The Other Youth Speak Out

Interviews made by Workers’ Solidarity in the context of debates about “90s Generation” after Gezi protests show that working-class youth has big problems. But their problems are not paid attention. The youth of well-off layers who came to the fore and were praised during Gezi protests were presented as if they represent entire youth. These youth are said to be educated in quality schools, grown up using state-of-the-art technology, rebellious, keen on their freedom. But there are workers born in 90s as well. These young workers who suffer from hardships of sweatshops also have a word to say.

They say what hurts them most is not to have had the opportunity to live their childhood. Their childhood was stolen while other children were playing games. A young worker who suffers chronic illnesses tells how she had to go to work in a factory at the age of 12:

 “I was a little girl at the age of 12. My first job was in a yarn factory with huge machines. I had terrible days there. I wanted to quit immediately and I told that to my mum. ‘You will get used to it, my child” she said. Those machines were kind of beating me and the day was kind of without an end. I didn’t want to work but my mum was saying ‘you’ll get used to.’ I didn’t get used to.”

The working-class youth are forced to work in very hard conditions including very long working hours. They experience a lot of work accidents in which they lose their lives or their young bodies are crippled. They face unnecessarily serious problems in the prime of their lives. For instance, the most frequent case is chopping-off of fingers or hands. They don’t take off their hands from their pockets in a feeling of embarrassment; they feel themselves incomplete and struggle with psychological problems throughout their entire life.

Mistreatment and insult hurt young workers as well. They say even animals are treated better and bosses do not care about workers’ health and well-being. They had to tolerate swearing and mistreatment because they are not organized. Because saving one’s dignity, demanding respect and decent treatment is a reason to get fired. They may consider a workplace “very comfortable” only if they are not sworn and scolded too much by their foremen and managers.

Another problem often remarked by workers born in 90s is their isolation. They have no money, no time and no energy to make friends and to meet with friends outside their workplace. When we extend our microphone asking how they are, some workers, heading towards their home, show us their wallets or purses. They tell us that they work for a minimum wage and they are left with no money even for a cup of tea in a cafe in struggle to make ends meet. And it is getting increasingly impossible for them to socialise with friends, to go down town.

Young workers are completely different from the other youth in Gezi Park. They speak about their differences: “They don’t have to work, but we have to. While they go to private hospitals, we can hardly get permission from the boss even to go to public hospitals for our health problems. While they care about ‘where to hang out’, we have to think about ‘what we can do for our families.’ While they have no concern about their future, we think ‘what we will do tomorrow.’ They find good jobs with high wages and more protection, but we don’t have any job security. They don’t know about work accidents but we lose either our lives or parts of our bodies.” In a word, while the youth of the rich and well-off lead a comfortable life, young workers are destined to carry the burdens of life.

So, there is no single youth. On one side there is the youth of the class of bosses and petty-bourgeoisie and on the other side we have the youth of the working class. Living conditions and view of life of the youth of well-off is completely different from the youth of the working class. Seeking to confuse the consciousness of the working class youth, capitalist media propagate dreams of moving up the social ladder. The working class youth should not be misled by these dreams but realise their class position and problems. There is only one way out for the working class youth: unite, organise, be class-conscious and fight! We have no other choice.

Translated from İşçi Dayanışması (Workers Solidarity) 65, 15 August 2013

25 September 2013