Source: Published in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 1030-33
Translation: Translation team organized by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission
1.) The socialist youth movement arose under the pressure of heightened capitalist exploitation of worker youth and their utilisation by bourgeois militarism. The movement was a reaction to attempts at poisoning the worker youth with bourgeois and nationalist ideology. It responded to the neglect by Social Democratic parties and trade unions in most countries of the economic, political, and cultural demands of worker youth.
Most of the socialist youth organisations were created without assistance from and often against the will of the Social Democratic parties and trade unions, which were becoming increasingly opportunist and reformist. The reformist Social Democratic parties and trade unions saw the rise of independent revolutionary socialist youth organisations as a serious threat to their opportunist politics. They sought to place the movement under bureaucratic tutelage and destroy its independence, in order to oppress the movement, change its character, and bring it into line with their politics.
2.) The imperialist war and the response of Social Democratic parties in most countries could only deepen the discord between the Social Democratic parties and the international revolutionary youth organisations and drive them into open conflict. The conditions of worker youth deteriorated unbearably during the War because of conscription and war duties, heightened exploitation in war industries, and militarisation behind the front. The best layers of socialist youth took a stand against the War and nationalism. As a result, they broke away from the Social Democratic parties and took their own political initiatives (international youth conferences in Bern 1915 and in Jena 1916).
In their struggle against the War, the socialist youth organisations, supported by the best revolutionary groups among the adults, became points of assembly for revolutionary forces. Given the absence of revolutionary parties, the youth organisations took over their functions, becoming politically independent organisations acting as a vanguard in the revolutionary struggle.
3.) When the Communist International was established, along with Communist parties in each country, this changed the role of the revolutionary youth organisation in the proletarian movement as a whole. Both their economic situation and their distinctive psychological profile make the worker youth more receptive to Communist ideas. They display greater enthusiasm in revolutionary struggle than the adult workers. But the role of vanguard, in the sense of independent political activity and leadership, is assumed by the Communist parties. If the Communist youth organisation continued to exist as a politically independent and leading organisation, this would result in the emergence of two Communist parties competing with each other, differing only in the age of their members.
4.) The present role of the Communist youth organisation consists of assembling the masses of young workers, educating them in a Communist spirit, and bringing them into the Communist front of struggle. The time has passed in which a Communist youth organisation could limit itself to the work of a numerically small propaganda circle. In order to win the broad masses of young workers, the Communist youth organisation carries out tenacious agitation, conducted with new methods, and also initiates and leads economic struggles.
In accordance with its new tasks, the Communist youth organisation must broaden and strengthen its educational work. The basis for Communist education in the Communist youth movement is active participation in all revolutionary struggles, which must be closely linked to Marxist training.
The Communist youth organisation has another important task in the coming period: to destroy centrist and social-patriotic ideology among worker youth and to break them away from the Social Democratic leaders and guardians of youth. At the same time, the Communist youth organisation must do all in its power to promote the movement’s rejuvenation, a process driven by its development into a mass movement, by passing on its older members to the Communist Party at a rapid pace.
The Communist youth organisations conduct animated discussion of all political problems, collaborate in building Communist parties, and participate vigorously in revolutionary struggles and actions. This is the main and fundamental difference between them and the centrist and social-patriotic youth leagues.
5.) The relationship of the Communist youth organisation to the Communist Party is fundamentally different from that of the revolutionary youth organisations to the Social Democratic parties [before and during the War]. The common struggle to carry out rapidly the proletarian revolution requires strong unity and strict centralisation. Political leadership can be exerted only by the Communist International, at the international level, and its national sections in each country. The Communist youth organisation has the duty of subordinating itself to this political leadership, in terms of programme, tactics, and political instructions, and of integrating itself into the common revolutionary front.
There is considerable disparity in the level of revolutionary development among the Communist parties. It is therefore necessary, in exceptional cases, for the application of this principle to be guided by the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International, taking into account the particular conditions in the relevant country. The Communist youth organisations have begun to organise their own forces according to the rules of strict centralisation. They will conduct themselves with iron discipline with regard to the Communist International, which is the main force and leader of proletarian revolution.
The Communist youth organisations must take up all political and tactical issues that arise within their ranks. They must work within the Communist Party of their country – and never against it – in the spirit of adopted decisions. In the event of a serious disagreement between the Communist Party and the Communist youth organisation, the latter has the right to appeal to the Executive Committee of the Communist International. In giving up its political independence, the youth organisation does not lose its organisational independence, which is indispensable for educational purposes.
Successful leadership of the revolutionary struggle requires the strongest possible centralisation and the greatest possible unity. For that reason, in countries where, as a result of historical development, the youth organisation is more dependent, this relationship will, as a rule, be maintained. If there are disagreements between the two organisations, this will be resolved by the Executive Committee of the Communist International together with the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International.
6.) One of the most immediate and important tasks of the Communist youth organisation is to vigorously clear away all remnants in its ranks of the ideology of its political leadership role, left over from the time when it was completely autonomous. The youth press and the entire organisational apparatus of the Communist youth organisation must be vigorously utilised to fully imbue the youth with the feeling of being a soldier and responsible member of the one Communist Party.
The Communist youth organisation must devote all the more attention, time, and work to this task as it begins to win broader layers of young workers and become a mass movement.
7.) The close political collaboration of the Communist youth organisation with the Communist Party must also find expression in a firm connection between the two organisations. It is absolutely necessary for the party and youth organisations to establish ongoing reciprocal representation at the leadership, regional, district, and local level, right down to the Communist cells in factories and trade unions, and including strong reciprocal representation at all conferences and congresses. This will make it possible for the Communist Party constantly to influence the youth’s political line and activity and to support the youth, while the youth, for their part, will be able to exert an effective influence in the party.
The relationship between the Communist Youth International and the Communist International will be even closer. The Communist Youth International’s task is to provide centralised leadership of the Communist youth movement; to support and promote the individual affiliates morally and materially; to create new Communist youth organisations, where they do not exist; and to carry out international propaganda for the Communist youth movement and its programme.
The Communist Youth International is a component of the Communist International, and it therefore subordinates itself to the decisions of the Communist International congresses and its Executive Committee. This framework guides all the work of the Youth International, which passes on the Communist International’s political will to all its sections. Efficient mutual representation and close, ongoing collaboration will assure that the Communist International can exercise constant supervision and that the Communist Youth International can develop fruitful work in every field of its activity – leadership, agitation, organisation, and the strengthening and support of Communist youth organisations.
1. The international socialist youth movement was formed at a congress of socialist youth organisations in Stuttgart 24 – 26 August 1907, attended by 21 representatives from socialist youth organisations in 13 countries. The congress established the International Union of Socialist Youth Organisations (Internationale Verbindung Sozialistischer Jugendorganisationen, IVSJO) and elected Karl Liebknecht as its first president. The IVSJO fell apart in 1914 at the onset of the War, but was reconstituted in 1915 by left-wing forces led by Willi Münzenberg. See Riddell (ed.), Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International (New York: Pathfinder Press 1984), p. 280 – 2. These forces went on to found the Communist Youth International in 1919.
2. A reference to the International Socialist Youth Conference in Bern, Switzerland, 5 – 7 April 1915. That meeting attempted to reconstitute the Socialist Youth International – which had effectively dissolved with the outbreak of World War I – and called for youth to fight for peace through resumption of the class struggle.
The Jena Conference was an all-German youth conference, initiated by Karl Liebknecht, held 24 – 25 April 1916.
3. This paragraph was added as an amendment to the draft text in session 24.