The Young Fabians are the youth branch of Australian Fabians, made up of young progressives under 31. Along with my Co-Convener Henri Vickers, we are re-launching the Young Fabians in 2020. It will be an organisation seeking radical thought and fresh perspectives to tackle the issues young people and our society face.
All over the world, centre-left and left-wing governments are falling to right or far-right governments, while the trade union movement is decimated by archaic laws. Progressive organisations, journalists and protest movements face authoritarian crackdowns, and a climate crisis rages on.
As a young person living in Australia involved in the progressive and labour movement, I have heard the issues that people are facing under a neoliberal capitalist system that drives wealth inequality and precarity.
The single mother struggling to find work under the casualised gig economy. Attempting to survive on the $40 a day of Newstart spending her time applying for hundreds of jobs and being knocked back while trying to raise a family.
The student receiving false debts from Centrelink while just trying to study, or simply going through humiliating bureaucratic nonsense just trying to get onto a payment in the first place.
The graduates trying to get a head start under this dire economy, after having experienced years of billions of dollars being ripped out of their education and with an insurmountable debt, coming out of it and seeing that there are at the very least nine job seekers for every job - although sometimes it can be hundreds.
The need for 3-5 years experience before even being considered for an entry level job. Hospitality and retail workers who are overworked and underpaid, their wages are stolen, or they’re replaced by a self-service checkout.
The 55 year old man who’s been made redundant at work, or is simply just too sick to continue working, having to go through the trauma of accessing the Disability Support Pension and often being forced onto Newstart with unreasonable and insurmountable “mutual obligations”. I have heard so many variations of the sentence “I’ve worked all my life and paid taxes and I just need some help from the government to get me back on my feet”.
The young person, trying to get a house under the current crisis in housing. For millennials, the prospect of property ownership is continually out of reach with the rapid rise in property prices. Whilst there is ample evidence that there is not enough social and public housing, and homelessness is increasing because of that, governments continue to ignore this crisis.
The mother fleeing domestic violence with her young family spending years on backlogs waiting for their right to housing. Or else, living in fear as the public housing authorities take months to fix a broken fence where her abusive ex could invade at any time.
People suffering through exorbitant rises in energy prices. Facing rental exploitation, with the risk of being kicked out at any moment with no-cause evictions.
Queer or trans and non binary people who are not accepted by their families being forced out onto the streets.
Women are raped and murdered by their husbands, boyfriends, fathers - just for daring to live and breathe in this world.
Along with the recent murder of Kumanjayi Walker among so many others, white Australia is continuing to kill First Nations people through systematic deaths in custody often because of racist police institutions and the criminalisation of poverty - in the context of a genocidal and racist colonialism that is ongoing to this day.
I hear from people who spend years on backlogs waiting for their right to healthcare, or the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or I can’t reach them because they’ve died waiting for it.
Veterans, having suffered through the unjust turmoil of unnecessary wars, are getting their services gutted.
Pensioners in aged care are seeing their public centres ravaged with corruption and being shut down.
Refugees spend years indefinitely locked up in cages for the “crime” of seeking asylum - with the recently released Manus Island asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani savaging Australia’s policies on refugees.
On climate change, there is the myth that people in the regions do not care about climate justice. But it is the firefighters on the frontline, the regional mayors and councillors, the farmers and the residents seeing their homes and livelihoods burn down in front of their eyes who are most insistent on the links between climate change and severe bushfires, droughts and a lack of access to clean water in the regions.
Meanwhile, the Coalition government is offering few solutions and sliding into outright authoritarianism - raiding journalists and trade union offices, censoring feminist activists on Q&A, moving union-busting bills in parliament, attacking the righs of progressive groups to campaign, cracking down on protestors, and peeling back human rights gained particularly in the queer community with their proposed religious discrimination bill.
The only response from the government seems to be small and insulting tax hand-outs, along with the privatisation and decimation of our public services - while the banking and insurance sector gets away with mass fraud, corruption and greed, no less - and ignoring the climate crisis as we suffer under the hottest temperatures on record.
We’re told that free market capitalism drives “innovation”, “productivity” and “efficiency”. We’re told that a budget surplus will save us. But what’s the point of owning the iPhone 25 when we can’t even afford the bus fare to get to a doctor that doesn’t bulk bill anymore?
We know that we can’t let our world be snuffed out by centrism, triangulation and any capitulation to a neoliberal and increasingly fascist agenda.
It is not about being “puritanical”, “ideologically pure” or espousing “left wing populism”.
What they don’t tell you when governments compromise on human rights, on climate, on working people, on the growing precariat and underclass - for pragmatism, for realism, for whatever other self-serving reason - is that the compromise doesn’t just happen in a silo on an extravagant parliament floor. The compromise leads to real world consequences for living, breathing human beings trying to exist under this system. These are not just statistics on a page. This is about you, reading this, wherever you are.
So a movement in response to government inaction is about positive change for people who are suffering. People who have lost hope in democracy and who have lost faith in the ability for governments to create any worthwhile change.
It’s about joining the fight for a better world - both resisting the bullshit and pushing on forward towards something better than this.
As a youth movement we need to collectively agitate and organise for a broader vision of what we want our society to be outside of neoliberal capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and austerity politics. We must not capitulate to those in power. We need to keep recruiting and bringing people over to our vision, talking to people on the ground, bringing everyone in the community with us and never losing sight of why we got involved in the first place. The Left as a whole is facing some of the biggest attacks we have ever had - we need to come together, build left-wing coalitions, stand in solidarity with movement politics and organise for the world we want and the world that we need. This means the patient tasks of listening, understanding, empathising; of community-building; of debating ideas for change and always being open and critical about where we’ve been and where we’re going.
When I was growing up in Whyalla, my Poppy used to tell me stories about the docklands. About the union strikes that they went on for better pay, and conditions. About the strikes they went on when they thought workers were unfairly sacked. When unions were the status quo. He also told me about the Vietnamese refugees he was friends with who came to Australia by boat. They used to share food - they had their rice and he had his stew. It’s such a simple memory but it always stuck with me as something that the working class was and could be. People from different cultures, backgrounds, means, coming together, sharing their worlds and fighting for better working conditions and a better world. At least that’s how he presented it to me. When I first became “political” and got involved in progressive and democratic socialist movements, it was these ideals above everything else that I think guided me. So remember why we’re here and who we’re here for and we will never truly lose anything. As Helen Todd said, “bread for all, and roses too”.
You can get involved by joining the Australian Fabians here or emailing the Young Fabians at email@example.com.