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Newsletter (in English)


In September, we decided upon new positions about revolutionary youth organizations.These theses represent a development and discussion process of our group. We want to present our new theses here as a result of this process.

Under capitalism, young people are subject to special forms of oppression. We get bad jobs with low wages, we suffer under the arbitrary rule of parents, teachers and bosses, we are impeded in the development of our sexuality, we are not allowed to vote but can be sent to die in imperialist wars, to name just a few examples. This oppression is a product of capitalism and therefore it can only be ended by the overthrow of this system.

This special form of oppression leads to a special radicalness amongst the youth. Young people are no longer children but they still are not adults. They have many responsibilities and few rights. Young people have to fight for many rights which are considered normal for adults. This makes them more sensitive to injustice and less inclined to accept things as they are. Young people are generally more open to societal alternatives and are not yet so deeply rooted in bourgeois ideologies. This is related to the fact that they still have their whole lives (and thus all the long-term problems) ahead of them and therefore cannot capitulate as easily. The period of youth is a period in which the turn towards revolutionary socialism is as a rule easier and more decisive than in later periods of life.

This general youth oppression is also reproduced within the left. In any reformist party and unfortunately even in many revolutionary groups one sees how adults decide on policies while young people go flyposting.

But even in the last few years we could see repeatedly how youth protests – the best examples are the protest against the CPE-law in France, the penguin revolt in Chile and the youth uprising in Greece – could initiate broad mass mobilizations of the workers.

The so-called ”anti-globalization” movement that developed around the world following the protests against the WTO meeting in Seattle is primarily a youth movement. The heads of the movement are from the NGOs or the reformist parties and trade unions, but the hands and feet of the movement are radical youth.

The traditional left, i.e. the reformist parties and the trade unions, is shockingly weak amongst young people. The anticapitalist movement of today is an expression of the fact that young people are becoming active by going around this left and the workers’ movement. But that the movement of summit sieges and social forums has passed its zenith and cannot go forward; this shows clearly that in the end there is no way to change the world that goes around the working class.

The many young people of today’s anticapitalist movement must be won for class struggle, for the perspective of proletarian revolution. This was the task that we, the independent youth organization REVOLUTION, set ourselves in the last few years. We offered the youth, who rightfully mistrust the apparata and organizations, the chance to organize themselves together with us, independently of reformism and tutelage and take the political wheel into their own hands.

The slogan of the “complete independence of the youth movement”, which Lenin defended (1), has two aspects:

1) breaking young people from the organizations of reformism, by strictly rejecting every type of tutelage and bureaucratism.

2) giving young activists the opportunity to take on responsibility and thus learn from their own successes and mistakes.

Therefore REVOLUTION worked to build up a completely independent, revolutionary communist youth movement. During this time of being a completely, i.e. also politically, independent youth organization we recognized:

– Our numerical weakness never let us stick out from the mass of small and tiny groups around the world.

– Our clear focus on proletarian revolution and our Marxist program made it difficult to win larger numbers of young people in a time of low levels of class struggle.

The political struggles of the radical left today still take place mainly on the streets, outside the workplaces. So it is self-evident that for young people the attraction of idealist, actionistic, often anarchist groups is great. Also widespread anti-communism and the legend of the failure of socialism do not exactly push radicalizing youth in our direction.

Because of this, intensive discussions with smaller numbers of people and political propaganda directed towards the youth have been more effective than the complete independence of a youth organization with a clear Marxist profile. We have won members almost exclusively because of our program rather than because of our complete independence.

We always stressed: Building up an independent revolutionary youth organization is not an end in itself. The point is to mobilize forces amongst the youth for the formation of a revolutionary party of the working class.

Our central goal as Marxist youth is to build up a revolutionary workers‘ party based in the workplaces. We work towards this goal even when we intervene into the youth movement. This goal was, for us, always explicitly more important than the question of youth independence. So when there is a possibility for gathering and strengthening revolutionary communist forces, it would be a mistake to adhere stubbornly to the political independence of the youth.

Nevertheless, the principle of youth independence remains important. We believe that what the Communist International wrote in 1921 is still correct today: “The entire history of the proletarian youth movement in every country shows that only independent, that is, self-governing, youth organizations develop bold and determined revolutionary fighters and astute organizers of the proletarian revolution and soviet power.” (2) Young activists need more than just theory: they need a spirit of resistance and self-reliance that they can only learn in the struggle for their ideas. (They already learn obedience in their parents‘ house, in the bourgeoisie’s school and in the workplace). Autonomous youth structures that decide on their practical activities and their political tactics themselves are the best schools for revolutionary struggle. Moreover, they can work more effectively amongst the youth because they experience specific youth problems personally and are more easily accepted than older communists, who can easily remind one of parents, teachers and bosses.

Every generation must approach socialism on its own path, and therefore young activists today must work out new ideas rather than just adopting ready-made formulas from their “parents”. Therefore, a youth organization must provide an arena for wide debates on all political questions. We need the experiences and suggestions of the previous generations, but also the space to process them on our own.

Looking at the second aspect of Lenin’s slogan of the complete independence of the youth movement, we state that the organizational independence is important in nearly every situation, whereas the political independence can in some situations constitute a unnecessary obstacle for the gathering of the most conscious parts of the working class.

In certain situations, for example when a communist party is very weak and there is a crisis within a left-wing youth group, the slogan of the complete independence can be of the highest importance. A revolutionary communist youth organization could make an honest proposal to this youth group or to parts of it, offering the formation of a common revolutionary youth organization on the basis of complete independence, and in this way it could advance the fight against reformism and for Marxism decisively.

To win the broadest possible forces amongst the youth for a revolutionary program and a corresponding organization, we call for the formation of a revolutionary youth international. Like the construction of a workers international, we do not see this as a short-term project to be realized in the next months – for us this is a strategic orientation which we constantly aim for. The question of whether a completely independent youth organization, a revolutionary organization without any youth structure, or something in between represents the best tool in this struggle, is in the last instance a practical question that has to be answered according to the conditions in a given place. However, to not recognize the special position of youth in bourgeois society and to not incorporate their great energy and willingness to fight would be a major failure in the fight for socialism.

Fourth International conference of REVOLUTION, Berlin, September 2009

(1) “Jugend-Internationale” by V.I. Lenin, published in “Declarations of Independence”, p. 15.

(2) “Theses on the Youth Movement”, passed by the Executive Committee of the Communist International in August 1920, published in “Declarations of Independence”, p. 17.

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