|Issue 7 - July 1972|
guide for school-leavers, young workers and unemployed
The ideas expressed in this article are revolutionary - that is, they are not aimed at improving or reforming the existing system, but at undermining and destroying it and replacing it with something better.
Because these ideas are revolutionary, they threaten the established order and the people who run it. They will therefore be resisted by them. Parents will try to stop you reading this, schools will ban it, employers will condemn it. In some countries, these ideas are being resisted with bombs and bullets. People have died for them. The authors of this article want to create the revolution by peaceful means. What happens, in fact, will depend upon the wisdom and skill of those who seek the revolution, and the methods used by those who seek to resist it. The revolution will happen, the only question is when and how. What you do (or do not do) will count.
This article then, is aimed at changing the system - that is, at changing what things are done by individuals and society, the way they are done, and the reason for doing them.
You have been brainwashed to want to own things - a stereo, a coloured telly, a bike - not because you need to own them, but so that someone will make a profit when you buy them - and so that you will have to work (and make someone else a profit) to pay for them. This is the vicious circle of the Capitalist Consumer System.
You have been brainwashed to want to marry, and have a family of 2 so that you will form a stable social unit of the economic machine that keeps the system going.
All of your life is dominated by the need for someone to make a profit out of you.
Education is given, work is provided, law is enforced, only because they are needed by the Capitalist System of profit, private gain, and private ownership. 95% of the wealth of this country is in the hands of 5% of the people. And this 5% controls the way you have to live, the things you will be brainwashed to want, and the way you will have to work to get them.
If you get a job your boss will demand a large chunk of your life so that he can make money out of you. He will listen to your demands and your needs only when to resist would threaten his profit. He will sack you when he does not make enough.
The main political parties - Labour, Conservative, Liberal - are simply trying to get the system to work better. They cannot see, or do not want to see, that it is the system itself which is wrong. They pretend to be democratic but in effect allow a handful of people in business, or parliament or the local council to use their power to control us. They have a vested interest in keeping the system going as it is.
Your parents will blackmail you with their "love" to get you to do what they want. The system needs a stable family unit to keep production and profit going, and uses your parents to see that they produce one.
The press, the telly, and all advertising is designed to make you want more so that you will have to make more, and so that someone will make more profit.
Why do adults fall for this? There are many reasons. Your parents and your teachers have taught you to conform to this system because they were brainwashed to conform themselves - and because most of them are too selfish, or too scared to do anything else. They have learned to do as they are told.
Many adults see the young as a threat to their authority, their jobs, and their security. They will use all the powers of the system, its rules and its regulations to beat you. In some cases their resentment will be based on their sexual frustration and your sexuality - they think you live on drugs and orgies. They would like to join you but they are afraid and feel guilty. They will try to punish you for their guilt. In some cases they will want to love you - but fear and convention will make them seek self defence in hate.
But the basic reason why adults fear and mistreat the young is because they are all victims of a system based on selfishness and greed. All authority, parliament and the law, all rules and regulations, schools and colleges, the churches, the political parties, the family - all of these are distorted to keep the Capitalist system of private property and profit going.
And the schools teach us to want to be exploited in this way, to want a lousy job, to want to "get on", to want their stupid qualifications and high positions, to want to buy the unnecessary, unimportant goods that the system forces us to produce.
The alternative to this capitalist system is a society where "work" is carried out by those who can do it for those who need it. A person will be "paid" according to his needs. They will give what they can and want to do in the way they want to do it. Some people call this system Socialism, some call it Communism, or Maoism, some call it Anarchism. No-one has created this society completely yet but many are trying. It will be difficult to achieve but the alternative is the continuation of the system where we are slaves being forced to work for someone else's profit - even if we become willing slaves.
Those people who want to change the basis of the existing capitalist system into a system of the kind described above are called revolutionaries - and the Capitalist system is trying to crush them.
Meanwhile the Capitalist system is kept going by the education process, by the Officials, the bosses, the police and those in authority. They do it by brainwashing, by not telling the facts, by lies, by making you do a rotten job - and finally, if necessary, by force.
We cannot do much about the brainwashing - you have had ten years of it and will have to fight it yourself. We can do something about telling you the facts that have been kept from you - and hope you will draw your own conclusions.
The Things They Did Not Tell You
You have not been told the truth about drugs. Pot is probably less harmful than lemonade and it might even do you good. Certainly it is not addictive, not as harmful as tobacco, and can give you a great amount of pleasure. Alcohol is the greatest drug threat in this country. There are more alcoholics than all other drug addicts combined. But alcohol is acceptable because some people are making a fat profit out of it - and most adults use it!
You have not been told how to get cheap or free contraceptives. Some of you have not even been told what they are!
You have not been told how to apply for an abortion - or what to do if your doctor refuses - and he probably will if he is Catholic. Is he?
You have not been told what trade unions to join, how to join, or how to use it.
You have not been told about your rights when faced with arrest. You don't have "to go along quietly". You don't have to give your name and address unless you have been officially charged with a specific offence, unless the offence you are being connected with is a driving offence. Nor do you have to submit to questioning without being officially charged with a specific offence, nor can they fingerprint you without either your consent or a magistrates order.
You have not been told how to get legal aid.
You are told that "true love" means owning one person, of the opposite sex, for life (in some cases a real "life sentence"). You are not told that love can involve more than two people, of the same or different sex, for a short or a long period.
You have not been told about the Gay Liberation Front organisation for homosexuals.
You have not been told about the revolutionary political parties - International Socialists, Socialist Labour League, International Marxists Group. Some of you have not even been told about the Communist Party!
You have not been told anything that would reduce the pressure on you to find a job, almost any job, at any price, or anything that might cause you to question the existing system of authority, power and wealth.
Some of the facts you have not been told are given in this article.
BUT MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL YOU HAVE NOT BEEN TOLD THAT YOU BELONG ONLY TO YOURSELF AND THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE TO LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE IN YOUR OWN WAY.
The insistence on this right lies at the heart of possible revolutionary action by young people. It poses a direct challenge to the existing system which seeks to force you to have to work in their work, to meet their needs.
To resist their system and to fight for survival as a free person in this capitalist system it is necessary to understand the possible alternative ways of life open to everyone over 16. It is a revolutionary attitude to demand the right to do the things you want to do in your way and to demand the right to the means of existing while you do so.
This principle is embodied (confused and accidental though it may be) in the 1966 Social Security Act which sets out your rights to claim benefits. Section 14 of the Act states: "Every person in Great Britain over the age of 16 years or over whose resources are insufficient to meet his requirements shall be entitled, subject to the provisions of the Act, to (Social Security) benefits."
This could mean that every person over 16 has the right to cash to meet their basic needs for clothes, food and accommodation etc, independent of their parents, and whether they are working or not. It can be made to mean that and it is revolutionary action to set out to make it mean that.
Living on Social Security is one way for a person to survive free of the work situation, whatever other problems there might be in this society. This article is designed to help you do this and to explain other choices open to you at 16. This choice is another of the things that no-one will have told you about.
The Choice At 16
1) Stay on at school. You can claim a local authority education grant if your family income is very low. These grants can be claimed if your family income falls below these levels:
15 years old - £705 net (annual)
The net amount is calculated by taking the gross family income and deducting tax, amounts for dependants living off that income etc. A form giving all the details and explaining how the net family income is worked out is available at the local education office.
Alternatively if your family income is above these amounts your parents can claim about £1.60p a week tax allowance, and if there is another child at school £0.90p family allowance. Free school meals can also be claimed and free travel if you live a certain distance from the school (usually 3 miles or more).
All of this is not much - but it does show that you are not entirely a drain on the family income and that you have your own rights in the family group - even as a school student.
2) You can go to college. Any person over 16 can attend college on a GCE, technical, commercial or arts course. IF THE COURSE IS OF 3 DAYS A WEEK OR LESS (OR SIX HALF DAYS) YOU CAN CLAIM SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS OF £3.60P A WEEK (AGED 16-17) OR £4.50P A WEEK (AGED 18-20) PLUS THE RENT OF A FLAT IF YOU DO NOT LIVE AT HOME (OR BOARD AND LODGINGS PLUS £1.85P).
If the course is "full time" of a kind not available in school you are entitled to claim Social Security benefits - but you will have to fight to get them.
If you are entitled to Unemployment Benefit, i.e. if you have the necessary employment stamps, you can take any college course full-time or part-time and draw benefits.
3) You can live on Social Security. Not only is the Capitalist system immoral, it is also inefficient. It cannot organise work for you even if you want to do it. So anyone over 16 can register for a job without much fear of getting one and can claim Social Security Benefits. A householder gets £5.80p plus rent, a person living in another person's household gets £3.60p (16-17), £4.05p (18-20), £4.60p (21 or over). Plus 65p rent addition.
4) If you are a woman you can get married and start a life of work for no money.
5) You can drop out altogether. You can sponge off your friends and your family and tell them to stuff their system - but it's a shame to waste the Social Security benefits you could be claiming. If you drop out of work it is important to use this free time to develop your own lifestyle and your own values and ideas. Use the public facilities that are available for free - public libraries, exhibitions, lectures etc. Many university and college facilities are also available and there is no real check as to who is a genuine student. Cheap meals are available in college canteens and refectories. Other possibilities are youth or street theatres, arts labs, film societies etc.
6) You could go to university, polytech. or teacher training college. Entry to teacher training college is a minimum 4 'O' levels. Entry to university or polytech is two suitable 'A' levels - and remember that you can take 'O' and 'A' levels at a technical college and draw weekly Social Security benefits providing you do not attend for more than 3 days a week (or 6 half days).
Entry to a university or polytech is also possible with an "Ordinary National Certificate" ONC). These courses can also be taken at a technical college on Social Security benefits - provided you do not attend on more than 3 days (or 6 half days) a week.
Alternatively, if you can get a job with an apprenticeship of official training then it should be possible for you to attend an ONC course on a 'day release' or 'block release' course - and get paid while attending college. In this case you just leave your job when you get the necessary qualifications (this should take 2 years) - but it is not advisable to tell your employer that you intend to leave unless he is prepared to sponsor you (i.e. pay you) while at university.
(Once you have worked for 26 weeks you can take any course at a college full-time or part-time and it would then be possible to take a normal 5 day a week block release course and continue to draw your full unemployment benefit.)
Entry to a university or polytech can be financial in another way. Your grant is based upon your family income - the higher the income the less the grant.
If however you have worked for over 3 years with a minimum average wage of £7.50p a week then you will be classed as an "independent student" and will qualify for the maximum grant, regardless of your family income. Similar conditions apply to grants received while at teacher training college.
Remember also that any student can register for work during any college holiday - and if suitable work is not offered they can claim weekly Social Security benefits.
Universities, polytechs and training colleges are also part of "the system". But usually they are so confused as to what they are trying to do that you can get away with your own thing more easily there than at most other places - that is if you're not prepared to let your work interfere with your education.
7) You could get a job - that is, if you are lucky enough to find someone prepared to exploit you.
If you do get a job remember that you have certain rights even under a capitalist system. Once you enter the rat race you will have to learn to fight as hard as your employer. You will have to learn how to exploit your rights to the maximum advantage. Your employer will be exploiting his position (and you) and don't be deceived by the fact that he has learned to smile while he does it.
Your first protection should be to join a trade union. Most workplaces have a single union to cover a given type of worker. Find out which union it is. Contact the shop steward if there is one ... or the branch secretary. Don't expect to be welcomed by the union with open arms. The unions are in the rat race too. Many of the paid union officials are more concerned with their job than with yours and you will have to learn how to demand your rights from the officials paid to protect you.
If you have difficulty in finding a union contact at your works - get in touch with the local Trades Council (or Trades Union Council). Addresses of local ones are given at the end of the article.
If you stay at home, remember that you will come under pressure from the rest of the family to conform to their values and their way of life. It is exceptional for parents to be able to allow their children to adopt their own lifestyle without a fight. They have been brainwashed by the system for longer than you and they will try to force you to give in to them with arguments, fights and fits of sulking. Worst of all, they will try to bribe you by using their love and their money, and your affection.
If the pressure gets too great, you should think of leaving home and setting up in your own flat or digs.
You have a duty to yourself to fight to save yourself for yourself. If you fight to change the system you are a revolutionary. We can all make the revolution in our own way. You can do it by fighting for your rights as a human being and an individual whose rights are more important than someone else's profit. You can do this in your home, your school, your college or workplace, or in the dole queues and Social Security offices.
You can do it by yourself. Sometimes you have to! But you can do it better with others. Join up with other people with similar interests and ideas - in existing organisations if they exist ... but if there is no suitable organisation, form one.
Further information can be obtained from the following centres: Trades Councils, Claimants' Unions, Muther Grumble.
Claimants' Union addresses can be found on the Graffiti page (page 20).
Some trades council addresses are:
Durham 11 Attlee Crescent, Haswell Plough, Durham.
The above article is an expanded version of a leaflet that was handed out to school leavers in South Shields. The reaction to the leaflet by the authorities was remarkable.
School students had these leaflets confiscated by teachers, and were threatened by the withdrawal of their school leaving testimonials if they continued to distribute it. This was reported to be on the instructions of the Education Office.
Apart from the dubious legality of teachers confiscating private property and apart from the blackmail implicit in the threatened stopping of testimonials, this raises fundamental questions concerning the nature of the educational process and the quality of its administration.
It would seem that the Labour Chairman of the Education Committee has made a unilateral decision to try to prevent 16 year old school students from being made aware of the facts concerning their educational future.
Unless education is based on respect for the truth and the freedom of individuals to choose then we move into a system which is at best paternalistic and at worst fascist and dictatorial.
It seems to be the determination of the Chairman of the South Shields Education Committee to promote an educational system based on concealment and deceit.
The implications of this decision go far beyond the effect on school leavers and draws into question the whole nature of our educational process and the so-called democratic political structure which supports it.
Jack Grassby, Secretary South Shields Trades Council