The climate crisis is another unique condition that necessitates Gen Z’s commitment to socialism. As DSA’s Ecosocialist Working Group explains, “The liberation of people and the planet are necessarily intertwined and dependent on the dismantling of our exploitative capitalist production process and the remaking of society to serve the needs of people and planet, not profit.” No other crisis in our history has posed such an existential threat and moral obligation for radical change in our economic and political systems. Human survival will depend on revolution.
Jonathan Jackson Jr., the nephew of Black revolutionary George Jackson, posits that “when it finally becomes more attractive for one to fight, and perhaps die, than to live in a survival mode, revolution starts to become a possibility.” Facing the climate crisis, we must understand “survival mode” under late-stage capitalism is more than just enduring a system of labor exploitation — it means enduring the results of this system; one that requires not only labor exploitation, but the endless exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources.
We will have to survive floods, heat waves, forest fires, and air pollution; watch our homes sink under water; the collapse of food supply chains; and power grids that give out. The working class will suffer while the rich will be able to move to higher elevations and build safeguarded homes. Organizing won’t be driven just by a desire to improve our quality of life, but by an impulse to save the human race.
Gen Z has already demonstrated our ability to organize and mobilize: It was young Black activists who led Black Lives Matter protests, and young allies who participated and made it likely the biggest movement in U.S. history. Youth voters are turning out in record numbers and, in 2020, propelled Joe Biden to victory in key swing states. Our digital fluency provides us with a unique platform to organize, disseminate information, and share our beliefs. Social media exposes us to new ideas that antagonize our current belief systems, induce change, and push us toward ideological clarity.
Thanks to the work of young BIPOC organizers, we also understand that the struggles to end white supremacy and capitalism are intertwined. The Black Lives Matter movement’s focus on dismantling racial capitalism demonstrates the political relevance of this framework. A 2020 Morning Consult poll found that 68% of Gen Z said the Black Lives Matter movement “has had a major impact on their worldview” (a percentage that jumped by 21 points from April to June 2020), and the vast majority of Gen Z took at least one action for racial justice during the height of the protests. Centering Black liberation in our movement for socialism is a moral imperative that will also allow us to engage young people who were politically radicalized by Black Lives Matter and counter the neoliberal co-optation of racial justice organizing.
The tools to build interracial, intergenerational working-class power are here. If we, the generation whose souls have not yet been crushed by capitalism, choose to use these tools, we can shift the tide in favor of socialism — the only system that will guarantee us a livable planet and life unburdened from economic exploitation, crushing debt, and racial castes.
As a DSA member, I have engaged in electoral work, direct action, housing justice advocacy, and solidarity organizing with the labor movement, Palestine, and abolitionist groups. My comrades of all ages have mentored and empowered me to run to be a Boston delegate to the National Convention this year. I am excited to be a voting delegate, but I wish there were more teenagers beside me, not because we will magically transform the DSA as an organization, but because our voices matter in the socialist movement and there are unlimited possibilities to engage us.