WAYNE McMILLAN. Are Millennials Thinking Seriously about Socialism?

A recent report from the Australian conservative, right wing think tankThe Centre for Independent Studies, 1. reckons that Australian millennials are lurching towards Socialism. In this report millennials don’t mention what they think about Socialism, or what shape or form it should take and how it could be implemented. I guess they are feeling that any alternative to Capitalism that promises a glimmer of social, economic and ecological hope is worth a go.

With high rates of unemployment among them, having to work in precarious employment i.e. two or three part-time casual jobs, with no prospect of getting their own home, and climate change threatening their very existence, they have realised that Capitalism has failed them.

Well, trickle-down economics has failed, austerity is a joke, and inequality is rising across Australia by all reasonable measures.2. Young people’s trust in their elders and politicians has reached an all-time low. Old religious institutions have been seriously challenged by the child abuse scandals, corporations shirking their tax obligations and the revelations from the recent Royal Commission into the Finance sector have certainly added more fuel to the fire.

Capitalism with a human face is looking very tardy these days and perhaps recent attempts at resuscitation have failed to bring the patient back to life with all its faculties working. Secular stagnation, privatisation, contracting out, the growth of labour hire firms,  budget repair and low wage growth have all added up to kill Capitalism and what will take its place is anyone’s guess. 

Yes, Socialism does look like a viable alternative to Capitalism. The question, however, remains what type of Socialism do millennials want? Corbyn or Sanders appear to be the two most popular Socialists that have captured the imagination of the Western younger generation and my bet is that both have voter appeal for Australian millennials. If this is the case say goodbye to the present Lib-Nat coalition and the Labor Party, as they have little to offer millennials in any array of truly progressive economic and social policies. These old style parties are battling for the centre ground vote, but have forgotten that the Global Financial Crisis changed everything especially for millennials. 

Of course, we haven’t explored new forms of mutualism/distributism in the shape of worker co-operatives, credit unions and mutual societies 2. which could make a come-back in the years to come with millennials.  Crowd sourcing and resource renting/sharing are also other ways of providing a more communitarian feel to life in the 21st century. Millennials are looking for new ways to deliver the goods and services that truly represent the common good.

Lets say that Australian millennials are highly sceptical of government, big business and most old style institutions, therefore they want meaningful change. My honest belief is that most of the political parties on offer to Australian millennials don’t fit the bill and for a time independents may reign as the most appealing representatives for them.

  1. https://www.cis.org.au/publications/policy-papers/millennials-and-socialism-australian-youth-are-lurching-to-the-left/
  2. Chris Sheil and Frank Stilwell, The Wealth of the Nation: Current Data on the Distribution of Wealth in Australia,  Evatt  Foundation ,  27 June 2016.

3,            See Race Mathews for a good summary of these issues in Australia.   http://racemathews.com

Wayne McMillan is a resident of Whalan and a member of Rethinking Economics Australia, an organisation dedicated to fostering new economics education and learning for the 21st century.

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Vincent Cheok

Wayne. Your conclusion of the Millennials’s skepticism of the current capitalist/democracy regime’s ability to resolve social inequity as in economic freedom from hunger, homelessness, joblessness – basically gross class disparity, is correct. Millennials still want political freedom of expression and thought though. That is why Millennials need to focus on the first mentioned economic freedoms and attack capitalism on this point alone and not on the political freedom when they think about socialism. Forget ad-hoc band-aid repair. Attack the failings and excesses of capitalism from its very heart and core. Attack antiquated or misconceived ideas that (1) private ownership of… Read more »