U.S. young people show their discontent with capitalism

BY:Lisa Bergmann| November 29, 2011
U.S. young people show their discontent with capitalism


The following is Young Communist League leader Lisa Bergman’s speech to the World Federation of Democratic Youth meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 9-12.

The Young Communist League USA stands firmly, as it always has, united with all of you against U.S. imperialism, greed, and war.

I will do my best to paint a picture for you about what is happening with the youth movement in the United States right now, but please feel free to find me and ask me questions after my remarks if there is something specific you would like to know about that I do not cover.

Youth in the United States are shouting at the top of their lungs that the U.S. capitalist economic system has failed them. It offers them no future, no educational prospects, and no economic stability. High school students in urban communities are regularly losing their friends to violence. Students are graduating from university with record amounts of debt. Young people in general cannot find work to establish economic independence from their parents.

It is for these reasons and many others that thousands of youth in the United States are taking to the streets to demand a better world.

Inspired by the Arab Spring and other youth movements in Europe and Latin America, the Occupy Wall Street Movement began in the heart of the U.S. capitalist system, and has now spread to more than 300 cities in the United States. Occupy is predominantly a youth movement, calling attention to the unprecedented wealth inequalities that exist in our country. 

Indeed, in the U.S. now, the wealthiest 1% of the country’s population owns 35% of the nation’s wealth. While the participants in the Occupy movement are members of a wide variety of groups, they all identify as part of the 99% of people who do not have access to the country’s wealth.

The U.S. labor movement has been one of the strongest allies to the Occupy movement.  Other participants in the Occupy movement include peace activist groups, veterans, elected officials, immigrant rights groups, and of course the Communist Party USA and the Young Communist League!

The Young Communist League, even though we are in a re-building phase, has participated in Occupy in every city where we exist, and has even initiated the Occupy chapters in some cities. Leaders of the Young Communist League and leaders of the Communist Party have been arrested in Chicago on two separate occasions during police raids on the Occupy movement.

Also, the networks of student-labor alliances in the country have achieved a new level of coordination and power. I had the privilege of attending the AFL-CIO’s  “Next Up” conference in September, where 800 young workers and leaders gathered to plot the future of the union movement in the U.S. Student leaders there reported winning many victories on university campuses. For example, under the direction of United Students Against Sweatshops, students at over 15 universities nationwide have built a successful campaign to end their universities’ contracts with the food service provider Sodexo because of corporate giant’s violations of workers rights in the U.S. and elsewhere. The labor movement, in general, has made dramatic investments in young people over the last period of time.

Young people are also leading the fight for job creation. The Young Communist League has been collecting signatures nationwide in support of President Obama’s “American Jobs Act”, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s “Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act.” If passed, these bills would create over 4.2 million new jobs in the U.S.

Last week, in the city where I live, the Young Communist League and other youth led a march of 200 people in support of jobs for youth and jobs for all.

I will highlight why the fight for jobs is so important.  Right now we have 25 million people who are unemployed and looking for work in the United States. This is therefore the worst economy we have had since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The youth employment rate has dropped to 48.8 percent, which is the lowest on record since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this number in 1948. As racism remains a major factor in access to education and employment in U.S. society, for African American and Latino youth the employment rate is much lower. Students who take out loans to go to college are graduating with an average debt of over $25,000. College graduates have an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.

Youth unemployment has also exacerbated violence amongst youth in urban communities. In my small city of New Haven, Conn., 29 people, mostly young men of color, have been killed this year. The most recently killed was only 13 years old.

In Chicago, in one May weekend alone, six people were killed and twenty-one were injured by gun violence. That same weekend, 1,000 youth were part of a gang-related fight on Carson Beach in South Boston. In general, the Center for Disease Control reports that youth violence is the second leading cause of death for young people in the U.S.

As I mentioned earlier, The Young Communist League is in a period of re-building in the United States, and has been for the last year and a half. We are making good progress. We held 5 YCL schools in the last year, in Los Angeles, New Haven, Chicago, Florida, and Texas. At the schools we taught classes about Marx and Lenin, the labor movement, ending racism, and other topics. Also, hundreds of youth are joining the Young Communist League every month online.

Because youth are so disillusioned with capitalism in the U.S. right now, this moment is a huge opportunity for building solidarity with and awareness of countries where socialism or communism exist as the dominant system. This includes Cuba and the growing anti-imperialist governments in Latin America. This past weekend the Communist Party USA and the YCL held a joint meeting on building solidarity with Cuba and the Cuban Five.

Finally, I will speak briefly about the 2012 elections in the U.S. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a tremendous victory for the people of the United States and indeed for people all over the world. The election of our first African American president has been a huge blow to the entrenched racism in our country. Young people are a reason that Obama won the presidency, as he earned 66 percent of the youth vote. Obama continues to push policies that benefit working-class people in the United States. And Republicans continually block these policies to make Obama look ineffective. 

Youth in the United States also have major disappointments with the Obama administration that cannot be ignored. These include the large number of people who have been deported during his presidency due to immigration issues. (The number exceeds the number deported during Bush’s presidency.) These also include his foreign policy towards Libya, Cuba, Afghanistan, and other regions where aggressive imperialist policy has continued. We in the Young Communist League USA look forward to working with all of you to push the U.S. government to reach a cooperative, rather than imperialist, approach to foreign policy around the world.

That said the fight for jobs and for real solutions must include reelecting Obama in 2012. If youth, whether in the Occupy movement or elsewhere, do not want to work with any politician, then being absent from the political process is only allowing the ultra-right wing to build power.

Reelection will also allow working people to continue to focus on building a viable movement for themselves in the United States that will be in a position to stand in solidarity with working people throughout the world.

Activist and author Angela Davis, when visiting Occupy Wall Street on Oct. 31, said, “It is up to US to build a movement. And it is up to Obama to respond to that movement. But he cannot do it on his own.”

Thank you so much for your time, Comrades! Thank you again for having us at the assembly and we look forward to working with all of you in solidarity.

Photo: Occupy Chicago (John Bachtell/PeoplesWorld.org)







    Lisa Bergmann works as an organizer for the Young Communist League USA.

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