Youth: Lived experience compels Marxism

January 30, 2021

From the January-February 2021 issue of News & Letters

No matter how you frame capitalism, there is no way to wipe it clean. We have to start with a conception of society centered on the development of humans. So what is socialism?

I can’t believe there are Marxists who still call China socialist. China has imperialist ambitions to control the world. How is that socialism? China’s slogan now is “we must have exploitation now to ban it tomorrow.” Such a view looks at tomorrow through the realities of today. Marx, on the other hand, measures past and future from a post-capitalist human-centered standpoint.

The Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, etc., want a post-capitalist society, too. They critique the current situation from the perspective of the future, not the past. The Sunrise Movement was founded in 2017 by youth who are dissatisfied by where the planet and society are headed. It has as its basic principle a society free from the faults of the previous generation: climate chaos, wars, McCarthyism, etc. It’s a generation that wants to wipe things clean and start over. They explicitly turn away from the nationalism of “us” vs. “them” and try to figure out what internationalism is that is not just global exploitation.


Extinction Rebellion seeks to end extinction of life on the planet and bring about a society free of the problems of today’s world. Such a society would respect the planet and all its inhabitants. They are one part of a movement whose prominent spokespeople include Greta Thunberg and even Bill Nye on one occasion.

Greta Thunberg represents the youth of the world looking for an alternative to capitalism’s destruction of life. Youth climate strikes, which happened all over the world, including countries such as China and Saudi Arabia, were a spontaneous movement, which included people with various views but all united in their desire to end the climate catastrophe. At the European Parliament on April 16, 2019, she said: “Our civilization is so fragile it is almost like a castle built in the sand. The facade is beautiful but the foundation is far from solid.”

Marx, too, saw that capitalism was on an absolute collision course with humanity and nature. Marx’s original concept of socialism as human development, which has been so tarnished by statist “Marxists,” speaks to today’s youth. The youth may not know Marx, but their lived experience brings them to similar views.


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