Young people in Britain are coming of age in an era of huge crises that neoliberalism has proved itself incapable of solving. In the elections for Young Labour and Labour Students, we can build a movement for something different.

For us, as for millions of other young people in Britain today, our formative political experiences were ones of intractable crises and struggles: the Iraq War, the housing crisis, the Financial Crash, increasing tuition fees, austerity, deteriorating working conditions, the oppression of Palestine, a badly mismanaged pandemic, the worst in a century, escalating state authoritarianism, ecological breakdown, and, now, the greatest collapse in living standards in nearly seventy years. We’ve grown up trying to make sense of the mounting inequality around us, and to find a way out.

Our generation faces lower living standards and lower life expectancy as compared to our parents’. The neoliberal settlement established over forty years ago skewed class generationally. Decent housing and livelihoods are out of reach for millions; our futures are mortgaged through debt and insecurity to sustain the profits of bosses, landlords, and financiers. From the Financial Crash and its aftermath to Covid and the soaring cost of living, our generation has been made to pay the price for the resulting catastrophes.

These crises are not incidental events: they are the necessary structural consequences of the financialised accumulation, ecological destruction, and imperial geopolitics on which capitalism runs. The vast majority of our generation on the losing side of this class war face a stark choice—organise in our workplaces, communities, and at the ballot box to turn things around and transform our society, or pay the price of a diminished life.

Young people and students have not lived passively through these crises. From youth climate strikes and Black Lives Matter to activism at the workplace and as tenants, we’ve mobilised to win a better world. As young students, renters, and workers, we know that the path to real power passes through our workplaces and communities, as well as the ballot box. Only by uniting the voice of the trade union movement, the anti-war movement, the student movement, the anti-racism movement, and more can the Labour Party speak for working-class communities and win the power to push through real change.

The year 2019 wasn’t just a defeat for the Labour Party, it was a defeat for the hopes and needs of millions of people. In its wake, there has been a concerted campaign to drive these political hopes from public life. The press is awash with smear stories about students and young people, targeting Muslims and trans people in particular. ‘They hate free speech’, ‘they want to rewrite history’, ‘they’re snowflakes too soft for real-life struggles’—these are the wrong assumptions with which the Tories attack our democratic rights, our education, and our living standards.

It is clearer with each passing week that the Tories aim to erode the younger generation’s political confidence, sow despair, and divide in order to rule. Despondency finds footholds among people already suffering financially and mentally, with levels of mental illness at a record high. Efforts to build youth and student labour groups have been hamstrung across the country by pandemic isolation.

Voices of despair insist that there is nothing to be done but retreat from politics and sustained political organising—but they are lying. These are the siren calls of those who amass profit and power from our exploitation, and they are counting on our apathy to keep it that way. From the NHS to the welfare state and public education, the labour movement has surmounted and won over difficult conditions before.

Today, councils such as Preston and Salford have used community wealth building to improve the lives of working people despite years of austerity. In Chile, the election of former student activist Gabriel Boric has brought in a government committed to social, climate, and economic justice. There is still plenty of hope amid the attempts to grind us into despair.

Throughout the pandemic, young people in cities like Glasgow have led unprecedented unionising drives of predominantly young women hospitality workers. Tenants’ unions such as ACORN have grown their membership and organising capacity, and defended tenants from eviction and abuse. Students have organised dozens of rent strikes across the country, winning rent reductions and millions in rent repayments.

Last year, young people were the backbone of the largest ever Palestine solidarity mobilisations in British history. Young Labour helped pass policy committing the party to sanction Israel for the first time, while youth climate strikes and Black Lives Matter have dramatically raised our generation’s consciousness of climate crisis and racist state violence.

We’re running for Young Labour and the new National Labour Students national committees with the Socialist Future team of candidates drawn from all these movements and more. We have worked to support the organising of young people, lobbied the party in support of the rent strikes, mobilised for Labour conferences, and campaigned in schools across the country.

We have won a democratised student wing, one in which every student member has a voice, and for the first time in our party trans people have representation. Alongside a socialist youth wing, the new Labour Students should become an important vehicle to strengthen the student movement in the face of Tory marketisation, attacks on educational freedom, and our living standards.

We know what it’s like to be excluded from spaces which should exist to empower us. We know that to organise effectively we need to build cultures of collective care and commitment, which welcome people where they’re at and give us the space to learn. Where the Labour Party has too often taken for granted the communities which form its base, we want to make Young Labour and Labour Students a political home for Muslim, trans, and other marginalised and working-class young people.

We’re standing in these elections to fight back against the cost of living crisis and strengthen our organising from workplaces to communities, and from our campuses to the ballot box. We’re standing to build up grassroots youth and student groups in every corner of the country, providing political education that expands our understanding of the world and our capacity to change it. We need to build mass youth and student wings to answer despair with socialist solutions and become the vehicles for the hopes and struggles of our generation.

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