WFTU Youth Committee Statement On The Occasion of Youth Day In South Africa

Tuesday 16 June 2020

We take this opportunity, on behalf of the WFTU Youth Committee, which represents millions of youth in the affiliates of WFTU in the world, and TUI-PS&A to convey a message of solidarity to all the working class youth across all corners of the world.

We convey this message on the day that South Africa commemorates its national Youth Day, remembering the gallant struggles by the youth of 1976 who rose and selflessly fought against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction against the will of the people informed by the racist Apartheid policies that were inspired by a system of racialized Capitalism. As we do so, we also salute the youth of Palestine, Western Sahara, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Yemen, Nicaragua, and Syria in their heroic struggles against occupation and imperialism in their respective countries. We stand with you comrades. We also express our outrage at the merciless killing of George Floyd in the imperial and increasingly ultra-nationalistic USA and stand in solidarity with the young American youth who have grown disillusioned by the perpetual racial profiling and police harassment and have started a revolution demanding immediate change. We loudly chant along, that Black Lives Matter!!

We are conveying this message at the time when the world is besieged with a war against an invisible enemy called Corona virus (COVID-19) which has drastically disrupted our way of life having to date infected over seven million global citizens including four hundred thousand fatalities, and bringing world economies to a standstill.

It is clear to us as the WFTU youth, an internationalist, class-oriented trade union federation, that although the pandemic is a global health emergency that threatens our existence, its impact on the global citizenry exposes Capitalism as a system in crisis that is incapable of putting the wellbeing and livelihoods of workers before narrow motives of profit maximization. We have seen how workers in developed and developing economies alike have been the first causalities of the pandemic through retrenchments, salary reductions and being forced to work without regard for the their safety; meanwhile, employers continue to receive aid from governments and finance capital without having to endure the adverse impact of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, it is the working-class youth that bears the worst brunt of this global crisis as they are mostly in precarious jobs with the so-called flexi-contracts that renders them easy targets for retrenchments.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that young people are the major victims of the social and economic consequences of the pandemic as they are disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of the pandemic and will endure its effects long after it is gone (International Labour Organisation, 2020). Already, even before the pandemic, the youth were in much more precarious work conditions than the rest of the workforce, with 77% of young workers across the world in informal jobs, and many others unemployed. In South Africa, we have a reality where 46% of young people between 25-34 years are not in any form of employment, education, or training, which will evidently be exacerbated by the economic burdens of the pandemic.

As we well know, most Covid-19 patients are tested and treated in public facilities. This implies that health workers in the public service are most at risk of contracting this novel virus from their workplaces. It is for this reason that WFTU and its Trade Union International in the Public Service (TUI-PS&A) continues to be at the forefront of organizing, mobilising and defending the plight of these exploited workers and youth in particular and fighting for their safe working conditions. The pandemic has exposed the inadequacy of the private health system to meet the health needs of society. We must ensure that young people the world over join and belong to progressive, class-oriented trade unions that fight for free and universal health care and oppose the barbaric economic system of capitalism that seek to profit from the health needs of people.

It is equally important that the working-class youth locate their struggles within internationalist struggles as class exploitation knows no geographic boundaries. It is only through coordinated internationalist struggles that our efforts will yield positive impact given the globalised nature of the world economy. Capitalism is an interconnected global system that can only be defeated through working class unity and international solidarity among all workers of the world.

It is also of utmost importance that we ensure than in deepening our class and internationalist struggles, we further ensure that we wage unrelenting campaigns to defend young working women. It is common cause that working women are the most exploited of workers because of the structural contradictions and patriarchal nature of Capitalism whose foundations do not recognize women as equals within production. In most parts of the world, there is lack of social support for young female workers who are deprived paid maternity benefits, receive lower salaries, and are often overlooked for leadership and other promotional opportunities. We as the WFTU youth stand for unconditional equality of men and women in the workplace.

Fellow comrades, the above perilous realities notwithstanding, it is important that we should never despair as we the younger generation are the future. Vladimir Lenin taught us that, “despair is typical of those who do not understand the causes of evil, see no way out and are incapable of struggle”. To us as the working class youth, rather than being paralyzed by despair, let us see this crisis as an opportunity to bend the arc of history towards an alternative economic system that puts the interests of humanity before those of profits. It is time that we must intensify our struggle for Socialism.

The opportunities are indeed endless. We live in an era where more than at any other period in history, we have new technologies with huge potential to change productive relations for the better. We are in the advent of what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution where intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and the Internet of Things can make it possible for us to work safely and more efficiently, where society can deploy new technologies to increase production outputs and minimize dangerous physical labour without negatively impacting on workers’ employment conditions. This is however, only possible if the working class, the youth in particular are organised and united in action to ensure that the “digital dividends” of the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefits society as a whole and not just the few and the wealthy. We must demand free, quality education as a right and not a privilege. We must demand the type of education that responds to the needs of humanity and nature, an education that will empower young people with relevant skills to enable them to leverage these technologies for the benefit of humanity as a whole without profit maximization as the primary motive.

We must also ensure that the working class youth have the relevant ideological training and consciousness that empowers us to see through the propaganda of those who discourage youth participation in trade unions and other working class formations by encouraging a culture of individualism which keeps us disunited and incapable of using our collective power to improve our working conditions.

Ideological training is critical to us as the youth because it grounds us in correct revolutionary theory that will helps us to realize economic justice post the Covid-19 economic crisis. As Frederick Engels teaches us, “practice without theory is blind, and theory without practice is sterile”. It is therefore important that as the working-class youth, we garner the necessary consciousness to equip us with tools that will help us differentiate our enemies from our friends. We must be able to expose those amongst us who masquerade as trade unionists when they in reality are collaborators of capital who are funded to sow ideological confusion and pacify us from waging uncompromising struggles in our quest to overthrow the barbaric system of Capitalism and usher in a new social system where the exploitation of men by men will be relegated to the archives of history.

In conclusion, we wish to salute all health workers, particularly young health workers, at the coalface of the war against the pandemic and appeal that we all must take the necessary precautions to stay safe from highly contagious virus. However, we as the younger generation must not be paralyzed by anxiety nor should we despair at the impending economic gloom predicted to be far worse than the 2008 financial crisis and comparable to the 1929 Great Depression, this is the time for us as class-oriented young trade unionists to imagine and pioneer solutions that will ensure a post-Covid-19 world economic system predicated on increased access to opportunities and a more equitable distribution of the global wealth for the benefit of humanity as a whole.

Issued by:
WFTU YOUTH COMMITTEE SECRETARIAT.
Benjamin Mogoye: 0828732675
For Media Enquiries Contact:
Clever Banganayi @ 0721426625
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