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Rich and other YFJ activists marching on May Day

I joined the Socialist Party in December 2008 while in my first year at university after first attending Socialist Students meetings in Hull. Even since a child I’d been curious at just how the economic system we currently live under seemed unable to meet even the very necessary needs of the majority. I remembered whilst growing up how I witnessed my dad be made redundant on at least three occasions in a short space of time and the friction and hardship that brought the family I grew up in. When still very young in the mid-nineties I remember witnessing homeless people in the streets of Hull and an almost unending stream of people going in and out of one of the largest job centres in the country – an impression on a young mind which sadly is unchanged to this day.

Rich Silby

Were these people just lazy? Didn’t they work hard enough? Maybe they were just very unlucky people? If that were the case, Lady Luck had sincerely neglected her visit to this idiosyncratic ‘northern coastal town’ tucked away on the banks of East Yorkshire. Whether it was the cream coloured phone-boxes or the lingering aroma of fish that put her off, I don’t know…

But no. My family worked hard – silly hours in fact. There certainly was no lack of will to get on in life. Yet the rows over money continued. Not until I attended college from sixteen years old did I find this economic system had a name – and this was capitalism.

“Capitalism, you say?”

“Yeah, y’know, that system which means if you work really hard you will reap your just rewards!”

Fast forward to my A level results. I left college with adequate grades and about to foray in to full time work for the first time. I worked hard for my education and worked even harder in my attempt to obtain employment. Nothing seemed to be happening. The courtesy of a rejection letter by this stage was seen as a modicum of success if it came at all. The will to get on was certainly there, yet something, somewhere was not delivering. It was almost as if there was a shortage of jobs in the city, despite the ‘economic boom’ of the mid noughties…

“Hang on! We have an economic system which isn’t meeting the demands of most people! I thought capitalism adjusted itself to meet the demands with supply?!”

Not long after, I was put on to a ‘training scheme’ at A4e. I was taught such luminary platitudes like “remember to sell yourself out there, there aren’t many jobs out there nowadays!” as all the while a somewhat rambunctious man of an oily character in a logoed uniform dismissed a man in his forties protestations at being told he could get work for 30 hours a week – but it would be unpaid (the fact he also had to juggle hours with caring for a disabled wife were a mere afterthought to these people).

“Where’s the incentive there then? Why should I do that?”

“You just have a bad attitude! You should be thankful of the opportunity!”

If there was one moment which left me utterly disillusioned, it was this. I didn’t return after that – I applied for the university just up the road from me and attended not long after; anything to get away from that poisonous and depressing environment. The system didn’t work. I was witnessing things Robert Tressel and Jack London wrote about in front of my very eyes. This all under a Labour government at the time who were apparently the party for ‘people like us’ – working class people. A government which had little problem with wars, leeching private contractors and the filthy rich at the expense of the poor. A party more interested in looking good within the Murdoch newspapers than they were with the interests of those who vote for them. They were never the answer to me.

I wanted a just society where the majority had a stake in the world and felt in control. No more anxiety over employment or housing, free from discrimination, a decent education system available for all regardless of ability to pay and a healthcare system which benefits people who need it, not according to their wallet bulge. I wanted the potential of all to get on, rather than having their fate decided by pernicious economic bumps and scrapes. I realised I wanted socialism. Not that of the so-called socialist countries of the past seen upon by disconnected bureaucrats on high, but that of a genuine democratic control which once and for all has the potential to liberate the population here and abroad from economic insecurity.

Reading of the magnificent struggles fought by the Socialist Party’s predecessor Militant, such as the Liverpool City Council and the Anti-Poll Tax campaign, I realised this was an organisation which not only talked about things, but actually did them and won. It is one thing realising the society you live around you is unjust and skewed in favour of the 1%, it’s another altogether getting off your knees and changing it. The examples the Socialist Party and the equivalent international sections have set worldwide in winning struggles were key in my decision in getting involved, and I urge anybody out there with similar feelings to get involved too.

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