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Albert Gates

First Youth Conference Was Held
in Chicago in November 1929

(October 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 46, 22 October 1938, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Our movement has traveled a great distance in the ten years that have passed since comrades Cannon, Abern and Shachtman presented their declaration to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the United States announcing adherence to the Russian Opposition. Prior to that, the great problems of the world movement and the sharp disputes inside the Stalintern never greatly concerned the C.P. Its decisions relating to these questions were formally taken in response to requests of the ruling bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. The struggle of the Russian Opposition was regarded as a "Russian affair"' which was a bothersome interference with the inane and permanent factional disputes in the American C.P. The Stalinist movement was struck with consternation to find that Trotskyism had found its way into the ranks of the Party. How could it be? It was already declared to have been irrevocably defeated and destroyed in a dozen different revolutions and in a dozen conferences, not least of which was the 6th World Congress. Yet, when the suppressed documents of the Russian Opposition and the writings of Leon Trotsky were made known to the revolutionary workers in the United States, the Left Opposition was born and began to attract around it a wide circle of sympathizers.

It became possible then to understand the reasons for the great defeats suffered by the Communist International, the stagnation of that once great body, the paralysis that invaded the whole international as a result of the stranglehold of the Stalin bureaucracy, and also, the nature of the factional impasse in the C.P. of the U.S.

Nationwide Expulsions

In all the leading centers of the C.P., organizers, functionaries, active rank-and-file communists, and above all, the youth, rallied around the banner of the International Left Opposition. Expulsions followed declarations of solidarity with the aforementioned three comrades. Physical violence, intellectual terrorism, political and moral bribery failed to stem the growth of our movement. The most heartening aspect in the whole situation was the manner in which the young revolutionaries resisted the pressure of the bureaucratic machine.

The first public declaration of our youth appeared in the Militant of April 11, 1929. It was a document addressed to the Young Communist League and it recited the nature of the situation in the world movement. The degeneration of the Young Communist International was traced to the invasion of the Stalin bureaucracy which transformed the youth movement into a factional instrument in the spurious struggle against Trotskyism. It showed how the American youth organization was deteriorating as a result of conditions in the Party and closed with a ringing call for support of the Left Opposition. This first document was signed by three members of the National Executive Committee of the Y.C.L. and thirty leading youth functionaries, representing six districts. New layers of supporters arose and the expulsions continued from coast to coast.

At the first conference of the Left Opposition, held on May 17, 18 and 19, 1929, the Communist League of America was formed. The conference was held on the far west side of Chicago, a city which has given birth to so many workers organizations. It was the first time that many of the comrades had met each other. Of the thirty-one delegates and thirteen alternates present, a large proportion were youth. They came by automobile, rode the rods, and hitch-hiked to Chicago. They were tired, hungry and broke. But these difficulties in no way effected the spirit of enthusiasm of the comrades who understood that they were engaged in the great task of revitalizing and rebuilding the revolutionary movement.

The spirit of the young comrades was contagious to all the comrades who came from different parts of the country with a variety of experiences and with years of service in the movement. These young comrades took an active part in the conference deliberations and were destined to play a key role in the future development of our organization. The presence of a large number of youth delegates and alternates (in some cities our organization was composed entirely of youth) made necessary the holding of a sub-conference to discuss the tasks of the youth.

The Youth Meet

Thus, our first youth conference was really in the nature of an adjunct gathering of the formation conference of the Communist League. We were concerned primarily with the manner in which youth work could be carried on under conditions where the main task was to firmly root the League and popularize the program and platform of the Left Opposition. At that time we still conducted ourselves as an expelled faction of the Communist Party, as a propaganda organization.

The youth conference, attended by about fifteen regular delegates and alternates, held a long and serious discussion of its tasks. We decided that our main task was the building of the Communist League. A separate youth organization was out of question. However, wherever forces permitted and the situation was favorable, the younger comrades were to conduct special activity among the Communist youth as well as detached and unorganized revolutionary youth.

Since that conference a good deal of progress has been recorded. Within a year, the question of a youth organization became a practical one. We began in New York with the organization of a Marxian Youth Club. Similar organizations were set up in other cities. In November 1931, Young Spartacus, the first Left Opposition youth paper made its appearance. With the paper as a base our youth movement continued to grow and in 1932 the Spartacus Youth League was formed.

Looking back over the past years, it is extremely heartening and gratifying to note that, with but few exceptions, all the young comrades who participated in the first conference and who aided in the founding of Young Spartacus and. the Spartacus Youth League are still with us. They are no longer engaged in youth work. But they are active and leading Party workers. An entirely new layer of young revolutionists have taken their place. Our early youth organization carried out its basic task It trained politically and organizationally experienced revolutionaries for Party work. This fact alone testifies to the tremendous vitality of the revolutionary ideas of our movement.

Our youth movement of the present is fortunate in many ways. It enjoys the heritage of ten years of long struggle. It is a revitalized revolutionary theory the theory of Marxism. The past two decades form a tremendous school of revolutionary experience which is theirs. And it is permeated with the glorious spirit of revolutionary internationalism.

But above all, our youth organization is fortunate in that it is associated with a Party which understands its problems and is prepared to lend genuine aid in their solution. The Y.P.S.L. can count upon the intimate comradeship of the Party and its leading cadre, so large a number of whom have themselves emerged from the revolutionary youth movement.

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