Youth Activism in England

Similar to the US, European Millennials are often optimistic, with the young Germans the most satisfied with their lives and the Greeks the least happy. Over a million migrants entered Europe in 2015 with hope for a better future than in countries like Syria and Afghanistan, with the exodus speeded up by Russian bombings in Syria. An estimated 184,887 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea by August 2016, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain and over 3,000 died on the journey.[i] Thousands of unaccompanied minors from Africa made the journey, while most children from the Middle East had adult supervision on the journey to Greece. Along the way children are forced into hard work and prostitution in countries like Libya. The EU’s solution was to deport “irregular” refugees to Turkey

The economic crisis of 2008 led to the ouster of governments in Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Spain, Finland, and Romania. Austerity cuts also took place in Cyprus. In France, Millennials are called the “700 generation” because they only earn 700 euros a month and struggle to find affordable housing. Large student strikes shut down universities and over 700 high schools in 2010 to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal to raise the retirement age by two years. That year the largest student protests in a generation occurred in Dublin, London and Rome to protest cuts in education budgets.

Protests by traditional interest groups like public sector unions were joined by crowds of young people who camped out in Madrid and Athens similar to the Arab Spring demonstrations, making the Mediterranean region the hotbed of protests. Protests like 15M in Spain were unique in the huge numbers of diverse demonstrators, many of whom were inexperienced activists and not afraid to risk police violence. But on the other side of the political spectrum, anti-immigrant nationalist groups gained in popularity in many countries such as Britain’s UKIP and France’s National Front. [ii]

A Gen Y Dutch activist and Ph.D. student in Greece, Jerome Roos provides European updates in his ROAR Magazine and produced a documentary about activism in Greece.[iii] The endnote includes a link to my video of a talk he gave in Athens in 2016. Roos blames the global financial crisis for causing a “global revolutionary wave” in a “resonance of resistance.” The movement aims for the death of the “cultural hegemony of neoliberalism” and its propaganda that the free market and representative democracy will liberate everyone. As the Spanish indignados said, “No es una crisi: es el sistema” in which the politicians “They don’t represent us.” European socialist and social democrat politicians are faulted for their support of neoliberal policies. They controlled a majority of the 28 EU member governments between 1997 and 2002, but didn’t take adequate steps to encourage employment.[iv] Protesters faulted the EU for serving the elite and aimed to return power to the people.

Best-selling author French economist Thomas Piketty reported that the wealthiest 10% of Europeans own 60% of the wealth, while in the US it’s even more unbalanced at 70%. The EU is dysfunctional he said, joining with others in calling for a European manifesto for financial reform, including pooling national debts, sharing corporate income taxes, and adding a chamber to the European Parliament.[v] Growing inequality pushed ordinary people to become revolutionaries leading to the rise of a new Left in what’s called the Real Democracy Movement. Roos points out that the recession brings class issues to the forefront as housing and social programs are no longer secure, wages stagnate, and food prices rise along with extreme weather change.

The Global Revolutionary Wave of 2011 “tumbled in a whole new range of alternative futures.” It’s revolutionary to believe that another world is possible. Roos added that what’s “most incredible is that we’re watching all of it happen right in front of our very eyes” in huge demonstrations with hundreds of thousands of people in Madrid, Frankfort and other European cities. Roos believes the occupations in city squares are “a globally interconnected web of tiny little Utopias” without parties or leaders, where decisions affecting the community are taken collectively and on the basis of consensus.”[vi] Similar to a Marxist perspective, he aims for a society without wage slavery or unemployment, where people choose their own type of work and are rewarded on the basis of need, not greed.

Awareness grows about the 1% “bankocracy” that was an unspoken reality for the last 30 years. As Rosa Luxemburg wrote, “the most revolutionary thing one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening.” Greek blogger Alex Andreou stated to the 1%, “You have run out of ideas.” Young people were often in the vanguard of the most progressive social movements in Europe in the past decades, reported professor Cristina Flesher Fominaya from Scotland, including feminist, squatter, peace, environmental and student movements.[vii] She views precariousness as the key concept motivating European youth activism over the last decade, the uncertainty around their economic future and increasing costs of higher education. This common problem unites them in a shared identity like campaigns like Spain’s Youth without Futures.

Flesher Fominaya pointed out the difference between the Arab uprisings and those in Europe is the latter’s call for “real democracy now” aims to deepen existing democratic institutions. Similarities are political parties and unions do not lead protests. Activists occupy public spaces, as they learned to do in squats they turned into social centers run by an assembly (described in Squatting in Europe, 2013, written by a collective), and oppose privatization of the public commons. Occupation of public spaces makes youth politics visible and public. A precursor was the tent city set up during the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2004.

I interviewed Demi, age 25, to talk about youth unemployment issues, when we were in Greece, seen on video.[viii] A global citizen, born in Israel, he moved to Greece when he was seven where he went to French language school, and then he went to university in Italy. His fifth language is English. He reported about his unpaid internship and not yet finding a job.


Things have changed; we’re the victims of the economic situation worldwide. We can adapt to new jobs but the problem is employers take advantage of us with unpaid internships. Many of my friends have continued their graduate studies to be able to have their dream work, because they can’t get a job without graduate degrees. In Italy employers don’t start paying their workers until they’re around 30 years old, using the excuse you don’t have experience. To survive, they live with parents, or have a second job as something like a waitress, along with an unpaid internship. In Greece, young people with a dream leave the country to find work. I would like to believe that in my 50s or 60s I could come back to Greece to bring my experience and something new.


I asked Demi if governments are helping his generation get jobs. Despite claims that his generation is apolitical, he said, “I’m very political; I’d like to work in cultural politics sector, because I’d like to improve things.” He’s thinking about moving to Belgium to work for the EU. A centrist in his political views, he’s on the right about the economy and on the left about social policies. He’s very accepting of diversity and equality for women and GLBT people.


The politicians are always the same, they’re corrupt, and do things in their own interest. Young people really are not understood by adults, but we’re much more mature because of the economic problems. We’re well-informed because social networks help provide information on everything. There is no ignorance any more, although politicians think young people are ignorant. I want to believe my generation will change things a lot.


In Europe, almost a quarter of youth are unemployed. The European Union set aside around $8 billion in 2013 to invest over a period of seven years on work programs for youth under age 25 to provide a job or training, called the Youth Guarantee. Finland is a trendsetter as 83% of unemployed youth who registered with the program in 2011 had a job within three months (it also experimented with a $600 basic income in 2016.) To be more specific about terminology, the European Union includes 28 countries that elect members to the European Parliament, which elects a Commission President. The Council of Europe has 47 member states, founded in 1949, governed by a Parliamentary Assembly that can only advise. The Council includes committees on equality and non-discrimination. The EU’s Youth Forum provides youth input into various EU programs.

The main European organizations to represent youth are the European Youth Forum (YFJ) platform of youth organizations and the Council of Youth Foundation, which represents 52 states as opposed to the Forum’s 27 EU states.[ix] The YFJ president Johanna Nyman said in 2014, “We need to become stronger…in times of crisis,” both economic and political, to defend young people’s rights and fight unemployment.[x] She stated that youth organizations are the best way to represent young people, but she also wanted to empower the League of Young Voters to encourage voting. To represent European youth in government, The Young European Council meets annually “to make the voices of the European youth heard!” Discussion themes in 2014 were “education to employment, digital revolution and exponential technologies, sustainable development and growth.” The European Students’ Union (ESU) represents 45 national student unions from 38 countries adding up to over 15 million students. The ESU aims to influence the Council of Europe, European Youth Forum, and UNESCO. The European Commission established a 21 billion annual program to ensure that people younger than 25 who graduate or lose a job are offered a job, training, or other continuing education within four months. Finland implemented a successful program to emulate.

To learn more about youth attitudes towards government, a UNICEF survey of European and Central Asian youth found their heroes are entertainers and athletes, but only 2% admire political leaders.[xi] They are much more likely to trust military and religious leaders. They would like national governments to address educational problems (43%), leisure time activities (42%), social issues (33%) and to improve living conditions (23%). They worry about crime and violence (43%), the economy, peace, and government’s inability to solve these problems. Less than half (40%) think voting in elections is an effective way to improve their countries. Only about half of the youth from South and Eastern Europe want to live in their own country as adults. In Poland, for example, despite 30% unemployment for educated young adults leading to over half of them living with their parents, the country hasn’t experienced unrest because many of them leave to work in other European Union countries.

A team of scholars surveyed more than 16,000 people in 90 protest demonstrations or what Tilly called “contentious performances” in nine European countries between 2009 and 2012.[xii] Often informal and temporary, older issues of economic inequality joined with new ones about lifestyle issues such as gender, LGBT, and anti-war. Students were only 12% of the demonstrators, men were 52% and they tended to be leftist in their politics (only 6% were right-wing). Youth’s top issues were GLBT, anti-austerity and anti-racism. They were most likely to sign a petition and demonstrate with friends. Less than a third were members of the organization that led the demonstration. The study found youth under age 25 are less likely to vote and be involved in conventional politics, although men are more likely to be active than women, while the latter are more likely to donate money to a cause and base purchases on ethical issues such the impact on the environment. Youth are more likely to take political risks than older people. They’re more likely to participate if feeling close to their peer group and if the issue is local rather than national. Many of them felt adults didn’t respect them and politicians don’t pay attention to their issues.

As well as leading to youth-led uprisings, economic problems stimulated the growth of nationalist right-wing anti-immigrant groups in France, Austria, Germany, Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden the Netherlands, and Russia. Attacks on mosques increased in countries like Sweden and Germany. Hungarian leader Viktor Orban said that liberal democracy has been in decline since the recession of 2008 and praised authoritarian “illiberal democracies” in Turkey, China, Singapore and Russia.[xiii] German editor Jocehn Bittner calls the rejection of democracy “orderism,” as rising in Turkey, Russia, Poland and the Philippines.[xiv] The nationalist autocrats promise stability, order, and morality as opposed to western chaos and decadence. Bittner includes Donald Trump’s campaign for toughness in “orderism.” Yanis Varoufakis suggests that the only escape from this political trap is majorities around the world supporting “progressive internationalism” like that of Sanders, Corby, and his DiEM25 movement.[xv]

A Danish Social Democrat explained, “History reminds us that high unemployment and wrong policies like austerity are an extremely poisonous cocktail.” The nationalist Sweden Democrats party increased to 13% of the parliamentary vote in 2014 after young people rioted for six nights in several Stockholm immigrant suburbs in May 2013, similar to earlier riots in London and Paris.[xvi] Nearly half of the Swedish immigrant students have grades too low to enter high school.

During the refugee crisis of the summer of 2015 about 850,000 people migrated to Europe, including over 95,000 unaccompanied minors, and around a million refugees the following year. Europol (The EU’s police office) estimated that almost a third of the over a million refugees are children and about 10,000 of them are missing.[xvii] Some may be with family members and some may be exploited by sex traffickers. Jerome Roos warned “tens, if not hundreds of millions are likely to follow as a result of climate change in future decades.”[xviii] Across Europe welcoming groups counter the nationalist groups: Roos sees the migrants as needed as workers in an aging region, “injecting a healthy infusion of bottom-up social change into the lifeblood of a moribund European community.”

Another form of backlash is anti-feminism as in Poland where many universities have Gender Studies programs. Some Polish Catholic bishops campaigned against gender mainstreaming in schools as required by the European Union. A well-known Catholic bishop said in 2013, “the ideology of gender presents a threat worse than Nazism and Communism combined.”[xix] Another priest said that gender studies “is associated with radical feminism, which advocates for abortion, the employment of women and the detention of children in preschools.“ A Polish parliamentary group aimed to “Stop Gender Ideology.”

Despite these problems with immigrants and high youth unemployment, Steven Hill argues in Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age (2010) that Europeans have a better social model than the US. Europeans are healthier and less stressed than Americans with their bike paths and walking trails plus universal health care, organic and “slow food,” worker input into management, free or inexpensive education, paid sick and parental leave, subsidized childcare, and mass transit. Americans think of Europeans as paying high taxes without realizing all the free services they bring, as shown on Michael Moore’s documentary Where to Invade Next (2016). In a report on the cities with the best quality of life, seven of the top ten are in Europe and none are in the US.[xx]

Eric Schneider, the German editor of Youth-Leader online magazine, believes that despite the austerity programs, the US has more severe problems than Europeans and Canadians. He pointed that Germans have four weeks of paid holidays, there are no ghettos in Western Europe except some urban areas in France, and racism is not an issue except in the UK. (Turkish immigrants in his country might not agree.) In the US he observes millionaires dominate politics, while university costs and student debt plague US students and many lack good health care. He concluded that Europeans are less fearful and there’s more feeling of commonality, except for many of the recent immigrants, while the US has “big tensions” and unhappiness.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich backed up Schneider’s argument that the US lags behind Europe and Canada, stating in 2014 that US disposable income after taxes is lower although Americans work longer hours (28% more than a German worker). They don’t live as long and the rate of infant mortality and maternal death is higher due to lack of health care. To add to the problems, Americans ages 16 to 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries in literacy.[xxi]

Michael Moore’s documentary Where to Invade Next (2015) reports on humanitarian models in European countries and Tunisia, an excellent visual for this section on solutions. Moore agrees that free health care and education require higher taxes but people in the US end of paying more for basics like education and health care. He adds that over half of the discretionary budget goes to the military and its failed wars. Columnist Jon Schwarz commented on the film, “The entire movie is about how other countries have dismantled the prisons in which Americans live: prison-like schools and workplaces, debtor’s prisons in order to pay for college, prisons of social roles for women and the mental prison of refusing to face our own history.” [xxii]

Where to Invade Next oddly was rated R for showing useful models, such as free university education in Slovenia, contrasted to billions of dollars in US student debt. Worker rights are shown in Italy and Germany. Equal rights for women are featured in Iceland and Tunisia. Police and prison reform are shown in Norway and Portugal. The film includes interviews with Italian workers who have eight weeks of paid vacation, double pay in December, two-hour lunch breaks so they can eat a good meal at home, and get an additional 15 days leave after marriage. German workers have a 36-hour workweek, paid for 40 hours. Stressed German workers can get a doctor’s prescription to attend a spa to relax for three weeks. About half of their boards of large corporations include workers. More details from the film are described on my model solutions blog.[xxiii] Moore announced the creation of the “Hammer & Chisel Awards” to individuals who make a difference for poor people including the working poor in the US.

In their book on Understanding European Movements (2014), editors Flesher Fominaya and Laurence Cox fault American social movement theoreticians for reducing European New Social Movement Theory to “an industry of myth reproduction” without understanding its clear intellectual history.[xxiv] They maintain it’s erroneous to state that the European theory is post-Marxist or post-labor because it incorporated new influences: post-structural, psychoanalytical, radical feminist, anarchist, green, and anti-authoritarian. The editors point out that Marxist and socialist feminism is still widely taught in British universities, along with cultural studies and history from below (also called social, people’s and folk history taught from the point of view of common people rather than elites).

Flesher Fominaya and Cox fault current academic writers for being timid in their politics, in contrast to braver thinkers like Simone de Beauvoir and Herbert Marcus, “public intellectuals” who both shaped and were shaped by social movements. They fault current scholars of social movements for not including the voices of movement participants, “history from below,” the purpose of this book. They point out that US scholars ignore cultural studies, the local context, and scholars of revolution. In their book, the chapter authors analyze how collective identities are constructed and the role of international connections. They suggest “perhaps it is time to break free of the idea that it is necessary to use social movement theory [as currently defined by US scholars] to study movements,” partly because it’s ignored by activists and is motivated by academics’ need to publish to get promoted. The editors suggest that a broader social theory can do a better job of not separating politics and culture and placing movements in their historical setting.

In other countries, social movements created leftist anti-austerity parties to counter the swing to the right in the previous decade. Leftist parties include Sinn Fein in Ireland and a new party called TD formed in 2015 combining two ant-austerity groups, the Greens in UK and Germany, Die Linke in Germany, Parti de Gauche in France, and the Kurdish Workers’ Party in Turkey. Young people supported socialist Jeremy Corbyn (age 67) was selected to head the Labor Party in 2015. He believes that we face a “crisis of imagination” that requires us to envision a radically different and better world. US mainstream news ran stories calling him a “divisive far-leftist” and “Karl Marx admirer,” at a time when socialist Bernie Sanders (age 74) was catching up with Hillary Clinton in the polls for presidential candidates.[xxv] He also captured the imagination of young people who disavow neoliberal inequality but they didn’t vote in large enough numbers for him to be nominated. Around the same time the Liberal party in Australia replaced sexist climate-change denier and anti-immigrant Tony Abbott (he ordered national banks to stop financing solar and wind projects) with Malcolm Turnbull. He supported a carbon tax as Minister of the Environment.

United Kingdom

The UK had financial problems similar to Iceland and the US with bank bailouts and the largest deficit since World War II. The most significant student protests for a generation, British student protests broke out at the end of 2010.[xxvi] David Cameron’s Conservative government proposed a 300% increase in university fees, reducing public spending on education and eliminating the Education Maintenance Allowance grants given to low-income students ages 16 to 19. On November 10 more than 50,000 students marched in protests through London streets. They formed coalitions with unions calling for “students and workers unite and fight.” UK Uncut was organized to oppose the cuts and end tax loopholes for the wealthy. Anarchists and Marxists were present and previously apolitical students got involved. Thousands of students stormed the Tory party headquarters, occupying the roof and smashing windows.

By the end of November, students, including teenagers, occupied about 50 universities in “days of action,” in cities including London, Edinburgh, Leeds, Newcastle, and Manchester. Some lasted hours and others for weeks, all linked by social media. A student named Christine told Professor Robert Hollands, “I’ve been struck by the immense power the Internet gave this student movement, as protesting groups around the country could communicate easily and learn from each other.”[xxvii] When parliament approved tripling tuition fees in December (tuition was raised from $4,700 to $14,000 a year), thousands of students protested, leading Prime Minister Cameron to call them a “feral mob,” although the police fired tear gas and beat youth with batons. Over 3,000 protesters were arrested and more than 2,000 charged by November 2011, according to Metropolitan Police. Sentences were more severe than ordinary crimes.

Early in 2011, students joined with other anti-austerity protesters, occupying several banks and a school in Leeds. The National Union of Students trains activist leaders on UK campuses. Their webpage features campaigns such as allowing 16-year-olds to vote as they can in Scotland, ending student poverty, and protecting student rights and the environment.[xxviii] Their “I am the Change” site asks what changes the reader wants at her or his university. The most popular category is education, followed by community. They opposed budget cuts to higher education and the tripling of university tuition.

The occupations encouraged discussion of goals and democratic decision-making. A student named Sam, 17, touched on the global theme of creating a new world in a discussion with professor Hollands:


We built our own world from scratch on our terms, where we had the power and freedom to do as we wished through direct democracy, giving us experience of how modern life can be outside the hierarchical capitalist system; build a better collective world based on co-operation and voluntary association rather than competition, the heart of the modern world.


A final march in London with 30,000 demonstrators on December 9 didn’t succeed in preventing tuition increases from being narrowly approved by parliament.

In August 2011 thousands of rioters clashed with police in London and other English cities for four nights, called the BlackBerry riots because of the use of social media to organize. Government cutbacks results in fewer programs to keep teens busy, which contributed to the youth riots in big cities in the summer of 2011. The catalyst was the death of Mark Duggan, an unarmed young black man (age 29) who was shot in the back by police in North London on August 4. Youth were alienated and jobless in a time of austerity cuts such as ending the Education Maintenance Allowance for poor English students ages 16 to 18, so they acted out their frustration in the largest urban riots for decades. I asked a young man who attends university in London about this: “The riots were crazy, for four days I felt like I was not in Britain, burning down buildings and cars, looting shops. I think it mostly opportunistic, but there is a lot of anger towards the government and police. Cuts of benefits combined with increased living costs just makes life a lot harder” (Kalwane, 20, m).

Over 3,000 demonstrators were arrested. A protester who identified herself as a communist, Carol Brickley said, “We are expected to pay the price of solving the public sector debt crisis–the capitalist crisis–without fighting back.” Fighting back is our answer to the ruling class who would like us all to quietly rot.”[xxix] Another protester told a reporter that rioting was the only way to be heard. To counter the charge that youth are to blame, Ed Howker and Shiv Malik wrote Jilted Generation: How Britain has Bankrupted Its Youth (2010).

Psychiatrist Anthony Daniels blamed the riots on the “sense of entitlement” common among Britain’s youth, which he said results in British youth being among “the most unpleasant and violent in the world.”[xxx] However, youth unemployment is high, similar to other European countries, and austerity budgets cut back social services so living in poverty can hardly be seen as leading to spoiled kids. Some of the protesters referred to the money spent on Prince William’s $34 million wedding while youth faced unemployment, racism, and welfare cuts by the Conservative government. In England, Matthew, 18, reported, “At the moment kids are sleepwalking through school and blindly going to university to rack up a debt of eighty grand and then not being able to find a job…. It’s going to be survival of the fittest, sink or swim, more than ever. Kids need to get ruthless is they want to survive the coming world. Trust me.”[xxxi]

Writing in 2013, Professor Steve Hall blamed consumer culture for “almost entirely displacing class and politics as the principal survey of young people’s identity.”[xxxii] He said they would rather smash shops than changing the system and blamed the Occupy movement for reliance on “negative politics,” against capitalism without providing alternatives. He viewed most of the population as lethargic despite austerity cuts, controlled by the “surveillance state.”

Reporting from South London in 2014, Jack (age 15) said there’s nothing to do in his neighborhood; the only park is for dogs. The youth club is for kids ages seven to 15, but that’s it. Aida (18) explained that other youth clubs got shut down after the conservative government took over. Although fewer jobs with decent wages are available, media often portrays the unemployed as lacking in a work ethic, their fault, as explained by Adam Perkins in The Welfare Trait (2015). British TV features a series of reality shows called “poverty porn,” portraying people living in poverty, such as Benefits Street. Blogs about living in poverty spread widely; a famous one is “A Girl Called Jack” by a single mother named Jack Monroe. Her blog described turning off the heat and hot water and selling her iPhone and TV to feed herself and her son. In January 2014 the government announced plans to cut $20 billion from the welfare budget, the next year it was 12 billion pounds, and the same amount proposed by Tories in 2016 to 2017 cuts.

Inspired by Occupy Wall Street and the Spanish indignados, Occupy London began on October 15, 2011, and became of the longest lasting camps when it was evicted in February 2012. Heeding the Facebook call to “Occupy the London Stock Exchange,” around 3,000 protesters settled in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral next to Paternoster Square, the home of the London Stock Exchange. Occupy London called for “Education for the 99%” and turning Trafalgar Square into Tahrir Square, in solidarity with the Egyptians and the Occupy Wall Street protests. A street sign “Tahrir Square” stood in front of the cathedral. The occupation was supported by Spanish indignados living in London and by UK Uncut, a grassroots group against austerity cuts. Prevented from setting up a camp outside the London Stock Exchange in October, they set up a camp at St. Paul’s Cathedral

Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, spoke to the crowd as did Reverend Jesse Jackson from the US. He said that Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were all Occupiers and “Occupy is a global spirit” for justice. Over 200 tents were set up around the cathedral. Familiar slogans included “We are the 99%” and “Another world is possible.” On October 26 the movement published its “Initial Statement,” explaining they sought global equality and alternatives to the unsustainable system, rejected austerity cuts, and refused to bailout the banks.

After five weeks occupiers had two camps (the other in Finsbury Square), kitchens, a newspaper Occupied Times (it continues weekly publication[xxxiii]), a weekend kindergarten, welfare counseling and General Assemblies twice a day. Five sites existed by December. Similar to other occupations, participant Sam Halvorsen reported problems with sexism and “hierarchies based on experience, skills, and confidence,” and acts of violence and abuse.[xxxiv] He noted that Internet networks are important but so is being “grounded in place” such as a public square. Occupiers were evicted from St. Paul’s in February, leaving Finsbury Square as the last site until it was cleared by the city in June. Occupiers continued to organize dozens of working groups and to squat buildings including an unused bank and primary school. They published A Little Book of Ideas to explain the inequitable financial system on the first anniversary of the occupation.[xxxv]

Student demonstrations continued, as when students protested University of London policies in November and December 2013 with support by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. The main issues were the closure of the student union and reduced benefits for university staff. The same year members of the Occupy movement tried to shut down the London gun show, protesting government subsidies of the arms export industry in an era of austerity cuts for social services. Some demonstrators were covered with “blood money,” replicas of bills colored red. The UN criticized the UK government for violence against peaceful protest groups and infiltrating them with spies. Despite public opposition, colorful Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson advocated police use of water cannons.

The Sussex Against Privatization campaign began in May 2012, adopting the Quebec student movement’s red square as logo. In December 2013, the Occupy Sussex group took over their university convention space to protest the privatization of campus services and tuition increases. They chanted, “Education is a right.” This protest sparked other student movements against austerity. The students wanted to occupy a site that would impact university revenue and link student and worker issues. The Sussex Five students were suspended and banned from the university for their participation in the occupation. Alia, a student demonstrator in the convention center who spoke at the Global Uprisings conference, stated, “The education system sucks and need to be re-imagined” with more student input into management decisions. She noted that young people are realizing they’re not going to get pensions due to the failure of the neoliberal system. Austerity is a choice, as is bailing out banks so voters can chose to vote against politicians responsible for the cuts.

Chloe Combi interviewed Generation Z teens in England and quoted what they told her in her 2015 book. Many were pessimistic about their own generation and the future: John, 18, listed problems that started with 9/11, continuing with Ebola, ISIS, immigration, WikiLeaks, and CCTV (video surveillance). “We’re all being watched and controlled every second of every day…. You’ll probably die from government-planted disease or be assassinated in a phony government war.”[xxxvi] Mary, age 15, said, “I think things are going to get worse for the next generation. The world is becoming a much more depressing place. Much more.”

On January 29, 2014, the student movement held a national rally in Birmingham, occupying the clock tower called Bill Joe. Police arrested 13 students and set harsh bail conditions: They were not allowed to gather in groups of 10 or more or enter any educational building. A petition started on the website 38 Degrees (the degree at which an avalanche starts), that claims to be a coalition of the UK’s “biggest campaigning communities,” called on the government to stop its harsh reactions to demonstrators.[xxxvii] It included an unsuccessful drive by 38 Degrees to defeat what’s called the Gagging Law that limits political spending by NGOs, charities, campaign groups and unions, but not corporate lobbyists. [xxxviii] As one of the signers of the 38 Degrees petition wrote, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Civil disobedience will be inevitable and the government will only have themselves to blame.”[xxxix] Some youth take a more reformist approach by participating in the British Youth Council and Youth Parliament to increase youth political participation.

Citizens of various ages continued marches and other protests against Conservative government’s plan to cut public spending by $46 billion from 2015 to 2020. Members of U.K. Uncut and other groups carried signs staying “Cut War not Welfare,” “Austerity Kills,” “”Austerity is a Lie,” and “No Cuts Fight for Every Job.”[xl] However, Conservatives won again in 2015. More than 60,000 people marched to protest austerity cuts during the Tory’s annual meeting in Manchester in October 2015. Police snipers tracked their movement on rooftops.

Youth protested budget cuts ending housing benefits for people under 21, making workers under 25 exempt from the higher minimum wage ($9.83), and limiting the child tax credit to the first two children in a family.[xli] These cuts were on top of previous measures ending education maintenance, increasing tuition fees, shrinking child benefits, and cutting youth services. Owen Winter, age 16, demonstrated in London because, “I feel that the cuts are particularly harsh for young people…and I think that I’m going to grow up dealing with the repercussions. Generally, I think young people get a raw deal out of politics.”[xlii] Morgan Centini, another marcher age 16, told The Guardian, “I’ve grown up in an environment where I’ve watched the public sector in my home town destroyed. Watching the cuts rip apart a community…It’s disgusting.” Many youth turned to Labor’s Jeremy Corbyn to put a halt to austerity. Singer Charlotte Church, age 29, supported Corbyn to “save ourselves from decades of yuppie rule” and unfair and unnecessary austerity.

They occupied university buildings and organized alternatives to traditional instruction, including the free university movement taught by unpaid volunteers, such as Free University Brighton and London’s Tent City University. University occupations continued in Britain in 2010 (Newcastle University) and 2015 (London School of Economics).

To protest additional austerity cuts by the UK’s Conservative government, hundreds of thousands marched In London and Glasgow in 2015, organized by the People’s Assembly. Spokesman Sam Fairbairn said in June, “It will be the start of a campaign of protest, strikes, direct action and civil disobedience in the country. We will not rest until austerity is history, our services are back in public hands and the needs of the majority are put first.”[xliii]

Evidence of a generational divide, a Millennial young woman speaking on a BBC panel about the Brexit in June 2016 complained that young people are patronized and interrupted, as an older man on the panel was doing with her as she spoke. Three-quarters of young people ages 18 to 24 voted to remain in the EU while older white people voted to exit and won the vote. Only a third of young people age 18 to 24 voted despite efforts to reach them on youth sites like Tinder and TheLADbible. The older working class voters rejected globalization and embraced nationalism while young voters are comfortable with globalization and diversity. They may have participated in Erasmus+, the EU university exchange program, or traveled on budget airlines like EasyJet, or used the European health insurance card. British universities received about 16% of their research money from the EU.

A young Briton tweeted, “Truly gutted that our grandparents have effectively decided that they hate foreigners more than they love us and our futures.”[xliv] Another young Brit blamed the older generation for relying on newspapers rather than doing their own research, unlike her generation. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, replaced by Home Secretary Theresa May, only the second woman to hold the office. Some predict that future political battles will revolve around nationalists and internationalists and nativists and globalists.[xlv] The Brexit vote is part of a European upwelling of anti-immigrant and anti-austerity populism, with the recognition that governments need to spend to create more jobs and growth.

A postgraduate student and activist in the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Callum Cant advocated that the student movement, including the National Union of Students, in 2016 hasn’t caught up with the “deterioration of student life.”[xlvi] He describes himself as a libertarian communist. Now students are working more, more in debt, more mentally ill, and owe more debt. Earlier student tactics of demonstrations and occupations aren’t working on the national level, according to HIckson, as “defeat has followed defeat” and “the power of grassroots networks abased on local campaign groups has collapsed.” Cant reported a “a combination of work, housing, debt, a mental health epidemic and the consumer-mindset introduced by tuition fees have collectively changed what is politically possible within the student movement.” He pointed out that 77% of students are employed in addition to their studies and that both rent and debt are increasing, along with the slow increase of tuition fees and increasingly difficult access to jobs after graduation. As a consequence, Cant said 71% of students have experienced mental health symptoms and the number of students seeking counseling increased by half in the last five years. He is hopeful about the tactics of strikes that impact university finances. University rent strikes in dormitories/halls held in 2016, starting at University College London, leading to a national network of 25 campuses that advocated coordinated rent strikes around the UK.


[ii] European Debt Crisis,” New York Times, May 14, 2012.


Utopia on the Horizon:

[iv] “Sweden’s New Political Landscape,” Nordic News Network, October 19, 2014.

[v] Thomas Piketty and 14 others, “Our Manifesto for Europe,” The Guardian, May 2, 2014.

[vi] Jerome Roos, “The Meaning and Necessity of Revolution in the 21st Century,” ROAR Magazine, May 11, 2012.

[vii] Cristina Flesher Fominaya, “Youth Participation in Contemporary European Social Movements,” European Centre for International Affairs, October 31, 2012.


[ix], Council of Europe Youth Foundation

European Youth Forum,


[x] Johanna Nyman, “Election Speech at the YFJ,” WordPress, November 21, 2014.

[xi] UNICEF interviewed 15,200 children ages 9 to 15, December 2000 and February 2001, by GfK Group.

[xii] Martyn Barrett, Coordinator, Processes Influencing Democratic Ownership and Participation,” 2012.

[xiii] Rick Lyman and Alison Smale, “Denying Soviets, Then Pulling Hungary to Putin,” New York Times, November 7, 2014.

[xiv] Jochen Bittner, “The New Ideology of the New Cold War,” New York Times, August 1, 2016.

[xv] Yanis Varoufakis, “Building a Progressive International,” Economia, August 1, 2016.

[xvi] Magda Fahsi, “Inequality Alert,”, September 30, 2013.

[xvii] “10,000 Refugee Children are Missing, Says Europol,” Euronews, January 31, 2016.

Maeve McClenaghan, “95,000 Unaccompanied Children Claim Asylum in Europe in 2015, MintPress news, April 11, 2016.

[xviii] Jerome Roos, “Welcoming Refugees: Our Future is Common,” ROAR Magazine, October 13, 2015.


[xix] Slawomir Sierakowski, “The Polish Church’s Gender Problem,” New York Times, January 26, 2014.

[xx] The top ten are in this order: Vienna, Austria; Zurich, Switzerland; Auckland, New Zealand; Munich, Germany; Vancouver, Canada; Dusseldorf, Germany; Frankfurt, Germany; Geneva, Switzerland; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Sydney, Australia.

Lianna Brinded, “The 23 Cities with the Best Quality of Life in the World,” Business Insider, February 22, 2016.

[xxi] Robert Reich, “The Perils of America’s Hard-Charging Capitalism,” The Sun, May 28, 2014.,0,4967221.story



[xxiv] Christina Fominaya and Laurence Cox, eds. European Social Movements. Routledge, 2013.

[xxv] Abby Martin, “The Corbyn Effect,” TeleSUR, September 23, 2015.

[xxvi] Ben Trott, “Research and the Riots: Politics and England’s 2011 Urban Uprisings,” May 22, 2014, p. 22.

[xxvii] Robert Hollands, “’There is No Alternative?’, Journal of Youth Studies, Vol. 16, No. 4, 2012, pp. 546-564.


[xxix] Carol Brickley, “Uprising in Tottenham,” Revolutionary Communist, August 8, 2011.

[xxx] Lee Moran and Allan Hall, “British Youths Are ‘the Most Unpleasant and Violent in the World’,” Daily Mail Online, August 10, 2011.

[xxxi] Chloe Combi. Generation Z. Windmill Books, 2015, p. 270.

[xxxii] Steve Hall, “Why Aren’t Unemployed Young People Rioting in the Streets,” The Conversation, May 16, 2013.


[xxxiv] Sam Halvorsen, Beyond the Network? Occupy London and the Global Movement,” Social Movement Studies Journal, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 427-433, October 30, 2012.


[xxxvi] Chloe Combi. Generation Z. Windmill Books, 2015, p. 267.



[xxxix] Steve Rushton, “British Law is Failing as Student Protesters Demand End to Austerity, Nation of Change, February 21, 2014.


[xli] Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead, “Why Growing Anti-Austerity Anger is Driving Britain’s Youth to the Left,”, August 13, 2015.

[xlii] Damien Gayle, “Anti-Austerity Protests,” The Guardian, June 20, 2015.

[xliii] “Tens of Thousands March in England Against Austerity,” TeleSUR, June 20, 2015.–20150620-0004.html

[xliv] Claire Barthelemy and Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura, “Among Young Britons, Fear and Despair Over Vote to Leave E.U.,” New York Times, June 25, 2016.

[xlv] Ross Douthat, “The Myth of Cosmopolitanism,” New York Times, July 2, 2016.

[xlvi] Callum Cant, “Students in the UK Prepare for a New Wave of Rent Strikes,” ROAR Magazine, October 17, 2016.


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