Educating the young about Communism is therapy for the Tories, not an electoral strategy

The “Maoist Millennial” simply does not exist.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

The kids are at it again: more 18-24 year olds regard big businesses as a serious danger to the world, while just nine per cent say the same of Communism, a ComRes survey has said.

How can the Conservatives possibly win a majority in this climate? Or so the theory runs. There are a couple of problems with this analysis though, the biggest of which is it’s a lot like asking young people which is a bigger threat: a mugger or a sabretooth tiger.  Sabretooth tigers are extinct so quite clearly the correct answer is “the mugger”.

Similarly: across the world, Communism exists in name only in the powerful parts of the world (China). It is only in pockets of the global south that the economic system itself could be said to exist in practice (and even then, to be frank, it’s something of a stretch). In the United Kingdom, Communism has no reach into the army, the police or the security services. It controls no broadcasting network.

Some of the leader of the Opposition’ advisors are sympathetic to Communism but the opposition’s programme is very far from Communism, and the politics both of sitting Labour MPs and the people being selected to fight Conservative marginals are further from it still.

Communism cannot make me redundant, increase the chances of widespread antibiotic resistance through the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, hold up the development of new housing through speculation because it has no power or purchase in the West and at best a distant prospect of achieving any.

If anything this poll confirms the overall trend in every serious piece of research, which is that, in the United Kingdom, the under-40s are on the whole more acquisitive and more economically liberal than the over-40s as under a quarter of respondents have a negative view of big businesses.

But the reason why the “Millenials are Maoists” narrative is so tempting to the right is that if the Conservatives cannot win stable majorities among a generation that wants to own its on home, is economically liberal in general, that raises very difficult questions about either the party’s strategic abilities, the effectiveness of its policy platform or both. It feels like the right is simply getting its excuses in early: because saying “We couldn’t possibly win over this generation of leftwingers” is a lot more comforting than the real question: which is why is the British right doing so badly with a generation of economic and social liberals? 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

Free trial CSS