“The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you. The world belongs to you.” – Mao, Talk at a meeting with Chinese students and trainees in Moscow (November 17, 1957).
The role of young people is a question raised in every revolutionary struggle. While reactionaries and smug liberals like to deride the youth for taking up a revolutionary perspective, communists know that the participation, leadership, and support of revolutionary sections of the youth is a necessity for making revolution. Revolutionary zeal, knowledge, and dedication cut across all age groups, and the youth are no exception. There are no inherent laws that declare it impossible for a young person to have a vast knowledge of the inner workings of capitalism, or to have a strong grasp on revolutionary theory and practice, simply by virtue of being young. Older people, even some that claim to be comrades, have a tendency to fall back on age as the sole measure of knowledge and experience, forgetting that what’s important is not time spent merely existing, but time spent understanding and changing. It serves no purpose to belittle the youth for being revolutionary because of some inflated sense of self-importance, especially when there are many young people who have a much deeper grasp of the operation of capitalism and imperialism than many older people!
I’m sure we have all heard useless platitudes about how young people will “grow up” and “abandon talk of revolution” once they enter the “real world”. Of course ones maturity is not determined by accommodationist attitudes towards the existing order, but rather a desire to understand society as it exists, the contradictions inherent within it, and a desire to remold it. In fact such a view is smugness, which has no leg to stand on in any intellectually rigorous debate. It is the refuge of the imbecile that has no other recourse but to retreat into the fortress of “the experience of age” rather than directly confront an argument.
The youth have the potential to be more revolutionary simply because they do not yet occupy a stable position in society. Many young people seek to find work, pursue an education, and explore their own talents. They do not have stable careers, and in our contemporary era in which capitalism can no longer provide adequate employment and shackles young students with mountains of debt, they often do not even have the hope of an education. These conditions constantly push the youth towards revolutionary conclusions, which we have seen lately with an increase in young people’s dissatisfaction with capitalism. This has been exacerbated by the total collapse of what little confidence was left in the bourgeois political system sparked by the betrayal of Bernie Sanders as he delivered his followers into the hands of Hillary Clinton.
Many young people stand today at a crossroads. Sandwiched between mountains of debt and a monstrous political and economic system the choice seems clear, but the solution is shrouded. The job of communists is to win the hearts and minds of the youth, to transform their righteous anger at the destruction and injustices wrought by capitalist-imperialism into revolutionary determination. Only through the process of struggle and transformation can the mist clear and the solution and the road out of the madness be revealed. More specifically, only by taking hold of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism can the revolutionary potential of the youth move beyond an undirected and spontaneous possibility to a coordinated and disciplined movement to dismantle capitalism and imperialism.
In all revolutions the youth have been the first to sacrifice, the first to lead, the first to build and rebuild, the first to blaze new trails ahead and knock down the old walls. They see farther and think broadly in scope. They have a deep curiosity and a desire to learn. These are all qualities a communist must posses. Therefore, we must continue to see the youth for what they are, a wellspring of constantly regenerating potential revolutionaries that must actualize that potential in a truly revolutionary direction by engaging in class struggle and collective study of revolution. Some of the world’s greatest revolutionaries left their mark on the world proletarian struggle in the prime of their youth. Bhgat Singh, Ibrahim Kaypakkaya, Akram Yari, and Bobby Hutton to name a few. Only if we tirelessly educate and ingrain ourselves amongst the proletarian youth, and even sections of sympathetic petty-bourgeois youth, then there will be an uncountable number of new Singhs, Huttons, and Kaypakkayas. And if history has shown us anything, it’s that the ruling class fears nothing more than when the revolutionary youth seize the present to transform the future.