By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Jan 23, 2011 7:31 PM
All our lives we’ve been told to work hard, study hard, get an education and go to college. If we just do this, the mythology goes, we can “get ahead” and maybe even “get rich.”
Some of us grew up in relative comfort, getting some of the “glitter” that came from living in an imperialist country.
However, the days of the so-called “American Dream” are over.
We are the generation that takes Adderol, not to “get high,” but to stay up all night studying, and that has to take an endless stream of standardized tests, designed to discredit the public schools and destroy public education.
We’ve certainly worked hard. We are a generation of workaholics. Yet, despite our hard work and high levels of stress, we find ourselves amidst poverty and hopelessness.
There is no factory work for us. There is no house in our future. The hope we’ve been fed about “making it” if we just “try hard enough” is a lie. No matter whether we are college graduates or how skilled, intelligent or determined we may be, we are coming of age amid capitalism’s ruins.
What is waiting for us? A lifetime of minimum wage jobs? Our parents’ basements? Prison? The military? Permanent unemployment?
We want to contribute to the world. We want to have meaningful lives. We want to make a difference. We want to work.
In the past people starved because there was no food. Today we are laid off and some of us are lucky enough to survive on food stamps. But skilled jobs like “short order cook” are not available. Food preparation is now assembly line work, with no skill necessary.
To find work these days, we must not only compete with other unemployed youth, but with laid-off older workers, who are adjusting to “low-wage jobs” after factories and offices closed their doors or downsized.
We find ourselves desperately trying to find a place to live, while countless homes are foreclosed and sit vacant. No one is hiring us for construction.
We may get some temporary work tearing down auto plants where our parents labored or schools abandoned in a “budget crisis.”
A different kind of ‘hard work’ needed
There is a grain of truth about “working hard.” It’s the only way to hope for a better future. The “hard work” that is our generation’s duty is to build a revolutionary, working-class youth movement.
In the 1930s Depression, working people formed “unemployment councils.” They demanded, “Jobs or income now!” They said, “Fight or starve!” and “A job is a right!” When families were evicted from their homes, communities fought the cops and put them back in. When workers feared layoffs, they took over factories, which accounted for more than 500 sit-down strikes.
The students of that era formed a “National Youth Congress.” They demanded free college for all, an end to campus racism and discrimination, and a jobs program for unemployed youth. Students against War & Fascism, the Young Communist League, the Young People’s Socialist League, the Young Pioneers, Students for Industrial Democracy and countless other groups fought back.
They understood that millions of youth weren’t unemployed because they didn’t work or study hard enough. They knew that unemployment was a result of the capitalist system, where a wealthy few control resources and only hire workers when it’s profitable.
Youth were in the vanguard of the Black Liberation struggle in the 1960s, sitting in at lunch counters, taking over campus buildings and marching to demand justice, integration and equality. A fighting spirit put an end to the military draft in the 1970s.
In recent days, Tunisian youth helped topple a repressive U.S.-backed regime. Young people in Haiti protest the U.S.-U.N. occupation and phony election. French, British, Italian, Greek and Puerto Rican youth are battling attacks on workers’ and students’ rights and benefits. Latin American youth fight for socialism and against the U.S.-backed fascist regime in Honduras.
Youth are leaders in defending Cuba’s socialist system. North Korean youth mobilize as the threat of war looms. Palestinian youth are the backbone of the anti-Zionist struggle.
When will U.S. youth join the world’s young people? When will we rise up? Building a revolutionary movement is the only choice we have. The work will be hard and not all fun and glory. The ruling class will try to stop us. We will need youth who are courageous, eager to take risks and willing to make sacrifices, who have the fearlessness and rage often found only in youth. What choice do we have? If we want a future, we have to forge it for ourselves.
This is a chance to have meaning in our lives that so many of us are missing. We have the potential to be the generation that finally tears down capitalism and builds a future where profits no longer rule. It’s time.
Maupin is a member of the youth group, Fight Imperialism, Stand< Together (FIST).
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