Stephen Hall reports from Wigan.
This famous photo shows an unemployed worker in Wigan at the time of George Orwell’s visit to the town prior to his writing of "The Road to Wigan Pier". Must we return to such bleak scenes before local youth rise up an act?
Are you looking for a 32 hour, four days a week job which pays a minimum £6.50 an hour to start with, has 30 days paid holidays a year, early retirement at 60 and a decent pension?
Alternatively, looking for an apprenticeship leading to a more skilled job, as well as in either case, looking for free lifelong access to education, including Higher Education, and/or on the job training?
If so, then you should, as the former Labour Party Young Socialists’ “Youth Campaign Against Unemployment” leaflets in the early 80s used to say: JOIN THE FIGHT TO GET IT!
This is the kind of employment and future income prospect all young people might have, not only in the Wigan area but throughout the land, if they all fought for it. To achieve it will mean putting to an end the very economic and political system which sees 25% of those in the 16 to 24 year old age range currently in the Wigan area NOT in EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION or TRAINING. Or alternatively, in the case of the vast majority of the remaining 75%, sees them in generally much lower paid and lesser skilled jobs offering little in the way of future advancement, and depending on whether they’ve been to University and got a degree or not, potentially shackled to a huge student loan and other debts to go with it.
It is difficult to say who is currently in the worse position of all these young people – the formally more qualified graduate, who even if they lucky to be able get a well paid job, will soon find themselves with a student debt in excess of £30k at the beginning of their work lives which they have to pay back, those graduates who can’t find any suitable work in keeping with their qualifications, those in low paid dead end jobs, or those who are NEET.
What is for certain though is if young people don’t themselves decide to do anything the situation can only get worse for all of them, apart from that is of course, the children of the most well-off.
Whilst some of us older comrades might want to do our bit and stand up for the rights of our young people and are prepared to fight for them to the extent we might be able, we are no substitute for the mass of young people (and the mass of the people as a whole) doing it for themselves, and only young people (and the mass of the people as a whole) doing it for themselves can ultimately ensure it actually happens.
The vast majority of our young people currently face a bleak future without decisive action on their part in the next period, not only in relation to securing jobs and decent living standards, but in relation to the growing threat of irreversible global ecological degradation and catastrophic climate change which cast a shadow over the very future of humanity.
Whilst the Wigan Borough Green Socialists, would fully support the idea of young people across Wigan organising themselves independently to promote their own interests, and believe young people would probably prefer to do that without the likes of us older comrades interfering, the lack of such independent organisation by youth in the Borough is glaringly obvious at the moment, including at the level of students.
As a consequence, I think it would be at the least apt for us to offer our unconditional support to any young person or group of young people wanting to get something off the ground. This might take the shape of organising and paying for a room for a meeting, printing leaflets or posters, helping with travel expenses, or whatever.
If anyone in the Wigan would like such help, without conditions, then they should contact us via this blog. I’m sure you would find us wholly supportive.