Back in 2012 the concept of a “graduate without a future” briefly entered the zeitgeist. Paul Mason was among its key proponents, finding a commonality between the Arab Spring, the anti-austerity movement in Greece and the student protests in the UK: a social strata of young educated people with no prospects who became the driving force of opposition to the “system”.
These aspirations vanished quickly. Instead we saw the rise of new dictators in the Arab world, Syriza implementing austerity in Greece, and the fruitless saga of Corbynism in the UK (for which Mason himself became a mouthpiece). The system remained in place and, more than that, further misery was unleashed through repression and the slow grinding of the capitalist crisis. Now the pandemic has only darkened an already bleak picture.
We are facing global environmental collapse, the so-called Anthropocene extinction. The debt mountain is growing and capital is struggling to find profitable avenues of investment. Imperialist tensions proliferate from continent to continent. Reactionary tendencies have gained a foothold, mobilising thousands. Jobs are scarce and we can’t even socialise in fear of infecting those closest to us. But we don’t need to tell you all this. The simplest way to worsen your mood nowadays is to simply open the news.
More than ever, it seems clear that working class youth, whether graduates or not, have no future under capitalism. If previous generations could be to some degree bought off with the promise of upwards social mobility, the ruling class today seems to have nothing to offer us except “business as usual”. Unless that is you find attractive Elon Musk’s vision of indentured slavery on Mars or Mohammed bin Salman’s zero-carbon metropolis for the rich. If the prospect of living on a dying planet weren’t depressing enough, there is a general sense that younger generations will be materially worse off than their parents’ generations. No surprise then that many have turned to cynicism and escapism as the only solace.
Capitalism has previously bounced back from even the most improbable scenarios (the revolutionaries around the time of the First World War initially thought it had only a couple more years left of its shelf life!). It’s not out of the question that this system, the most dynamic yet, will still find a way out. But at what cost? For us that’s a rhetorical question: we know the price is already being paid by the working class, the great majority of the world population.
The ruling class has not only shown itself to be unable to deal with the crisis, it has failed to even follow the advice of its own scientific advisers. And yet it still has a secret weapon up its sleeve: the poison that it’s drip fed humanity in the course of past centuries and that’s now taking its toll. The system is still able to churn out various ideologies of division and distraction. Both the left and the right are complicit. Both want to preserve the outdated economic base to tinker with the political superstructure. We say the problem is the capitalist mode of production itself, which is not only past its sell by date but is slowly killing us.
There may be no future if the working class is unable to shake off its torpor. But our class has never won anything without a fight. And it is in that fight that we can reforge what we lost, that solidarity and consciousness which links us all together. We internationalist communists can’t promise you anything, except what the working class can win and consolidate through its own struggle. But what we can do is show the way forward, provide a political perspective which distinguishes causes from effects, and raise the internationalist banner: another world is not only possible but necessary.
22 January 2021