Building Among Young Workers

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Above: CWI Summer School

My contribution to the Youth discussion at the CWI summer school in Barcelona:

In England and Wales, one of the areas of youth work we’ve focussed on is our orientation to and development of young workers. One of the challenges of this work is getting access to young workers.

Unlike students who can be found in large numbers on campuses, there is no one place where young workers come together. This is particularly true as trade union consciousness among youth is generally low. This means that we have to go directly into workplaces to engage with and attract new layers of young workers.

One of the ways we have done this is by organising campaigns around fast food rights, £10Now and days of action exposing retail outlets that use exploitative zero hours contracts. To try and engage young workers in workplaces known to be hostile to workplace organising we have organised actions where we go into a workplace and leaflet as many workers as we can before management ask us to leave.

As well as attracting new layers we have taken steps to develop our young worker comrades. Alongside student bureaus we have had a number of meetings for young workers to discuss how we can intervene in the workplace. This has been important as young workers face more insecure and unstable conditions which can be very different to conditions experienced by older comrades.

More often than not, young workers are in workplaces that have no trade union recognition. Management can get away with more bullying and intimidation and attempts to even discuss organising can be met with extreme hostility. In drawing out these perspectives this has guided our work and allowed us to better equip our young comrades in the workplace.

By having discussions on a day in the life of a care worker, a shop worker, a waiter etc. older workers are exposed to the conditions faced by the younger counterparts and can better advise younger comrades how to recruit other workers to trade unions and get organised.

It’s also important that time is made in branch meetings to discuss the conditions of the trade unions. As trade unions will often be held in the grip of bureaucratic officials and young comrades will need guidance to give them the confidence to transform unions into militant fighting trade unions.

One of our successful areas of work in this area is in relation to Usdaw (the shopworkers’ union) which is Britain’s 4th largest trade union with over 430,000 members. We have been developing a caucus and had our biggest intervention so far at this year’s national conference. Our young comrades have been at the forefront of regenerating the broad left within the union.

Likewise, our young members put forward and spoke on a number of important motions which resonated and got some of the best responses from delegates. In time this will no doubt lead to contacts and new recruits.

The steps we are taking are currently small and the tasks ahead great but comrades, by investing time and energy into preparing young workers today, we will be developing the cadre who will have the confidence and understanding to inspire and lead the workers’ struggles of tomorrow.

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Building the Revolutionary Party – CWI Speech

CWI

For those of my readers who don’t already know, I’m a member of the Socialist Party of England and Wales. This is part of an International known as the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) made up different sections of the Socialist Party from around the world. Recently I attended the CWI school in Leuven, Belgium and had one of the most intense but enjoyable experiences of my political life so far. Here is the speech I gave during a commission on building the revolutionary party:

“Comrades,

In the England and Wales section we are growing slowly at the moment but in Plymouth where I am based we have grown very quickly from about 8 to around 30 in less than 6 months and I have identified four things which I would posit help to build our respective revolutionary parties

Firstly, a healthy perspective is needed. Lenin once said that Capitalism will always reform itself over the bones of the working classes and I personally think this can be interpreted in two ways. Looking at the poverty, austerity, repression and wars going on around the world today the truth of that statement is revealing itself frighteningly quickly.

However, I also see this statement as a challenge; after seeing and hearing some of the grotesque horrors that Capitalism can bring I say that Capitalism can only be allowed to reform over my dead body! I see that same passion and determination driving the CWI forward particularly in sections with only a handful of comrades who stand defiant nonetheless.

It is this passion and determination that serves as our most powerful tool of recruitment. It is hard to recruit to a revolutionary party if we ourselves do not first believe that revolution is possible and it is hard to recruit to a revolutionary party if we do not believe that we can recruit. But when we do believe, others will see our conviction and will want to join us and that is simply changed by a change in perspective.

I would next say that organisation is key. We have a giant task ahead of us with the implementation of socialism across the globe. It requires us to be ambitious and dream of a better future for all. However, as a part of that we cannot allow ourselves to forget the small things which will make the big changes.

We should set realistic targets for recruitment, we should organise so that we never lose a contact that we’ve met by misplacing their contact details and make sure we follow them up, not just once but regularly until it is clear that they have lost interest or are ready to join. We should always prepare in advance to ensure that we have the relevant papers and flyers with us for each situation or action, overall we need to be efficient and organised.

Next ,I would say we can recruit through persistent action. By remaining at the heart of struggle and showing solidarity with workers as they take action they come to identify with us. They may not join us at first, but unlike bourgeois parties we are not out only for ourselves and we are not like sectarian left-wing parties or ultra-left elements.

We do not arrogantly believe we are the leaders of the revolution and expect to drag working-class people kicking and screaming through the revolution. When people see that we stand in solidarity with workers time and time again and do this not just for ourselves but for all sections of working class people across the world, which they will see for themselves through our cooperation and discussions with them, and we should always try to engage in discussions with people by the way, they will join us.

Finally, I would say that the endless opportunities Socialism has to offer will inspire and encourage people to join not just after the revolution, but even right now. I, like many people and particularly youth across the world have suffered from depression as austerity has killed any prospect of a prosperous future.

With youth unemployment rates in some countries reaching up to 60% many people have, in their despair turned to suicide as they feel constrained, worthless and without hope caused by the failing capitalist system. On the other hand, the party offers hope, productivity, worth and eventually liberty for all working-class people. In the short time I have been with the party I have been a leading organiser, a budding young journalist, a public speaker, even a tourist to Leuven! As well as many more things and that is just me, I’m by no means alone in experiencing these opportunities.

I have seen comrades use their creativity to both build the party and express themselves in original and inspiring ways. I have seen this creativity snuffed out far too often by the tyranny of Capitalism but by conveying the opportunities that people can seize through the party, people see their potential and their power. By learning about and building for socialism through struggle and solidarity they grow in themselves and transform, rejecting the worthlessness and failure felt by many and realising that it is in fact the system that has failed them.

By helping to change people’s perception from hopelessness, despair and no opportunity to a world full of hope, solidarity and limitless potential, people will be inspired and encouraged to make the revolution their own and by doing so comrades will want to contribute more, whether it be by helping to recruit, contributing to campaigns or increasing their subs when they can afford it.

To sum up, my contribution is to say that building the revolutionary party is all a matter of changing people’s perceptions from crushing despair to limitless, defiant hope and acting on that hope with:

Healthy perspective

Organisation

Persistent action

Endless opportunity

Now onwards to our collective proletarian revolution!”

If you would like to know more about the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) you can find us online at:

http://www.socialistworld.net/

or on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/5593681554/10151528030381555/

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