The place of the youth is in the struggle

By M. Husain Maulana

Media and Propaganda Coordinator, SERBUK-Indonesia

As we celebrate this year’s International Youth Day, we recognise the role of the youth in the struggle for social change. Young people have been honoured throughout history. Benjamin Disraeli, an English writer of the early 19th century, wrote that almost all great things have been accomplished by young people; from the French revolution to the national liberation movement in various countries, the youth for independence.

However, many young people, in various regions, continue to suffer from poor living conditions, including social and economic inequality. The existing economic and political system, which is heavily oriented towards capital gains and rabid individualism, has consigned millions of young people to extreme poverty. While young people can be compared to tall and sturdy trees that can withstand many storms, they can still be uprooted. 

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) is fully aware of the challenges faced by many young people around the globe. Through the years, BWI campaigned strongly nd consistently for the rights, welfare and interest of young workers, organised various youth programs and activities initiated various advocacies to bring trade unions closer to young people.

As such, for 2021, BWI carried the message "Get Ready for The Future: Invest Now in Skills Training” as it marked international Youth Day. BWI demands governments and employers to invest heavily in workers’ skills trainings and similar educational programmes to provide more ample employment opportunities for young people, capably retool workers of all ages to keep them employed and pave the way for a better future. 


In Indonesia, BWI-affiliated SERBUK took part in this effort with much enthusiasm. It instructed its members to take part in different solidarity actions and held workshops and discussions on various youth issues. 

SERBUK also invited its network Kanal Muda to participate in its numerous youth-inspired activities, and publicly screened a short film celebrating the life of Riko, a young SERBUK member who despite passing away at a very young age, inspired many workers with his youthful idealism and sense of volunteerism.  

SERBUK’s young trade unionists used the International Youth Day celebration to reflect on the situation of young workers. As Karl Marx correctly pointed out, workers, including young people, are victims of social alienation as a consequence of living and earning a living under a capitalist system. We are not unfamiliar with this. Amidst a pandemic, we recorded various cases of layoffs and union busting practices in the country. 

This cannot stand.  More than ever, it is necessary for trade unions to embark on massive trade union education and advocacy, strengthen organisational capacities, and mobilise for change. These are important trade union endeavours that require the involvement of  young people. 

Undoubtedly, the youth’s struggle for a better future is extremely challenging. This became more complex with the spread of COVID-19. It was once said that “all roads lead to Rome.” The same can be said of young workers’ struggle for labour rights and welfare. There are many forms of struggle for that singular aspiration of a better future for all. The youth must constantly learn and adapt and involve themselves in various labour struggles. 

Kurt Cobain once said, “the duty of youth is to challenge corruption." We totally agree. This statement is especially true today. The place of the youth is in the struggle against a corrupt society that deprives workers their full rights and benefits. We encourage our young comrades to be a part of this fighting history.