First Published: Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, no date 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Note: The name of the new national youth organization is the DuBois Clubs of America–authors.
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Within the past year numerous students throughout the United States have become increasingly aware of the militaristic and imperialistic policies of their government. Many of these students have been active in the defense of the students that traveled to Cuba last summer and others have joined together to protest the continued war policies of the United States government regarding South East Asia. Nearly 150 young people have now traveled to Cuba and directly seen socialism in action while learning what it means to fight the policies of the American government. The civil rights movement in this country has seen an upsurge of militancy among the younger members of the organizations directly involved in this struggle. Among the younger people of the country a far-sightedness is becoming more and more evident. Many young people are seeing the enemy as it is, i.e., U.S. capitalism.
It was within this framework that when a call was issued for the formation of a “new” socialist youth group many people throughout the country looked to this “call” as the basis for forming a youth group determined to take a militant, anti-imperialist, socialist outlook. With this in mind the events surrounding the conference held in San Francisco, California on June 19, 20 and 21st of this year should be recounted.
The conference held in San Francisco was billed as the “founding convention of a new nationwide socialist youth organization.” A statement issued during the registration of the nearly 200 young people from throughout the country said that the convention was called “by a group of young people who felt that socialist alternatives must be explored if this country is to solve pressing political, social and economic problems.”
The registration statement went on to say that: “Although the final decisions will be made by the delegates to this convention, we feel the new organization, while leaving wide room for disagreement, should declare:
1. This nation can best solve its problem in an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence, disarmament, and freedom for all peoples throughout the world.
2. These solutions will be reached mainly through the united efforts of all democratic elements in our country and particularly through the unity of Negro and white Americans and all other minority groups.
3. It is the working people of our country through their organization, whatever their present difficulties, who will ultimately be the decisive force in meeting our pressing social and economic needs.
4. The greatest danger to American democracy comes from the racist and rightwing forces acting in alliance with the most reactionary sections of the economic power structure. (emphasis added–authors)
5. The most effective tool used in the fight against social progress has been the divisive weapon of anti-communism. This weapon must not be used to split young people as it has in the past.”
With this call and this “framework of organization” many of the young people that arrived at the convention were deeply concerned that any new socialist youth organization should indeed live up to its promise and be a “socialist” organization. In this respect their hopes were unwarranted.
This so-called socialist youth conference ended with a program that made it a bit more moderate than the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). One Young Democrat who attended the conference said that “at Democratic meetings they consider me on the ’left wing.’ At this conference of ’socialist youth’ I am still considered on the ’ultra-left.’” What happened to create this scene?
The conference itself was planned to be an open and shut affair. One of the girls who helped organize this conference told me that “We had the conference all set and all of the issues decided before hand. Why did you people have to come out here and try to change our policies?” The leadership of the conference held that the resolutions passed should only deal with the menace of the ultra-right to this nation and should disregard completely the menace of the liberal-Democratic administrations. The hierarch that ran the conference refused to allow minority reports from the existing workshops on peace, politics, civil rights, etc., to be read and discussed on the plenary floor. (Even at church conventions the reading of minority reports is commonplace–but not at this “socialist” convention.)
The organization leaders refused to allow the opposition to give its opposing point of view by refusing them the right to oppose anything but the majority resolutions instead of giving them the right to a valid opposition program. The voting at the convention was “weighted” so as to give some 40 people from New York and Wisconsin the literal power to decide any question in favor of the convention power structure. This was done by giving three votes to each person outside of the western states while a group from Wisconsin were given six votes apiece–the majority of the delegates were from the San Francisco area and were given only one vote apiece. This voting procedure, as the question of minority resolutions, was not decided by the convention as a body but by the ruling clique composed of people all representing one political viewpoint–revisionism and capitulationism. One important vote at the convention was 228 to 202 in favor of the ruling oligarchy. If this vote was broken down it would be obvious that the majority of the delegates to the convention opposed the amendments calling for the dropping of all references to the “liberals” in the resolution on civil liberties. But, and here the “but” is vital, the votes from the New York and Wisconsin blocs (composed mainly of people from Advance and the Progressive Youth Organizing Committee) carried the position of the organizers.
The convention ultimately went on to pass resolutions condemning the ultra-right in all of its phases and concepts but refused to once condemn the Johnson Administration or any of the so-called “liberals” within the Democratic Party. The convention refused to entertain any motions pointing out the responsibility of the Democratic Party and in particular Bobby Kennedy and L.B.J. in their attacks on civil liberties and their refusal to support the struggle for Black freedom in this country. The convention refused to support Goldwater but gave its somewhat less than critical support to President Johnson and his policies. This conference on “socialism” became ultimately a conference on Democratic politics and how best to work within the confines of the Democratic Party while, and this is essential, not being known as socialists.
If the logic here escapes you don’t feel alone. It would be safe to say that the majority of the delegates at the convention, that is, except those reflecting the outlook of the Communist Party of the United States, who in reality controlled the organization of the convention, were also confused.
The debate over, one issue shows clearly the calibre of this socialist youth conference. The resolution that came out of the workshop on civil liberties contained the following three sentences and phrases: “Both positive and negative developments may be seen in an increasing demand for full rights by the mass movements and all sections of the working class countered by the mounting attack upon America’s democratic institutions led by the Ultra-right and the ’liberal’ power structure”...“Today we face an increasingly united Ultra-right challenging all democratic gains wrested from capitalism. While liberals, in order to maintain their position within the status quo, oppose demands for any further advances.” And finally, “The new organization must recognize a clear class alignment in the battle for civil liberties.”
But because the civil liberties workshop had dared to condemn the “liberals” the power structure at the conference demanded that the delegates there do the following: (a) change the “liberal power structure” to “supported by sectors of the power structure.” (b) cut out the sentence beginning “While liberals, in order to maintain... (c) drop the last paragraph of the resolution which began with the sentence “The new organization must recognize a clear class alignment in the battle for civil liberties.”
The convention accepted these deletions but only after the most bitter fight. Many of the delegates to the convention noted that some of the people leading the convention were called before the Subversive Activities Control Board by Bobby Kennedy and his Democratic buddies. Others noted the role of the Dept. of Justice in its attacks on the young people traveling to Cuba. The fact that it was the Dept. of Justice that indicted integration workers in Georgia recently was also pressed. But of course logic was to no avail. When the votes were counted the very people called before the SACB by Kennedy gave their votes to refusing to indict the “liberals” for their attack on civil liberties and carried the day for the policies of the American C.P.
From this stage on the whole question of forming a “Socialist” youth organization was absurd. It was decided to work within the Democratic Party and to support Johnson in the election campaign. To support CORE without challenging it and to work for reforms within the Democratic Party–shades of the Reform Movement in New York as well as to refuse to condemn Johnson for his war in Vietnam. To refuse to advocate socialism openly. To refuse to support “independent” candidates in opposition to the Democratic Party, to refuse to set-up study groups on Marxism-Leninism and to refuse to brand the United States as an imperialist power.
And what of the opposition at the conference? The organized opposition consisted mainly of members of the Young Socialist Alliance and Progressive Labor who took the position that a socialist youth group could only be effective and “truthful” if it advocated socialism and did not become a mere appendage of the Democratic Party. The controllers of the convention heaped scorn on all of their proposals. The controllers of the convention attempted to accuse the opposition of trying to destroy the youth group. The controllers of the convention accused the opposition of representing the “ultra-left” and simply refused rationally to consider any of the arguments proposed by the principled opposition. In this climate it was obvious what the results would be.
A new youth group has been formed but not a youth group that advocates or supports socialism in the United States. The new youth group hopes to tail-gate all existing mass movements, such as civil rights, but not to initiate any radical or revolutionary causes. The new youth group will attempt to work within the Democratic Party without being swallowed up by it–a dubious hope at best. The new youth group will be a front but not a front for real social change. The new youth group is impotent except in relation to the Democratic Party where it will be an embarrassment. If a young person were seeking for merely a “liberal” approach to politics then he might be faced with a choice between the new youth group and the Democratic Party. If intelligent, the student would simply join the Democratic Party where he would have the same options as with the new “socialist” group without the necessary red-baiting.
This history of the new youth group is useless, however, unless an analysis of the role of young people in this country is made. Starting with this newest group then what are the chances and the goals of young socialists in the United States today?
Before any specific proposals can be enunciated regarding the specifics of a socialist youth organization certain basic questions must be answered. Chief among these questions are the following: Should a socialist youth group proclaim itself socialist at this moment of American history or should it attempt to portray itself as a moderate force in the country seeking only gradual and reforming legislation? Should a socialist youth group proclaim itself to be anti-imperialist and align itself openly with the national liberation struggles throughout the world? Should a socialist youth group hope to form a vanguard segment of the students in this country or should it attempt to moderate its “socialism” so as to keep from alienating anyone–as a slogan some people would suggest “Moderation with Socialism.” Is it a feasible tactic at this moment to attempt to work with the Democratic Party in this country or is it more feasible to point out that the Democratic Party is also a party of capitalism fully capable of supporting the same policies of Goldwater and company? Only if these questions are answered can any framework of socialism be espoused that will begin to influence students.
It should be obvious from the brief history of the founding convention of the new “socialist” youth group that this group is founded on moderation and a refusal to consider pressing for a substantive change in the State and the American government. The rationale used for this decision is that only through working with the liberals in the Democratic Party can a socialist youth group hope to gain mass support and remain “clean” enough to insure its continuation. According to this logic socialists must not be known as such lest the mere term frighten off “liberal” support.
The people in charge of the new youth group will argue that the only way to influence students is to impress them with moderation. They will argue that they should work within the mass organizations but not initiate any actions directly challenging either the government or private property as this may alienate a sector of their liberal support. In short, the issue for these people is how best to achieve socialism using the liberals and the moderates and the ballot without ever directly challenging the capitalist power structure.
But of course this is certainly not socialism and it cannot be considered Marxism or Leninism. Lenin has made it clear that the battle for socialism is the battle to destroy the capitalist state-not work within the Democratic Party. A socialist youth group worthy of its title must be willing to tell the truth and to oppose the government when it knows that to support it would be to sell out essential and vital socialist goals.
To have a movement composed of millions at this stage of socialist development would be wonderful but is unlikely. To confuse a mass socialist movement with a mass civil rights movement with socialists working within it is something else again. Of course to consider even the present civil rights struggle as socialist is absurd. But those young people who are more concerned with their public image than achieving socialism or a vanguard student group would necessarily identify with the mass movements that are “clean” and not alien to the hopes and desires of most Americans. How safe we have all become.
What specifically are our goals in forming a socialist youth base? The goals should be obvious. We want a socialist group of students who will educate themselves regarding the principles of Marxism-Leninism and use this education to change the government to socialism. The key to the question lies in the nature of the change advocated–the moderates want reforms but we want a new state. A state of socialism.
It is obvious to us that at this stage of the struggle the vast majority of American youth are not socialists nor are they necessarily impressed by socialist ideas and concepts and demands. Because we are advocating changes that are inimical to the power structure and to capitalism itself we will be attacked and damned by the government, the mass media and the Republican and Democratic parties. Popularity is not, however, the point. If we were seeking a popularity victory then we would do better to form a rock and roll singing group than a socialist youth movement.
It goes without saying that if we are to propose meaningful socialist concepts that challenge private property then we will be isolated quantitatively at least in this period of the revolution. This could not be otherwise. But unless we are following concepts that are too advanced then we can begin to develop a significant anti-imperialist student movement in this country.
At least two student groups (Advance and PYOC) that have been moderately socialist in outlook and have advocated little more than the ADA have already been forced out of business because of redbaiting and because they hope to hide under the umbrella of democratic sensibility. Red-baiting hurt them because they were not espousing sound enough socialist policies to have engrained a sense of Marxist doctrine within the group thereby allowing the attackers to take and keep the offensive and force the organizations to be continually on the defensive while complaining that the policies they advocated were not revolutionary.
Another far different example, however, is the group that has now sent two student trips to Cuba in direct violation of State Department edicts. This group has shown two important things to young people. In the first place, the leaders and organizers of the trips have not been afraid to publicly call themselves revolutionaries and Marxists-Leninists. Secondly, the groups have not been frightened from continued–nay increased–activity even though all of the people that took the first trip have at least temporarily lost their passports and three of the leaders are now under indictment facing 15 years in jail. Attempted intimidation, Congressional investigations and constant red-baiting have not forced this group into the defensive but has instead provided a fighting spirit that is the reason that continued trips are in the offing. The fact that the students that went to Cuba have, in almost all cases, come back to this country and been willing to speak out on the Cuban revolution and against the Administration (and the liberals) has shown the students throughout the country that they are a principled and honest group of socialists. The fact that many of those who went to Cuba have openly proclaimed their allegiance to Marxism has not frightened students but brought them out in large numbers to hear their lectures. The fact that they advocate a revolutionary line has not kept thousands of students from contacting them and requesting information concerning Cuba and expressing a desire to travel to that island in an action calculated to raise havoc with the American government. And of course, neither fear of imprisonment, nor fines, nor loss of passport, nor any amount of red-baiting has kept student after student from supporting the right to freely travel to Cuba.
Another case in point is the recent upsurge on the campuses against the Johnson War in South Vietnam. Over 250 young people throughout the country have now been willing to put it on the line against the repressive and imperialist policies of our government. These young men have placed an ad in the New York Herald Tribune that states that they will not fight in Vietnam. This statement on their part is certainly not designed to impress their “liberal” chums or pacify or play footsie with the Johnson Administration in its policy of murder and aggression in Southeast Asia.
Of course these two examples of aggressive student activity may not mean that we hold all of the cards regarding the development of a youth program but it must show–even to the most aggressive of our detractors–that we are at least involved in two activities that are anti-governmental and are involving students on a level of revolutionary activity that far surpasses anything that the moderates are advocating. Not only are we involving young people in meaningful activities but we are also educating them through struggle concerning the odious nature of U.S. capitalism and imperialism.
One of the most important facts regarding the trips to Cuba is that most of the students returning from Cuba are on their way to becoming revolutionaries. These students have not only taken a direct action against the United States government but have also seen revolutionary socialism in action. Having seen Cuba and socialism in its revolutionary form and having been confronted with the repressive policies of the American government there should be no wonder but that these young people, by and large, will have nothing to do with a socialist youth group that is an apologist for the Washington administration’s of Kennedy and Johnson. Just as the people of Cuba and Vietnam know who the enemy really is, so these students are not duped by the vague and misleading slogans of “stop the Ultra-right.”
Certain facts must be openly faced. Any group of young people actively advocating socialism and the principles of Marxism-Leninism will be red-baited, will be relatively isolated from most students, will suffer from a lack of funds with which to operate, will find the mass media closed to their comments in most cases–this has not been true, however of the people who traveled to Cuba as their actions were too outrageous to be ignored, will constantly find themselves at direct odds with the power structure and its apologists and can only hope for the nature of the struggle to become more difficult as their efforts are more and more successful. But all of these factors should certainly not create any sense of pessimism among the young people involved in the struggle to establish a meaningful anti-imperialist student movement. As a matter of fact the very nature of the conflict faced by them helps to determine their ultimate effect on the country.
The growth of a socialist youth group in this country will necessarily be slow and difficult–unless, of course, the group becomes totally opportunistic as did the one formed in San Francisco. But for a socialist youth movement to be both honest and effective it must be willing to pull no punches. It must advocate change, it must initiate actions against the government, it must be willing to point the way for advanced students and young people and through the example of struggle show that socialism and socialist activity is meaningful in every sense of the term. Only through struggle and the development of vanguard students can we hope to gain a significant and revolutionary student movement. Opportunism and moderation have no place in the development of socialism. The history of socialism is full of examples of the futility and totally destructive nature of opportunism and moderation while working under the guise of being mere “liberals.” Mao Tse-tung has written that “liberalism negates ideological struggle and advocates unprincipled peace, with the result that a decadent, philistine style in work has appeared and certain units and individuals in the Party and the revolutionary organizations have begun to degenerate politically.”
Many advanced young people will, when confronted with the facts concerning the movements for national liberation join with us in supporting these movements against the imperialist policies of the United States government. Others will have to be educated and the process of this education will necessarily be slow and tedious. Of course, at this stage, we will not gain the support of most students but again we must stress the fact that numbers are meaningful only if the numbers are evidence of mass revolutionary activity. Lenin was quite clear on the question of the necessity of developing and building a vanguard movement. It is our job to be as equally devoted and sincere as he was on this question. Today in the United States we desperately need to begin to develop a vanguard, educated in the principles of revolution not simply a mass movement void of intellectual Marxist theory and operating on the principle of action for mere action’s sake.
We must begin to inculcate a sense of struggle among the students of this country and show them that they possess the same power as the students of China, Cuba, Venezuela and Korea. There is no reason why students should be considered incapable of understanding, assimilating and acting out the principles of Marxism-Leninism. Those who contend that students will not support a truly socialist movement under-rate the potential of students and fail to have any confidence in the political awareness of American students. This mistake will be fatal for the opportunists.
Almost all American students today are alienated from the society into which they will graduate. The hopes and prospects held out to our young students are too well known to reiterate here, but it is surprising that any students are able to break out of the mass controlled mentality into which they are thrown in college. The fact that numerous students are turning toward socialism as the answer to the absurdity of American society is encouraging. This trend must be developed at all costs. To simply allow the opportunists to send these potential militants into the present mass organizations to be stultified and reduced to the robots of the Democratic Party is impossible and unthinkable. We must develop a logical, revolutionary policy that will show these young people that we have a viable alternative to supporting the Democratic Party or CORE or the AFL-CIO.
If the American government is indeed the greatest threat to peace in the world today then we must relate this fact to students. We must provide them with facts concerning the role of the Johnson Administration in its attempt to overthrow the Cuban Revolution, to wager war in South Vietnam, to prepare for war with China, to isolate the revolutionary socialist movements from the rest of the world and destroy them one by one. We must point out that Johnson is carrying on a policy of murder in Vietnam. But we must also point out that not only is Johnson responsible for a policy of murder (both against the people of Vietnam and against the American boys dying there) but his whole administration is also responsible for this policy. We must show the students that the policies followed by Johnson and/or Goldwater and/or Eisenhower and Kennedy are not really different except semantically. If the problem is capitalism then we must educate the students as to the root of the evil.
If the people of Vietnam, China and Cuba know what the policies of Johnson and his Administration exemplify then is it not our duty to show the students what these policies are? The answer must be an unqualified YES. We must declare an unremitting war against the opportunists in the American socialist camp. Sheer opportunism is as evil as the racist, imperialist policies of the American government and must be fought as adamantly. Only through the development of a Marxist-Leninist student movement in this country can we hope to show students that there is a viable alternative to the opportunists masquerading as socialists.
 The question of “why” the controllers of the convention refused to entertain any serious opposition to their policies of moderation is interesting and educational. Any answer to the question is, however, both simple and complicated at the same time. On the one hand, the organizers of this convention simply did not want to form a revolutionary movement based on socialist thought and perspectives. The reason that they did not want to do so is more involved and deals basically with the framework in which they operate. Basically, however, it can be stated that the leadership surrounding the founding of this youth group feel that they can gain socialism in this country through the ballot and through reforms. They seriously believe that a reformist movement will produce socialism. Of course, on this point, they are dead wrong but it is not within the scope of this present article to develop or analyse this erroneous philosophy.
 Two important facts should be noted, however, regarding the policies adopted at this convention. One: an active, vocal minority at the convention opposed the sell-out to moderation advocated and eventually passed at the founding session of this “new” group. Two: although the majority of votes cast at the convention upheld the opportunists in their cry for moderation there was significant thought-searching among many of the students there that ultimately voted with the majority. Many of these young people know the role of Johnson and Kennedy over the question of Cuba and Vietnam but were afraid to openly voice their criticism of the policies of the ruling oligarchy at this convention. This fear arose because they did not want to isolate themselves from their friends and co-workers at the convention and also because they have come to believe the dribble about the “lesser of the two evils.” Many of these young people know the truth about Johnson and his cronies but have come to believe that only through supporting the Democratic Party can peace be retained (sic) between the great powers of the world. Although this is an erroneous assumption it nevertheless was predominant among many people at this convention.