Joseph Carter Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Joseph Carter

The League and Problems of the Youth

(September 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 24 (Whole No. 83), 19 September 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Draft Thesis on the Youth Question attempts to state in concise terms the position of the youth under capitalism, the need of a Communist youth league, its attitude toward other youth organizations and finally the tasks of the Left Opposition youth. We essayed to include only that which is essential.

The scantiness of the discussion on the youth is one of the none too few signs that there is not enough interest in this field of our work. Among the youth comrades there are many who have never been in the Y.C.L. or carried on activity among young workers; others are too absorbed in the general Opposition activity. The adult comrades also do not appear to understand the importance of youth work.

From this follows the necessity of making the young comrades “youth conscious”; proving to the adult comrades that youth work is essential and can be done. Towards this end, the Draft Thesis proposes: the issuance of an internal youth bulletin, the publication of the Young Vanguard as a semi-monthly section of the weekly Militant on the one hand, and the selection [1] of a National Youth Committee of five, the election of at least one comrade in each branch to be in charge of youth work, the organization of a fraction in the Y.C.L., and the organization wherever possible of a youth club. If this work is successful we will be in a position to issue a separate youth paper by the next conference.

The aim of our youth is “the organization, education and consolidation of a revolutionary, capable, and advanced Communist youth cadre”. In the immediate sense this means the -winning of the Communist youth for the Left Opposition. Through participation in the work and affairs of the Y.C.L., through classes on fundamentals of the Communist youth movement, Communism, Marxism, etc., by spreading the Militant, and our literature we can attract the young Communists. At the same time through open-air meetings, independent work in factories where our young comrades are, and by improving the Young Vanguard, making it more of an educational page we can win young workers who have never gone through the Y.C.L. for Communism. If these activities bear fruit we can be assured of a youth club in at least several of the cities which have functioning branches. In New York, immediately following the Conference it is planned to take steps for the organization of a youth club.

The success of this work depends on first, the participation of all of the youth comrades and second, a clear idea of Communist youth work and our aims and tasks. The Thesis endeavors to answer these questions. An important thought expressed in it is that:

“Limited experience with Communist youth work requires that youth tactics, demands, slogans and special oragniza-tional forms should be put forward not as dogmas or finished products which have universal validity but rather with a view of testing them in practise, examining the results, and (hereby laying the ground for more effective tactics, slogans, etc.”

This, in my opinion, would be ever before us when discussing youth methods and means of work.

The old slogan of the Young Communist International “Clarity and Action’’ should be revived. The educational and cultural character of the youth emphasized in the thesis. We should not forget that “Communist training and education requires the intimate linking up of the theoretical with the practical, the studygroup with the field of the class struggle”. It falls upon us to carry out as much of this work as our forces will permit.

Comrade Bord (Shortcomings in the Youth Thesis, Militant, 8-22-31) takes us to task for a number of omissions and commissions in the thesis. I will briefly touch on the points raised.

  1. The thesis treats “the youth as though it were some queer product of society complete in itself, and having no relation to anything else.”! If this were so then it would be wrong to say, as comrade Bord does in her opening sentence, that “The thesis on the youth question on the whole treats the problem well.” On the contrary, I would favor the complete rejection of such a thesis.

    But fortunately the criticism cannot be accepted. Throughout the thesis, it is stressed that the youth is a section of the working class, that the problems of the class are the problems of the section, etc. In the section on Youth in America it is explained in some detail. In fact, the first sentence of the thesis reads: “Capitalism draws the youth of the proletarian families into the productive process.” Does this imply a “queer product of society complete in itself, and having no relation to anything else”?
  2. The slogan of “equal pay for equal work”. The thesis does not enumerate any youth demands. We intend carrying on a discussion after the Conference, on this question in our internal youth bulletin. At the same time I would like to comment as follows: The above demand was taken from the program of the Y.C.I. which holds good for European conditions. As a general demand in this country it is wrong because (1) in unskilled trades, automobile, textile, coal, etc., there is little wage discrimination between adult and youth who do the same work; (2) In other industries, demands for the youth have to be formulated on the basis of the specific conditions and position, in many of these cases the slogan “Equal pay for equal work” will apply. (3) For workers under 18 years special hours (and therefore labor performed) should be formulated.
  3. On the question of youth auxiliaries. The thesis states: “A thorough examination of the functions of Youth auxiliaries and the actual activities of the existing ones is needed. If this is not done, this important part of League activity will continue to yield no results.” In other words we do not come out against all auxiliary youth organizations. Sport clubs united into the Labor Sports Union, under certain conditions, youth educational clubs are accepted forms of auxiliaries. What the thesis takes issue with is the formation of such organizations as the Youth Liberators, the Young Defenders (Youth of the I.L.D.), and Youth Section of International Workers’ Order. These were formed after the Y.C.L. had failed to live up to its task: Become the cultural center and political leader of the youth. Their existence facilitates the conversion of the Y.C.L. into a youth party.

    For example, the youth section of the I.W.O. states: “We give expression to the cultural, athletic and social requirements of the youth.” Who will be attracted? Primarily the youth sympathetic to the Left wing and Communist movement; children of adult Communists. These can be won directly to the youth league – assuming correct tactics, organizational methods and leadership.

    At the same time we, the Left Opposition youth, should work within these youth auxiliaries and thereby gain contact with the League members and sympathizers.
  4. On the other points raised: Work in the Y.C.L., educational work, independent work wherever possible there is general agreement. The National Youth Committee will have to concretize these tasks and outline definite ways of proceeding. The youth comrades will be called upon to aid in this work.

Footnote by ETOL

1. In the printed version this word was “section.”

Joseph Carter Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 24.3.2013