Prospects for the new youth movement
By ADAM RICHTER
This last year has seen a virtual explosion of youth activism across the United States and beyond.
This is a very important development; thousands of young people are searching for how to best fight the evils of capitalism and build a better world.
A major component of this new radical activity overall has been termed the “anti-corporate movement.” “Anti-corporate” is a very vague term, but is appropriate considering the diverse elements and the numerous unsettled debates raging within, concerning everything from what is the exact mission of the movement to what tactics are appropriate for it.
The new anti-corporate movement is in reality a coming together of a wide range of existing movements that have been active for some time. Among them are the environmental, anti-sweatshop, Third World solidarity, and anti-racism movements, along with a number of individuals and organizations from the anarchist and socialist movements.
The anti-corporate movement is not a single issue campaign like an anti-war movement. It’s not something that has a steering committee, or a National Office that you can write to for more information.
It can’t even be called a coalition of the above mentioned movements and groups, for while there has been a lot of collaboration and planning behind many of the actions (like Seattle), for the most part it’s far more informal than that.
It is something more akin to the New Left movement of the 1960s, representing a revolt against capitalism and capitalist ideology, but in a very amorphous and confused way.
This “decentralization” has been held up by many in the movement as one of its strengths, making the claim that such a model allows people from all kinds of different political backgrounds and with different preferences in terms of tactics to come together. Others within the movement, though, are beginning to seriously question the effectiveness of this, citing the lack of direction and focus in the movement that has resulted.
A good example of this debate was seen at the recent national conference of United Students Against Sweatshops, which became split between the “non-hierarchical” wing and those favoring a more centralized and professionally organized organization.
While the current disorganized state of the anti-corporate movement is a serious handicap, the debate about it is a healthy one. As Marxists we have the opportunity to participate with our experiences in the trade unions and other forms of mass organizing, which illustrate the need for organization and direction-as well as democratic decision-making.
At the same time, we can help develop the anti-corporate movement into something that rather than releasing steam in any and every direction can instead focus it on specific targets on the national and international level and thus become much more effective.
As Marxists we have the perspective that the working class and its allies have to rise up and overthrow capitalism in order to build a better world, but how to introduce this perspective to students and other young people in a way that will speak to their experiences is a tricky matter.
In some ways the generic “anti-corporateness” of this new movement is an advantage since there are many activists in it who are already looking at the big picture and are receptive to revolutionary politics in their entirety. But the unevenness of the consciousness of the movement overall, and its disorganization, necessitate initiating campaigns around specific demands and coordinating these campaigns by building mass-action coalitions on the national level.
There’s much more that could be said about the anti-corporate movement, and about the question of “what is to be done.” This article is no more than a humble attempt to grapple with the questions before us, and to begin a more in-depth discussion.
We encourage readers to send in their responses and reactions to what is said above. For our part, we pledge to continue this discussion with more articles and discussion pieces in the future.
Al Gore: the Pinocchio
By STEPHANIE JOHNSON and ADAM RICHTER
As socialists, we know better than to ever vote for the Democrats or Republicans. The Dems and Reps are dishonest, distasteful, and often downright boring. And we know they’d take the lone slice of white bread out of our hungry hands to feed to some rich donor’s fluffy little toy poodle.
Despite this (perhaps due to some latent masochism) we somehow ended up sitting in front of the TV for hours, waiting for Al Gore’s Democratic convention acceptance speech.
First came Al’s family members taking the stage and a lengthy video featuring previously unreleased footage of Al Gore the Warm-Blooded Human Being. Then the clouds parted and there he was.
Forget all of the jokes of the past eight years regarding his stiffness. We now know him to be a loving father, a rowdy (and randy) husband, and an idealistic political warrior: the Prince of the Democratic Party.
Ever so casually he meandered out onto center stage, waving and smiling at his adoring legions. Then he began to speak-you know, with the unique (and less than convincing) Tennessee drawl of a man who spent most of his life in Washington, D.C.
That’s when we should have cut our losses and quit, friends. What followed was an almost unbelievable mosaic of colorful contradictions, fluff, and plain old hoo-hah.
It turns out Al is a pretty big man, determined to gather all Americans into his warm embrace.
How else could you characterize a man who says he is thrilled to death by the prosperity of Wall Street and the huge profits that have been made by big business during the Clinton-Gore administration, and then in the next breath appeal to working families to support him in “making the American dream a reality”?
Yes, Al had something in his speech for everyone! He had socially conservative themes that would feel right at home in a rally promoting Pat Buchanan’s “culture war.” He had pleas to defend our environment. He proudly lauded welfare reform. He threw the phrase “working families” into every other sentence. He even at one point had the heart to say that he would not forget the mentally ill if elected president!
By the end of that speech we weren’t sure who we had just heard: it could have been Pat Buchanan, Franklin Roosevelt, or even George Washington!
Why do you suppose that was, folks? Here’s a theory: we’re 23 years old, and neither of us can remember a single time when his “liberal” party did a thing for anyone we know. We half expected Al’s nose to shoot out 15 feet from all the lies and half-truths he was spouting.
The Democrats, supposedly a “farmer-labor” party (at least, up in Minnesota, where we live), have long claimed to be a friend to working people, Blacks, Latinos, and women, as well as to the environment, etc. Yet all they’ve ever done was kick working people in the teeth at every opportunity.
They claim we’re living in boom times, but nobody outside of Wall Street believes it. In fact, instead of the oodles of jobs and positively “touched lives” that the Democrats claim to have given us in the last eight years, all that Al and his buddy Bill have really given us is welfare reform, slashed affirmative action, U.S. troops and bombers dispersed around the world and-despite Gore’s many inferences that his blood is nothing less than a healthy, foresty shade of green-more destruction of our national forests than that of any other administration in our country’s history.
Well, guess what? You can only kick someone in the mouth so many times before they start to develop some less than fond feelings for your boot. That’s why you’ve suddenly got an Al Gore with the phrase “working families” tattooed to his forehead. Of course he’s still got the same “butcher the poor to feed the rich” politics, but he’s trying to get people to pucker up for the Democratic Party’s boot one more time.
Will it work? Maybe. Though with fewer and fewer people voting, and with even less feeling like the government is at all concerned about them, we’d say that the days of the Democrats and Republicans are numbered. According to the Newsweek of Aug. 28, in 1980 people making under $30,000 a year comprised 47 percent of registered voters; by 1998 that figure was down to 26 percent.
Working people aren’t stupid. We know when we’re getting a raw deal. But, unfortunately, most people don’t see an alternative-yet. That’s an opportunity for us reading this newspaper. As socialists we understand that the only acceptable alternative will not come in the form of another pro-business party like the Reform Party, or even the Greens. What we need is a working-class alternative-a party by and for working people.
We now have the opportunity and responsibility to reach out to people fed up with the status quo and offer them our alternative. We invite all our readers and supporters to join us in this by distributing this paper, organizing discussions with their friends and coworkers, and joining Socialist Action or Youth for Socialist Action!