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Sam Gordon

Spartacus Continues Struggle Begun
15 Years Ago on I.Y.D.

International Youth Day Embodies Traditions of Anti-Militarism;
Revolutionary Youth of Today Fight under Same Banner

(September 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 37, 7 September 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Twenty years since that great day in 1915, and the SPARTACUS YOUTH LEAGUE again celebrates! International Youth Day.

But I.Y.D. is not last another holiday to us. In some respects, it is THE holiday of our organization and the toiling youth because it is the concentrated expression of a big part of what we stand for and fight for.

I.Y.D. began as a resurgent movement. It woke to life wide strata of young people demoralized by the crime and tragedy of 1914. It became a powerful insurgent movement The force it stirred up did not rest until, with other help and bands, they built the Young Communist International.

Treachery Everywhere

We wait today from moment to moment knowing that war is crowding close to us. Back in 1915 it was already raging on a world scale. Betrayed by the leaders in whom they had placed trust, young factory hands, students and field workers stumbled and were driven into the trenches. Typical of the general disaster to the youth movement, Robert Banneburg of Austria, secretary of the International Bureau of Young Socialists, turned social-patriot and howled in the hyena chorus with the rest. The revolutionary movement ran to low ebb.

“Already influenced by the activity of the International Left, preparations were made for the holding of an international conference of the youth. This conference was held in Berne, Switzerland on April 4, 1915. It established the International Union of Socialist Youth. There were present 13 delegates from nine countries. It marked a turning point in the development of the youth movement.

“The Berne Conference, which was the forerunner of the Young Communist International, decided on the convening of a day of demonstration against militarism on an International scale. There was born International Youth Day, which has been celebrated now for twenty years by the Communist youth of the world. The conference decided on Oct. 3, 1915 as the first International Youth Day. The call was sent out to all countries and to all youth organizations calling upon them to demonstrate against the war and against militarism. During those years these anti-war demonstrations assumed tremendous proportions. In many countries they represented the only voice against the war, drawing in thousands upon thousands of adult workers. Since 1915, every year witnessed a world-wide demonstration against war and militarism. These demonstrations grew larger and larger as the years passed. The slogans of Berne became watchwords of the revolutionary youth.” (Young Spartacus, September, 1933)

The Answer of October

The program of the conference gave a partial answer to the question: what should we young revolutionists do? The program was not complete; the necessary sections were to be supplied later, and the words were to be written in the fire and steel of the October revolution.

But the fact is, the conference did call for international demonstrations against the war-makers. How the hearts of the revolutionary youth, bitter from a year of betrayal and from the waste and horror of organized mass murder, must have swelled passionately at the call! IYD revitalized the depressed youth fighters, and for once, it even set in motion whole masses of adult workers who had needed just this spark.

Our national Spartacan organization finds similar task today. As they in the midst of the war raised a clarion call for mass action, so we in the midst of reaction issue a call for revolutionary struggle against war.

Spartacus Alone Shows the Way

Just as the Berne conference found itself the vanguard youth group of the day, alone on the international field in its opposition to the war, today the SYL in America is the only voice among young people telling the truth about a system rotten with greed and privilege, and alone among youth groups stands for the Leninist slogan:

“Turn imperialist war into civil war!”

The young Socialist hears his leader tell him: there are several ways of stopping war, and if necessary we will go the limit (perhaps). But pledge ourselves to the revolutionary, the Bolshevik way out? – never. The young Socialist will yet see a good section of his party leadership consorting with the war-makers (as some of them are already doing abroad) and urging him, as Dannenberg did before them, to join up with the colors.

The young Stalinist, militant and eager to follow in the steps of Lenin, is already learning that Stalin supports the war plans of the French bourgeoisie; that the Seventh Congress of the C.I. favors coalition (unity with capitalists) governments; that the 5 point program of the C.P. on war is completely reactionary and pacifist; that the Stalinist leadership has gone back to Kautsky, social-patriot and renegade, for its reasons to support the wars of “peaceful” capitalist governments (!!) against warlike ones.

And so we find ourselves in close alliance with the anti-war pioneers of Berne. Across the years we extend a comradely hand. We say: what yon dared and tried to do, we also can dare and try. We too know how it feels to see the world saturated with the poison of imperialist brewed hatred, to see the world rush careening toward another tide of blood, to hear the voices of betrayers in workers’ ranks cover with high sounding phrases the poisoned bait: “Join the next war to save ‘democracy’.”

We will pound away all obstacles. We will build. We will fight. We will conquer.

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