Now is the time for working people and the youth to seize the initiative

Johnnie Hunter, YCL General Secretary & Challenge Editor

Young Communist League General Secretary, Johnnie Hunter, outlines the importance of the People’s Assembly national demonstration on 26 June 2021 and the need to build a mass movement against austerity and for socialism across Britain.

The People’s Assembly’s national demonstration comes together in London today against a desperate backdrop for working people.

Well over 130,000 people have died during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of these deaths were preventable. Millions of workers have been thrown into poverty or on the scrap heap. A whole generation of young people have had their lives and education carelessly disrupted and their futures thrown into doubt. Ruling class and Tory incompetence is to blame for all of this.

Working people are still enduring a decade long ruling class offensive, vicious attacks on pay and conditions and austerity and privatisation aimed at shoring up profits in the City of London. All of this to ensure we pay for the 2008 Financial Crisis. After COVID-19, another deep capitalist crisis is already looming, years in the making, but accelerated by the pandemic. The ruling class and their Tory Party have the same plan. Make working people pay through austerity and privatisation and use the opportunity to protect profits by attacking pay and living standards.

But working people and the youth are far from powerless in all this. When we come together, united, we’re invincible, we have the power to make history. We’ve seen that clearly during this pandemic. We have the power to ‘demand a new normal’.

In the early days of COVID-19, it wasn’t the Tories who guaranteed safety precautions in the workplace, in schools or on campuses. It was workers and our trade unions who demanded and won these victories, crucial victories that prevented an even more horrific death toll. It was pressure from workers and trade unions that ensured the first national lockdown was implemented in the face of Tory wavering, incompetence and indifference.

Throughout the pandemic tenants’ organisations up and down the country have led the struggle to oppose exploitative landlords, winning stunning victories along the way by organising in communities at the grassroots level. The nationwide eviction bans that have been won have been a lifeline for working people.

Universities, landlords and other profiteers have tried to try to extract as much as possible from students across Britain during the pandemic, charging the same fees for Zoom classes, luring students back to campus and tying them into eye-watering rental agreements. Students haven’t taken this lying down. Leading from the front, rent strikes and occupations have spread across the country with victories being won across the board. At the University of Manchester alone students won a 30% rent reduction – a £12 million payout.

Electrified by events in the USA and through the Black Lives Matter movement, working people and particularly the youth have come together to drive forward the fight for racial equality and justice throughout the pandemic.

Women across Britain, determined to combat sexism, misogyny and epidemic levels of gender-based violence, have taken to the streets to demand real change, facing down a Tory government and their police in the process.

History shows us that wherever working people stand up for their rights there is always hope. The strength of our movement is to be found in all of the thousands of struggles, big and small, which are taking place up and down this country.

But it’s not enough to know what you’re against. It’s not enough just to resist the unrelenting attacks of the ruling class. We have to stand for a clear and tangible alternative for working people. A genuine and recognisable alternative to Tory corruption, incompetence and austerity.

The Young Communist League is clear that young people face an unfolding disaster under capitalism in Britain. Our Youth Charter is a positive set of policies to combat the immediate crisis, to offer some relief and help build unity for change.

These aren’t just policies for the YCL, these are demands for the broad working class and student movements which can be translated into those struggles taking place every day in our schools, campuses, communities and workplaces. The policies provide that broad basis for a mass movement for progressive change among young people. These demands and the struggle to achieve them ask the fundamental questions about economic ownership and democratic control in our country.

2021 is the YCL’s centenary year, marking 100 years of the ideas and principles, the comrades and the struggles which have guided and shaped young communists for a century. But 100 years hasn’t changed one crucial fact – for working people and the youth, our victory lies in bringing together all the struggles that are taking place today into a mass movement which can change society. The People’s Assembly can be key in building that mass movement today – let’s make 26 June 2021 the decisive turning point.

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Johnnie Hunter
General Secretary
Young Communist League

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