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Mainstream, VOL LII No 36, August 30, 2014

Youth and the Struggles for Equality and Justice

Sunday 31 August 2014, by Bharat Dogra

Over a long historical period, one factor which has provided strength and dynamism to human society generation after generation has been a natural tendency on the part of a large number of youth to take sides against injustice and in favour of justice, against inequality and in favour of equality. One can call this a ‘natural’ tendency because youth is the age of innocence when truth and ideals have an almost natural appeal. As this is the most energetic age-group, every generation of human society could benefit from this tremendous outpouring of energy on the side of equality and justice.

However, in recent years it has been increasingly felt that the number of youth eagerly looking for opportunities to join the struggle against injustice has decreased. The number of youth who can sustain their idealism over a longer period of time has decreased even more significantly. This is a worldwide trend, although there may be a few exceptions in some countries. The number of youths who come out in the street for some time on certain issues can still be very high. They also show grit and determination. But in most such cases more abiding commitment on the side of justice and equality is much less visible.

This is a big loss to the progress of human society. There is no doubt that injustice and inequality exist in the present-day world to an unacceptably high extent, leading to massive distress and deprivation. In addition an unprecedented ecological crisis as well as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are changing the conditions of survival in our planet in such ways that distress and deprivation for all forms of life can increase in even more unacceptably high and unjust ways in future decades. Hence there is greater, not lesser, need for more youth imbued with idealism to work on the side of justice and equality (at all levels), while incorporating critical new concerns such as protection of environment and all species and their habitats.

The reasons for the decreasing tendency for the youth to take up more permanent roles on the side of equality and justice should therefore be explored and the necessary remedial action should be taken.

One likely reason for this phenomenon is that all the emerging new concerns have not been properly integrated with the previous concerns of injustice and inequality. The result is that youthful energy and idealism are more likely to be spread over many different kinds of concerns which may not always be properly linked to each other and may also suffer from top-sided priorities. At a time when various interests are competing for the attention of the youth and some with narrower views may have big budgets to spread their message, it is not difficult to see why a decreasing number of youth show an abiding commitment for justice and equality. On the other hand, if the most important issues can be integrated in mutually consistent ways and a clearer, more credible and more inspiring vision of the changes needed and their role can emerge, then more youth can be expected on the path of justice and equality.

Instead of working in this direction, some Left organisations and parties have continued to cling to concepts which are not just outdated but also create a lot of confusion. Thus, according to one viewpoint in various societies the capitalist path has still to continue and mature for a long time before proper conditions for socialism can be created. This can be very confusing for the idealist youth who’ll prefer to contribute to the creation of socialism as early as possible. Several such wrong and outdated notions confuse the youth and take them away from the path of justice and equality. The path ahead should be presented in such a way that the youth can join in meaningful creative ways as soon as possible.

Also this path should be such that it opens up new avenues of friendships, co-operation, areas of working and learning together in creative ways. While risks and difficulties certainly exist on this path, the leadership should make efforts to limit these risks so that the youth have space for making more abiding, longer-term contributions. This should be envisaged mainly as a path of non-violent struggles and campaigns as well as community actions to work out creative alternatives. While walking on this path, they must have a sense of making new friends and entering into more creative and enduring relationships which make their life more meaningful. They should make improvements in their own life and character in ways which will also help them in their personal life, family life and in their neighborhood relationships.

Another factor which increasingly stands in the way of more youth joining the path of equality and justice is its narrow identification with some unfortunate experiences of Russia and China when, during the leaderships of Stalin and Mao, millions of people are alleged to have perished in very distressing conditions. Even if only a part of what has been alleged is true, few idealist youth would like to link up with such a legacy. So the legacy of the movement should be identified at a much wider level in the entire world history of struggles for justice and equality, while serious mistakes which occurred during the imple-mentation of communism in Russia, China or elsewhere must be admitted and condemned.

Lastly, the youth are put off from many divisive, mutually fighting Left parties often more busy in criticising each other than those responsible for exploitation and injustice. Clearly more efforts for Left unity should be made so that the youth feel encouraged and inspired to join the wider solidarity for justice and equality.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.