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Joseph Carter

‘Militants’ Capture YPSL Convention

(July 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. I No. 31, 27 July 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Fresh from the crushing blows meted to them at the “harmony” meeting of the National Committee of the Socialist Party, the New York “Militants” won signal organizational victories at the eighth national convention of the Young Peoples Socialist League held here during the week-end of July 19 to 21.

Approximately one hundred delegates, a little less than half of them New Yorkers, were present at the convention. However, most of the delegates did not participate in the proceedings and were constantly in a state of expectancy. They did not know precisely what to expect. No pre-convention documents had been prepared. No pre-convention discussion had taken place. In many cases delegates were elected because they and none other were able to go to Pittsburgh.

No Political Discussions

The convention was run by the New York and Chicago top caucuses. The arrangements made impossible any adequate discussions of the problems confronting the socialist movement and the Yipsels in particular. The three evenings of the convention period were devoted to public affairs, a mass meeting, social affair and banquet respectively. The rules of the convention limited speakers on resolutions to three minutes, seven minutes allotted to reporters on resolutions and a total of one hour for any one resolution.

However, even these provisions were not carried out. No political resolutions came before the convention delegates. They were discussed in sub-committees, or referred, without recommendation, to the incoming National Committee. These included an anti-Stalinist resolution on the Franco-Soviet pact.

Breaking socialist precedent the convention was closed to the public and the press. So little was accomplished that the Yipsels, contrary to their plans, were unable to issue a press release.

The supporters of the N.Y. “Militants” controlled a majority of the convention. The other delegates were conservative Yipsels (of the Thomas-Hoan-Hoopes type). One delegate, from St. Louis, was the sole there. The New York Old Guard had no direct supporters as they had organized a few months ago their own rival youth organization in New York, the Young Socialist Alliance.

The characteristic “Militant” policy of evading programmatic questions and substituting for them organization measures, set the tone of the convention. The New York “Militants” won a majority on the National Committee. Three of the eleven members of the new committee are Right wing socialists of the type referred to above.

In addition the national office was taken over by the “Militants.” On previous occasions the New York Yipsel organization came into conflict with the national office. Among these instances are the ruling of the old National Committee against internal statements and, far more important, the reluctance of Dancis and McDowell to support the Yipsels in their fight against the New York Old Guard. Both were dissatisfied with the action of the New York organization in withdrawing support from the New Leader, though they were compelled to endorse it at the last meeting of the National Committee.

These differences were not presented to the membership or the convention. Ernst Erber, Chicago Left winger, was elected without contest to the national chairmanship, with thirteen negative votes. Ben Fisher, former New York City secretary of the Yipsels, defeated Winston Dancis as national secretary by about a dozen votes. Dancis was however re-elected to the National Committee.

Political Fight Eroded

Undoubtedly an important reason for evading a political fight was the fear of the “Militants” that they could not be able to reach agreement amongst themselves and with their allies. Before the convention it was rumored in Yipsel circles that a revolutionary program would be presented to the convention. Such plans undoubtedly existed but they were not carried out at the convention.

The “Militants” chief interest is to capture organization posts in the S.P. and Yipsels in preparation for the 1936 convention. To accomplish this end, they not only put the paramount question of program into the background but penalize those who present a revolutionary position. A few weeks ago the New York city secretary and organizer of the Y.P.S.L. were forced to resign their posts because they signed a Left wing statement in preparation for the national convention. Now, a leading member of this group, considered a worthy candidate for the new National Committee was suddenly dropped from the slate because the “Militants” feared that his election would make the Yipsels a target for the Old Guard and would antagonize Thomas-Hoan-Hoopes.

A significant action of the convention was the decision to raise the maximum age limit from 25 to 30. This step is intended to strengthen the “Militant” control of the Yipsels. It is at the same time an admission of the inadequacy of the recruiting power of the Socialist Party. Efforts will be made in the party to nullify this decision.

Gus Tyler, New York “Militant,” was elected as the delegate to the International Youth Congress to be held next month.

The convention had before it an appeal for a united front from the Young Communist League. Mac Weiss and Dave Doran, national leaders of the Stalinist youth, appeared before the resolutions committee to present the case of their organization. The committee adopted a motion of thanks to the Y.C.L. delegation and took no further action. Warns of “Trotskyism”

Nevertheless, the delegation’s work was not at an end. It had another task: to counteract “Trotskyist” influenced Weiss warned several “Militant” leaders to beware of the “Trotskyists.” He cited a recent statement of a leader of the French Socialist youth that the “Trotskyists” are dangerous enemies of the working class who must be expelled from the movement. This benevolent advice was met with skeptical smiles by the young socialists.

The Stalinists are fearful of “Trotskyist” influence in the Yipsels. Many young socialists are sympathetic to “Trotskyism” even though they believe that their place is in the socialist movement. They have been inoculated against Stalinism though they are not yet ready to break with socialist Centrism.

The Revolutionary Policy Publishing Committee distributed a mimeographed statement to the delegates. They explained their position on the crisis in the socialist party, the decision of the National Committee and the actions of the “Militants.”

The statement reads:

“Although the situation appears black and nothing seems to bring hope, let us not despair. The principles for which Marx and Engels fought, for which our own Gene Debs carried on, call aloud for reaffirmation and adherence. We can go forward to a party that will not be the Left wing of the Roosevelt administration as the Right wing intends; nor a party that builds its hope and aspirations on the foundations of the sand and water of compromising, Centrist principles. Our party can still become revolutionary by fearlessly endorsing Left wing principles. Towards this end we of the R.P.P.A. believe that we have made contributions.”

The statement further urges the Yipsels to consider the R.P.P.A. program and offers its press and teachers to the young socialists. The ineffectiveness of the R.P.P.A.,. leaving aside its programmatic position on many vital questions, is clearly shown by its weakness in the Yipsels, where a Left wing should have its greatest support.

The Yipsel convention revealed the true condition of the Yipsels and their “Militant” leadership. Until now dependent upon Thomas-Hoan-Hoopes, they did not carry their fight outside of New York City. Now they are out to capture posts. Program and policies on the burning questions of the day, these are put into the background. The result is not only the impeding of a Left wing development but the organizational stagnation of the Yipsels. Little effort is made to educate the ranks. Even the inadequate organization steps taken are done without the members understanding the reasons.

Genuine Left Wing Needed

The results of the convention once again affirm the need tor a revolutionary Marxian Left wing in the Yipsels. “Broad” and thereby ineffective – in a revolutionary sense – “Militant” groups are possible only by the refusal to adopt a program. The fraud of “unity at all costs” was revealed for what it is worth by the disruption of the bloc between the N.Y. “Militants” and Thomas-Hoan-Hoopes formed at the Detroit convention at the recent National Committee meeting of the S.P.

A Left wing which can make valuable contributions to the American revolutionary movement can be founded only on a revolutionary Marxian program, distinguished in. theory and practice from all shades of reformism and Centrism.

It will not arise spontaneously out of “growing militancy” but only by the conscious efforts of Left wing socialists. The next step of revolutionary socialists, too long delayed, is the formulation of such a program and the constitution of a genuine revolutionary Marxian group.

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