First Published: The Call, Vol. 4, No. 4, January 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A new organization of revolutionary youth has been born. The Communist Youth Organization (CYO) held its founding convention in Chicago last month bringing more than 200 young people together around a revolutionary line and program of struggle.
Those attending the convention were mainly working class youth from across the country. Minority youth made up over 50% of the conferees.
Through discussion and debate they were able to unite around a statement of unity, a general program and the election of a leading body. A number of resolutions were adopted on questions ranging from busing for school integration, to the international situation.
The Unity Statement, which was adopted with near unanimity describes the new organization as a “national organization of communist youth dedicated to revolution.” It states: “We stand for socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat as a transition to a communist, or classless, society.”
The Statement singled out imperialism, led by the two superpowers (the U.S. and the Soviet Union) as the main enemy of the world’s people. It took a stand against the threat of new imperialist war and for the right of self-determination of all oppressed nations.
The multi-national make-up of the CYO could be seen in the election of the 12 members of the steering committee of which 7 are national minorities. Included here are chairman Roy Smith of Boston and vice-chairman Marja Wessels of Los Angeles.
Smith, a member of the October League and an activist in the struggle against school segregation in Boston gave the keynote speech at the conference in which he stressed the need for the CYO to be an organization which integrates itself closely with the struggles of the working class. The CYO chairman pointed to the difficult work that the members faced in the future and that careful and thoughtful study of Marxism-Leninism was vitally necessary.
Solidarity messages were also delivered by October League Chairman Michael Klonsky and a representative of the newly formed Canadian Communist League (ML). The OL initiated the CYO and played the leading role in setting the political direction at the conference.
In an interview with The Call, Smith said that, while the CYO had close fraternal relations with the October League, and would unite to support the new Marxist-Leninist party when it is built, that the organization would have to develop its own independence and initiative as well. “It is of key importance,” said Smith, “to have a broader and more independent character, in order to deal with the special problems of the youth. But it must have the close possible unity with the new communist party, the leader of the whole working class.”
Smith pointed to the consolidation the new organization around the unity principles as the main job the leadership faces. He said that the struggle for “jobs for youth” would be the main campaign taken up by the CYO.
The Jobs for Youth Campaign was adopted by a resolution which grew out of the workshop on jobs. The resolution calls for the mobilization of unemployed and working class youth in militant actions which hit at the extremely high rate of youth unemployment. It says: “We demand jobs for every young person in America with no layoffs for older people...” The resolution says, “The Jobs for Youth work must be linked to the fight against imperialist wars, started by and for the capitalists to make more profit and kill us off.”
The resolution also called for the campaign to link itself to the struggles against racial discrimination, cutbacks in education, police repression and deportations which are all related to rising unemployment and the nature of the system that causes it.
One of the most controversial issues taken up at the conference was the question of busing for school integration. The resolution which passed calls for support for school busing for integration and links this struggle to the historic fight against all forms of national oppression. It call on CYO members to “build unity between nationalities of young working people by showing how this fight for minority right is in the interest of white youth and link this to the larger struggle we are all wag to end this system.”
The resolution also sharply criticized those forces who called themselves communists, but who took a chauvinist stand towards the minority struggles against school segregation. The resolution met opposition from representatives of Worker’s Viewpoint, Puerto Rican Revolutionary Worker’s Organization (PPRWO) and member of the February First Movement (FFM) who formed a small opposition bloc at the conference. Representative of this bloc spoke against nearly every resolution passed by the body and even came out in open opposition to the founding of the CYO itself.
The reason for this opposition could be seen in a leaflet handed out by Worker’s Viewpoint and Revolutionary Worker’s League (RWL) outside the meeting which termed the present period in the U.S. as a society “pregnant with revisionism.”
Calling themselves the “revolutionary wing” these organizations told the CYO members that they were “too backwards” theoretically to form such an organization. They also claimed that the CYO could not be built until the party was formed.
Time after time the views of this little grouping were overwhelmingly defeated by the body, who while “affirming the need to raise their political level, opposed the defeatist view of the “revolutionary wing.”
Over the objection of this wing, the CYO adopted a resolution on the international situation which pointed to the two superpowers as the main enemy and cause of war. The opposition wing argued that the governments of the Third World countries, such as Iran, should be singled out for equal attack in the resolution.
All in all, the position of this opposition group was seen by the majority of delegates as “pessimistic and defeatist.” Through the course of the conference, they became increasingly isolated in the debate and were defeated. The young organization got its first taste of ideological struggle and was able to stand united and defend the basic principles of the CYO.
A statement on equality for women was adopted at the conference vowing support for the struggle and democratic rights for women, which the statement said, “must be linked with the struggle of the working class...” The resolution supported the Equal Rights Amendment and called for an end to welfare and social service cut-backs. The conference also demanded the release of Cheryl Todd and Dessie X Woods, two young Black women in Georgia who are on trial for murder after defending themselves from a racist rape attack. The resolution also opposed forced sterilization and placed the main focus of its women’s work on organizing working women in the workplace.
The CYO called for support for the upcoming National Fight-Back Conference and participation in it from youth throughout the country. A workshop on the role of youth in the fight-back will be held at the national conference under the leadership of the CYO.
Another resolution passed by the CYO which is of great importance was “Basing the CYO in the Shops.” It called for increased work in the factories and a basing of the CYO among the workers. The resolution called for the setting up of CYO factory committees and linking the CYO campaigns closely to the movement of the workers, “including progressive caucuses, and organizations like CLUW, Fight-Back Committees, and the October League.”
The conference ended on a strong note of unity with the singing of the “Internationale,” the anthem of the international communist movement. The hundreds of young communists returned to their cities to get down to the work of building the CYO among the masses.