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1938 Trotskyist Resolution on Youth

Source: Trotskyist Youth Archives –
A resolution adopted by the International Conference of Youth of the Fourth International on September 11, 1938.

I.) Capitalism, whether it be authoritarian or liberal, admits the inability to bring the slightest relief to the misery and sufferings of working class youth. The young want a trade, and when (rarely enough!) it consents to give them one, it is only to chain them the better to a machine which tomorrow will stop and let them starve beside the very riches they have produced. The young want to work, to produce with their hands, to use their strength, and capitalism offers them the perspective of unemployment or of “the execution of work in conditions other than the normal conditions of production,” according to the excellent hypocritical definition of labor camps by the League of Nations, or of armament production, which engenders destruction rather than improvement. The young want to learn, and the way to culture is barred to them. The young want to live, and the only future offered them is that of dying of hunger or rotting on the barbed wire of a new imperialist war. The young want to create a new world, and they are permitted only to maintain or to consolidate a rotting world that is falling to pieces. The young want to know what tomorrow will be, and capitalism’s only reply to them is: “Today you’ve got to tighten your belt another notch; tomorrow, we’ll see ... In any case, perhaps you’re not going to have any tomorrow.

Give Youth a Future – Give the World a Future

II.) That is why youth will rally under the flag of those who bring it a future. fly the Fourth International, because it represents the historical interests of the only class which can reorganize the world upon new bases, only the Bolshevik-Leninists can promise youth a future, which it can put its abilities to full use. Only they can say to the youth: “Together with you, we want to make a new world, where everyone works and is proud to work well, to know his job down to the smallest details; a world where everyone will eat according to his hunger for production will be regulated according to the needs of the workers and not those of profit; a world where one must constantly learn, in order the better to subordinate the forces of nature to the will of man; a world where, by ceaselessly extending the domain of the application of science, humanity’s theoretic knowledge will be daily increased; a new world; a new man who can make real all the hopes and powers he bears within him, It is under the banner of a new world and a new humanity that the Fourth International and its youth organizations must go on to win the working class youth; it is under that banner that they will win that youth.

The Struggle for a Future – the Struggle for Bread

III.) The promise of a better future would be only demagogy if the Bolshevik-Leninists were not fighting for an immediate improvement in the situation of working class youth, if they were not formulating youth’s immediate demands, if they were not spreading word of the necessity for working class youth to fight by class-struggle methods for the satisfaction of these demands, and if, through this struggle and on the basis of the experience gained therein, they were not demonstrating to exploited youth that its demands could be finally satisfied only by establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, that the struggle for these demands must be transformed into a struggle for power by means of a struggle for the control and management of the economic system.

We Demand the Right to Work!

IV.) For the young workers engaged in production the Bolshevik-Leninists put forward slogans with the aim of

  1. measuring the work done by the young not according to the desire to drag as much profit as possible out of it, but, on the contrary, according to their degree of physical development;
  2. assuring them of a standard of living equal to that of adults, by that very fact assuring them of economic independence;
  3. raising their technical qualifications as far as possible;
  4. against the equal opportunity for young and old to be exploited by capitalism, setting up their equal rights.

For the young under twenty, they also formulate the following demands:

Equality for Youth in Social Legislation

V.) In order to take the defense of their demands into their own hands, the young workers should have the right to choose their own delegates, whose task is above all to draw the attention of the adult delegates and of the workers in general to youth’s specific demands, to tie up the struggle for these particular demands with the struggle for the general demands of the working class. In the same way, in all branches of trade union organizations, union youth commissions must be created and imposed upon the trade union bureaucracy, whose task shall be to study the demands of the youth, and to recruit and educate young workers. The task of the Bolshevik-Leninists is to take the lead the organization of such commissions. In order to throw trade union doors wide open to exploited youth, the Bolshevik-Leninists demand the establishment of reduced dues for young workers.

We Want a Trade!

VI.) In the fight against unemployment the slogans raise the school age, organize apprenticeship, make sense only to the extent that the weight of this must be borne not by the working class but by the big capitalists. Hence the Bolshevik-Leninists owe it to themselves to formulate the demands of working class youth in this field as follows:

We Demand the Right to Live

VII.) The task of saving the unemployed youth from misery, despair, and fascist demagogy, of working them back into production and thereby binding them closely to the working class, is a vital task for the future of the proletariat. Revolutionaries must struggle to force capitalism

  1. to undertake to work the unemployed youth back into production through the organization of technical education and guidance;
  2. to put the unemployed youth back immediately into productive activity;
  3. to organize such work not according to semi-military methods but on the basis of regular wages: Down with labor camps, either voluntary or obligatory!;
  4. to furnish youth, which it is throwing into misery, the wherewithal to live.

Hence the Bolshevik-Leninists put forward the following demands:

For Our Brothers on the Farms!

VIII.) The misery of the farm youth is no less than that of the industrial youth. For farm youth the Bolshevik-Leninists formulate the following general demands:

For Our Countryside

IX.) The industrial and farm youth are the most exploited part of all working class youth. The youth organizations of the Fourth International must draw particular attention to the following demands:

Open the Schools and Universities!

X.) One of the necessary conditions for the progress of humanity is that large sections of working class youth should have access to culture and science. The Bolshevik-Leninists put forward the following slogans:

Bread, Books, and Civil Rights for Coolies!

XI.) In colonial and semi-colonial countries, laboring youth are the victims of a double exploitation – capitalist and patriarchal. In these, and in imperialist countries, the defense of the demands of the young colonial workers and peasants is the first duty in the fight against imperialism. This fight is carried on around the general slogan: The same rights for colonial youth as for the youth of the imperialist capital city.

XII.) The bourgeoisie recognizes working youth’s right to be exploited; but refuses it the right to have anything to say about that exploitation, and deprives it of all political rights; in certain countries it even forbids youth under eighteen to have any political activity whatever. The working class replies to these measures by saying: Whoever has the right to be exploited has also the right to struggle against the system which exploits him.

We Demand Our Right to Happiness!

XIII.) Working class youth’s need for relaxation is utilized by the bourgeoisie either to stupefy it or make it submit to an even tighter discipline. The duty of the working class is to help create a youth that is strong and capable of throwing all its physical and mental strength into the fight against capitalism; to aid it in using what leisure capitalism gives it to learn to understand the world better, in order to be better able to change it. Hence the Bolshevik-Leninists demand:

The Revolutionary Program

XIV.) The struggle for these demands cannot be separated from the struggle for the demands of workers as a whole, both employed and unemployed. The final disappearance of unemployment among the youth is closely linked to the disappearance of general unemployment. The struggle for raising the school age and for compulsory technical reeducation is closely linked with the struggle for the sliding-scale in wages and in working hours. The struggle to drag out of capitalism those regions which aim at developing the class consciousness of working youth is closely linked with the struggle for workers’ control of industrial factory committees. The struggle for public works is closely linked with the fight for the expropriation of monopolies, for the nationalization of credit, banks, and key industries. The struggle to smash back all efforts to militarize is closely linked to the struggle against the development of authoritarian state tendencies and against fascism, the struggle for the organization of workers’ militias. It is within the framework of the transitional program of the Fourth International that the present program should be developed and applied. It is under the banner of the proletariat fighting for power that the Fourth International will win the demands of exploited youth.


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Last updated on 11.1.2003