Capitalism is revealing its true face to a new generation of youth

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Johnnie Hunter, YCL General Secretary & Challenge Editor

Capitalism is a degrading, exploitative and destructive system – but only a minority of Britain’s youth have come to this realisation. This isn’t because its incorrect and it isn’t because the majority of the youth are fervent supporters of the neoliberal capitalism.

The ruling class maintains its system and the dominance of its ideology through propaganda and a complex web of state and societal institutions. From birth to death, at all levels of education and in the monopoly owned media young people are told that capitalism is the natural system of human development, its always been this way and always will. We are told that, despite minor flaws, the capitalist system is essentially good; socialism is irredeemably bad and always leads to failure.

The ideology of the ruling class

The ideological apparatus of the ruling class is so effective in producing this consent, what Marxists call “false consciousness”, that most young people, even those who might reject capitalism in a vague or generalised way find it is difficult to imagine an alternative form of society, free from the exploitation of human by human.

The grip of the ruling class on the institutions of the state and their power is so strong that, even for those that can conceive of a better world, a socialist world, they can be easily demoralised or led towards the dead end politics of reformism or nationalism.

This system has proven more effective across the capitalist world than Marxist thinkers anticipated 100 years ago. Despite the successes of the socialist camp and communist parties, the capitalist system in Britain and in other developed states has been able to improvise and adapt over the last century. At the core of this success has been this manufacture of false consciousness; the ability of the ruling class to maintain significant sections of the working class as either apathetic or positively identifying with their oppressors.

The capitalist ruling class have always been fully prepared to use violence to maintain their system of exploitation and expression. Violence and the threat of violence are the essential foundation of all class societies. Britain’s ruling class, the oldest in the world, prefer more subtle means. Even for them open violence is less stable. When police are cracking skulls on the streets the dividing lines between oppressor and oppressed become blindly obvious.

The key to the ability of Britain’s ruling class to keep their upper hand in this class struggle is by pretending that there is no class struggle – and making sure a majority of Britain’s workers believe them.

It would be absolutely wrong to think of capitalism in Britain as invulnerable though. We know from our daily lives that the system is rotten. Its foundations are as weak as the creaking state structure that is built on them. Every day it bends and strains under the weight of its own contradictions.

A system in crisis

It is in times of crisis that the real nature of the system is laid bare for all to see. In Britain just now the system is gripped by a pandemic it has proven itself incapable of tackling and an economic crisis which was already in the making but which has been accelerated by COVID-19.

Racism is also a tool which the system uses to exploit, control and divide the working class but this too is backfiring. Inspired by militant demonstrations in the United States following the death of George Floyd, millions of young people across Britain are opposing institutional racism here, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to do so.

This crisis is an opportunity to press home to increasing numbers of Britain’s youth, the class nature of our society. That fact is already abundantly clear wherever we look in this country today.

Under Boris Johnson we have in power a Thatcherite government of rich, by the rich for the rich. They have been criminally negligent in responding to this pandemic, even among capitalist countries, with over 65,000 now dead in this country. They have gambled with the lives of working people and avoided taking the necessary measures to protect private profit and the value of shares in the city of London.

Millions of workers are poised to be thrown on the scrapheap as the lockdown is eased. Hundreds of thousands of redundancies are already being announced across the economy, particularly in hospitality and retail. These are the same employers who have been happy to risk workers lives during the pandemic and the same companies that have leeched taxpayer cash, no strings attached.

Brave and determined young workers and students up and down the country have been mobilising to fight racism. Britain’s establishment is rattled and they have responded accordingly. A counteroffensive across the monopoly media attacking the movement. They’ve used riot and mounted police to attack protesters and then had the audacity to use their media to blame them when an officer injured themself charging headlong into a crowd. The youth are seeing in real time the forces of the state aligning against them.

Confronted with hard realities and irreconcilable contradictions, the power of ruling class ideology is weakened, their apparatus finds it harder to gloss over struggle. It is at a time like this that we can win young workers in their millions to an understanding of how society really is and the necessity of socialism – a class consciousness. But this won’t happen automatically.

Our task

Britain’s workers face a negative balance of forces in our struggle, chief among them our own disunity and demoralisation, but this can be overcome. We must work to win class consciousness among increasing masses of young people. We must work to build the communist movement in Britain to advance this struggle.

These are interrelated and dynamic tasks. Objective conditions of crisis make these easier or more difficult at certain times. At present we have the opportunity to expose the exploitative and parasitic nature of the capitalist system to millions and build the movement against it in the process.

We cannot allow the ruling class to resolve this crisis in their interests. The mask is slipping and the capitalist system is baring its teeth. Millions of young workers are seeing its true face for the first time.

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Johnnie Hunter
General Secretary
Young Communist League

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