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THOUSANDS of US school students in hundreds of schools walked out in protest as the jury retired for the verdict on the killing of George Floyd in the trial in which Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is accused of murder.
When Minnesota students organised a mass sit-down in the snow last Monday it wasn’t explicitly around the present trial but to honour the life of Daunte Wright, killed a week previously by another Minneapolis police officer.
It is not the explosive character of each single incident that fuels these protests by young people but the understanding that this violence is a permanent part of their world — unless they do something about it.
As of last month 126 mass shootings left 148 people dead and 481 injured in the United States in this year alone.
The cultural milieu in which young people mature in the US is one in which violence and the use of weaponry is normalised and in which the untrammelled projection of force is exalted as the essential feature of state policy at home and abroad.
What is striking about these events is the spontaneity with which a new generation of young people find common cause and are moved to action.
It is not simply that social media has transformed the speed with which ideas and initiatives can take hold of the imagination but that there already exists in the minds of millions a sense that what is rotten in society can and must be tackled by collective action.
It is commonplace now to remark that these protests and the Black Lives Matters mass mobilisations — notably in each of the countries subject to the pervasive influence of North American culture — find a real and growing response from people of all ages but especially from the young.
The world into which young North Americans enter as adults is marked by a rising tempo of tension both within their society and around the world, underpinned by a real fear for the future of the planet.
Their leaders are busily ramping up tension in a rerun of the original cold war and in the immediate domestic environment, deaths at the hands of the police provide counterpoint to an unending series of mass killings by the malign and the deranged.
What is significant about the Minneapolis crowd is that they see the coercive arm of the state as an essential part of the problem. Hence the chants “National Guard go home.”
It is a sign of how brittle is the mood that the entire police and military apparatus of mainland US is on alert, conscious that if Chauvin is found not guilty the anger will not be contained.
There is nothing in our immediate and recent experience which suggests that Britain is immune from these problems.
Periodically the social tensions which are at the heart of late capitalism’s endemic crises erupt and the response of the state is more predictable than the changing weather patterns we are learning to tolerate.
This is a problem for capitalism as a whole. An absolute majority of people under the age of 40 in the US (approximately 52 per cent) have a more favourable of socialism than capitalism, while even among the over-40s more than a third share these sentiments.
In Britain only the over-60s have a more favourable view of capitalism than socialism, while the picture in most of Europe is worse for capitalism.
If, as things seem to signify, these problems cannot be resolved under capitalism then the main question is, how do we reach towards a socialism for the 21st century?
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