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Julius Falk & Jack Maxwell

Youth and Student Corner

Tracking the AYD

(24 January 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 4, 24 January 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This is the way the AYD ends,
This is the way the AYD ends,
This is the way the AYD ends,
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Our apologies for this profane revision of T.S. Eliot, but we can think of no more fitting epitaph to the unlamented self-dissolution of the American Youth for Democracy (AYD).

This Stalinist front youth organization, initiated with much pomp and bombast in 1943, has quietly passed away; its unobtrusive end standing in marked contrast to all the noisy and expensive efforts of the Communist Party to build it into an impressive mass youth front. This organization, which received enough publicity in its five years to fill many issues of the Sunday papers, has passed oil! the American scene so quietly that neither the press nor many AYD members were aware of it. In true bureaucratic fashion the AYD was dissolved from above, without serious discussion among its rank and file, leaving many of its members unaware of the fact that their organization was no longer among the living.

The first we heard of the AYD’s demise was a leaflet distributed by its former chapter at the City College of New York (CCNY). The leaflet announced the end of AYD as a national organization, but informed the students that some local chapters would continue to function.

We attempted to check on the story by calling up the local and national offices of AYD, thinking that they might have been kept open for a few weeks. But, no luck; their phones were disconnected. We then called up the Stalinist Jefferson School. But they claimed complete ignorance. The Daily Worker was next. We asked them if they had a recent story on the disappearance of the AYD. The Daily Worker librarian told us that they never heard of such a thing and referred us to the New York County Committee of the Communist Party! We dutifully called up the Communist Party. The response from this quarter was likewise a disavowal of all knowledge about the AYD’s sorrowful end and an indignant query as to why the Daily Worker should have referred us to them in the first place!

Can ANYONE send us a few details about the AYD before we go into mourning?

The dissolution of the AYD, increasing the political vacuum on the American campus, brightens the prospects for the growth of a socialist student movement. Many AYDers will be repelled by the Stalinists manipulation of CP-inspired organizations. From this experience with Stalinism, it can be expected that non-Stalinist AYDers will be more receptive than heretofore to genuinely progressive organizations.

Shake-Up Coming?

A promise of the AYD’s burial was indicated during the last convention of its founding fathers, the Communist Party. At that time, the Communist Party, dissatisfied with the inability of the AYD to grow, decided on two courses of action with regard to youth work: one was to build a new mass youth front out of the remnants of AYD and an anticipated large youth section of the Wallace party; the second line of attack was to build a new Young Communist League which would draw members out of those sucked into the new front organization.

This, however, was before the Wallaceite debacle at the recent national elections. Following its defeat at the polls, the bottom fell out of the Wallace movement, dubbed the Progressive Party. The Young Progressive Party on campus, which looked so promising to the Stalinists before the elections, virtually collapsed. It has scarcely been heard from since then. With the now fading prospects for a significant Young Progressive Party and the total collapse of AYD, the Communist Party’s chances for a large youth affiliate have gone by the board.

This defeat for the Stalinists may have a larger meaning. The Communist Party not only looked toward the Progressive Party and its youth section as a fruitful arena for recruiting to a new Young Communist League, but as a powerful instrument in the labor movement and source of new members for the Communist Party itself. The failure of the Wallace movement may well presage a shake-up in the Communist Party. In all totalitarian parties mistakes must be punished. Therefore, it is not out of the question that the William Z. Foster (national chairman of the Communist Party) leadership which pressed most persistently for building up the Wallace movement, will be challenged for leadership. The expenditure of time and energy by the Stalinists on the Wallace organization resulted in a weakening of the Communist Party, a loss of membership, without a compensatory mass Wallace movement from which to recoup its losses and expand.

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