200 years on has Karl Marx anything to say about Youth Work?

marxintro

This week it’s the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, a much honoured, much-reviled giant of history. As someone deeply influenced by his legacy I’ve been messing about with writing something about the extent to which Marx has influenced youth work thinking and practice over the last 50 years.  I hope to post something of interest on my blog in the next few weeks. In the interim, I think it’s appropriate to draw your attention to a number of contemporary interventions, which seek to weigh up more generally whether Marx has anything fruitful to say about the present crisis of meaning in society, the present uncertainty about the future, at the centre of which are young people.

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

K is for Karl – Series of 5 Films by Paul Mason about the meaning of Marx today

“Why does Marx matter today?” is the question posed by British journalist and filmmaker Paul Mason in five short films produced by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung to commemorate Karl Marx’s 200th birthday. Through Marx, Mason explores the topics of “Alienation”, “Communism”, “Revolution”, “Exploitation” and “The Future of Machines” in order to demonstrate how Marx, who Mason describes as the most influential thinker of the modern world, remains deeply relevant to understanding our contemporary world.

In the first of a series of five short films, British journalist and filmmaker Paul Mason searches for the roots of Marx’s thinking in Berlin, where he began his university studies in 1836. “For Marx, alienation doesn’t just mean we get depressed, we hate our jobs, or that we feel bad about the world. It means we’re constantly using our creative powers in the wrong way. We make things, but the things we make – machines, states, religions, rules – end up controlling us.”


 

2018_18_marx_second

Paul Mason again, after all, he hails from the same Lancashire town, Leigh, as me and we stood together on picket lines during the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike.  Friendship aside, disagreements aside, he’s always challenging.

On the bicentenary of his birth, Marx continues to be a key thinker thanks to his surprising faith in the individual.

Why Marx is more relevant than ever in the age of automation

If I could speak across time to the people frozen in the above photograph [the blurry snapshot catches Leon Trotsky in mid-sentence, in Frida Kahlo’s house sometime in 1937. To the left of the frame is Natalia Sedova, Trotsky’s wife. To the right is Kahlo and, half hidden behind her, a young woman listening intently: Trotsky’s secretary Raya Dunayevskaya],  I would say, after congratulating them for their magnificent lives of resistance and suffering: “That inner desire you are suppressing, for Marxism to be humanistic? That impulse towards individual liberation? It’s already there in Marx, just waiting to be discovered. So paint what you want, love whom you want. Fuck the vanguard party. The revolutionary subject is the self.”

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Yanis Varoufakis has composed a new introduction to the Communist Manifesto of 1848.

Marx predicted our present crisis – and points the way out

For a manifesto to succeed, it must speak to our hearts like a poem while infecting the mind with images and ideas that are dazzlingly new. It needs to open our eyes to the true causes of the bewildering, disturbing, exciting changes occurring around us, exposing the possibilities with which our current reality is pregnant. It should make us feel hopelessly inadequate for not having recognised these truths ourselves, and it must lift the curtain on the unsettling realisation that we have been acting as petty accomplices, reproducing a dead-end past. Lastly, it needs to have the power of a Beethoven symphony, urging us to become agents of a future that ends unnecessary mass suffering and to inspire humanity to realise its potential for authentic freedom.

 
No manifesto has better succeeded in doing all this than the one published in February 1848 at 46 Liverpool Street, London. Commissioned by English revolutionaries, The Communist Manifesto (or the Manifesto of the Communist Party, as it was first published) was authored by two young Germans – Karl Marx, a 29-year-old philosopher with a taste for epicurean hedonism and Hegelian rationality, and Friedrich Engels, a 28-year-old heir to a Manchester mill.

 

As a work of political literature, the manifesto remains unsurpassed. Its most infamous lines, including the opening one (“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism”), have a Shakespearean quality. Like Hamlet confronted by the ghost of his slain father, the reader is compelled to wonder: “Should I conform to the prevailing order, suffering the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune bestowed upon me by history’s irresistible forces? Or should I join these forces, taking up arms against the status quo and, by opposing it, usher in a brave new world?”

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Sustenance for the Senses 3 – hope not anxiety, roadshows, education acts, grooming and serious violence

In the last fortnight, Youth Work or Youth Services have been in the limelight, as evidenced by Tuesday’s two posts featuring Seema Chandwani’s passionate twitter threads, one specifically aimed at Sadiq Khan’s Crime Summit. Once more the classic tension as to the relationship between the educative and preventative in youth work is revisited or as James Ballantyne puts it in the most recent of his always thoughtful blogs between a provision that is driven by hope rather than anxiety.


Following on from the announced commitment to a statutory Youth Service, the Labour Party seeks help to shape its education policy, declaring:

labour logoTogether, we can create an education system that works for the many, not the few, and your voice matters to us. That’s why we have launched the National Education Service Roadshow (NES) as part of our National Policy Consultation.

Over three months, the Roadshow will visit our nations and regions to meet with and speak to members and supporters who want to help shape the future of education policy.

The Roadshow will build on the work we have done so far and the final principles will underpin the NES for generations to come.

To get involved, you can attend a Roadshow event in person, or you can submit your thoughts online via the Labour Policy Forum.

The diary of Roadshow events has yet to be announced. What are your views on prioritising a contribution to this process?

—————————————————————————————————————————–

An immediate opportunity is provided by ChooseYouth to discuss the situation further.

chooseyouth

CREATING A STATUTORY YOUTH SERVICE – ROUND TABLE EVENT

Mon 23 April 2018 16:00 – 18:00  at the Palace of Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA

Register for free at Statutory Youth Service

Following the successful parliamentary event earlier this year, we are pleased to announce a roundtable discussion on the importance of youth services and creation of a statutory youth service.

Youth services are an essential part of a lifelong learning and civil society and act as the bedrock to many young peoples lives. Over recent years we’ve seen youth service provision decline across the country with parts going completely without.

ChooseYouth which represents over 30 voluntary youth sector organisations has long championed a universal, open access statutory youth service and now in partnership with MP’s in parliament we plan to introduce a bill to create such a service.

This roundtable event in parliament will act as the beginning of that legislative process, bringing together key stakeholders to give their input, not only on the current state of youth services but how best we can advance the cause of a statutory service.


Putting this into a wider educational context Tim Brighouse argues, perhaps naively for new 2020 Education Act in a Guardian article, Rab Butler revolutionised education in 1944. Let’s do it again

‘In the last 100 years, there have been two defining education acts – Butler’s in 1944 and Baker’s in 1988. They represent two distinct chapters in England’s educational story. The first witnessed new schools, colleges and curriculum innovation, especially in the arts, as well as new youth and career services. Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberalism underpinned Baker’s 1988 reform bill, which meant a prescribed national curriculum and tougher accountability, along with diversity in school provision and autonomy’.

The piece prompted the following response from Tom Wylie, a former Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency.

‘Tim Brighouse makes a compelling case for a new settlement for education in England. Two particular further features should be addressed. First, it should be based on evidence, not politicians’ whims and prejudices. Second, it should reflect the fact that adolescents spend much of their time outside the classroom, and thus urgent attention needs to be paid to rebuilding the role of educational youth work for their leisure time.’


    Thanks to the Rotherham Advertiser

More specifically and highlighting the need for a practice, which can build relationships over time, free from short-term targets as well as posing issues around youth work and casework, Naomi Thompson, drawing on her own experience, argues that ‘Slashing youth worker budgets close a key route out for groomed girls.’

————————————————————————————————————————–

        Ta to the morningstaronline.com

Continuing the Government’s fondness for short-term public relation interventions Home Secretary Amber Rudd has launched a Serious Violence strategy, which includes a new £11m Early Intervention Youth Fund to support community projects that help steer young people away from crime.

According to CYPN, without a hint of embarrassment, given the Tory onslaught on youth services in recent years and on young people’s futures, Rudd argues“we need to engage with our young people early and to provide the incentives and credible alternatives that will prevent them from being drawn into crime in the first place. This in my view is the best long-term solution”.

———————————————————————————————————————-

 

 

Seema Chandwani – ‘Marginalised people exist because the system of marginalisation exists’. Twitter thread goes viral.

Ahead of trying to pull together a host of stories and articles arising from and coinciding with the tragic events of these last weeks, Seema Chandwani has agreed to me pasting into a whole her passionate and powerful Twitter thread of April 6, which has gone viral.

THREAD: I’ve been relatively silent about the murder of 17 year old Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, sometimes you just have to shut up and listen.

I first met Tanesha 3 years ago during the fight to ‘Save Haringey Youth Services’. A fight her and many of her peers fought with passion.

I’ve rewatched some of those campaign videos. The words are haunting. Those young people knew what could/would happen should cuts to services continue.

Watching Tanesha’s face in those videos, little did she realise the lives she was campaigning to save, would include her own.

I’m not in anyway saying if the youth services cuts didn’t happen she’d be alive.

But the issues raised by young people in such campaigns need to be heard – cutting of services creates an environment where young people feel compelled to speak out about their lives.

Young people in areas like Tottenham are very capable of articulating their own wants and needs, but they asked me to campaign *with* them because they needed a ‘political advocate’ as this fight was in their words ‘unequal’ – they felt unable to ‘compete’ alone.

I didn’t understand it at first, but soon did.

I won’t go into details, the campaign (both 2011 & 3 years ago) are well documented.

But I’ll make my first point; we fail as adults when we see young people fighting for help services as the problem.

I’ve watched the response over the past few days and there are times I’ve been frustrated.

If you’re a Politician or politico, currently engaged in this issue of youth violence, ask yourself why?

Why are you getting involved?

You don’t need to respond but if are genuinely interested in helping young people in this fight you have to accept this is their fight, not yours.

This isn’t about your stats, your policy, your budget or even your child.

This is about young people’s current everyday life.

If you are speaking about young people’s daily life, actually understand it first.

They are surviving, navigating through a world mainstream society haven’t dared make a TV series out of yet. It’s nothing like you think you know about, even if you once smoked weed when you were 15.

There are now politicians and policy donks up and down the country holding events/meetings to show they’re doing something.

Less than 1/10 will be inviting any young people to hear what they have to say.

A lot of pics will be taken.

Of the few that will engage young people they’ll go to speak to a school council or local church group or something similar.

Young people are not a homogeneous group. Tarquin in Hertfordshire doesn’t speak for Trevor in Wood Green.

Engaging young people facing this battle is difficult, made more difficult as almost every embryonic cord connecting them to society has been cut.

The young people in survival mode don’t know you, some don’t even believe they need to know you.

But don’t find a substitute!

‘Community Leaders’ don’t exist, they are a political fabrication designed in the 80s to create a hierarchy amongst the working class.

Stop meeting with them.

If you want to ask people how you can help, ask those directly who need the help.

Ask your ‘community leaders’ to give you direct access to those people, if they cannot, then the only thing they lead is you, up the garden path.

There is only one way to solve this problem and that is long-term inclusion.

This means understanding there has always been a criminal underworld – Dickens wrote about it centuries ago. If Oliver Twist was born in 1998, he’d have a YouTube account

Marginalised people exist because the system of marginalisation exists.

This is not a new problem. It existed when I was a teen. My and my little sister can remember the names of our friends murdered in 1990s.

Why we keep acting like this is a new thing is almost insane!

It’s always been about economics, opportunities and belonging, always.

You are competing with an industry that can promise young people a life you have failed to give.

It’s not just money, it’s a sense of worth, purpose, belonging and achievement.

Maslow is basic GCSE level psychology. Young people need investment.

It’s not a short term fix. It’s not a 4 week Twitter campaign. It’s not a  week summer project – it’s a complete 0-19 long term investment. Including investment in people working with young people

And it’s a lot cheaper than these knee jerk reactionary initiatives.

Until you can get a child to tell an organised crime ring they’re not interested – you’ll have this problem.

Criminals need a workforce and our society is providing them with an unlimited supply of young people to choose from.

STOP IT!

Easter Sustenance for the Senses 2 – Community Education, Mental Health, Military Schools, Queensland and Civil Society

CONCEPT

As ever a stimulating array of pieces from our friends at CONCEPT.

CURRENT ISSUE

Vol 9 No 1 (2018): Spring

ARTICLES

INSPIRATIONS

POETRY


This article poses more than a few questions with regard to youth work’s growing infatuation with a skewed and individualised notion of mental health, well-being and indeed happiness – see the reference to NCS.

DON’T TURN BRITAIN’S SCHOOLS INTO MENTAL HEALTH CENTRES

Jennie Bristow argues that government plans for ‘Mental Health First Aid’ risk pathologising ordinary childhood while doing little for those with more serious difficulties.


For a brief moment, I thought this was an April Fools’ story.

Government to consider plans for ‘military schools’

The government is considering the introduction of a ‘military ethos’ in schools across the UK to help children from deprived backgrounds. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has commissioned MP Robert Goodwill to review the benefits of an education inspired by the ‘values and disciplines’ of the Armed Forces.


Across the oceans, our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland [YANQ] have published the findings of a 2017 Youth Sector survey. The following brief excerpt is likely to ring a bell or two.

                  Sivayash Doostkhah, YANQ

Findings of Queensland Youth Sector Survey 2017

Survey responses repeatedly identified that services are under-funded and under-resourced
to meet the level of service demand (both in terms of intensity of service provision and numerical demand). Funding agreements are overly prescriptive and restrictive, dictating short-term, output-focused service delivery models. As such, services are hamstrung from achieving their full potential to be innovative and respond effectively to the real needs of young people within the context of their individual circumstances.

The combination of funding criteria and competition-based tendering were seen as creating a sector culture that encourages ‘siloed’ service delivery. Organisations become inward focused and are increasingly operating independently of other services. Service delivery becomes focused on narrow, specified outcomes at the expense of addressing the inter-related needs affecting young people’s long-term outcomes. Funding criteria also effectively preference funding to large NGO’s at the expense of experienced, specialist local agencies that typically have a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of local community and youth needs.

Respondents also described the constant change imposed by the lack of funding security inherent in short-term contracts and defunding of programs. This impacts support relationships with young people and inhibits services’ capacity to offer ongoing support over time for young people with multiple complex needs. It also
fosters a sector culture plagued with uncertainty that makes it difficult for organisations to undertake long term agency-level planning and offer job security to staff.


Staying in Australia a searching article, Whatever happened to civil society by Vern Hughes echoes the findings of the NCIA Inquiry into the Future of the Voluntary Services. to which IDYW contributed.

In the last 40 years the architecture of voluntary citizen action has been transformed. Why aren’t we fighting back?

He begins:

At the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos, ‘civil society’ is referenced in virtually every presentation and fireside conversation. The world, it seems, no longer consists of two sectors—public and private, state and market—there is a third: NGOs and INGOs, charities and philanthropists, human rights watchdogs, aid and development agencies and global environmental campaigns to name but a few. The ‘Third Sector’ has arrived, and Its CEOs now mingle seamlessly with those from banks, energy companies, media giants and government agencies.

The problem with this embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO. Just 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact.

He suggests in a provocation to many of us:

The principal factor, however, in driving both the transformation of the social sector and the relatively low level of critical public debate about it has been the global rise of the managerial class and its capture of much of the not-for-profit world. In the wake of the 1960s/1970s social movements, governments invested heavily in a plethora of welfare state programs and services, and universities churned out an army of social science practitioners with an insatiable demand for things to manage.

Not-for-profits and charities were easy pickings, so voluntary associations of all kinds were transformed into instruments of service delivery, ‘community representation’ and ‘therapeutic welfare’ in the public interest. Traditional bodies such as the Red Cross, the YMCA, church missions and voluntary health societies fell like dominos to ‘management capture’ and quickly became unrecognisable to those who knew them a generation before.

——————————————————————————————————————-

 

 

Tony Taylor denies doing an MA in Entrepreneurial Philanthropy and being headhunted for a CEO Third Sector job

fake

Be not disturbed! There is no basis for the rum rumour that I have embraced neoliberalism and applied to do an MA in Entrepreneurial Philanthropy after being head-hunted for the post of CEO of an unnamed leading Youth Surveillance charity. Although I’m a trifle disappointed not to be asked. This wicked whopper is the work evidently of a mole, who overheard me start a sentence, ‘neoliberalism brought remarkable technological development’ and hallucinated on the spot, thus missing the caveat, ‘yet has widened and deepened inequality’. In addition, it seems the reporting rodent got wind of a discussion at the last IDYW Steering Group meeting, within which I talked of withdrawing from my role as Coordinator. Putting 2 and 2 together the creature came up with a formula, if not for a nerve agent one that indicated I was on the verge of betraying the cause and marketing my inner soul.

Seriously though – you would hope there’s no need for such an opening cliched clause, but nowadays, who can be sure? –  there is a hint of truth in the tall tale. At our last Steering Group, we did discuss our collective capacity to keep the IDYW train on track, within which my ability to contribute was of concern. I indicated that because of, amongst other things, continuing personal pressures I was struggling to fulfil the coordinating role.

It is important to situate this ongoing dilemma in the context outlined in an IDYW statement posted in July 2016, IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK: LESS A CAMPAIGN, MORE A FORUM OF CRITICAL DEBATE?  It’s well worth revisiting in full, but a few lines are pertinent to this discussion.

Our existence is haunted by contradictions and concerns. On a practical level, the IDYW show is kept on the road through the efforts of a small group of volunteers. Of course, this is neither a surprise nor a slight on those unable to be more involved. These remain difficult times. Workers, paid or unpaid, have little time on their hands. Whether disillusioned and weary or optimistic and energetic, it’s a stressful place to be. In this forbidding climate, we have failed to become the campaign group of our imagination.

On reflection, our most important contribution across our lifespan has been to provide a space, increasingly denied elsewhere, for a collective and thoughtful discussion about the state of youth work. We have sought to provide information, commentary, analysis and research to support this process. To do so is in the best tradition of a practice, which aspires to be reflective.

theory

To cut the story short the present consequence of our effort to think things through is as follows:

as Coordinator, from now, I will only be working one day a week on a Monday for IDYW [in terms of research, maintaining the website,  commenting on FB, answering e-mails]; that there will only be one post on the IDYW website each week, ‘Sustenance for the Senses’, which will bring together links to news/information/analysis about the world of youth work and beyond.

– that, alongside this reduced commitment I’ll go at my own pace in terms of other writing I have been asked or wish to do.  If anything worthwhile comes out of this usually tortuous process I’ll put it on my blog at Critically Chatting and draw attention to its appearance on the IDYW site and Facebook.

The Steering Group is to meet on Friday, June 15 in Manchester to explore whether the above experiment in reducing expectations on the Coordinator makes any sense and to draw up a strategy for keeping IDYW alive and kicking. These meetings are always open so further details regarding the venue will be posted in good time.

Our July 2016 post ended on the following note, which retains its pertinence.

Obviously, we hope that you will be both contributor [to] and reader [of the IDYW debates], actively engaged, in the light of your own energy and resources. Whatever we deem ourselves to be, we need one another in a struggle to defend not only youth work, but a belief in a holistic education from cradle to grave, a commitment to a radical praxis and the common good. In this context IDYW still has a useful role to play.

As ever your thoughts and criticisms welcomed.

 

 

 

IDYW 9th Conference – ‘buzzy’, critical and collaborative

 

idyw9

Bernard Davies had sent this report on Friday’s conference in Birmingham, bashed out in his own words to give a flavour of what one Facebook message called a ‘buzzy’ experience.

 

matthill

Matthew Hill, Centre for Youth Impact in full flow

 

Though it mostly it felt a good news day, the bad news was that not only could Tony Taylor not be with us at the conference because of his broken foot. Even the advanced tech skills of two of our most ‘tecky’ Steering Group members couldn’t quite connect him to us via Skype. A great disappointment given how much work he’d put into the 16-point draft position paper, which acted as the main focus for the day and the other preparation he’d done.

 

Quite a lot of more positive news did seem to come out of the day, however – attended by 50+ people. As a much-needed reminder that youth work can and does have a future, these included a group of ‘Young Ambassadors’ from the Wakefield Youth Association and a number of current youth and community work students, together with their tutors.

 

The day began with a minute’s silence to honour three highly respected colleagues who have died recently, namely Peter Duke, John Parr and Kevin Morris. Poignantly Kevin’s funeral was taking place at the very same moment.  The conference proceeded with a brief input setting out the background and development so far of the IDYW ‘Is the Tide Turning?’ initiative since it was launched in the aftermath of last year’s General Election. Work throughout the day took place then in five groups, chosen initially by people for its focus in the first session on one of five more specific issues running through the position paper’s 16 bullet points: outcomes; practice; purposes and values; structuring and funding provision; and training and employment. The lively and indeed often clearly passionate discussions generated many sheets of paper recording key points for IDYW to take away and use in any future work on the paper.

 

leighnya

Leigh Middleton, NYA, responds to the debate

 

The two panel sessions which followed allowed brief inputs from organisations which are pretty key at this point in the youth work struggle – the Centre for Youth Impact, the Institute for Youth Work, NYA, the Training Agencies Group, Unison and Unite. These again prompted exchanges within the groups as well as with some of the speakers directly. A final session in groups and plenary gave people a chance to give voice to some of the main messages to IDYW from the groups – some strongly supportive of points on the draft paper, others pointing to need for further thinking, such as the need not to be defensive in our struggle for youth work but to make the case positively on the basis of its strengths and potential.

 

paulfenton

Paul Fenton, PALYCW,  puts in his pennyworth

 

Amidst all this hard work, the café-style arrangement, the availability throughout the day of drinks and bits to snack on and the regular brief breaks clearly opened the way not just for many other searching (if unrecorded) informal discussion and exchanges but also for much personal catching-up and for new encounters.

 

One individual feedback comment at the end of the day: ‘This is my first time at an IDYW event and I found it really interesting and stimulating’. And on Facebook: ‘an…excellent conference … both informative and inspiring and great to catch up with people that I don’t bump into very often’ – prompting a ‘Hear, hear’ response from someone else.

 

All very gratifying, though still leaving lots of thinking to do about where next to take all the day’s interest, debates and energy – so further reactions and comments certainly welcome.

Thanks to Kevin Jones for the photos.

 

In Praise of International Women’s Day

PressforProgress-IWD2018

International Women’s Day 2018 campaign theme:
#PressforProgress

With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away – there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo#TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.

And while we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.

So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

International Women’s Day is not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.

 

Why we’re striking for women’s rights today

Protests are taking place across the world to mark International Women’s Day. Four UK campaigners explain what they’re standing up for.