Revolutionary Youth: Harbinger of the Future
Society organizes itself around tools. The varying degrees of specialization of labor within the productive relations of a given society are a direct reflection of the complexity of the interrelationships that exist within a given mode of production. The complexity of the society and the essential tools society is built around determine where and how an individual may labor.
It is in the essentially non-productive (in the economic sense of the word) shelter of childhood that an individual is first made aware of the general requirements and possibilities for productive adult life; these requirements and possibilities are a direct reflection of the given relationship that an individual is born into under a given mode of production in a given time and place.
Youth as social construct emerges from productive relations
Childhood is not a fixed period of time set by some force that exists outside of (and somehow metaphysically informs) society of what the given length should inherently be. In this sense the non-productive period of childhood may possibly only last until an individual is physically capable of being productive within the demands and development of property in that given time and place.
Nonetheless it is in childhood we are first socialized to the norms of the given social orders we are born into before we are actually physically capable of participating. Under primitive communism children were taught in their time to hunt and gather but logically were long aware of this system before they participated in it.
With the introduction of property society broke into classes. Within that divide different children were socialized to meet the demands of the expectations of their class. In slave societies the children of slaves were prepared for a life of slavery, and the children of slave masters were prepared for a life of slave mastery. Under feudalism the children of farmers were trained for a life of animal husbandry, the children of blacksmiths to fit horseshoes, and the prince to one day become king.
Under capitalism, which in its higher expressions rests upon industry, a factory worker, a farm hand, a small business owner, a government employee all prepare their children to participate in the capitalist economy in various capacities. They do so often under the common expression “you can be whatever you set your mind to” often meaning the child of a bartender was free to pursue social production as a postal worker unbound and unchained from the unforgiving lash of the bar stool.
Members of the capitalist propertied class most often prepare their children for a life of capital asset management wherein capitalist progeny interact with a whole host of specialized attorneys, managers, lobbies, and executive boards who carry out the particular functions of capital for them. The level at which capitalist progeny interact with the specialized professional capitalist functionaries within this process is largely a matter of individual interest as the functions of capital will largely be carried out in their name for their benefit with or without much of their own individual intellectual output. The distance of their position from production is a direct reflection of the complexity of the organization of society that arose around the tools capable of producing capitalism.
Process of socialization changes with changing conditions
Different conditions produce different social values and thus the expectations a child is raised with change under different conditions. The socialization of various relationships, the standardization of norms surrounding forms of property and labor, stretching across time and locale were and are all made possible only by the tools that that given social order is built around.
Childhood, in the social and not physical sense of the word, is the period of time in which an individual is cared for and largely prepared to meet the expectations of adulthood within their given time and place. These expectations do not rise out of some higher, fixed, eternal morality that hovers above our heads or courses naturally through our veins throughout the generations through time immemorial. These expectations are in fact the product of the demands and developments of a given mode of production within a given time and place.
Stripped of all pomp and ceremony, divorced from any and all assigned social significance, what is taught in childhood are the perceived skills required in adulthood to obtain the goods and necessities of life. Expectation is what arises out of and socially surrounds that given need. Expectation, in this sense of the word, what is expected for an individual to be a productive member of society, is at heart a social expression of a material need. That material need of course is an individual’s ability to acquire the skills necessary to obtain the goods and necessities of life. These skills have historically largely been obtained through generational transmission.
It is only in the brief period of an economic leap that people must be resocialized, new survival skills for the new economy must be learned. New ideas emerging from the objective process must clash with the old. There is major upheaval and then within a relatively short period of time these revolutionary new ideas become socialized as more or less as fixed or eternal, “the way things are” or the result of some given identity divorced from the material conditions that actually birthed them.
In this way the process of socialization, that standardization of norms, begins again under altered material conditions that demand a new set of expectations. Survival skills, which are couched in expectation, are taught once more under the auspices of some higher principles.
All mammals teach their young survival skills. There is nothing inherently nefarious in this process in and of itself. It is the fact that this rearing process, which emerges from the natural inclination of human beings to care for and prepare their young, is channeled through the prism of the social mores that bolster property in whatever given propertied productive relation, that these various sets of values, these given expectations have throughout history socially fit the minds of non-propertied youth for the shackles of adult slavery in one form or another.
New conditions raise new challenges
In growing numbers the youth of today, as they physically grow out of childhood, cannot socially meet the expectations of adulthood within the capitalist mode of production. Many are simply unable under these changing conditions to sell their labor power, which for the non-propertied class under capitalism is the very basis for survival. A new quality that has been introduced into the means of production, the new essential tool that society is currently reorganizing itself around, is in the short term compatible only with highly specialized skills and in the long term antagonistic to nearly all forms of human labor.
There is precious little material base for the propertied class of today to socialize non-propertied youth to the social mores and expectations that will be demanded out of these emerging productive forces, out of these new essential tools that society must one way or another reorganize around.
Youth spontaneous motion needs political clarity
Poll after poll shows the declining popularity of capitalism amongst the youth. It is quite unlikely they are responding to what capitalism really is, but against the advancing of its social mores in a period wherein they cannot participate in its activities. They aren’t rejecting having to sell their labor power, they are disillusioned by the fact they cannot. More and more the youth are being forced to break with the social mores and expectations of exchange value. This break that is being forced upon them and their material need to make sense of the world around them is forcing subjective expressions new and old. What is old takes on a new character as society is objectively changing its quality.
The politics of withdrawal, either personal, as seen in the explosion of self-help movements, or social, as with the various expressions of autonomy, expresses itself as the attempt to live life outside society’s material base. People strive somehow to organize life outside of the use of the tools that society is currently built around. The politics of withdrawal posits that the correct course of action is to create a new world divorced from the old either within one’s own mind or within some shared community that exists outside of the prevailing society.
This is impossible as all society is organized around tools. History is the progression of how society arranges itself around those ever advancing tools. Political power is the ability to forcibly insist upon which tools will be used and how society will organize around them. Those commanding the helm of a social order cannot and will not allow individuals to organize a counter society outside or within society itself.
Revolutionaries must engage among youth to introduce new ideas
That this thinking is wrong does not mean its thinkers should be discarded. Our work with youth should be no different than our work anywhere and everywhere within the new class. Revolutionaries must engage the widespread subjective responses to the objective process that these youth are caught up in and introduce new ideas.
Lastly there are revolutionary youth who feel that the goods and necessities of life and the tools that produce them are their human right simply by fact of birth. This grouping among social forces in motion should give us great hope for the future. These revolutionary youth, having never experienced the productive heights of capitalism, can and are being reached with visions of a new society with far greater ease than their economic predecessors. This section of youth doesn’t need to be told what is happening they can simply be given the framework and intellectual tools to understand the processes of the only world they have really known.
The process is objective. Their life experience confirms our philosophical outlook. Take heart and rally, comrades; a new day is on the horizon.
November/December 2013. Vol23.Ed6
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011