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Julius Falk & Jack Maxwell

Youth and Student Corner

[Young Progressives of America]

(14 February 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 7, 14 February 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Several weeks ago, we discussed in this column the organizational crisis in the Stalinist youth movement. Our particular subject was the disappearance of the American Youth for Democracy (AYD), which actually disintegrated before its Stalinist mentors gave it the official coup de grace. This move was contemplated at the last national convention of the Communist Party which gave blunt evidence of its control of AYD and its intention of merging the remains of AYD with the Youth and Students for Wallace movement, alias the Young Progressives of America (YPA).

The Stalinist hopes ran high at its convention for a mass youth movement, despite AYD’s collapse. For the Stalinists looked towards the Wallace youth as a new and irresistible force. The YPA was to reach peaks of membership and influence never attained by a “left-wing” youth organization; a front that was to be the transmission belt for the creation of a “Young Marxist League” affiliated to the Communist Party.

But something happened. Exactly what is not important at the moment. The fact is that all plans misfired and the YPA is now deader than could have been imagined during the pre-election Wallaceite jamborees on campus. One hardly notices them today. An occasional leaflet is all we have to remind us of the YPA’s recent prowess. Their meetings are few and uninspired. The “Jimmy Higgins” work is carried out primarily by Stalinist Party members and hardened “sympathizers.” Here and there are even rumors of liberal opposition developing within YPA against the organizations Stalinist core.

Book Membership

We have just received a copy of the committee reports of the first founding convention of the New York State YPA. The sections of this report issued by the YPA which concern the organization’s size and membership are significant. The total number of delegates, fraternal delegates, and observers at the convention numbered 428, of which 282 were regular delegates. All indications are that a delegate represented no more than a dozen members or major fraction thereof, which would mean a state-wide book membership of about 3,000. This estimate is strengthened in the section on membership perspectives. We are informed that the goal is 10,000 members by April 1949, The resolution states that “in order to start the drive off with a big push, we propose that every delegate present pledge to sign up ten members of YP of New York ... (emphasis ours)

Assuming that only the 282 voting delegates (that is, excluding fraternal delegates and observers) are covered in this resolution, it can be concluded that a pledge of almost 3,000 new members to “start the drive off” towards a goal of 10,000 members, bears out our deduction that the YPa in New York State is probably no more than 3,000 in number. The bulk of this membership we can be certain is strictly confined to the books.

Compare this figure with those claimed by several New York Wallaceite campus clubs before the elections and we can more graphically see its precipitous drop of membership and attractiveness. On two campuses in New York City – Brooklyn College and City College – the combined membership claimed by students for Wallace was well over 1,000. In other words the Wallaceite membership, less than a year ago, on two New York campuses was at least one- third of our estimated total of New York State YPA membership today.

A comparison between the present status of YPA – a self-styled “broad” organization – with the Young Communist League of ten years ago is even more unfavorable from a Stalinist point of view. For the narrower Communist affiliate had on the above mentioned campuses, approximately 1,000 members and unquestionably had a larger state-wide membership, than that of the present “mass organization,” the YPA.

What is true of the local YPA is by no means exceptional. From all reports we have received it has met with no more success on the national level. On the contrary we know that some of its most powerful chapters outside of New York have almost totally collapsed.

The Youth for Wallace movement has passed its zenith. We do not believe that the fading light of this descending Stalinist star can shoot upwards again, illuminating the campus – and the Communist Party’s hopes – with its folksy line of corn- bred ballads and square dancing.

The reasons for this decline will be discussed next week.

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