First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 2, January 17, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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One of the highlights of the recent Communist Youth Organization convention was the speech given by October League Chairman Michael Klonsky on the relationship between the new communist party that is being built and the CYO. Below, we print excerpts from the speech.
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On behalf of the October League, I bring our warmest revolutionary greetings to the Communist Youth Organization and its Second National Convention.
The young communists are the ideal of our organization, just as the party which is presently being put on its feet represents the ideal of every revolutionary youth. I know I speak for all the groups in the Organizing Committee for a Marxist-Leninist Party when I say that we will always support the CYO in all its endeavors.
The party and the CYO must develop the closest and warmest fraternal relations on the basis of our common ideology, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. To the party, the youth organization of communists is a mighty reserve and a training school for young communists to fill the ranks of the party and become successors in the great communist tradition of our class.
According to government statistics, the youth constitute more than half of the population of this country. Historically, this army of 100 million or more has played a powerful role in the struggle for democratic rights and against imperialism, fascism, imperialist war and racial discrimination. Experience has shown that the youth are the most eager to learn, the least conservative ideologically and are extremely open to what is new. They have always dared to think, speak and act. They are the most vital and active force in every society and constitute the present and the future of socialism and communism.
It is no wonder then that our party must become a party of the youth and the youth must predominate in our party. The party, after all, represents the future and the rising ideology that will shape the world of tomorrow.
But the young people cannot simply come to revolution and to scientific socialism spontaneously, or on their own. Mass struggles such as the fight against war and fascism, the struggle against the cutbacks and the crisis, the movement of the students, the struggle against racism and national oppression all bring millions of young people into the political movement. But if they are not educated in the revolutionary ideology of the working class, if they are not rallied around the vanguard party of the working class, they will instead be turned around by the bourgeoisie.
The imperialists, reformists and opportunists of every stripe, including the revisionists and the fascists, are all directing, their propaganda at the youth. Look at the situation in Boston or right here in Chicago’s Marquette Park area. The youth are being bombarded from the one side by the demagogic rhetoric of the KKK and the Nazi Party (who sometimes even strike an anti-capitalist pose to spread white chauvinist, fascist ideology among the young white workers) and from the other side by the revisionists, Trotskyists and liberal preachers (who are telling the youth to trust in God, the courts and the Democratic Party to solve their problems).
Can we leave this powerful revolutionary reserve in the hands of the ruling class and its agents? Or should we build special forms of organization capable of doing what every revolutionary movement of the working class has had to do – win the youth to the side of the proletarian revolution.
These special forms include an organization such as the CYO, which must be built under the leadership of the party as a special training school in Marxism. While closely linked to the party ideologically and closely following the leadership of the working class and its party, the CYO must also have its independent character and should not copy the party form of organization.
It must be a mass organization of advanced youth united around the theory and ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Some may ask: “Why a mass organization?” and “How can a mass organization also be communist?” The answer lies in the special work that is necessary among the young, revolutionary-minded workers, students and other youth. The CYO cannot be confused with the party itself, which must be organized along cadre lines with only the most advanced elements of the working class admitted to its ranks.
If there are more than 100 million young people in the country, the advanced or revolutionary-minded section constitutes several million of these youth. The CYO must not be so narrow as to exclude these advanced youth, striving hard to become revolutionary in every sense, but presently lacking the ideological training and experience to fully qualify themselves as communists in the same sense as party members. Therefore the rule for membership of the CYO and the party and the level of its members will quite naturally be different.
The communist youth are those trained in the storms of class struggle, learning the skills of organization from experience, with the freedom to make mistakes. Let the opportunists jump up and down at the mistakes of the communist youth. What are they doing to train the successors of the revolution?
Last year at the first CYO convention, the hall was crawling with fools calling themselves the “Revolutionary Wing”, who flocked here for one reason only. Their message to the CYO was ”Give up, you can’t succeed. You’re too backward to build an organization.”
Like all opportunists, they had no faith in the masses and played on the lack of experience of the CYO members to try and divert them away from their tasks. They tried their best to drive a wedge between the OL and the party-building forces on the one hand and the CYO on the other. But they were sent packing by 200 young revolutionaries who learned about opportunism through their struggle against it at that meeting.
The Revolutionary Communist Party is another opportunist trend which has little or no faith in the young revolutionaries. They have chained their youth organization to themselves in order to promote their rightist, economist and white chauvinist line, while at the same time, dragging it through each mistake they themselves make such as being the Attica Brigade one day, the Revolutionary Student Brigade the next and, suddenly, without any discussion or dissent, a new “communist youth organization.”
The revisionists and Trotskyists are all afraid to give the youth their organizational independence for fear that they will accidentally stumble upon the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung, and see through the bankrupt morass of reformism and social-pacifism they are peddling.
Lenin, in his writing on “The Youth International,” chastized those who didn’t recognize that “the youth must of necessity advance to socialism in a different way, by other paths, in other forms, in other circumstances than their fathers.” “Incidentally,” he added, “that is why we must decidedly favor organizational independence of the Youth League, not only because the opportunists fear such independence, but because of the very nature of the case. For unless they have complete independence, the youth will be unable either to train good socialists from their midst or prepare themselves to lead socialism forward.”
But this independence must never be taken to mean independence of ideology from that of the working class or from the leadership of the working class. The CYO has a mass character and members made up from all class and national backgrounds. This is a good thing, but there are also dangers.
While the CYO must pay particular attention to the study of Marxism-Leninism, there are some petty-bourgeois elements who will try and turn this fine organization into a study circle of intellectuals only and away from its role as a fighting organization of the masses.
The CYO has shown that it can combine study with mass struggle – with the fight against the war preparations of the two superpowers, with the fight to save Gary Tyler and smash the chauvinist attacks on Afro-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Asian, Native American and other minorities and for the right of self-determination, regional autonomy and democratic rights.
Going wherever young workers and young people in general are struggling, the CYO can win to its side the most active youth. It can win the youth in Detroit struggling against police harassment and the fascist curfew, the youth struggling outside the unemployment offices in Philadelphia for the right to work, the youth in New York demanding an end to the cutbacks, the students in Iowa demanding the right of communists to speak on their campus and the youth all over the country demanding that brother Gary Tyler be set free.
Special work, of course, must be done among the young workers in the factories who must become the backbone force of the CYO and among the minorities and women who are among the most oppressed of the youth. It is from these sections that we should draw our most trusted and capable leadership.
Finally I would like to say those of us who have grown to be past 30 have much to learn from you – from the seriousness and devotion to the cause of liberation which many of us never thought of at the age of the comrades here today.
We are confident of the future because of you.
LONG LIVE THE CYO!
LONG LIVE THE UNITY BETWEEN THE CYO AND THE NEW PARTY OF THE PROLETARIAT!
LONG LIVE THE UNITY OF THE WORKING CLASS AND THE REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH!