The solution to housing crisis for Millennials, according to Helen Razer

Helen Razer talks non-stop for close to an hour about Marxism. Marxism, Millennials, Donald Trump, the state of the economy, Uber drivers and underpants. "God I go on, I irritate even myself sometimes," she says, only four minutes in.

Razer's never been one to shy away from having something to say. For more than two decades she's had an opinion, as a broadcaster with the ABC, writing for Fairfax and The Australian, more recently on her blog Bad Hostess and for Crikey and The Big Issue.

She's also written several books, some of which have touched on the idea of the world being a little, well, f---ed is probably the most appropriate word. In Total Propaganda: Basic Marxist Training for the Angry and the Young, she offers some solutions.

Helen Razer: "I'd be cranky as heck if I were a Millennial." Photo: Supplied

Helen Razer: "I'd be cranky as heck if I were a Millennial." Photo: Supplied

She's long said capitalism and the systems that support it are broken and the more she wrote about it, the more correspondence she received from people who felt the same way. Surprisingly, a lot of the discourse came from Millennials, that much maligned generation.

"This book is not just for time-poor kids surviving the shitstorm we call the 'gig economy'. It's been written for anyone who wants to taste a little Marxism before committing to feast upon the bodies of the tender ruling class," she writes.

The book is full of humour but the message is quite scary. "Western people of the Millennial age-range are the first generation in several to be worse off in many basic ways than their parents," Razer says.

"They are largely unable to buy into the housing market. They have entered the job market in a time of wage stagnation. They now realise their degrees, if they have them, are no guarantee of work. They must consider if they have the financial means to have their own families.

"They are sick to the back fangs of mainstream economists blaming this shared generational experience on avocado toast and laziness."

She said while Millennials might make every effort to be as "entrepreneurial" or "innovative" or "agile" as the Prime Minister suggests, they still find themselves without job security, perhaps taking three or four roles on to simply pay for their modest existence.

"I'd be cranky as heck if I were a Millennial. Well, I am cranky as heck. However, I would be markedly worse."

She points to the scores of young people backing Bernie Sanders in the United States primaries, to the British politician Jeremy Corbyn who steered the Labour party to be one of the youngest in Europe, to a range of social surveys in 2016 that showed strong appreciation of socialism and a strong suspicion of capitalism.

For all their enthusiasm, can Millennials turn things around?

"Millennials must save the world," she says. "My generation is hardly rushing to impose on industry the emission restrictions urgently needed. My generation is not unified in urging for the decommissioning of weapons, cyber and nuclear, and demanding carbon drawdown this minute. My generation seems largely unconcerned with the fate of the Global South or the disappearance of basic workers' rights."

We start talking about economic theory and commodities and why you can buy a pair of underpants for $2. I mention an interview I did a while back, with Joe Bennett, for his book Where Underpants Come From. The books follows Bennett's journey back to China, to the source of his cheap underwear.

"It's so apt that you would mention underpants in a conversation about Marx," she said.

"The guy you are describing, Bennett, set out, perhaps consciously, to do exactly at the beginning of his book as Marx did at the very start of the important volumes of Capital.

"Like our underpants guy, he understood that the commodity was understood as 'a mysterious thing'; a thing that, despite being the product of human labour, was just understood as having value - value that rarely appeared as having anything to do with the brains and muscles that produced it.

"In other words, the things we buy are stripped from the context of their creation, which is human labour, and placed into a system of exchange. The underpants assume an almost religious form, according to Marx. They conceal a human truth. Just as underpants do!"

Razer is fiery, funny, smart. So what else is she passionate about?

"I garden, somewhat unproductively, and I run distance, quite slowly, and I offer support or ideas where plausible or meaningful to the fight for treaty, the right of WikiLeaks to continue its work as a publisher, I don't care if Julian Assange is a nice guy or not, and democracy ??? hang on ??? I'm going all Marxist again."

This story The solution to housing crisis for Millennials, according to Helen Razer first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.