Earlier this month, Corbyn’s Labour Party tabled a motion to lower the voting age to 16. The key reason for tabling such a motion - and for Theresa May and the Tories opposing it - is that the last election saw two-thirds of 18 to 24-year-olds support the Labour Party, with turnout for that age bracket skyrocketing from 43% in 2015 to over 66% this year.
Corbyn’s left-wing programme has clearly won the hearts and minds of millions of young people throughout the country.
The numbers of youth backing Corbyn will come as a surprise to no one. House prices are rising, student debt is piling up, living standards and wages are far worse for young people today than was the case for our parents’ generation, all this while education, youth services and local councils are being cut to the bone. Young people are crying out for change and Corbyn is being seen as taking up their struggle.
The youth are the most sensitive barometer of the mood in society and are therefore the first to be won over to radical politics when the system is in crisis, as it is today. For that reason, 16 to 18-year olds are seen as being a dangerous group to give a political voice to - at least from the point of view of the establishment. Time and time again it’s been young people at the forefront of anti-establishment votes, from the independence referendum in Scotland, to Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party.
Of course, votes at 16 would not, on its own, guarantee that the problems faced by young people today will be solved. For that, there needs to be something worth voting for. Corbyn has won the support of millions of young people for his policies. But to make these a reality, Corbyn, Labour, and the movement around him need to strike a fundamental blow against the capitalist system and transform society along socialist lines.
That’s why voting alone is not enough. Young people should be allowed to vote. But they also should be getting involved in day-to-day socialist political activity, to push Corbyn’s Labour to the left, so that we can guarantee that his programme is carried out.
Anyone who has ever done a politics A-level or degree course knows that some people who want to lower the voting age want to do so just to legitimise the status quo, rather than to facilitate radical change.
We’re not interested in that. Democracy under capitalism is limited to passively voting for otherwise unaccountable and often ineffective people every five or so years. Whoever gets into government, it is always the capitalist class of bankers and bosses who are really in charge.
We want a society in which ordinary people decide directly, on a day-to-day basis, the priorities and direction of society. Corbyn has inspired people to get actively involved in a political movement, many of them for the first time, because he offers ideas and policies which, if implemented properly, would give people real control over their own lives.
Votes at 16 is necessary. But even more important is the active discussion, debate, and building of an organisation capable of fundamentally changing society.
UK Youth Parliament sing “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” in House of Commons
On Friday, during a UK Youth Parliament sitting of the House of Commons, members of UK Youth Parliament sang rounds of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”. With an average age of 15 in the Youth Parliament, we once again see the incredible impact of the Corbyn movement on winning over young people.
By promising to seriously tackle issues affecting those under-18, including better and free education, ending low-wage, low-skill employment, lowering the voting age, fighting for LGBT rights, and investing in public transport through nationalisations, it is no surprise that the Corbyn movement is able to energise young people. More than anything it’s Corbyn’s bold, anti-establishment ideas that have won the youth over to his side.
This support from the UK Youth Parliament comes after years of campaigning by right-wingers to impose strict penalties on charities, like the Youth Parliament, if they promote political ideas. The fact that the UK Youth Parliament is legally not allowed to promote political ideas is the kind of nonsense only a right-winger could dream up. any Any hint of politics on the part of a charity can be met with huge attacks on funding and the loss of charitable recognition.
The fact is, though, that any serious attempt to defend the rights of young people cannot help but be political. The UK Youth Parliament is clearly radicalised, and this radicalism needs to be translated into the building of an organisation capable of carrying out Corbyn’s programme by breaking with capitalism and fighting for socialism, if it is to be effective. Young people, even as young as 12 in the case of the Youth Parliament, find themselves on the same side as the working class and must fight with the mass organisations of that class against the Tories and the capitalists to achieve socialist change. Link up with the Unions, link up with the Labour Party and let the young join in with the fight for socialism!