Youth on the move

December 1, 2013

From the November-December 2013 issue of News & Letters:

Youth again ready to storm the barricades

New York City—Whenever you go to demonstrations, whether it is fast food workers demanding a living wage and a union where they work, or immigrants demanding total legalization now instead of a phony 14-year “path to citizenship,” or marches after the Trayvon Martin verdict, young people are playing a major role in the struggles for social justice and equal rights.

It was young people who defied the government and declared, “Yes, we are illegals, arrest us.” It was the young “Dreamers” who occupied the Governor of Florida’s office after the Trayvon Martin verdict. It was students at the City College of New York that protested when the architect of U.S. torture, David Petraeus, was given a teaching position there.


The Latino carwash workers who fought for a union and justice on the job were overwhelmingly young. At the protests against recent police murders of unarmed young people in New York, it has been young Black and Latino youth who have taken the lead. Even on the picket lines at Trade Fair markets there was a youthful spirit and presence.

Youth don’t confine themselves to labor issues. The volunteers who got Word Up bookstore up and running were youth from the neighborhood, and Word Up breathes the spirit of youthful optimism.

Who can forget the powerful—and continuing—youthful passion of the Occupy movement? It was the young who took Zuccotti Plaza, who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and who held the Park when Bloomberg threatened to evict them. When the word of the planned eviction came out, young people from all over New York raced to the park to fight for its survival.


It is students who participated in fights against standardized testing in Seattle, New York, and New Jersey, and supported the Chicago teachers’ strike. Women’s organizations too are pushed to be more radical in fighting the Right by their young members. At a number of campuses there is resistance to the corporatization of education. Youth are on the move, proving themselves a force for revolution.

Even if the struggle seems to be just for higher wages or better working conditions, in truth young people are attacking the very idea that capital has a right to exploit them. They are, in every strike, march or rally, saying no to the American system. This is a revolutionary act.

For millions of young people, it is a question of life or death. Young mothers have had WIC benefits, which help feed their babies, cut or eliminated. High school dropouts and graduates alike cannot find work and are forced to join the military or deal drugs to survive. College graduates join the ranks of the unemployed, willing to do any job because they have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off.

Young immigrants live and work in constant fear of arrest, trial and deportation. Young women may have to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion, because nearby clinics were shut down by a right-wing misogynist state government. All these and more live the reality of capitalism in the U.S.

Does it have to be this way? Revolutionaries say no, there is a better way: unite, and become part of the movement that has the power to fundamentally change the systems that now dominate the world. Become a revolutionary and dedicate your life to the revolutionary struggle. That is the task of our time.

—Michael Gilbert

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