Last week saw the foundation of yet another new YCL branch, this time for Brighton and East Sussex, by young workers and students in the area.
Challenge republishes below the founding statement of the YCL’s newest branch which outlines their campaigning priorities – trade unionism, housing struggles, the student movement, environmentalism and anti-racism and anti-imperialism. As ever, the branch is unlikely to retain the title of newest branch for long with many new branches on the cards for South East England and across Britain …
If you are interested in getting involved in the YCL in Brighton & East Sussex (or further afield!) contact Brighton@ycl.org.uk or go to www.ycl.org.uk/join/.
Representing a part of the country with a large young population, the setting up of this branch is an important step in the fight for socialism in Britain. Faced with the practical difficulties posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and its disastrous handling by the Tories, Brighton communists have persevered and adapted to these conditions and continue to welcome new members into their ranks. So far meetings have taken place online, plans were made to represent the concerns of young workers and students in the area. We aim to expand our reach in the south east of England, by raising class consciousness among young people through education and direct action, working alongside our comrades across the UK and beyond.
As a Branch we discussed some of the main issues surrounding young people in the area, such as housing, student accommodation, environmentalism, anti-racism and what we can do to help our community in the event of a local lockdown.
Young people and Work
Most young people in the city of Brighton struggle to find long lasting and filling employment. Many are left with no choice other than to work in the service industry on zero-hour contracts. These contracts are competitive, precarious, often low paid and deny workers the right to unionise. As a result of the government’s disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of these workers have been sacked showing how undervalued they are to their employers and the Tories. Those who have kept their jobs were required to work in unsafe conditions while the government recklessly encouraged people to go out and spend money through the “eat out to help out” scheme. As a result, we are seeing a huge rise in Covid-19 cases across the country as we enter the cold winter months. These young workers are forced to put themselves at risk of infection and at risk of spreading the virus, as capitalism threatens those who do not earn wages with the possibilities of homelessness and or poverty.
We will support young workers by encouraging them to unionise, offering to provide them with resources on how to effectively organise within their workplaces and to campaign on issues surrounding workers’ rights. Whilst it is difficult to unionise in precarious employment or on zero-hour contracts, it is by no means impossible. This was proven in 2019, when Wetherspoons workers in Brighton won a pay rise from their bosses after their strike action in the previous year. Their campaign for better wages drew support from many other low paid sectors such as workers from McDonald’s and Deliveroo riders. It is only by coming together to join or form unions and taking strike action to win their demands, that workers gain the collective bargaining power to challenge their exploitation.
The housing situation in Brighton and the surrounding area is dire, the majority of people rent properties that regardless of the quality, are fixed at extortionate rates. Tenants are forced to pay these landlords most of their wages or loans when it often the case that these properties fail to meet suitable living conditions. Landlords are reluctant to fix issues with their property. Problems such as mould, broken fire alarms and in some cases even a lack of running water are common, whilst the landlord makes thousands from tenants forced into shared accommodation. This situation is making landlordism an extremely profitable business. In order for one to become a landlord they must already be in a financially stable place, often these landlords own multiple properties allowing them to amass even greater levels of capital. Many landlords hide behind the letting agents they employ, issuing them as a buffer and unusually the only means of contact for tenants, shielding themselves from their responsibilities. This works to protect the owners of private property over those who own none. The extortionate rents have pushed many working class families and individuals out of the city centre. For a relatively small city Brighton has one of the highest populations of people suffering from homelessness in the south of England. As the sixth richest country in the world this is truly unacceptable and totally avoidable. We are dedicated to the fight for safe, suitable housing for all free of charge.
The shameful housing situation in Brighton has rallied many working people to unionise against these conditions. The work of ACORN (the community union) has shown that through collective organisation and agitation we can challenge the injustices around housing that so many face. The YCL will work alongside our allies by supporting ACORN, their various campaigns and members.
Brighton has a large Student population as it hosts Sussex University, The University of Brighton and BIMM. Students seeking to educate themselves and grow as individuals in the UK are expected to pay some of the highest tuition fees in any European country. The introduction and subsequent tripling of tuition fees has made education a lucrative business at the expense of students, one which reduces learning to a commodity which can be bought, sold and raised should the government and universities wish. This puts students and their families under immense financial strain and denies many of the right to seek an education especially for those from working class backgrounds. Many are unable to afford the initial cost of £9000 in tuition fees, which requires students to take out loans and saddles them with enormous amounts of debt. The cost of student accommodation is shockingly high considering the size and condition of these cell-like rooms.
This year the Tory government and universities across the country, encouraged young people to move away from their homes and to apply for accommodation whilst the country is still in the midst of a pandemic. As a result, Covid-19 cases have skyrocketed in many universities and the towns in which they reside. This was truly a scandalous and shameful attempt to make money off of these young people. Most teaching must now take place online, and many towns face local lockdowns. This was an utterly predictable scenario, one which could have been avoided. The truth is that universities did not want to lose the massive profits they reap off of students for this year, pandemic or not. This demonstrates how the financialisation of education will inherently put the interests of capital over those of the students and workers of these universities. Students should be compensated for the utter negligence and danger that the government and universities have put their students and staff in.
We affirm that education should be a right to all people free of charge, especially in a country as rich as ours. We demand an end to the exploitation of students and the commodification of education.
As Communists, we understand that the challenges facing the continued existence of our planet and the survival of its species, can only be secured with the overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of Socialism. Unlike some environmentalists, we explicitly reject capitalism in all its forms (be they green or not) rejecting the calls of reform by some. This is because we understand that as long as our societies are structured on extracting profit over the concerns of people and the environment that they live in, we will continue to destroy the earth and cause our own extinction. Our Environmentalism is materialist, class conscious and anti-imperialist. We cannot save the planet unless we account for which actors contribute the most emissions/pollution/deforestation etc or for what reason they do this.
The USA is by far the largest polluter in the world, its military alone contributing to higher CO2 levels than many industrialised states. Environmental protection must go hand in hand with a rejection of Imperialism and the USA’s military industrial complex. The US uses its military might in the interests of private companies and corporations. These corporations are involved in the rapid and callus destruction of nature in search of a variety of natural resources. The reason is to gain capital, making the rich even richer at the expense of the land, the creatures or the people who live off these delicate ecosystems.
Our environmentalism accounts for the role imperialism plays in green discourse. Not all states are to blame for the natural catastrophe that we face. The processes of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism have divided the world between developed areas and underdeveloped areas. The global south, which is already at greater risk of environmental catastrophe, has purposely been kept underdeveloped, sometimes by the same states that once colonised them directly. Imperialism acts in the interests of capital once monopolies expand, crossing borders in the hunt for resources. Some of the ways in which this is achieved are via war, coups or anti-democratic meddling. Though the methods of imperialism change and adapt, the goal is always the same, sell off public assets, deregulation, the opening up of markets and giving capitalists free reign to plunder the lands however they see fit. It is for these reasons we must condemn imperialist conquest and interference of these states, for capital in its endless gluttony and hunger for profit, will continue to destroy our planet.
Only a united socialist planned effort can take on the enormous task we face. Many young people understand this fact, we must do our utmost to push our vision forward for time is truly running out.
Anti-Imperialism and Anti-Racism
Our organisation is dedicated to fighting against imperialism and racism. We hope to work alongside groups that campaign against the UK’s direct or indirect involvement and aggression towards other nations, such as Yemen, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. We condemn the UK government for its continued production and sale of weapons to oppressive regimes. We support the rights of refugees and migrants to seek refuge and be provided with the means to live in this country. We utterly condemn the Conservative government’s reactionary policies towards these people. We support the work of activists against the unjust detention of people at Gatwick’s Brook House immigration centre and the deportation of people who call this country their home.
We are committed to the struggle against racism in this country, we wish to aid campaigns challenging institutionalised racism, against police brutality and racial profiling. We support the Black lives matter movement, highlighting that Britain is complicit in the oppression and discrimination of Black people at home and abroad. We stress that Britain must confront its colonial and imperialist past and present, should any significant change to the rights of minority groups be won. The promotion of non-white and non-western, revolutionary thinkers and texts is key to this process. We understand racism as a tool of the ruling class, used to divide the working class against itself. We utterly reject racist reaction and divisive attempts to turn worker against worker. Instead we call for solidarity between all cultural ethic and religious groups, united in the fight against capitalism.
Our organisation is dedicated to educating ourselves and others on the material realities of capitalism, imperialism and reaction. We understand that in order for socialism to materialise, we must first do our utmost to raise class consciousness. Young people today are some of the most prominent voices in the fight for socialism, anti-racism, women’s rights, LGBT+ rights and environmentalism. We must link these struggles together and build a united front that challenges the systems of oppression used to protect, expand and justify capitalism.
We urge young people not to despair in these dark, testing times, but to join our struggle and fight for a better future and the liberation of our class, all oppressed peoples and our planet.
Brighton & East Sussex Branch
Young Communist League