Covid-19: What way forward for young people and students?

Updated: Mar 26

The outbreak of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the world. The pandemic has hit over a hundred countries, and the world now sits at the cusp of a new recession, likely to be worse than the last. While recorded cases double every four days, Johnson's ignorance and inaction has added to the outrage of millions of ordinary people.


By Môsieur J. [version 9.1] from Rouen, FRANCE - #deliveroo, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53481353

It will be the over-65s that will feel the biggest impact from this crisis in lots of ways. But young people also have a right to be concerned. Aside from the obvious health risks, for those of paying skyrocketing tuition fees for our education, our education will be impacted due to months of cancelled face-to-face lectures.


At the same time, young workers in the gig economy are still in many cases being bullied into increasingly risk-laden work and non-essential workplaces like bars, restaurants and clubs are kept open for so long To see why, we need to look no further than the profits making their way to the top. Every last bit of profit is being squeezed out of us before a real lockdown is announced. Young workers must join their unions and fight to defend their conditions and pay at work. We're only strong enough to protect ourselves and fight for our rights when organised!


The outbreak is also bound to hit the conditions of young people in housing. The ongoing housing crisis has, over the last few decades, pushed more and more of us in the private rental sector, often at the mercy of exploiting landlords. Students living in shared accomodation will, in many cases, have to move home to avoid the rapid spread of infection. While Johnson has so far announced nothing so far in terms of protecting this section of society, Corbyn has raised the correct demand for cancellation of rent payments and a temporary ban on evictions through the duration of the outbreak. While this is something we would completely support, we would also need to make this permanent as part of a genuine socialist housing policy.


UCU strikes – the fight doesn't end here!

Over the past weeks, members of Socialist Alternative have been out in support of striking university staff on over 60 campuses, in their action on the 'four fights' – pay, pensions, casualisation and the gender pay gap.


Many universities will be closing their doors for the duration of the crisis, while lecturers will be expected to teach online courses. It is important that students and staff are kept safe in Higher Education. But it is just as important that this will not mean a new wave of attacks. Any online lectures should only be carried out after being democratically approved by University and College Union branches.


We must uphold the right of all university workers to strike, and for full sick pay over the course of the pandemic. We have to be prepared for a new round of struggle on the campuses in the future, especially since management have been unwilling to make serious offers for our overworked and underpaid staff. Students must continue to show solidarity, organising online with classmates and keeping up pressure on university management.


Climate revolt will continue

Many of us will be disappointed to see that the three-day climate strike from 22-24 April will be either cancelled or severely impacted in most areas of the country. Of course, we have a responsibility to be cautious in not risking increased infection, whether that be for ourselves or family members and at-risk people. But this does NOT mean we should let the ruling elites off the hook for driving us towards climate catastrophe!


Covid-19 must not stop up from organising. Local strike organising groups must link up locally, regionally and nationally. An online mass climate assembly could be called, bringing together climate groups, trade union branches and all those wanting to discuss joint action between students of all ages and workers, to challenge big business' pollution of our planet. Preparations should still be made for a mass strike at the November United Nations COP26 talks in Glasgow.


Our movement will have to be prepared to mount a battle on a higher scale than ever before post-Covid. Their profits will still be killing our planet. And we'll need to hit them with a tidal wave of resistance!


Capitalism is the real disease

The Coronavirus has exposed the totally chaotic and unplanned nature of the system we live under – capitalism. Any system set up for the private gain of a tiny elite will never effectively act in the way that is needed to protect the health of workers and young people.

Any action taken by the capitalists will be too little, too late. The outbreak will force many to rethink whether or not this system will deliver for ordinary people. We can't come out of this with business as usual! If you agree with our ideas for youth and students, join us now and fight for a socialist solution to the crisis!


We say:

  • Close all non-essential workplaces. Full sick pay for all, including workers on zero-hours contracts. The response must be led by workers and youth. No profits from disease!

  • Support rent strikes. Ban evictions and cancel rent arrears for students and workers renting privately.

  • Reimburse fees during lost face-to-face hours. Fight to kick the market out of education. Free education now.

  • Take the wealth off the capitalists! Nationalise the banks, big pharma and major companies under democratic control, to invest in an emergency response to the system under a democratic socialist plan of production.