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Julius Falk

Youth and Student Corner

CP Sets Up New Youth Front After YPA’s Demise

(5 September 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 36, 5 September 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Communist Party has launched another youth organization, one which is bound to have as little success as the declining Young Progressives or the late unlamented American Youth for Democracy. The new outfit, still in its provisional stage, is the National Organizing Conference for a Labor Youth League (LYL).

This recent Stalinist concoction was launched at a two-day conference (May 28–29) in Chicago with no pretenses as to where it stems from and what its real purpose will be.

Before the last national elections the Communist Party had great hopes of developing a broad Wallaceite youth movement which would provide the party with a steady flow of new members. The CP was so certain of this that at its 1948 national convention it passed several resolutions on ways arid means of directing the expected mass membership of the Wallaceite youth into the party. The main method adopted by this convention was the proposed organization of a young “Marxist” educational league which would not have formal ties with the Communist Party, but would have “fraternal relations” with it and educationally prepare the league members for the party.

But the young Wallaceites, organized into the Young Progressives, did not develop according to plan. The crushing defeat of the Wallace movement at the polls, combined with the flimsy human material of YPA, upset all Stalinist calculations. Instead of growing into a mass youth movement, YPA was scaled down in one chapter after another to the hardened core of Stalinist hacks. With this setback was dissipated any well-grounded Stalinist hopes of drawing recruits through a new “Marxist” youth organization.

In a democratic organization with a necessary maximum of flexibility, tactics predicated on certain events would normally change if the events in their unfolding contradicted the predictions. But the Stalinist expectation of a mass YPA, proven incorrect by reality, did not alter their course one whit. It is this which is most interesting about the initiation of the Labor Youth League.

Why Another Venture?

The LYL has absolutely no chance for success. It has no mass base from which to draw future members for the Communist Party, and the YPA which was to provide that mass base, has no chance for revival. The organization of LYL can only further weaken YPA by drawing away the already limited Stalinist cadres of YPA to itself. Also, LYL will be an expensive operation: an investment which will bear no return.

If the organization of LYL is probably a mistake from the Stalinist point of view, why then did not the Communist Party attempt a graceful retreat? The answer is not to be found in either “accident” or political line. This kind of organizational error has its roots in the bureaucratic nature of the Communist Party.

In any totalitarian party or state, goals must always be met and the leadership must be infallible. In totalitarian Russia, production norms are invariably met – at least on the books – or the responsible bureaucrats may be physically liquidated. This terror technique has its parallel in totalitarian parties, which cannot punish mistakes by death sentences and exile without holding state power, but which hold the threat of social ostracism, loss of prestige and loss of income over its paid functionaries. This threat, in turn, seriously hampers the party administration from making intelligent re-evaluations and thus warding off costly errors.

The American Communist Party is no exception to this totalitarian rule of conduct. The leadership of the Communist Party was evidently too intimidated to admit fully their errors of judgment concerning the future of the Wallace movement and incapable therefore of re-examining the CP convention structure that set it to work building a now meaningless Labor Youth League.

“Confession” of a Young Intellectual

There is another recent incident out of the youth movement worth reporting which also reflects the similarities in methods of operation between totalitarian parties with state power and those which are as yet only aspiring toward that goal.

The Russian “confession” has become an ironic and tragic farce to all who recognize these fraudulent “confessions” as the only form of discussion behind the Iron Curtain. But this confession method of preserving bureaucratic omniscience is not limited to Russian-controlled states. It is the universal characteristic of Stalinist parties and front organizations.

The American CP has its list of recanters too. In a sense, the American Stalinist who confesses and recants is more of an enigma than his Russian prototype. The Russian who is forced to admit his non-existent crimes has to undergo severe psychological and/or physical torture, always under the threat of more extreme punishment, including exile and death. But in the United States, where Stalinism is as yet a small force and cannot exercise the same “persuasive” influences, the moral weakness of the Stalinist recanter becomes perhaps more difficult to understand.

The case history we have in mind is of one Jack Kroner, a member of the editorial board of the Stalinist student publication New Foundations. Jack Kroner is interested in literature and as such contributed an article to a recent issue of New Foundations, on William Faulkner. His review of Faulkner was not an inspiring one but at least it showed some signs of a critical faculty on the part of the author and was a decided departure from the party line on literature.

In the following issue poor Kroner was subjected to a cavalcade of abuse by his “fellow editors.” He was denounced as a white chauvinist who maliciously covered up the alleged reactionary Jim Crowism of that arch-reactionary, bourgeois decadent writer, William Faulkner. Kroner’s name was no longer on the list of editorial board members of that issue!

The Victim Crawls

In the latest issue of New Foundations (Summer 1949) there is, surprisingly enough, an article listed in the table of contents by our friend Kroner called Reply to Criticism. But the reply turns out to be a most pathetic and grovelling confession in the Russian Stalinist tradition. His reply admits to everything: “I neglected clearly to indicate the implications of his [Faulkner’s] position ... I unconsciously adopted some of his conceptions ...” A little further on, our unmasked saboteur writes: “Many [how interesting – J.F.] have condemned the directness and ‘harshness’ of the criticism of my article. In this regard I want to publicly express my appreciation to my fellow editors of the NF board and those who brought the issue to our attention. I have learned a great deal from the discussions which have since taken place ... It has enhanced my understanding of literature immensely.”

And so on and so forth – Kroner goes on in an almost intentional parody of the confessions of the victims of the Moscow frame-up trials.

What can be the power of this Stalinist movement which can so brutally subvert the will, crush the intelligence and desensitize a young intellectual who steps out of line? But occasionally the omnipotent party is generous; at the end of Kroner’s confession there is the following editor’s footnote:

“Because, as indicated by this article. Kroner has shown a willingness and ability to struggle against white chauvinism, he has been reinstated on the editorial board.”

Thus ends the literary career of one Jack Kroner.

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