First Published: The Worker, for Hawaii, Vol. 1, No. 10, July-August 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Over 100 youths from around the country stayed in Philadelphia after the Rich Off Our Backs demonstration to attend a conference called by the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) on July 5. The conference was called to bring together youths from cities across the country who had been active in building for the Rich Off Our Backs demonstrations to make plans for building a youth movement, jumping off from struggles around the special problems young people face and aiming itself at the system, and to build revolutionary organization.
At the conference there was a great spirit of excitement and happiness over the demonstration the day before. For most, it had been the first demonstration they had been to. One after another, youths from Detroit, Chicago, New York and elsewhere got up and talked about what they had learned during the four days of actions and in the weeks leading up to the Fourth.
They spoke about where they had been two or three months ago–hanging out in the streets, thinking about joining the army– and how the struggle they had joined in had shown them that there was another way to go. The demonstration had helped make clear there was no need or sense in lashing out and fighting individually. It had been living proof of what can be accomplished by uniting, organizing, getting disciplined, in the course of struggling along with the working class against the real enemy–the rich ruling class.
One of the banners carried by the youth contingent on the 4th read, “Fight Today for a Better Tomorrow.” The opening speaker from the RCP spoke about what this meant: Fight today against the attacks young people face–high unemployment, lousy schools, police harassment, street gangs, and fight for a better future, directing this fight at the source of these problems. The RCP speaker said that youth had to be organized to get rid of the capitalist system which is truly “rotten to the core” and join the struggle to put the working class in power.
After the opening speech the conference broke into small groups for discussion. As one person put it, the one hundred people present were only “delegates” representing thousands and millions or youths, “just like us.” The conference had to decide how to go from a group of “delegates” to mobilizing thousands and millions of young people to fight to change their lives and the society that is falling down around them.
Both the speech by the Party and discussion stressed the point that the Rich Off Our Backs-July 4th action, while a great victory, was only “one battle in the war.” Now it was time to go back to the neighborhoods, the recreation centers, the unemployment offices–wherever young working class people gather–and organize, fight and expose the capitalist system.
An important question on people’s minds was how to build unity among youths of different nationalities. The conference was pretty evenly divided among white, Black and Latino youths. The ruling class spends a lot of time trying to keep people of different nationalities divided and they try to get kids fighting each other, like in gangs and such, instead of fighting the cause of their problems.
People talked about how Black and other minority people usually get the worst end of a scene that’s rotten for everyone so the capitalists can grab even more profits and use all the inequality to promote divisions among the people and take the heat off themselves. There was general agreement that the only way to build unity was to build it by actually taking on the system, showing that people can unite and that unity is the only way to take on the common enemy.
The speaker from the Party raised the need to forge the most active fighters among the youth into a Young Communist League. This proposal sparked a lot of discussion. The campaign building up to the Rich Off Our Backs demonstration was the first time many had ever been involved with communists. One youth from Philadelphia told how the first time he was associated with communists he was so scared he started shaking. He said that what it took was seeing what communists were like in practice before he began to get interested in learning more and becoming a communist himself. This was the general spirit of the people at the conference, of learning more and finding out more about what communists and Marxists were all about.
A woman from New Jersey talked about what Marxism-Leninism meant to her. “The way things look, your whole life is like a jigsaw puzzle. But the more you understand why things are the way they are the more you can do to get out of it and the more you want to study and learn how to fight better. And that’s what Marxism is all about.”
By the end of the conference it was clear that the Rich Off Our Backs-July 4 campaign had been a big step towards building a nationwide movement of youth. It was also true that this was only the beginning. Everyone agreed that organizations like Youth in Action from Philadelphia and others like it that had grown up around the 4th needed to be built and strengthened in every city right away. These organizations would build campaigns for jobs and other needs of young people. Many agreed this would be a key step in building a Young Communist League in the near future.
Leaving the conference, the people knew that there were millions of others, sons and daughters of the working class, that are staring at the same conditions and asking the same questions. The main job would be to take back the lessons of the Rich Off Our Backs-July 4 campaign and the conference to their brothers and sisters around the country and start building the fight. The way young people responded to the demonstrations in Philadelphia showed that working class youths are real social dynamite, waiting to explode in the ruling class’ face.