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A Ferment in the Chicago Y.C.L.

(October 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 26 (Whole No. 85), 10 October 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On September 14, 1931, three former members of the Executive Committee of District 8, Young Communist League, issued a statement to all members on why two. Norman Satir and Ruth Andras, have been expelled from membership, and one, Nathan Gould, is about to meet the same fate (he has since been expelled also).

The charges of these comrades are: that based on a system of bureaucracy, a regime of terror, of expulsion, an incapable district and national leadership has attached itself to the Y.C.L. and prevents the League from efficiently fulfilling its role.

The same leadership, in order to maintain its position, has had to line up comrades against Satir who had taken a critical attitude towards the activity of the National Committee, spread lies and slanders, suppress articles written for the pre-convention discussion, not allow anybody time to present any position opposing the National Committee and that the party leadership has condoned and encouraged the younger bureaucrats.

The document charges that the last convention of the Y.C.L. was not a Communist convention, because there was no pre-convention thesis, nor discussion involving the membership. The statement goes on to tell what the League bureaucracy is attempting to hide: political bankruptcy (if that term can be applied to a leadership which never was capable). According to the Y.C.I. letter, the National Committee of the American League has:

  1. been absent from the economic field;
  2. not formulated any youth demands;
  3. no shop nuclei;
  4. no anti-militarist work;
  5. no opponent work;
  6. crisis in sports and Pioneers;
  7. League still isolated.

To these, the trio add four additional points;

  1. no single shock plan was completed;
  2. the ideological level of the League is at its lowest;
  3. bureaucracy is the prevailing system;
  4. the National Committee is entirely incapable of independent analyses or formulation of correct policies;
  5. all gains that were made, were made after the Y.C.I. threat of removal and these gains are microscopic.

According to the present leadership, the League membership fusing “third period” mathematics) is “around 3,000”. Even if these figures are correct, they show a great discrepancy between potential possibilities and actual results. Yet, many join the Y.C.L. continuously, but go through it like water through a sieve. Why?

The main reason for this, the statement goes on to say, is the low ideological level of the membership. Theory, while openly paid lip-service, is secretly sneered at as a pre-”third period” prejudice. Then the document says:

“To expect the leadership to change their attitude on this matter is hopeless. Because this leadership can only exist as long as widespread ignorance prevails ... political consciousness would mean the doom of this ‘leadership’.”

Secondly, the strangling hold of the bureaucracy. Democratic centralism – the highest degree of democracy with the highest degree of centralism, becomes the handing down of decisions by the higher committees to the lower ranks with the air of a royal decree, or infallible papal bull. The ranks must say, “To hear is to do.” The efficient methods of Communist leadership are replaced by the carrying out of decisions by a membership who have no understanding of the reasons for the decision. Self-criticism becomes greatly similar to the confession-box proceedings of the Catholic Church. Like the Catholic Church, too, the only ones allowed to receive confession, to give chastisement or to allow absolution are higher bodies, while the “very, very low”, if they attempt criticism, become “enemies of the working class”.

Thirdly, the document goes on to show how these leaders are created. Not the most developed, ideologically and practically, but the “politically dishonest, opportunist and careerists – who will agree with everything that the higher bodies propose ... ignoramuses” rise to the leadership. The proletarian leadership becomes merely a blind They take no real part in the work of the leadership.

The practical proposals of these protesting comrades then follow:

  1. A broad and free discussion.
  2. The discussion must be followed by a real convention.
  3. The present leadership must be replaced by tempered young Communists.
  4. Regular reports to the membership by the leaders.
  5. Democratic centralism – free elections by and responsibility to the membership.
  6. Broad discussions on all important questions.
  7. Right of Communist criticism of leaders.
  8. Bureaucracy must be destroyed.
  9. Raise the theoretical level.
  10. Proper relations between the Youth and the party.

With a call to the membership not to heed the bureaucrats’ instructions to disassociate themselves from the signing comrades, the statement ends: “Oust the bureaucrats! Build the League!”

The following is the statement of the Youth Committee of the Chicago branch of the Communist League of America (Opposition) on the recent developments in the Y.C.L.:

In Chicago, the statement of Norman Satir, Ruth Andras and Nathan Gould against the bureaucracy in the Y.C.L. has met with a warm welcome from the members of the Y.C.L. This in spite of a long and arduous campaign of slander.

While young comrades are not as well versed or experienced and therefore more easily misled than the older comrades, the psychological factors make bureaucracy more repugnant among the youth than ever among the adults. These signs of stirring life, which the Left Opposition always knew to be present, is a favorable portent.

The statement has obvious shortcomings. It fails to answer the whereas of this bureaucracy. Its source, according to the statement, is a mystery, it sprang up from nowhere. That source is the Y.C.I. leadership and behind them the Stalinist revisionists of the teachings of Marx and Lenin in the C.I. Unless these comrades recognize this, their correct labors will be ineffectual. Every leadership will tend towards bureaucracy for the ideas of the Stalinist revisionists, not having ideological correctness, can only be defended by bureaucracy.

How long will a leadership that is honest and theoretically firm stand for “socialism in one country”; the Anglo-Russian Committee betrayal, the Chiang Kai-Shek alliance, the “third period”, “social-Fascism”, for the dubbing of Trotsky and the International Left Opposition as counter-revolutionists? The only kind of leadership the C.I. and the Y.C.I. bureaucrats can tolerate are bureaucratic ignoramuses. Any other kind could not tolerate the C.I. and Y.C.I. leaders.

The decline in membership is an international phenomenon when we discuss quality. When we discuss quantity, with the exception of Russia, where the reason for the exception is obvious, and Germany, where the situation is so favorable that members stream in, in spite of the bureaucrats, the same holds true in the entire International. The same causes in our brother Leagues produce the same effects as in the American League.

Our support of their statement will undoubtedly cause these comrades to be subjected to the epithet of “Trotskyists” which the bureaucrats will fling at them, as though that disposes of the questions raised. Do not permit this to divert your attention from the fight. Spread the rebellion, district and nation wide! Our support as our criticism, is given in a comradely fashion. The ousting of the bureaucracy, the re-arousing of the interest in Marxism, the study of the tactics and strategy of the movement, leads every sincere young revolutionist forward on the path towards the International Left Opposition.

We urge all comrades to study the position of the Left Opposition.

Youth Committee, C.L.A.(O.) Chicago branch

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