Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 1025-1029.
Translation: Translations by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission.
1. In accord with the decisions of the Third Congress of the Communist International, the Second World Congress of the Communist Youth International [CYI] resolved to subordinate the Communist youth organisations politically to the Communist parties. The congress also resolved to transform them from narrow, inward-looking, and purely political vanguard organisations to broad mass organisations of worker youth aiming to represent the interests of worker youth in all arenas, in the framework of working-class activity and under the political leadership of the Communist Party.
However, the Communist youth organisations were still to remain political in character, with their activity based on participation in political struggle. It was recognised that the most important and direct means of arousing and winning the broad masses of worker youth was the struggle for their immediate economic demands and against bourgeois militarism. The call was raised for a transformation of youth leagues’ organisational forms of work and activity in a manner consistent with these new tasks. In particular, the need was recognised to introduce systematic Communist educational work both within the organisation and as mass education of those outside our ranks.
The implementation of the Second World Congress decisions, which could be achieved only through long and tenacious work, ran into difficulties, such as the novelty of the proposed tasks for most of the leagues. In addition, the economic crisis (poverty, unemployment) worked negatively on numerical strength. The onslaught of reaction drove many leagues underground, reducing their size. The temporary ebbing of the revolutionary tide and the weakening of revolutionary moods among the working class as a whole have had an adverse effect on the worker youth as well, and their mood has shifted toward less interest in politics. At the same time, the bourgeoisie and the Social Democrats have strengthened their efforts to influence working youth and to organise them.
Since the Second World Congress, the Communist youth organisations have carried through on subordinating themselves to the Communist parties. Nonetheless, the mutual relationship between party and youth, in general, does not yet represent a full implementation of the world congress decisions. In particular, the necessary support of the party for the work of the youth league has often been insufficient. The CYI has succeeded during the last fifteen months in carrying out important practical steps to transform the organisation in line with the Second World Congress decisions, thus creating some of the preconditions for its transformation into a mass organisation. In a number of countries, the Communist youth organisations have also initiated propaganda for the economic and political demands of worker youth, a course that will lead them, as they pursue it, to influence broad masses. They have already organised and carried out a number of campaigns and even specific militant actions.
The Communist youth organisations have not yet been able to achieve their transformation to mass organisations, with regard either to their numbers, their contact with the masses, or their ongoing influence and leadership. These stand as important tasks for the future.
2. The capitalist offensive has struck working youth with all its force. Wage cuts, longer working hours, unemployment, and exploitation in the work place affect them not only in the same way as they do the adult working class but in more grievous forms and circumstances. The working youth are played off against the adult working class and utilised as cheap labour and strikebreakers, increasing the unemployment of adult workers.
These conditions, disastrous for the entire working class, are sustained and exacerbated by the treachery of the reformist trade union bureaucracy, which pays no heed to the needs of working youth and even sacrifices them. It excludes the masses of young workers from the struggles of the adult working class. Indeed, often it even bars youth from joining the trade unions.
The growth of bourgeois militarism also intensifies the suffering of young workers and peasants, who are forced to put on capitalism’s military uniform and are destined to serve as cannon fodder in future imperialist wars. Reaction rages against European youth, depriving them step by step of the right to form Communist youth organisations, even where Communist parties exist.
Up to now, the two Social Democratic youth Internationals have remained inactive in the face of the suffering of working youth. By joining in a bloc, they have attempted to frustrate the desire of both the adult working class and all the worker youth for a united mass struggle. This bloc was formed to divert the suffering masses of worker youth from the struggle and from a united front of all worker youth. In addition, it was aimed directly at the Communist International and has led to the imminent fusion of the two Social Democratic youth Internationals.
The Communist International declares that a united front between young and adult workers is absolutely necessary. It calls on the Communist parties and on all workers around the world to strongly defend the demands of working youth in struggle against the capitalist offensive, bourgeois militarism, and reaction.
It greets the Communist Youth International’s struggle for a united front of working youth and for their essential demands, as part of the united front of the entire working class. It grants full support to the youth International’s struggle for the united front between young and adult workers. The capitalist attacks threaten to drive the worker youth into deep poverty and convert them into helpless victims of militarism and reaction. This must be met by the firm and united resistance of the working class as a whole.
3. To accomplish the work and the tasks that await it on the road to winning and educating the masses, the Communist youth movement requires attentive understanding and effective support from the Communist Party.
Intimate collaboration between party and youth in every arena and the ongoing involvement of the youth organisation in the political life of the party is essential to maintaining political interest and political energy in the Communist youth movement. These qualities are indispensable for the Communist Party in its struggle and its work to carry out the decisions of the Communist International. The Communist parties must provide the youth with organisational help. They should direct young members toward collaboration with the Communist youth, assigning young party members and devoting propaganda to the task of founding youth organisations in places where the party is established. Since the Communist youth are now addressing the task of reorienting their activity toward the masses of worker youth, the Communist Party should particularly promote the foundation and work of Communist youth groups (cells and fractions) in the factories and of their fractions in the trade unions. Mutual representation of the party and youth in all bodies (cells, local groups, district leaderships, central committees, congresses, fractions, etc.) should also be promoted.
The Communist youth must sink strong roots in the masses of worker youth by strengthening their economic propaganda, by their ongoing involvement in the life and problems of worker youth, and by their permanent and daily defence of their interests, and thereby lead them into joint struggle with the adult working class. The Communist Party must therefore give strong support to the economic work of the Communist youth through their cells and fractions in factories, schools, and trade unions. Close collaboration between the members of youth and party must be achieved in the trade unions. Party members in the unions must see to it that young workers and apprentices are recruited to the unions with equal rights, that their union dues are reduced, that the demands of worker youth are voiced in union struggles and taken into account in concluding wage and other agreements. In addition, the Communist Party should promote the economic and union work of the youth organisation through propaganda and active support for their campaigns and by taking up their demands as part of the goals of the party’s own day-to-day struggle.
Given the increased danger of imperialist war and the growth of reaction, the Communist parties should provide strong support to the anti-militarist struggle conducted by the Communist youth organisations, in which the youth must themselves provide practical and effective leadership. The Communist youth must be the most militant fighters in support of the party and in defence of the working class against reaction.
The transformation of the Communist youth with the goal of becoming broad mass organisations endows communist educational work with great importance. For as the masses are won, their Communist education and schooling takes on special importance. The education work of Communist youth needs its own special and separate structure and must be carried out systematically. The party must provide the necessary support through generously providing teachers and teaching materials, help in organising schools and courses, providing places for the Communist youth in the party schools, and inclusion of writings by youth in the programme of party publishing.
The congress considers it essential that the party publications give increased attention to the struggle of Communist youth organisations, through publishing regular youth supplements and columns and through ongoing attention to the life and struggle of worker youth elsewhere in the publication.
The bourgeois world, whose efforts run into stiff resistance from the class consciousness of the adult working class and revolutionary worker youth, tries in particular to poison and alienate the children of the working class. This lends great importance to the organisation and promotion of Communist children’s groups. These groups should be organised and led by the youth, and the party should support this work, contributing forces to it and taking part in the leadership of the children’s groups. Communist youth organisations have begun publication of Communist children’s publications in several countries, and these deserve the party’s support.
The collaboration between party and youth must be particularly intimate in countries in which reaction has forced the Communist movement underground.
By stressing the special importance of Communist work to win the masses of worker youth, the Fourth Congress points to the exceptional significance of the Communist Youth International. The Fourth Congress greets the CYI as its most eager fellow fighter in the present and its reserve for the future.
1. The reference is to the youth affiliates of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals.