Walter Held

Int’l Youth Bureau Collapses

German S.A.P. Centrists Expel I.C.L. Youth Representative

Outcome of SAP’s Fight Against Forces of the 4th International

(12 October 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 43, 19 October 1935, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Following is an account by the representative of the International Communist League of the ill-fated attempt to set up a new youth international, through the medium of the International Youth Bureau and in common with various centrist organizations. Its disruption and final extinction, in actual fact, can be laid directly at the door of the S.A.P. whose life work has become the struggle against the Fourth International even if the most opportunist and even treacherous alliances are necessary for this purpose. It can confidently be asserted that the death of the Youth Bureau is merely a setback – its experience was rich in lessons – for the forces of the Fourth International are everywhere gathering in size and importance.Ed.

* * *

The International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth was founded in February 1934 at the International Youth Conference at Laren, Holland, then at Lille (in reality, Brussels). There were represented at the conference: the I.C.L. youth, the Spartacus Youth League of the United States, the two Dutch youth organizations of the O.S.P. and the R.S.P., not yet unified at this time, the German S.J.V. (affiliated to the Socialist Workers Party, S.A.P.); the Young Workers of Norway (N.A.P.) and the Norwegian Mot Dag group. Immediately after its opening, the conference was dissolved by the Dutch police and the foreign participants arrested. Four German émigré participants were expelled to Germany, the others deported to Belgium. Two of the comrades, Bobzien and Liebermann, delivered to Germany, were in the meantime condemned to long prison terms. (It goes without saying that our solidarity with these comrades and the struggle for their liberation will be carried on as before with all our energy despite the liquidation of the youth bureau.) After the expulsion, the remaining delegates convened in Brussels. The discussion, in the main, took place between the representatives of the S.A.P. and the I.C.L., the latter struggling primarily for a clear and precise expression in favor of a new international of the youth in the framework of the Fourth International. After some ardent debates on this question, two passages along this line were added to the resolution proposed by the German S.J.V. But we, on our side, committed a serious error. The arrests and the joint expulsion from Holland had produced a conciliatory spirit and we failed to implement the declarations of the S.J.V. for the new International with the necessary organizational guarantees. We accepted the creation of the International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations with Stockholm as headquarters. The Secretariat was composed of a representative of the German S.J.V., the Swedish S.J.V. and the I.C.L. (It is true the Swedes were not themselves present at the conference, although their acceptance was confirmed by the representatives of the German S.J.V. and by the Mot Dag group). The Young Workers of Norway had left the conference before the resolutions were adopted and later displayed hostility to the creation of the Youth Bureau.

Sabotage from the Start

After the arrival of the I.C.L. representative in Scandinavia he discovered that the Swedes had no intention at all of taking any responsibility for the Secretariat and that they opposed, with all their might the residence of the I.C.L. representative in Stockholm. The German S.J.V. had also forgotten the conciliatory spirit of the Brussels conference and supported the Swedes in their negative attitude. They suggested the absurd proposition of scattering the Secretariat over three distant cities, separated from each other by several days of travelling and concentrating the practical work in the hands of the representative of the German S.J.V. This we categorically refused. Finally a compromise was found. The work of the Secretariat was concentrated in another Scandinavian locality and the Mot Dag group of Norway, an organization friendly to the Swedish Youth, was instructed to represent the latter. The work of the Secretariat went on – always hampered by internal conflict. In the autumn of 1934, for example, at a session of the Bureau at Copenhagen, the representative of the S.J.V. with the assistance of the Mot Dag group and the Swedish S.J.V., tried again to remove the I.C.L. from the Secretariat.

However, these internal conflicts did not reach their peak until after the pitiful conference of the International Community of Labor of the S.A.P. in February 1935 in Paris, where the S.A.P. for the first time openly expressed its hostility to the Fourth International. It is true that Brandt as the representative of the Youth Bureau endeavored to fill up the breach by voting for the resolution presented by the Dutch delegates in favor of the New International as well as for the opposite resolution of the S.A.P. However, in the discussion he did not fail to join in the tirades of the S.A.P. against the Fourth International. This attitude brought forth protests from the organizations affiliated to the I.C.L. A motion was presented to reorganize and enlarge the secretariat by a representative of the R.S.J.V. (the organization emerging from the unity of the two Dutch organizations), and the Bolshevik-Leninist youth fraction of the French Socialist Youth. Following this the Secretariat of the Youth Bureau decided to convene a session of the Bureau to deal with these questions, with the participation of all the organizations affiliated to the Bureau.

Betrayal Intervenes

In the meantime, however, it was impossible to continue the work of the old Secretariat for another reason. The coming to power of the Norwegian Labor Party had completely unmasked the opportunist character of the Mot Dag group. The Norwegian Labor Party in power carried on a completely bourgeois policy similar to that of the Swedish and Danish social democrats. Instead of fighting the monstrous treachery of the N.A.P., which previously had taken on a radical coloration, and instead of organizing the opposition, the Mot Dag group sought a “theoretical” justification of the betrayal. Besides they declared their agreement with the Stalin-Laval declaration and with the preparation of the union sacrée by the French Stalinists. It was therefore no longer possible to collaborate with this group. Horrified by this degeneration, the representative of the German S.J.V. swung to the left by signing, together with the I.C.L. representative, a letter to the Swedish S.J.V., calling upon the latter to disavow its Mot Dagist representative in the Youth Secretariat. The Swedes did not reply to this letter and consequently the work of the Secretariat was suspended. Once again they called for a session under the chairmanship of the Swedish Youth and once again, as before, it was postponed. In the meantime the Swedes did not show any inclination to terminate their friendship with Mot Dag and proved this fact on every occasion (collaboration of the Mot Dag people in the Swedish press, etc.) But the representative of the German S.J.V. also changed his mind by placing in the background the struggle against Mot Dag and once again turning on the I.C.L. In an interview which helped to prepare the session of the Secretariat with the Swedish Youth he declared that the differences between the I.C.L. and the SA.V. were of a more deep-going character than those between the S.J.V. and Mot Dag.

On August 18 the session of the Secretariat was finally held. The representative of the German S.J.V. again opposed placing the question of the Mot Dag group as the first point on the agenda and insisted that they deal with the differences between the I.C.L. and the Youth Bureau. He stated that the version of his statement as quoted above to be inexact in this form. He had wanted to say that the differences on the one hand with the. I.C.L. and on the other with Mot Dag existed on two entirely different planes. But the entire proceedings of this session of the Secretariat gave confirmation to our version.

Touching Solidarity

The representative of the I.C.L., speaking on the first point of the agenda, believed necessary a reorganization of the youth movement in the framework of the Fourth International and demanded that the Youth Bureau sign the Open Letter for the Fourth International. He demanded the immediate expulsion of Mot Dag and the reorganization of the Secretariat, since the situation had become absolutely impossible through the refusal of the Swedish organization to take responsibility for the Secretariat in Stockholm. The delegate of the German S.J.V. replied by a furious and subjective attack against the I.C.L., surpassing even the fantastic lies of the S.A.P. pamphlet,Trotskyism or Realistic Revolutionary Policy. Finally he posed the following conditions to the representative of the I.C.L.: To disassociate itself from the attacks of the I.C.L. press against the Youth Bureau and to sever its connections with the work of the International Youth Secretariat of the I.C.L. The Mot Dagist present (to repeat again: this organization is in agreement with the reformist policy of the Norwegian Labor Party as well as with Stalin’s French policy) declared its accord with the speech of the representative of the German S.J.V. against the I.C.L. And besides it had to be the representative of this notorious organization to pretend that the I.C.L. is ruining the workers’ movement! Similarly the chairman of the Swedish S.J.V. limited his few remarks to approving the speech of the delegate of the S.A.P. Then the representative of the I.C.L. once more took the floor to say among other things:

The Bolshevik Position

“I especially enjoyed the remarks of the representative of Mot Dag because he demonstrated in a convincing fashion that every opportunist and treacherous group can hide behind the struggle of the S.A.P. against the I.C.L., I completely solidarize myself with the attacks of the I.C.L. against the present policy of the majority of the Secretariat. By the same token I am responsible for the policy of the Secretariat of the I.C.L. youth. I am ready to admit an error in the fact which occurred in the section dealing with the Youth Bureau in the article Centrist Alchemy or Marxism? appearing in No. 5 of Unser Wort and the July issue of the New International. The Youth Bureau was not founded with the N.A.P. but with Mot Dag, which organization has the disadvantage of meaning nothing with regard the N.A.P., while the N.A.P. represents almost the entire Norwegian working class. As for the political side the articles were 100 percent correct. If the Youth Bureau continues to work in its present manner it will only be another edition of the Amsterdam Bureau, whose work has only now been so strikingly characterized by P.J. Schmidt, up till now its secretary. The most obvious example proving the correctness of our attacks is given by this session itself. The German S.J.V. delegate could find not a word against Mot Dag and calmly accepted the Mot Dag repetition of the S.A.P. arguments. It has completely solidarized itself with the Swedes although they maintain a close friendship with Mot Dag; it defends the Swedes against the attempts of ‘disloyal’ factional work on the part of the I.C.L. But the S.A.P. itself uses its connections in the Dutch R.S.A.P. and the Workers Party of the United States to develop a poisoned propaganda and to carry on factional work against the champions of the Fourth International. ‘Loyalty’ to the Right and struggle against the Left, that is the real character of the S.A.P. I found in re-reading the manifesto against the war danger, proposed by the German S.J.V. among other things that the centrism of Fenner Brockway, Kilboom, etc., is not criticized. To this, the representative of the S.J.V. replied: But Fenner Brockway is with us. Finally we have a clear answer. ‘The Fourth International’ is not a ‘scheme’ for us as the S.A.P. so assiduously spreads, but the touchstone which distinguishes the revolutionary Marxists from the Centrists in all other questions as well. To pronounce oneself today for the Fourth International means also to take a position for the arming of the proletariat, for the insurrection and for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Fenner Brockway, etc., are opponents of the insurrection as well as of dictatorship. It is clear that against such opinions we know only unremitting struggle.”

On the conclusion of this speech the representatives of the Swedish S.J.V. and the German S.J.V. declared jointly that the continuation of collaboration with the representative of the I.C.L. to be impossible. The latter left the session. Mot Dag, the Swedish S.J.V. and the German S.J.V. continued in full agreement.

Significance and Prospects

If one takes into consideration the recent expulsion of our French comrades from the French Socialist Youth, our expulsion from the Youth Bureau assumes special significance. Our comrades were expelled because of their struggle against national defense. And today the S.A.P., in collusion with the Mot Dag organization, which approves the treachery of Stalin in France, expels us from the Youth Bureau.

Practically speaking, with the expulsion of the I.C.L. the Youth Bureau has been buried. What remains is the Swedish S.J.V., which in fact is not interested in the international work and whose only “activity” in the Youth Bureau consisted in hindering international work; the small Mot Dag group; perhaps a small group in Rumania; and the illegal German S.J.V. The whole thing is less than nothing. While the work to reorganize the proletarian youth movement on the basis of the Open Letter for the Fourth International, which up to now bears the signatures of the Dutch R.S.A.P., the W.P.U.S., the W.P. of Canada, the Bolshevik-Leninist group of the S.F.I.O. and the I.C.L., and in which new groups from all parts of the world are continually joining, the International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations, born in a transitional period, has passed from the scene. Long live the youth section of the Fourth International, the world party of the revolutionary proletariat!

Last updated on 2 February 2018