Courtesy of Steve ‘Bakunin’ Waterhouse, the Newtown Neurotics in around 1985, ‘scrounging, bunking, living with unemployment’!
In early 2009 the first draft of our Open Letter bewailing the state of youth work was circulated. Three years on the outlook worsens. Embracing New Labour’s obsession with targeting the ‘anti-social’ the Coalition’s dual approach is to cut drastically any money available for open, pluralist youth work, whilst seducing the opportunistic and naive into competing for contracts to deliver its programmes of social control. Against this behavioural backcloth our effort to play a part in the defence of an emancipatory youth work practice, which refuses to blame the young victims of an exploitative and oppressive system, remains as relevant as ever. All is not gloom and we have been given a welcome boost by the positive response to the appearance of our This is Youth Work book/DVD. Already a number of stimulating workshops building on its contents have been held. In the coming months we are looking to organise a series of gatherings involving students and youth workers, together with colleagues from other voluntary and statutory agencies, within which we wish to explore the contradictory questions raised by an honest appreciation of the mess we’re in. More information to follow.
As we have indicated in Where Are we up To?, we are very conscious of the inevitable differences of opinion and emphasis in our own ranks. Clearly these dilemmas need to be out in the open – hence our January workshops. So too we have no desire to exaggerate our own strength or importance. As is often the case a handful of people are keeping the show on the road. Yet we are encouraged by the positive messages of support we continue to receive. It does feel that we are contributing something distinctive and worth its salt.
Our struggle to defend a youth work, which ‘asks questions of Power’, cannot be divorced from the wider political struggle against the creeping authoritarianism of a political and economic elite, a ruling class indeed, which places its own survival above the needs of humanity world-wide. The following eclectic links observe and interpret this clash of interest in a diversity of ways. Much ‘manna’ for reflection.
On the broad front a rather parochial beginning, seeing Paul Mason, the BBC Newsnight economics editor, is from Leigh, my home town and we’ve known one another since the mid-80’s. an interview with him.
And, another long-lost friend, Roy Ratcliffe, former Wigan youth worker and a leading light in the 1980’s CYWU and now living in Leigh once more. offers a perhaps controversial reading of the present situation.
The colourful ‘philosopher’ Slavoj Zizek believes that the current “system has lost its self-evidence, its automatic legitimacy, and now the field is open” and isn’t living in Leigh!
Before we move closer to home, here in Greece an unelected, ‘technocratic’ government in the service of the Frankfurt Gang of Merkel/Sarkozy increase arbitrarily compulsory military service from 9 to 12 months. This is unlikely to go down well with Greek youth, but it might keep the 18- 24 unemployment rate below 50%. Meanwhile the ‘Movement of Nantes’ renew our faith in solidarity and internationalism. Their declaration begins in an overture to the Greek ambassador :
“Your excellency, in solidarity with your country, I, the undersigned………….. request personally to be counted at heart a Greek, to enjoy the rights and duties of dual nationality, and to express this international citizenship with a view to the establishment of universal democracy in liberty and equality, twenty-five centuries after the time of Solon, Clisthene, and Pericles. Thanks in advance for your response, and in fraternity with your people. “
For years I have argued that many within the progressive wing of youth work have clung mistakenly on to a hope that the Labour Party could be a force for social change, even through the Blair era. Of course this question needs further debate, but the omens are not promising. According to Liam Byrne, as Ed Miliband has said, tough times expose your values, and Labour is clear: we are on the side of people who work hard and do the right thing. Unfortunately in tough times many folk can’t even hope to work hard and faced with the obscenity of bankers’ bonuses and MP’s expenses wonder what is the right thing to do?!
And here’s the Daily Mail version!
All of which prompts Sarah Ditum to charge Labour with giving up on fighting the five Giants cited in the Beveridge report – Want, Ignorance, Disease, Squalor and Idleness.
We would be very pleased to publish alternative arguments in favour of a renewed optimism in Labour from supporters and critics.
As for analysing the remarkable rise of autonomous groupings challenging the status quo, the Berkeley Journal of Sociology has drawn together a range of critical articles at Understanding the Occupy Movement. It includes:
The Fight for Real Democracy – Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
The Party of Wall Street meets its nemesis – David Harvey
This Shit is fucked up and Bullshit – McKenzie Wark
None of this stuff is easy-going, but has its rewards.
Finally in the world of youth work and youth services ChooseYouth is taking a deep breath after its efforts during 2011. It is in the midst of revising its manifesto, which we will post as soon as it becomes available. Meanwhile the Alliance has recruited further support in the form of COMPASS YOUTH, who might well want to put us right about the potential of a renewed Labour Party.
As for our own New Year’s message, wishing you a Happy New Year seems at odds with reality. We’ll content ourselves with hoping for a New Year of laughter and tears, solidarity and resistance.