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Joseph Carter

Y.C.L. Convention

(June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 26, 30 June 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Seventh national convention of the Young Communist League is over. According to reports in the Daily Worker little was analyzed, less was planned, nothing was accomplished. On the basis of this source we can get a picture of the bankruptcy of the Stalinists in the youth movement.

“100% Increase in Membership” boldly proclaimed the Daily (June 25, 1934) in a headline. But the next day it summarized the report of the organization secretary of the Y.C.L. “Marks specially made a sharp attack on the heavy and increasing fluctuation of the League membership, saying that though 15,000 members were recruited since the last convention only 6,000 are still in the League. ‘We have slogans and resolutions about fluctuation, but we don’t take steps to overcome it.’” Nor does the report state what steps were proposed – if any – to overcome this condition.

300% Turnover in Three Years

15,000 recruited in three years. A powerful testimony of the fact that wide sections of youth are and can be attracted to a revolutionary youth organization. Add the claimed 3,000 members at the time of the last convention and we get the sum of 18,000 youth. Yet only 6,000 remain. Not a 200% turnover of membership, as we so conservatively estimated in the last issue of the Militant, but a 300% turnover! One will not find that in headlines!

The convention had as it avowed task “the winning of the youth for the struggle for Soviet power”. The struggle for Soviet power is on the order of the day iu all capitalist countries according to the papal board of Stalinism. So it must likewise be in the United States, logically conclude the young American cardinals and bishops.

Precisely what is meant by this nobody knows. Obviously the building of Soviets is not an immediate task of revolutionaries in the United States. If however the vague phrase means winning of the young workers, through their immediate struggles, for the working class dictatorship and Soviet power, that is, for Communism, then the task is not a new one, but rather an old task for which conditions are better than ever before. A big step forward could have been made in the past period of the economic crisis. Why was it not made?

Trade Union Policy

“Failure to understand the correct trade union policy in the A.F. of L. and organizing the revolutionary trade unions, he (the trade union reporter) said, accounts for the isolation of the League from the masses of young workers in industry, and especially those entering strike struggles”, reports the Daily Worker (June 26, 1934.)

Not a wrong trade union policy – that would be heresy – but the usual complaint of a “failure to understand” the correct trade union policy which presumably the Communist Party and the Young Communist League have. But what is the policy. The reporter called for the formation of opposition groups in the A.F. of L. and independent trade unions. For what purpose: to split the unions and affiliate them to the new brain storm of the Stalinists, a new independent trade union center, independent of the A.F. of L., independent of the Trade Union Unity League. Independent also of the masses? The reporter did not explain what this repetition about “opposition” groups in the A.F. of L. means in concrete terms.

A “Mistake” – Who Made It?

The trade, union reporter did state that “We considered that the U.M.W.A. was completely exposed and could never come back as a force in the bituminous fields of western Pennsylvania. This was absolutely wrong.” Whose mistake was this which led to the isolation of the Y.C.L. from the youth involved in the strike wave? Surely the analysis was based on the trade union policy of the Communist party which the Y.C.L. faithfully followed, of abandoning the A.F. of L. unions, and playing around with pure and simple “red” unions. Is this policy rejected today?

Only on paper. Opposition groups are being formed in the mass trade unions with the aim of building another “independent” trade union center, independent of everything, we repeat, except the Stalinist party.

How the young workers are to be won for unionization was not even discussed. No policy was given.

Nor does the Daily report any discussions on the anti-militarist, anti-Fascist, united front, educational or student work of the Y.C.L. The agenda did contain a point on war and Fascism, but the action of the convention is yet to be reported.

Student Youth Problem

Worthy of note is the fact that the student problem was not even put on the agenda of the convention. The National Student League, organized by the Y.C.L., has been constantly changing its program. From a “revolutionary” student organization to an organization based primarily on student issues, to a transitional form pending a unity of the N.S.L. and the Socialist Student League for Industrial Democracy and then into a “mass militant student organization”. Should not a national convention of the Y.C.L. consider this problem? Particularly important is this in view of the fact that no previous national convention of the Y.C.L. in the United States and no convention of the Young Communist International since its second congress (1921) has discussed this problem.

The national convention reports give a balance sheet of complete failure. A convention of an avowedly revolutionary organization which does not even attempt to draw lessons from the decisive events of Germany and Austria, by that omission alone shows its bankruptcy.

Need for a New Movement

There is a crying need for a revolutionary youth league which can organize, educate and win the youth for communism. Today this movement can arise only from those who make an integral part of their program and practise lessons of the victories and defeats of the modern working class, particularly from the war of 1914–18 to the recent defeats of the workers in Germany and Austria. It is the movement for the Fourth International and new Communist parties, and a new revolutionary world union of youth, which embodies these lessons and draws the necessary conclusions from them.

The national convention of the Y.C.L., by showing the impotence of Stalinism, also clearly reveals the need for building the Spartacus Youth League as the nucleus of the new revolutionary youth league In the United States.

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