Why the Young Hate Capitalism

I've been meaning to write this article for a couple of weeks now, but I've been somewhat side-tracked, what with my wife just giving birth to our baby daughter and me having a bazillion things to get sorted at home. But things have finally settled down, giving me time to actually write, and today's outburst from Keith Starmer, sorry, I mean Sir Keith Starmer has presented the perfect opportunity to finally get the article done.

If you're unsure what outburst I'm talking about, Sir Keith was addressing some of his fellow Tories in Blackpool, who were coming up with the usual tripe about how young people "don't want to work these days", and rather than defend the exploited workers his party was founded to represent, Sir Keith responded with some crap about how "you will always find people who don't want to work".

If you're anything like me, those words probably made you shudder because they could only come from the mouth of someone detached from the real world. It's not work people fear, it's exploitation, and the exploited are the hardest working people among us by far.

For the longest time, I genuinely believed hard work would be the route out of poverty, the doorway to a better life, but capitalism had other ideas. I went from being top of my year at school to long-term unemployed at an age I could and should have been attending university. It would be easy for a comfortable person to dismiss me as someone who didn't want to work, that my circumstances were the result of my failings, but the truth is that when a young person finds themselves in my position, it is not their fault, it is the fault of the system.

In Denmark, they will actually pay you to go to university, whereas in the UK, I was ordered to drop out of college because otherwise the DWP were going to stop my benefits. I'd already paid money for exams I was not allowed to sit and the college refused to provide a refund, knowing what a desperate position I was in, even though the exams were 18 months away. I then found myself out of college and in the impossible position of competing for jobs I was "overqualified for" while sleeping on my friend's couch.

Employers didn't want to give me a job because they would point-blank say my grades were too good and I should be at college or university! They would say obviously a guy like me won't stick around for two minutes on their minimum wage job, but when I applied for better paid jobs, I did not even get a reply. Those jobs required better qualifications. I was caught in the middle. And one thing I certainly fucking wasn't was work shy.

I remember when I finally did get a job, I was volunteering to work every hour under the sun, pushing myself to the limit, doing everything I possibly could to impress while working myself to exhaustion for shitty wages. In my naivety, it never occurred that my bosses weren't interested in being impressed by me, they just wanted to grab me by the balls. 

Our line managers wanted the credit and rewards for our hard work, knowing if they gave the credit to us, that might've meant one of us taking their jobs. Their managers just wanted to ensure our managers were ensuring we made them ever richer while performing our monotonous tasks during our 12 hour shifts for essentially no financial reward. 

When your wages are only covering your basics, and only when you're working so much overtime, you would have no time for a social life, even if you could afford it, you are not an employee, you are a slave with the right to find another slave owner.

We were being spoken to like shit while working our socks off, and we were all depressed when it finally dawned the job was essentially our lives, other than going home to sleep or pay bills, and really it was no way to live. It was the kind of thing which inevitably breeds resentment, but what did we know? We were Generation Entitlement.

We, who worked longer hours and had fewer opportunities and were seeing living standards fall before our eyes, we were entitled and workshy and the people exploiting us were the deserving ones. Laughable.

Here's the thing: there is no such thing as a person who does not want to work. You probably immediately rejected that statement, but think it through and you'll realise it's entirely true.

Humans evolved to live collectively and work together for the common good. When people live this way, that's when they are at their happiest. Take, for example, hunter-gatherers in the Amazon living the way we all once lived. Not only do we find they are the most contented people on Earth, we also find they are perfectly happy to work with one another for the common good. There are no shirkers in their tribes. Why? Because there is no exploitation.

Most humans instinctively want to care for one another, most of the time, to make life better for ourselves and for the people around us. 

Just imagine if we were all doing worthwhile jobs like installing solar panels and building wind turbines instead of chasing people for unpaid bills in call centres or serving junk food in McDonald's. Imagine the sense of pride we'd have knowing our contribution mattered, rather than working some non-job arbitrarily created by capitalism for the sole purpose of making profit with no underlying moral purpose.

Life should be about furthering humanity and taking everyone along with us, not leaving people behind.

If everyone was earning at least a living wage and sharing in the successes of their companies and appreciated for their contributions and treated reasonably and expected to work reasonable hours, how many people would be shirking? The answer is not many and it would be pretty easy to give those that did shirk a nudge because they wouldn't be so exhausted and depressed. 

Capitalists are sometimes their own worst enemies. Just look at Sweden and how its 30-hour work week saw productivity shooting up. Apparently there are better ways to motivate people than threatening them with unemployment and destitution. Who knew?

Capitalism has exploited the best elements of our nature to serve capital interests, while appealing to the worst parts of our nature to ensure we remain compliant and protect the broken system. And it's a system that truly is broken. The only people who can't see that have not found themselves in an exploitable position - the people with privilege.

There is a particular irony that most of these privileged people come from a generation which benefitted so greatly from an idea they despise so much; that idea being socialism.

Imagine being a person in a high-powered job who enjoyed the privilege of free university tuition, then fought tooth and nail to ensure younger generations were denied that same privilege. Imagine thinking it's fairer to you that they either start working life tens of thousands of pounds in debt, or don't attend university at all. Imagine climbing the ladder of socialism and kicking it down, then placing a tax on aspiration. That's what the Tory boomers did.

If these people truly believe it's right and proper that students pay tuition fees, then surely they should repay the cost of their university tuition, plus all the interest they would've accrued. How can anyone sensibly argue against this? No reasonable person could, but the sad truth is, these people never were interested in a fair system, they were only ever interested in accumulating and consolidating their own wealth, no matter the difficulty this would cause for the generations who came after them. That is the conservative mindset.

University tuition fees is just one example, of course, but it's such a strong example because it represents one of the biggest barriers to social mobility. It ensures people like me find it almost impossible to aspire to better and are forever trapped in the struggle, working crappy, underpaid jobs.

Once upon a time, if you found a job, you had guaranteed rights, you knew what hours you were working, and you had at least a degree of stability in your life. Things were far from perfect for the working class, but at least people knew where they stood. Today, if you're a working class person going into the job market, what you find is zero hours contracts offering minimum wage.

There's every chance you're one of the smart and talented people who couldn't afford to go to university, but you're every bit as capable as those upper middle-class types whose parents paid for their tuition and are now earning £60,000 a year or more. You're every bit as hardworking as them and no doubt determined to better yourself, but you're turning up at work in some shitty factory and you're standing in a line with all the other recruits, having caught two buses in the pouring rain, and then your boss says, "Sorry, you're not needed today. You'll have to go home."

And so you're travelling back home, getting another two buses while it's pissing down, and you're wondering how the hell you're gonna pay rent because your landlord wants 50% of the salary you aren't getting, so you can pay for his mortgage and a nice bit of profit on the side. This landlord is one of the blokes always whining that your generation doesn't want to work, while he's happily leeching off you so he can go into early retirement.

The system is fucked. And by system, I mean the housing market just as much as I mean the job market because the two go hand in hand and have an equally huge impact on your quality of life.

The simple fact is if you're paying more in rent than your landlord is paying in mortgage instalments, he shouldn't own that house, you should. He is leeching from you. Capitalism has put him and his fellow Tories into a position where you and people like you have no choice but to buy a house for these dickheads. Imagine them having the nerve to call your generation lazy. The absolute fuckers.

In their day, they had the option of renting affordable, high quality housing from the council and taking advantage of the Buy to Let Scheme. They also had the option of buying in a private housing market where properties were 1/6 as expensive relative to annual income. It was easy for them to buy houses and now they sneer at you for being "work shy" and claim that's why you can't afford to buy your own property while you're buying a property for them.

Landlordism is theft. And trying to get a council house involves a wait of about seven years, last time I checked. It could well be longer, depending on your location and circumstances. In many places, the chances of getting a council house are almost zero and those lucky few who do get one today are paying commercial rents. The councils are ripping people off as much as the private landlords are. The absolute state of it.

And they wonder why you hate capitalism.

When your boss is sending you home, you're in a blind panic about how you'll pay rent. And when he's not sending you home, you're volunteering to work every hour under the sun so you can make up the shortfall. Your boss is treating you like shit, he's talking to you like the scum of the Earth and he knows you are powerless because you can't just walk out and find another job. He also knows he can sack you on a whim, if you dare raise anything resembling a concern because your rights to sue are pretty much non-existent.

Your boss could demand you suck his cock if he wanted. That's where capitalism is at. It's empowering the few to a grotesque and totally immoral extent at the expense of the many. And those many exploited workers are disproportionately young, born to working class parents, and so often from an ethnic minority. 

This is why minority groups tend to be overwhelmingly left wing. And it's why it sticks in my throat when idiots boo taking the knee because they don't like the politics behind a Black anti-racism movement, or when the Labour leader says he has "no truck whatsoever" with the Black Lives Matter organisation.

The class struggle and the fight for racial equality go hand in hand, and when the Labour leader thinks he can co-opt an antiracism movement for liberals and tell Black people they're doing antiracism wrong, he doesn't just betray the Black community, he betrays the working class struggle too. 

Liberals, of course, are capitalists, and they so often find themselves walking hand in hand with the fascists they pretend to oppose. 

There was an amusing Twitter post recently where a liberal had joined a parade demanding regime change in Cuba, and they were shocked to find themselves surrounded by Trump supporters. It did not occur to them that they too were imperialists and enemies of the working class struggle. They had deluded themselves into thinking they were somehow the good guys as they supported an illegal blockade which causes needless poverty and blamed the victims of that blockade for the cruelty they chose to inflict on them.

There is a horrible lack of self-awareness with liberals who, let's face it, are just conservatives who think they're woke because they attend pride festivals (which is a good thing by the way), but they shudder at the thought of making any change that might threaten their economic privilege - not change to make them poorer, just to make others a little less poor.

Liberals will sometimes take superficial stances against bigotry, but they fail to understand the biggest bigotry of all is the one they show towards the poor. Classism. They also fail to understand classism and racism are pretty much the same thing - racism is mostly just classism with colour or ethnicity as the dividing line. For some reason, rich white people love creating underclasses with people of a different skin colour to them.

This same mindset is why we see so many resource-rich nations with impoverished people as western companies suck the wealth from them. They do it because they can and because they know that hierarchies, whether that be hierarchies of nations, or hierarchies within nations, are excellent ways of maintaining control. They divide people, and they keep everyone, bar those at the bottom rung, terrified of falling down the ladder. They compel people to kick down, rather than punch up, and then come up with the most contrived reasons for why those below them deserve to be kicked.

But today, capitalism is going too far. It has left too many people behind, including some of our smartest and most talented individuals, and when you condemn us as workshy or entitled, when your wealth is built around exploitation and imperialism, and when we've watched you sanction countries for no reason, and bomb the shit out of others so you can steal their resources, while you've walked shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the worst human rights abusers on Earth, we can't take you seriously. 

We see you violently suppressing antiracist movements at home, taking away our right to peacefully protest, suppressing votes in elections, and jailing whistle-blowers for exposing your crimes. We see you participating in genocide in The Yemen, supporting apartheid in Palestine, overturning democratic elections in Latin America, and all the while we see you destroying this planet, sending us on an inexorable course towards climate destruction, knowing you will not be around to suffer the consequences, but the generations you label as "lazy" will.

This is why the young reject capitalism.

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Comments

  1. This is absolutely brilliant. You've really summed it up. My generation came just after the boomers and by the time we left school we were in this exact position too.
    We left school into a situation where the apprenticeship scheme had just been closed down. A lot of us couldn't finish college because our parents had been made redundant and the resulting pressure on household finances meant we had to find work -quickly.

    Except... employers would only accept people with a degree, or those who had done an apprenticeship, or those with experience: people in the Boomers' generation, in other words.

    My generation were in the ridiculous situation where there was a Catch-22 situation where you can't get a job without experience and you cannot get experience without having a job.

    We got put on government training schemes to keep the unemployment figures down. We were working far harder than our "colleagues" who had employment contracts for less than half the pay (which our employer didn't have to pay: it came from the government) hoping to be kept on.
    We weren't, of course.
    The companies were happy to exploit a system where they got someone slogging their guts out at no cost to themselves. They would dangle the carrot of future employment in front of us, only to wave goodbye when our time was up, send us back to the dole queue and sign up another poor mug, to replace us.

    My hubby left school 4 years after me and got a degree and a PhD in Chemistry, but by the time he left uni, our chemical industry had been broken up, sold off, boxed up and sent abroad because the new owners wanted to employ degree-level staff for grunt wages. Our only surviving labs are mostly clustered around Oxford and Cambridge and employ Oxbridge graduates pretty much exclusively.
    If you did Chemistry at any other uni you will probably join my hubby's fellow alumni: shifting boxes in a warehouse.
    We are told that bosses are crying out for qualified scientists, yet every year our universities are churning out new graduates destined to fail, because of this.

    There was a bubble of opportunity just after us: the first generation who learned IT at school walked out of school into the fledgling IT industry.

    Once that industry established itself, however, the shutters came down again. They never opened for my generation anyway: we had had no opportunity to learn IT.

    Over decades, my generation slogged away, we never caught up from the blighted start after the Boomers. We too had to settle for juggling part time, temporary jobs to get enough to live on. The number of people I know whose health broke under the pressure: I am one of them. So is my husband.

    It is terrible to see how things have not got any better for those who followed us into the workplace...

    ...and, yes, we also feel the red mist descending every time we hear smug boomers pontificating about the "lazy generations" who followed them and asserting:
    "It's easy to get a job if you want it: I never had any problems finding work!"

    The true definition of privilege is that it doesn't recognise it's own existence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'The true definition of privilege is that it doesn't recognise it's own existence.'

      Ain't that the truth.

      Delete
  2. Superb article. Reading this is like a breath of fresh, cleansing air.

    "They also fail to understand classism and racism are pretty much the same thing - racism is mostly just classism with colour or ethnicity as the dividing line. For some reason, rich white people love creating underclasses with people of a different skin colour to them.
    This same mindset is why we see so many resource-rich nations with impoverished people as western companies suck the wealth from them."

    I wrote a song about this; Race is a Weapon in the Class War

    it is inspired by "Birth of a White Nation" a book by Jacquiline Battalorra on why the owner oligarchy invented Race, to divide a working population made of Europeans and Africans of equal status, and then legalised Racism, and then legalised Slavery as a form of economic class war.

    https://www.reverbnation.com/corneilius/song/32719501-racism-is-weapon-in-class-war

    My stance is basically this : the human species is fine the bully cult is the problem.

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  3. Solidarity can only build through a shared understanding, comprehension of the evidence as it really is.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you so much for this article. It's incredibly well written.

    As a young, disabled and mentally ill working class woman who has been out of the workforce since graduating from uni two years ago, the life chances for my generation are dire precisely due to capitalism. And especially for marginalised groups. Personally, I'm having to go self-employed and eventually have children to get around the massive scam that is the world of work. There's no way I'll cope long-term working in late-stage capitalism.

    The capitalists and boomers alike had their chance to stop this trend (by treating us just as fairly as well as conceding that they have to help save the planet and spend money accordingly) but they've blown it. It's too late now. They cannot stop the anti-capitalist movement. It will only get bigger.

    Young people will fight back and will not stop especially after the pandemic and outside the electoral system. A better future is possible if we fight for it. And that includes taking to the streets with violence and general strikes.

    ReplyDelete
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  6. You said it. I'm actually one of those boomers who benefitted from a free education up to degree level - and in my case - to a further degree, and I am well aware of how unfair and disastrous it is that young people are forced to go into debt or just not go to uni at all because they have to pay for it. When I was growing up and a young adult there was still a system of council housing that kept the housing market stable, still apprenticeships that gave young people a chance of a good job; there was plenty of casual labour and exploitation, but people saw jobs with permanent contracts and decent conditions as normal, and trades unions were still a force to be reckoned with - and - in spite of what so many say - we had a good strong economy, with decent wages and people led pretty good lives. Thatcher came and her stated intention was to destroy all that, because it had been put into place by socialism. Not because it didn't work, but because they hated socialism and wanted a divided and impoverished and insecure working class. I'm not saying it was all perfect back in those days but the way forward should have been to make it more socialist, not destroy everything for the sake of a crackpot ideology of 'free-marketism'. I'm horrified by what young people have to face now, and it's all made worse by the climate emergency.

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