ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Spring 1963


Notes of the Quarter

The Young Socialists


From International Socialism, No.12, Spring 1963, pp.2-3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


With only the Draft Resolutions to hand, it is too early for full comment on the state of the Young Socialists as they enter on their third annual Conference this Easter. Nevertheless, an idea of the movement can be gleaned.

It is not expanding. The 137 resolutions are roughly the same in number as at the first two Conferences, making Transport House’s claim of 700-odd functioning branches look rather thin. London still tops the list with almost double the number of the runner-up – the Southern Region. The Northwest and Scotland follow close behind.

At the same time, the Young Socialists are showing signs of growing political maturity. Two-thirds of the resolutions are unmistakeably Left in spirit; only one-eighth explicitly Right. The fourteen resolutions on defence are all unilateralist although only Hackney’s drives straight to the class issues involved. Thirty-three resolutions on unemployment demand an extension of nationalization; and no less than ten of these call for workers’ control – a major advance on previous conferences. Twenty-eight condemn Transport House for its treatment of the Young Socialist National Committee and for proscribing Keep Left; there is not one in Transport House’s defence.

The Draft Resolutions as published also give an inkling of the trials to which the Party’s youth are subjected by its full-time officials. Scarborough was selected as the venue of Conference clearly to prevent delegates from sandwiching the two days debate between two of Aldermarching – by now standard practice. More important, the crucial Standing Orders Committee, which last year foisted an anti-Keep Left resolution on an unwilling Conference, has been rigged. The only known left-winger elected to the Committee, Pat Roe from the Merseyside, has been dropped, leaving two, one of whom, J. Austin, is a confirmed right-winger. Conference will undoubtedly demand her reinstatement, for what happens here will have a bearing on the major issues in debate.

The key issue promises to revolve around the proscription of Keep Left and the virtual destruction by Transport House of the YS National Committee. Readers might remember the squalid witch-hunt conducted against that paper: how, in 1961, after an emotional and hypocritical attack by Ray Gunter, Conference was persuaded to express, by the slenderest of slender majorities, ‘concern at the activities of ... Keep Left’; how, the following year, by a majority scarcely less slender, and only after the Standing Orders Committee had twice been defeated in its attempt to have Keep Left’s alleged strong-arm tactics discussed, Conference was persuaded to call for an investigation of the paper. It was then that Transport House showed how unprincipled were its methods. David Todd, the renegade Keep Lefter who ‘exposed’ the paper and who is now back in its fold, had since published an affidavit to the effect that the tactics for breaking Keep Left were determined at a meeting held in Lord Walston’s flat after the first day of Conference. The meeting was attended by George Brown, a number of full-time Party officials, prominent right-wing delegates and Todd. It worked, but only just.

Since then, Transport House has pursued its quarry relentlessly. Keep Left was proscribed without investigation and without consulting the YS National Committee. The National Committee, however, has been investigated. Seven of its eleven members were interrogated, three were expelled, four resigned in protest, two have withdrawn and two remain.

Once again the issue is Keep Left. This time there should be no more equivocation on the part of Conference. The right to publish should be affirmed. Proscriptions and expulsions must be opposed. Keep Left must be defended.

This is not going to be easy. If insubstantial rumour is to be believed and February’s Keep Left with its ominous-sounding editorial (‘on to Scarborough for a final showdown with the bureaucrats’) anything to go by, Keep Left is all set to found a Young Marxist League. It is itching to be martyred by Transport House, to enter the non-Party wilderness with a bang.

The future lies with Conference. Let it demand an end to the vendetta; at the same time, let it force Keep Left to remain – to justify what is good in it, and slough off the bad in an atmosphere of free debate. Equivocation now might well make it easier for Party officialdom to smother the movement.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 31.10.2006