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Are we divided by generation?

This article is over 10 years, 11 months old
Jonny Jones tackles the argument that the political response to the crisis is fragmenting on generational lines
Issue 2254

From the Arab revolutions to the protests sweeping Spain, militant mass mobilisations have had a tremendous impact this year. New activists have been brought into struggle.

Writing in the Guardian last week, Newsnight’s Paul Mason argued that the political response to the crisis “has begun to fragment on generational lines”.

He argued that this was because older, organised workers want to “resist in the old way”.

Is this really the case?

It’s true that many of those who were the first to hit the streets in Spain were young people, dubbed “Los Indignados”—the outraged.

But it is clear from video footage of the protests that they are not composed solely of young people.

And while many within the Spanish movement are suspicious of trade unions, whose leaders have caved in to austerity, workers have nevertheless provided solidarity for the camps.

It’s true that young people, less weighed down by traditions and financial and family commitments, can enter battle rapidly. They often bring new and inventive forms of struggle.

In contrast, the official labour movement generally works at a slower tempo.

But when it moves it has immense power. Workers’ collective strength in their workplaces is a force that governments and bosses fear.

In Egypt and Tunisia it was the action of organised workers that finished off the regimes of the dictators.

That’s why socialists involved in the protests in Spain are arguing for greater engagement with workers and for visiting key workplaces.

The independent trade unions, representing thousands of workers, have called for anti‑austerity protests alongside Los Indignados.

This sense of solidarity can create pressure on official trade unions to call action and can give workers confidence to act independently.

In Britain, the revolt of students and young people last year inspired people, showing that resistance was possible.

Now we are seeing organised workers, young and old, take centre stage in the struggle against austerity.

Hundreds of thousands of workers are set to strike against our government on 30 June. Rather than being fragmented, they are already winning the support of students, activists, unemployed and pensioners.

This could be the beginning of the sort of resistance with the power to bring the government down.

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