Socialist Alternative

“We can’t just wait until the next election to get active”: Why young people are joining SA

Vinushan Vickneswaran, Leicester

I joined Socialist Alternative after attending a few virtual meetings at the beginning of the pandemic. As a big Corbyn supporter, I was very disappointed in the recent election result. But I knew that I had to keep fighting for the socialist values he represented. I felt that this is the right place for me to be in.

I have been making contributions in meetings right from the start as I felt comfortable with my fellow members. I have attended many online rallies in support of ISA. It has been a huge comfort to be able to fight for the values I believe in and channelling my disappointment from the UK elections into something positive. I hope that after the pandemic, I will be able to get out and speak to people through campaigning with our street stalls, as this is the perfect time for socialism to thrive.

David Thomas, Merseyside

I joined SA shortly after the start of the lockdown in early April 2020. Before then, I was involved with the Democratic Socialist of America and the Industrial Workers of the World in America, as well as the International Socialists in Canada. A thing I have learned from my time in the socialist left is that there is a real need for working class political institutions that are not directly tied to established electoral political parties. Even if Jeremy Corbyn had won the last election by a landslide and brought in major reforms, the same principle would have applied. No matter who controls Westminster, and no matter how well intentioned they might be, independent institutions need to exist to act as an organising space to not only push the overturn window leftward but to also fight all forms of capitalist politics.

Marxist organisations like SA play an important role in this regard. We can’t just wait until the next election, or whenever Labour gets its act together, to be politically active. We must take steps to organise the working class together under a single coordinated banner that can both fight for immediate reforms and also build a long-term strategy for a transition to socialism.

This can be done by taking an active role in broader social movements such as Black Lives Matter, XR and the climate strikes, working within established institutions such as the trade unions, and by advocating for policies and ideas that are not talked about in the media or established political institutions. It is in many ways a dual mission of both building class consciousness while also building our power.

As an educator and trade union member I look forward to working with SALT in building a future of workers’ control, eco-socialism, and racial justice.

Glenn, Isle Of Wight

A question that folks may ask themselves when considering joining a political activist organisation is why? What benefit could I make as an individual? I am not a great speaker nor a great writer, I am not massively confident and I am not charismatic. This was the first obstacle keeping me from getting involved.

The truth is that you don’t have to be any of those things to join and Socialist Alternative members will be more than willing to guide you and help develop those skills. All that matters is that you recognise the need for real change and you can build on that as you progress.

So why did I join? A lot of reasons formed a catalyst for my wanting to get involved more politically. First, there was the lack of a safety net when my job went under a few years back and was made redundant. Secondly was the complete farce and disorganisation of the universal credit system and having to experience that.

Thirdly was the rise of Corbyn which brought a new era for labour and captured the minds of a lot of the younger working class with major elements of the campaign being ‘For the many, not the few’. Under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer, Labour seems to be regressing to the era of centrism we saw under Tony Blair’s reign.

That last point was the final straw, coming to the realisation that serious political change for the working class will not come from any current political party in parliament, and that a party for revolutionary change is the only way forward to providing everyone with equal opportunities, safe working conditions and an overall greater quality of life.

Covid-19 and the mental health crisis: a self-isolating student writes

According to a 2010 study from the Institute of Health Equity: “Children and adults living in households in the lowest 20% income bracket in Great Britain are two to three times more likely to develop mental health problems than those in the highest”.

I come from one of those households. I have suffered from depression, anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder for what seems like my entire life. My brother has faced the same issues, and my dad was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia a few years back, leading to him getting sectioned and placed in an underfunded, overcrowded and otherwise ramshackle mental health ward.

British universities have experienced a skyrocketing rate of students suffering with depression and anxiety. Many students experience breakdowns due to the combined financial and work pressure that we face. Shockingly, from 2017-18, there were 95 suicides on campuses – just over one death every four days! Since becoming a student myself last September, I have seen the scale of this crisis first hand, made much worse by the severe lack of support services to help students through periods of difficulty.

The Guardian columnist George Monbiot once asked: “What greater indictment of a system could there be, than an epidemic of mental illness?”. The answer to this is in the rapidly escalating Covid-19 pandemic, which has exposed the cruel and inept practises of capitalism on a global scale.

The pandemic and the resulting social distancing measures are exacerbating the mental health crisis. The neuroscientist, David Eagleman, writing in the book The Political Self points out how people depend on one another in order to live and survive:

“We are a single vast superorganism, a neural network embedded in a far larger web of neural networks. Our brains are so fundamentally wired to interact that it’s not even clear where each of us begins and ends. Who you are has everything to do with who we are. There’s no avoiding the truth that’s etched into our neural circuitry: we need each other.”

Capitalism, by its very nature, is unable to accept this. By basing itself on the exploitation of working class people and the endless pursuit of profit, it is fundamentally blind to people’s mental and emotional needs. It forces on us this idea that we are isolated from one another, living as isolated individuals.

Experiencing the issues I have was what inspired me to join and get active in Socialist Alternative – not because I saw it as a ‘cure’ for my mental health issues, but because I could see – as can many other working-class young people – that capitalism will not deliver real care and attention for the mental wellbeing of the majority in society.

Getting out and getting active, taking part in the struggles of students and workers on the streets and on the picket lines, has not only helped me, but made me realise how the fight for real mental health services is completely bound up with the fight for a socialist world, where the wealth and resources of society are geared to meeting the needs of the majority and not an exploiting capitalist elite.

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, students and workers must unite and fight. We say:

  • Refund all fees for cancelled lectures. Abolish student debt and invest in free education.
  • Give full pay for all young workers on zero-hours and precarious contracts.
  • Fight for fully-funded mental health support in all schools, colleges and universities. Kick the market out of education and fund this publicly.
  • The trade unions must link up with the local support networks, providing for people in self-isolation.