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Socialist Appeal, August 1936, Volume 2 No. 7, Page 8-9
Transcribed and Marked Up by Damon Maxwell in 2009 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

The American Youth Congress


THE YOUTH Congress, while in general resembling such groups as the League Against War and Fascism, is a peculiar organization. It was the brain child of a young fascist, Viola lima, who felt that ALL YOUTH could be grouped in one organization, in order to exert political influence in America. She got her idea from a study of Hitler’s youth organization in Germany.

The meeting of Miss Ilma’s congress two years ago, near New York, was captured by left wing youth groups, among them Young Communists and Young Socialists, and it has been in their hands since that time. Some doubt about what to do about it has existed since.

Young Communists Careful of Timid Liberals

During the past year the Young Communists have clearly dominated the Youth Congress. The Young Socialists have raised their voices in criticism, not of this fact, but have questioned the methods and aims which they have set up in this domination. While this may be grabbed up as a red-baiting attitude, as it was by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it is not that. The Yipsels did not criticise the Young Communists for being Communists or for dominating the Congress; rather they criticised them for not being either Communists or even working class in their position.

At Cleveland the Young Communists were concerned more with keeping solid with YMCA’s, YWCA’s, settlement houses and Young Townsendites, than with the progressive trade unionists and Socialists. An attempt by the Young Socialists and a number of friendly groups to have a “Declaration of Purpose,” having a working class basis, substituted for the Declaration of Rights, was given a most unfriendly reception. Instead the Young Communist leadership, over the opposition of their own membership, forced the elimination of the sentence calling for public ownership from the Detroit document at the instance of the YWCA delegation.

Communists Denounce Class Approach

Reading the proposed substitute before one of the sections of the Congress, comrade Murray Gross, delegate from the second largest trade union local in the country, No. 22 of the ILGWU, was hissed and booed by those who wished to keep the Youth Congress as it is.

At the general session on Sunday afternoon, July 5, on three occasions progressive trade union delegates, in one case a Communist sympathiser, were booed by the bulk of the Congress for attempting to put forward working class proposals. These three were from the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, the Toledo Central Labor Union and the Mechanics Educational Society, Cleveland District. It would seem that it is expected to build an anti-fascist front without labor!

The chief bone of contention was the adoption of a constitution. This document would bind all affiliated organizations to the Youth Congress more tightly than any such body has done before. Each group will have to pay a per capita to the Youth Congress. Each decision of an unwieldy “Executive Committee” of 63 (a large body easy to control from the center) will be binding upon all affiliates. The only way such decisions can be reversed is through a 2/3 vote at the next Congress meeting.

Any thinking person would oppose such a document. Those who dared to work with the Yipsels in opposing it, however, were branded as “disrupters.” The Young Communists have even taught their followers, including the Young Townsendites, who seem willing to follow them, to call the Yipsels “Trotskyites,” the worst name in the vocabulary of the Stalinists.

The Young Socialists are now pointing out that the next step in the development of the Youth Congress will be the formation of a political party on this basis, class-less and perhaps just Youth for Youth’s sake. It is taking on the form of a junior People’s Front, a People’s Front which is willing to exclude the Socialists and the militant trade unionists because they are Marxian and therefore unacceptable to middle class elements.

Y. C. L. Attitude Explained

The explanation for this situation lies in the great reversal of position which has been made by the Third International since the Franco-Soviet pact and the 7th World Congress of the C.I. last summer. In declaring that the struggle is no longer between capitalism and socialism but between Fascism and Democracy, in declaring for collaboration with capitalist governments in military alliance with the USSR to maintain the status quo, in reaching a position where individual communist parties will support war making governments which may be allied with the Soviet Union, all Stalinist Communists are having to shift their affections from revolutionary groups to the middle class, patriotic, non-working class, anti-revolutionary elements. Sometime last fall the Communist party passed the Socialist party and now it stands to the right of us, or more accurately, moves on to the right. Our party is the only one this year which offers Socialism as the alternative to capitalism. Our party, when war comes, is likely to be standing alone in opposition to it. According to the Stalinists, “we will be isolated from the masses.”

We must educate the masses to understand the position we now occupy. Our criticism of the Communists is not red-baiting. We are not opposing the United Front, but are criticising its distortion. We cannot work in a permanent alliance with non-working class elements, for it would only tie our hands in our struggle for Socialism. The Youth Congress may yet be saved, but it will only be of value if it is transformed to a working class basis such as the Yipsels suggested.

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