If you are a young person under the age of 30 you probably know more about the elimination and under-funding of social services and programs for youth than your parents’ generation ever did.
Vocational education, which once offered job training and preparation, has been defunded or eliminated. Pell grants, which at one time allowed working-class youth a way to pay for college, are nonexistent. Comprehensive sex education and access to birth control and reproductive health services have been replaced with abstinence-only programs and elimination of funding for women’s health clinics that provide abortions. Affirmative action programs, which were fought for to challenge institutionalized inequality and open opportunities for people of color and women, have been watered down or terminated. After-school programs, extracurricular activities and community centers that once provided recreational and cultural space for youth are being shut down.
To “solve” the lack of educational and employment opportunities for youth, Bush and his Republican allies in Congress cut another $14 billion from student loan programs, then offer youth up to $20,000 to sign up for the military. The Bush administration’s answer for the young generation as it faces staggering credit card debt and increasing unemployment? Buy, buy, buy and buy some more!
This cynical, callous disregard for young people has led many to get involved and fight back. From campaigns to kick military recruiters out of our schools to lobbying against the disastrous budget reconciliation which cut billions in programs for youth, young people are taking a more active role in the political scene.
On campuses around the country students are kicking out Taco Bell, Coca-Cola and other corporations that benefit from the often violent exploitation of working people.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, young people reacted to the Bush administration’s inept and racist response by organizing their own fundraising drives and work brigades.
And this year, as in 2004, young people will be forming their own voter education and registration drives to mobilize against Bush’s soul-mates in Congress.
As the movement of young people who reject the extreme right policies of the Bush administration grows, so too will the search for an alternative to capitalism. Capitalism offers no solutions to the problems of racism, sexism, exploitation and war that our generation faces. The fact that we, young Communists, have the drive and creative energy to imagine another world is a powerful inspiration for a generation that has grown up during the rise of the ultra-right.
As more young people begin to look for alternatives to capitalism, the need for a strong and vibrant Young Communist League will become more crucial. No other youth organization out there combines radical politics, a long history of youth organizing and a unifying approach to struggle like the YCL does. The YCL is the natural home of young people who want to talk about building unity, beating back the ultra-right and winning socialism!
From May 27-29, the YCL will hold its 8th National Convention in New York City to discuss our strategy for defeating the ultra-right. This is the time when the YCL evaluates its work over the last four years, assesses our organization as a whole, and elects our new leadership.
This year we will be discussing our draft YCL Action Plan, which maps out how we will build the YCL and participate in the broader youth and student movement in the coming period. We know that the YCL alone is not going to defeat the ultra-right — our entire generation has an interest in seeing Bush and company go down. The convention is a space where we invite friends and allies to come see what the YCL is about and how we work.
The YCL National Convention is not like any other youth conference. At our convention we will talk about what it’s going to take to fight back against the vicious attacks on our generation. Interactive workshops, panel discussions and cultural activities will give delegates and guests the information, skills and energy necessary to return to our schools and communities and deepen our involvement in the youth and student movement. This year’s convention will provide a place for an estimated 300 delegates and guests to share art, music and politics that reflect the mood and struggles of the young generation.
Bush and his team have proven to be much more dangerous for our generation than many could have predicted. From the Iraq war to his efforts to privatize Social Security, he has shown little concern for our lives today or our hopes for the future. The YCL offers young people the opportunity to fight to improve our today and ensure our tomorrow. Now more than ever we need a strong Young Communist League! Join us!
Jessica Marshall (email@example.com) is national coordinator of the Young Communist League. To learn more about the YCL and its upcoming convention, visit www.yclusa.org/convention.