Text by Bilal Muftuoglu
Unjust, unfair, individualistic, greedy: young people in Europe do not hold back when describing the current prevailing capitalist system.
“1.5 billion live with less than a dollar a day. We live in an unequal world. It’s because of capitalism”, said Nidhal, a Swedish member of the Young European Socialists.
When young people are given the chance to come up with their own “ideal society”, many voice their ideas out loud, and especially when they are alternatives to capitalism.
At one of the workshops at the European Youth Event 2016, echoes of “we’re the 99%” and “we need radical change” resounded in the room, reminiscent of the Occupy Wall Street protests in the United States, and the recent “Nuit Debout” (“Up All Night”) social movement in France.
An initial overview of the current economic system and a brief definition of capitalism were then followed by a word association game that asked people to write what came to mind about the relationships between capitalism, the patriarchy, the environment and social inequalities.
“Capitalism depends on infinite growth, unlimited and uncontrolled consumption”, wrote one of the participants on giant posters lying in the middle of the room. Criticism of unequal access to education stands out on the posters as well, while some pointed out the gender inequalities that still persist in our modern world, like with wage gaps.
When young people are asked to actually present a solution, or create an ideal society, many refuse to define theirs.
While most of the young people believe that establishing faith in humanity and being more positive was enough, there were a couple of concrete suggestions that stood out.
Taxing the rich and market regulation by the government is one solution, said Thanos, a 27-year- old participant from Greece. He gave an example of the Scandinavian economic model, which thrives on high taxation while offering free education and healthcare in return.
“Changing the system is difficult but realistic. This system has a lot of inequalities, whether that involves access to healthcare or the job market. We should tackle this, not by destroying capitalism, but by regulating capitalism,” said the Greek participant.
For Bianca, a 25-year- old Romanian, the suggestions did not sound well thought out or inclusive enough.
“When you suggest something, you have to think about the whole system. What I hoped was to see people coming from different backgrounds thinking collectively and thoroughly for alternatives. Because if you give one suggestion, it can have a lot of repercussions for other parts of the system,” she said.
Nidhal, who calls her home country’s economic model “the closest to the ideal”, seems happy with the results and suggestions made by participants, in particular the ones based on Nordic capitalism.
“Social democracy is the ideal model, but I don’t agree that social democratic parties nowadays are the perfect examples to carry it through”, corrects Lucie, a co- organiser of the event from Czech Republic.
“Social movements from around the world protest against leftist governments, populist governments and conservative governments. That’s why we need a more structured criticism. Protesters need to take responsibility in turning their words into actions, because protesting is something anyone can do,” she added.