Corbyn’s Labour Party have tabled a motion to lower the voting age to 16. The key reason for tabling such a motion, and for Theresa May opposing it, is that the last election saw two-thirds of 18 to 24-year–olds support the Labour Party, with turnout for the age bracket skyrocketing from 43% in 2015 to over 66%. Corbyn’s left-wing programme has won the hearts and minds of millions of young people throughout the country.
The youth backing Corbyn is a surprise to no one. House prices are rising, student debt is piling up, living standards and wages are expected to be far worse for all than for our parents’ generation, all while education, youth services and local councils are cut to the bone. Young people are crying out for change and Corbyn is taking up their struggle.
The youth are the most sensitive barometer of the mood in society, and are therefore the first to be won over to radical politics when the system is in crisis, as it is today. For that reason, 16 to 18-year- olds are a dangerous group to give a political voice to, from the point of view of the establishment. Time and time again it’s been young people at the forefront of anti-establishment votes, from the independence referendum in Scotland, to Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party.
Of course, votes at 16 will not, on its own, guarantee that the problems faced by young people today will be solved. For that, there needs to be something worth voting for. Corbyn has won the support of millions of young people for his policies, but to make these a reality Corbyn, Momentum and the movement around him need to embrace the necessity of striking fundamental blows against the capitalist system, and to transform society along socialist lines.
That’s why voting alone is not enough. Young people should be allowed to vote, but they also should be getting involved in day-to-day political activity as much as possible, to push Corbyn’s Labour to the Left, so that we can guarantee that his programme will be carried out. Anyone who has ever done a politics A-level or degree course knows that many people who want to lower the voting age want to do so just to legitimise the status quo, rather than to facilitate radical change.
We’re not interested in that. Democracy under capitalism is limited to passively voting for otherwise unaccountable and often ineffective people every five or so years. Whoever gets into government, it always seems to be the capitalist class who are in charge. We want a society in which ordinary people decide directly, on a day-to-day basis, the direction of society. Corbyn has inspired people to get actively involved in a political movement, many of them for the first time, because he offers ideas and policies which, if implemented properly, would give people real control over their own lives. Votes at 16 is necessary, but even more important is the active discussion, debate, and building of an organisation capable of fundamentally changing society.
by Thomas Soud, Warwick Marxists