“The sovereign body of the League shall be the Congress.”
“Congress decides policy for the whole League.”
Constitution of the Young Communist League of Britain.
In August 2023 the Young Communist League will hold its Congress, the highest decision-making body of our organisation, which takes place every two years. Our last 50th Congress took place in August 2021.
This is the time when members from all across Britain come together, debate and decide the policies and activities of our organisation at the All-Britain level, and examine the work of the outgoing Central Committee (CC) elected at our last Congress in 2021.
Delegates elected by their branches, districts and nations will meet up to update our analysis of the domestic and international situation and our plans for building the YCL and the struggle for Socialism over the next two-year period. Observers and special guests from fraternal organisations will be invited too.
This is one of the most exciting events in the young Communist’s calendar, an opportunity to discuss and socialise with other delegates, think big and develop the potential of our activists and glorious League.
All members have now received notice of our 51st Congress, and have been invited to start the preparations in their branch, district or nation organisation, beginning with the receipt of the Pre-Congress Period Document.
Secretaries have received this document that includes the rules and other relevant documentation, including resolutions of our last Congress, in addition to a timetable and the Pre-Congress Period Statement.
Like a period of initial consultation, the CC has issued this discussion statement to encourage feedback that will inform our outgoing motion to Congress, and kickstart the discussions in League organisations.
Bearing in mind that the Marxist-Leninist political party prides itself on systematic work with the people, and effective analysis of the social, economic and political situation, this necessitates continuous evaluation and re-evaluation at every level of the organisation, sharing debates from the bottom to the top and back down again.
Our form of the political party differs completely from the conception of the bourgeois political party, which in representing some particular class interests, tends to arrive at a political perspective not through objective debate and democratic decision-making, but from the arbitrary decisions of a clique at the top.
In the bourgeois political party, internal elections become a field day for different factions to seize power, as opposed to an opportunity for useful discussions and electing the best person for the responsibility.
With the All-Britain congress as its highest means of expression, inner-party democracy should be practised all the time in the Communist organisation, with faith placed in the democratic consciousness of the membership.
In regular meetings and elections, members should be able to review the work of the organisation and update its political and strategic line, freely express their ideas and criticisms, and receive replies to questions and criticisms from higher levels of the organisation.
Thanks to its organic link to the people, and its leadership based on class consciousness, solidarity and analysis of the objective conditions of the struggle, the Communist organisation has an invaluable and principled role to play in building the democratic anti-monopoly alliance.
Below are reproduced some sections of our Pre-Congress Period Statement, which is meant to kickstart the discussions in League organisations. It is not intended to be a complete overview of the current situation in Britain. Feedback that could be included in the outgoing leadership motion to Congress is welcome, although not obligatory.
I wish all League members the best of luck in their preparations for Congress, and hope that you enjoy this period of decisions and debate!
Anti-racism and anti-fascism
The recent period has seen sickening attacks against migrants and refugees, including children who have been rehomed in Britain, by both the Government and reactionary forces, such as crowded accommodation, ill explained or unexplained deaths and disappearances of these vulnerable people, and public attacks and protests.
These have been exacerbated by the Government’s current policy aim of sending people who they have identified as illegal immigrants or asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing and rehoming.
BAEM women have suffered disproportionately from gender violence, and minorities are more likely to suffer from issues like substandard housing or homelessness, unemployment, low wages and disproportionate discipline and even victimisation and sexual assault by adults in education settings, where children and young people should feel encouraged and safe.
Climate change and the environment
Climate change has impacted crop growth and human health and forced many people from their homes around the world.
The drive to over-accumulation damages the environment and has brought climate catastrophe to our door. Capitalism has broken the relationship between people and nature. Abroad, British multinationals have poisoned lakes, displaced indigenous populations and devastated ecosystems while at home they pollute our air above safe legal limits, damaging the long term health of many people, and build barriers to prevent access to nature.
In the recent period more corporations have taken to so-called “greenwashing”, providing a cover for their damage to the environment. In addition, capitalist interests in green energy, as opposed to oil and gas, have grown.
Culture, leisure and sports
Cuts to local authorities’ budgets for leisure facilities have affected young people, making it harder for those on low incomes to live fit and healthy lifestyles. Since 2011, council-supported youth centres have significantly decreased and youth crime rates have spiked in the same period.
In many cases, the creative arts are too expensive for much of the working class youth to afford, cutting us off from art forms such as theatre that working people have heavily contributed to in the past, and increasingly working class youth cannot pursue interests or careers in the creative arts due to low pay, insecurity and lack of opportunities.
An increase in investment, free membership and free access to sports teams, theatres, museums and other cultural activities and centres would boost the quality of facilities and improve the lifestyles of working class young people.
Over a decade of austerity has meant in practice that equality for all is a sham, as Disabled people have been affected by cuts to public services nine times more often than non-Disabled people.
This has undoubtedly been exacerbated by COVID with NHS treatment facing months and even years of delays, and the effect of Long COVID on tens of thousands of people, in some cases leading to generalised disabilities.
The alienation of young workers in Britain today has led to a social crisis of substance misuse, particularly affecting young people and starting in many cases before the age of fifteen. The presence of drugs and vaping in schools and colleges is widespread.
Instead of removing barriers to the treatment of addiction, the current system criminalises and ostracises alcohol and drug misuse and does not address the issues at their roots. Furthermore, the ease at which young people have been exploited by criminal gangs demonstrates the lack of support from social services and educational institutions, often due to lack of adequate Government investment, as well as the ongoing social crisis in which many young people are falling through the cracks of a broken system.
Austerity has impacted secondary schools and colleges greatly, widening the attainment gap for students from working class families, made worse by the lasting impact of COVID and the so-called cost of living crisis.
The impact of COVID has harmed working class students the most due to the lack of investment in digital infrastructure and leaving many with the prospect of thirty years of debt over disappointing learning environments.
The impact of COVID and other factors have made education an inhospitable environment for many secondary school and college aged students, with many of these institutions facing a crisis in attendance numbers as well as grave generalised mental health problems.
The struggle around housing continues to be one of the most acute and pressing for young people in Britain. Skyrocketing rents, increases in evictions, and a generation of young workers who will never own a home condemned to the unfit-for-purpose private rented sector seems the future for Britain’s working class. A clear and militant response is required to fight back against capitalist profiteering on housing. In Britain one of the clearest routes forward is through the tenants movement, particularly through tenants unions.
Inflation and the cost of living
Inflation has drastically increased and wages have had a real-term decline for decades, yet wage increases are stagnant and working-class families are struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and live dignified lives. More and more people are being forced to work multiple jobs because the current wages are no longer adequate to support them and their families.
The big employers have used the conditions of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine as a smokescreen for increasing the drive for maximum profits at the expense of workers’ living conditions, despite the fact that their enormous wealth has for the most part remained unchanged. Smaller companies have dissolved or been absorbed by larger ones, leading to increasing monopolisation.
The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 sharpened imperialist competition in Europe. While the support of Britain’s Communists for the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine since 2014 remained steadfast, we condemned the Russian invasion as well as the inflammatory role of NATO and other imperialist designs in the region, calling for peace and a negotiated settlement to the carnage.
Latin America has undergone another so-called “Pink Tide” resulting in the formation of various progressive governments. Much like some of the newer movements in Europe, these are all broadly of the left, but remain politically diverse.
Several European countries, including Britain, have been gripped by social and economic crises in the midst of growing social movements, industrial action and working class consciousness.
In the first ever census with questions about LGBT+ status, more than 1.3 million people in England and Wales identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual, with data for Scotland to be released later in 2023. Approximately 10% of the population of Brighton placed themselves in the LGBT+ category.
This amounted to more than 748,000 who identified as gay or lesbian and 624,000 as bisexual, with some 165,000 people who identified as “other” sexual orientations. 262,000 people said their gender identity was different from their sex registered at birth.
LGBT+phobia is still prevalent in Britain today as shown by the greater likelihood of LGBT+ people to experience mental illnesses and discrimination in the workplace, meaning LGBT+ people tend to have lower qualities of life.
The impact of COVID, over a decade of austerity and privatisation has meant that young working class people requiring mental health services, from primary to complex care, have fallen through the cracks.
The alienation of young people and workers has wide-reaching consequences, affecting their education, employment, leisure and physical health.
National Health Service
Austerity and privatisation has led to a healthcare system that is failing its staff and its patients. Key healthcare services have been cut, leaving working class families without essential treatment and many unable to afford basic dental treatment, opticians and prescriptions. COVID has exacerbated the existing issues of the NHS due to the pervasiveness of Long COVID and delaying routine treatments, causing waiting times and lists to skyrocket as well as physical and mental health conditions to deteriorate.
The present period has seen an upsurge in public interest in the dire condition of the NHS as well as activity and militancy from NHS staff and their trade unions for better conditions.
Progressive federalism and the national question
In Scotland, poverty has increased during the sixteen years in government of the Scottish National Party, with more than a quarter of a million children growing up in poverty in Scotland. The SNP has happily passed on Tory cuts to public services as well as implementing their own, and taken power away from local government. They have followed the same policies of privatisation, bailouts of private companies with public money, trade union confrontation, and imperialist rhetoric and support for NATO as the Government of the United Kingdom, in addition to their support for the anti-worker European Union.
In Wales, the effects of the social and economic crisis have been devastating for living conditions, jobs and key industries such as steel. Thousands of skilled jobs have been under threat, for example because of the “competitive” price of imported steel.
Since devolution the Welsh Government led by the Labour Party has been reluctant to use its powers to install any meaningful progress for young people. Wales has remained dependent on foreign direct investment, a situation which has worsened with neoliberal sell-offs in the past two decades and low wages. The Welsh Government has also backed imperialist foreign policy, for example allowing Saudi pilots to train on the territory.
Welsh youth have experienced acute crises in the provision of decent jobs, education, healthcare, housing and public transport, with a dire need for investment alongside democratic control and public ownership. Despite the need of many young people for affordable homes, the number of privately owned properties has only increased. Meanwhile Welsh youth have been forced to move away for work.
Political polarisation in Scotland has reached new heights during the tenure of the SNP, with “nation” being used to obscure the issues of class, impacting the consciousness of working people and the labour movement.
Over the course of decades, public transport has been carved up and privatised, with the taxpayer footing the bill when it inevitably goes wrong. Services are poor, prices considered some of the most expensive in Europe, and routes are lacking, especially in more rural areas.
The current situation of strikes by transport trade unions has highlighted the connivance of the Government with transport operating companies, in addition to their moral bankruptcy on the issue. The Government has consistently intervened in order to prevent negotiations between employers and trade unions, and paid for the employers’ losses on strike days to such an extent that they could have afforded the wage increases demanded by transport workers in the first place.
Sexism and violence against women and girls
The oppression of women is fundamental to the workings of capitalism, with women still earning less than men on average despite equal pay being enshrined in law. Femicides are a weekly occurrence and young women and girls experience a devastating amount of sexual violence in educational settings, in the workplace and in and outside the home.
The last two years has highlighted the institutionalised sexism that exists, particularly within the police, with multiple police officers being suspended for violence against women, including officers charged for rape and indecent assault.
In many educational institutions and workplaces, young women do not feel that their voices are heard. These sexist conditions especially impact boys and girls in schools and colleges.
Strikes and trade unions
Britain has some of the most restrictive anti-trade union laws in Europe, which would be exacerbated by the proposed minimum service level bill, which would allow employers to fine individual workers for going on strike and impose a minimum requirement for key services such as education and transport.
Young workers are more likely to be employed in insecure sectors such as hospitality and face segregated wages and issues such as age discrimination and poor health and safety in these sectors. There is also a grave lack of trade union consciousness among young workers, which the YCL should seek to rectify.
The vote at 16
There are over 1.3 million young people in this age bracket in Britain. They are able to work, pay tax, get married and join the armed forces, but are unable to vote.
Participation in elections is a fundamental human right, which is permitted to sixteen year olds in local elections, elections in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, and elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Parliament.
The Welsh Senedd election that took place in 2021 was the first in which sixteen and seventeen year-olds were able to vote in Wales, with almost half of those eligible to vote registering. Scottish youth within this age bracket have been able to vote since 2014.
Across sectors, young workers are paid significantly less for the same work due to age discrimination in pay being enshrined in law. 78% of employed eighteen to twenty-one year olds earn less than the Government’s so-called “National Living Wage”.
Research commissioned by the Government has demonstrated that most employers use the segregated minimum wage groups to keep costs down, with some companies seeing the potential of a greater reserve army of labour due to the decline in sectors like hospitality for imposing these differentiated wages more often on young workers, with students being a key focus.
The gig economy impacts young people the hardest as young workers disproportionately make up the workforce in insecure sectors.
Robin Talbot, is the YCL’s Chair