By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Feb 23, 2008 10:10 AM
In the late 1970s the British punk band The Clash wrote and performed “Groovy Times,” a song about a pitched battle between unemployed youth and the cops in the Brixton area of London. The jobs the youth depended on simply didn’t exist any more.
It seems that today the situation is growing very similar for U.S. youth. The Web site of the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in January unemployment among young people ages 16-19 rose steeply, from 15 percent a year ago to 18 percent today. (bls.gov) This dramatic increase has gone largely unreported in the capitalist media.
For many working-class youth, especially those trying to get an education, jobs in the service industries have been their only way of making some money, especially with the virtual dismantling of manufacturing in this country.
On Feb. 5, the Institute for Supply Management reported that an index measuring the service sector of the economy had fallen to its lowest level since 2001, indicating a general economic slowdown. (New York Times, Feb. 6) This announcement was seen as so ominous that it caused big drops in the Asian stock markets that day.
McDonald’s recently announced that sales in its U.S. stores dropped in December, despite modest profit growth for the quarter. Starbucks, a corporation that hires many young people to serve coffee, grew by only 1 percent last year, the worst it’s done “in years.” (businessandmedia.org)
Many service jobs, like supermarket clerks and gas station attendants, are being eliminated altogether. Self-service is replacing workers, many of them youth.
They are coming up against what Marxist-Leninists call overproduction. In a period of economic boom, competition drives the big capitalists to expand the means of production and at the same time cut wages, to the point where the volume of goods and services produced far exceeds what workers can afford to buy—even if they have credit cards. As wages decline and steady factory jobs are stolen from workers, they cannot afford to eat out, even at McDonalds, let alone buy an expensive coffee in the morning.
The view that capitalism is a paradise, created in Ayn Rand novels and other disgusting right-wing propaganda, is becoming a joke to the countless U.S. youth now under the pressure and strain of being unemployed in an economic system incapable of compassion.
Some 2 million U.S. workers are now locked away, the majority of them young people, and most for the victimless crime of selling drugs—something youth are known to turn to when legal means of getting by are less available.
But young people are known for their defiance, their will to resist and their courage against injustice. The recession we face currently could become much worse than the situation British youth faced at the time of the Brixton “riots” that The Clash sang about.
As capitalism deteriorates and millions of youth are up against a wall, they will discover that they have no choice but to stand up, fight back and smash the system that holds them down.
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