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Newsletter (in English)


In the trench warfare between REVOLUTION and the LFI, the central question was whether the LFI should work as a faction within Revo. With numerous historical examples, independents in Revo tried to show that this “entryism in one’s own youth organization” had been consistently rejected by the Trotskyist movement up till now. The leadership of REVO/DE wrote…

The principle of the independence of the youth organization has been a foundation of the communist movement for more than eighty years. It was defended by Lenin, Liebknecht and Trotsky.

REVOLUTION is not the first Trotskyist youth organization to call itself independent. There have been many before us, including some extremely negative examples like the “Young Socialists” in the Labour Party in the UK in the 1960s – a large but largely unpolitical group based on frenzied activity, with nearly 50-year-old Gerry Healy acting as informal leader and public spokesman. But there have also been positive examples: the Young Socialists’ Alliance in the US, which the Socialist Workers’ Party created in the late 1950s. The YSA was an organizationally independent youth organization which was politically subordinate to the SWP and which brought together different tendencies of left-wing youth who worked out a Marxist programme in a discussion lasting several years.

This youth organization came to an end in the early 1960s. Because the YSA leadership rejected SWP’s accomodation to the Castro government, the SWP dropped the principle of youth independence and placed all its members (around half of the YSA leadership) under party discipline. The YSA ceased to exist as an independent organization and sunk into meaninglessness.

For our discussions we should consider some of the documents of the SWP/YSA. This will merely be a summary of the most important letters and resolutions. Nonetheless it is no replacement for the original texts which are available in the brochure “The Leninist Position on Youth-Party Relations, documents from the YSA & SWP, 1957-61”, and online1.

Before the YSA was started, Murray Weiss, a leading SWP member, explained how the SWP would intervene in the leftist youth movement, which was in chaos after the collapse of the CP­USA youth. The SWP’s method was to work in an open and constructive fashion within a broad organization. The question was asked if young SWP members would act as a faction within the youth movement – Weiss answered with a definite “no”. Party members belonging to a minority within the party would have the right and the duty to fight for their positions in front of the youth, rather than just towing the party line, as Weiss explained:

“The concept of the responsibility of a minority to confine its struggle basically to the party has never implied limiting the freedom of expression of supporters of a minority within a revolutionary youth organization, whatever the exact relation of such an organization to the party (is). As a matter of fact, all the great struggles within the party were invariably paralleled in the youth organization. Or … under certain circumstances, found their major arena in the youth movement. Such was the case with regard to the left wing in the international social-democracy.”

Weiss described an episode from the 1930s when a debate within the SWP about the “labour party tactic” was carried out in the youth organization: “I cannot recall a single attempt on anyone’s part to question the right of the SWP minority to fight for its position among the youth or the charge that in doing so they were violating some organizational principle.”

Thus the independence of the youth movement requires that all major questions, including and especially those on which the party is divided, be discussed and decided by the youth independently. This is important not just for the development of the youth but in some cases to correct mistakes of the party.

Based on the experience of the First World War, when youth organizations played a crucial role in the fight for revolutionary internationalism and the foundation of the parties of the Communist International, the SWP drew the conclusion that a revolutionary party must strive to make the youth movement as independent as possible.

Weiss then added, as an extra guarantee against factional work: “No one who held the Leninist view of the revolutionary party’s relation to the youth movement has, to my knowledge, ever attempted to introduce the practice of a party fraction in the youth movement.”

Based on these principles, the SWP could contribute a great deal towards building up the YSA as a broad, revolutionary youth movement, which included several different tendencies and worked out a common, Marxist programme. It grew into the most dynamic left-wing youth organization in the USA. Tim Wohlforth, SWP member and YSA leader, summarizing the experiences of several years’ work in a report to the SWP conference, stressed the importance of openness:

“The party based its policy on a recognition of the organizational independence of the youth. It did not attempt to dictate to the youth. … The youth movement is neither an opponent organization within which the party members operate as a faction nor a simple appendage of the party … No young person in his right mind (and these are the only young people we want) would join a youth group if its policies were determined by a caucus of that group composed of members of an adult party. The quickest way to kill the youth movement is to impose that type of discipline within it.”

Wohlforth concludes that the SWP should not “resort to simply applying discipline on party members in the youth. [This] approach, which may be necessary under extraordinary circumstances … tends to undermine the essential unity of party and non-party youth, eat away at the independent organization of the youth, and damage the possibilities for future growth of the youth movement.”

Now such independence may cost a good deal of effort. As the editors of the brochure, years later, summarized: the youth “must be assisted in acquiring, through struggle inside as well as outside the movement, the necessary revolutionary qualities of discipline and intransigence. But such struggle often clashes with internal order. Moreover, it places on the incumbent ‘adult’ leadership the continuing responsibility and necessity to defend its program and tactics.”

The party’s programme and tactics could be adopted simply by giving a party faction in the youth organization instructions about which policies to force through. This is quick, but it blocks the development of the youth movement, not only of the independent youth but also of the party youth charged with carrying out these directives.

Finally, the editors of the broshure taunted the hypocrisy of the SWP leadership in shutting down the independent youth organization. Their position would have meant to “pretend that a youth organization is an opponent organization, in which the party members need discipline in action (with the unique logic to this reasoning being the need to mobilize its members to fight its own young sympathizers!)”


1. Brochure: „The Leninist Position on Youth-Party Relations, documents from the YSA & SWP, 1957-61”, Spartacist League/US, 1967,


An internal polemic in REVOLUTION, written by the leadership of REVO/DE on June 2, 2006

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