The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Why Such Violence among Young People?

Aug 29, 2022

This article is translated from the July 30 issue, #1290 of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of comrades in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two islands that are French overseas departments in the Caribbean.

There were sixteen murders in Martinique and 22 in Guadeloupe since the beginning of this year, almost entirely working class youth. Not a week goes by without one young person killing another. These homicides start from various “settling of accounts”: whether over drugs, theft of scooters, or other causes.

This escalating violence is partly explained by what young working class people are constantly experiencing. Six out of every 10 young people cannot find work. It is also explained by the deterioration of all public services, especially schools. The young get poor training, not leading to a job, facing discrimination in hiring. By chance, when a few do get employed, the work is often badly paid, or not even paid at all. Many young people end up disgusted with work, revolted by the society, rejecting the idea of working for a boss who exploits them. So, most youth are left at the margins of society. The consequence is great despair. A large number have left the West Indies to find work.

Lack of perspective leads to self-destructive behavior. When a young person takes reckless risks on the road or goes so far as to shoot at the police, it means he no longer expects anything from life. The increase in incidents goes hand in hand with the rise in poverty and precarious living. The crazy increase in the price of consumer goods, of fuel, plunges the poorest families into ever greater misery.

We see the social injustice against young people from the working class, but we also live in a society exuding violence from its very pores. The television shows wars, bombings, attacks, appalling massacres everywhere. Video games and movies are often linked also to war and/or killing. This environment, this culture of violence in which our society is bathed, is not likely to cure the evils we see, but rather to make them worse.

Last November and December, it was mostly hopeless and desperate youth who manned the roadblocks to denounce this situation. It was the youth who, for several nights, let their revolt explode until some fired live ammunition at the police. Even if we don’t approve of these acts, we understand how exasperated youth come to do them.

The government’s response to the social crisis has been repression. Hundreds of young people have been arrested, tried, and imprisoned, subjected to judicial and police harassment. The government did not find decently paid jobs, nor try to solve the causes of the social crisis. It just wanted to punish all those who revolted, making the situation even worse.

We live in a capitalist system, in which all that interests the bosses is increasing their profits. And all that interests the government is to serve the bosses. They don’t care that there are thousands of unemployed young people. On the contrary, they use unemployment to put pressure on all workers, to lower wages in order to increase their profits.

The fight of the youth is no different from the fight workers will have to lead: to challenge the capitalist organization of society.