-on a life of its own.

At this meeting we are presenting a time-line of action for the Charter to plot forward our goals. We need to build the Charter campaign just like the YCL builtd the World Festival of Youth and Student‘s delegation.  Coming out of this meeting, we need to have the basis for a working group to really develop the campaign beyond what‘s gone on so far – to live up to the Charter‘s real potential.

Building the YCL

Struggle is always developing in an interconnected way. Every individual phenomenon of activism and protest – like a community rally against Prime Minister Harper visiting town, a picket-line outside a locked-out workplace, or a mass petition drive – is dialectically connected with the general class struggle and universal problems, and vice versa.

Progressive youth need to grasp these links between local and seemingly isolated actions and the larger revolutionary process to be effective.

Coordinating a small group in a big country

The YCL conference calls like the student meeting or the Occupy call are about effective action on the ground.  The first student conference, hosted by the LJC-Q in Montreal, brought-in almost thirty members and guests from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec with Skype link-up.

The absence of BC was a weakness, but this was good work.  YCL banners will now be raised at more student actions, including the February 1st CFS Day of Action.

Leading the YCL

This should remind us: discussion and debate is linked with action, action is linked with leadership, and leadership comes from collective discussion and debate.

Even getting a YCL banner and some Rebel Youth to a demo, or organizing a public rally, requires collective work and can call for Central Committee and central-level leadership to make it happen.

Participation in the congresses and campaigns of WFDY, the Canadian Peace Congress, the Canadian Network on Cuba and la Table de concertation de solidarité Québec-Cuba, and other international solidarity work, also helps us act on these connections much better.

Cadre development

The task of building leaders in the YCL is an all-round process. This meeting of the Central Committee should ask the Executive to come back to the next meeting with what’s needed to have an ideologically informed and practical discussion about YCL cadre development.

The word cadre translates from French as a skeleton team. Indeed, the central-level work of the YCL and core leadership of the league functions like the spinal cord of the organization.

When the league is fused in action, we stride forward. When it is broken, we fall.

Facing problems

The only way we can resolve problems in the League is by working together, debating and participating – not withdrawing from the YCL’s democratic processes. This is the dialectical relationship of criticism and self-criticism.

Facing problems, the YCL grows.

Next month, the Rebel Youth commission will produce a new issue, with a colour cover. We may produce two issues in one, since there has been a significant delay since the last issue.

Commission work

The recent example of re-organizing the Rebel Youth commission, is an example – this commission has been holding much more regular meetings over the past month.

The sense of it being a group project is starting, although it lacks an official chair.

The international commission and the internet commission needs to keep working at developing a regular meeting pattern and take steps forward in delegation and carrying through work.

At this meeting we will also review the bi-lingual treasures leaflet, and the new membership cards.

Finally, the CC should give the CEC a mandate to come back at a future meeting, soon, and make an over-all review of the League’s work and the Convention goals – from our logo design and the online discussion forum to political questions like environmental struggles and educational/ideological work.

Raise the red flag!

When the red flag of the YCL is visible. When the YCL is working as a team. That is when the YCL can, and will, make a decisive contribution.

And if we do our work well in this Central Committee meeting and take it forwards, we can be sure of that.

We can be sure of that because our contribution will be towards the cardinal element: the unity and militancy of the youth struggle.

Every day, the youth across Canada talk about the day to day and sometimes politics. The news headlines do not inspire. “Canada is dropping out of Kyoto,” “Harper’s is manoeuvring in Ottawa”, “it’s time for another war,” or reports about the Eurozone crisis.

Grasping the links

When youth open their pay cheque or credit card bill they do not see the sparks of resistance and mass struggle taking place around the world that we have talked about today, engendered by the same system that forces them into a life of exploitation and oppression.

The struggle, and life itself, can seem cynical, confusing, or very dark.

In the youth and student movement it is the YCL, like no other youth group, that seeks to grasp the links in the revolutionary process between the immediate goals and the long-term objectives of the working class, people’s movement and of ourselves, the YCL.

But we’ve never said identifying the problem was enough.

In closing I would like to take from the contribution of the Portuguese comrades of the JCP at the last General Assembly in Lisbon.

We are revolutionary, they said, not only because we are deeply aware and we acknowledge the many problems of the youth today, but also because we are truly willing to solve these problems.
We are revolutionary not only because the basis of our action is Marxism-Leninism, which allows us to define the aims of struggle according to the historical moment that we are living, but also because we are proud that every day we stimulate, mobilize, and encourage struggle, bringing more and more friends, organizing them and showing the way.
But above all we are Revolutionary because we know we are not alone. Because we put all our trust in the youth across Canada.

That we can defeat our social opponents and build a better world – which for us, comrades, remains socialism!

Presented by Johan Boyden,
General Secretary, for the CEC
Adopted with revisions by the CC'
Jan. 15th 2012

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