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Report on the Young Socialists,  1966

From Young Socialists Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 1, Feb. 1967. The document itself is dated December 1966, and is signed "J. Crandall," a pen-name used by John Riddell, the executive secretary of the Young Socialists. It appears to be a report prepared for the information of members of the Fourth International around the world.

For ease of reading, we have changed the title and subheads from all-capitals to upper and lower case in Bold. We have italicized the names of organizations and publications that were underlined in the original.

International Report on the
Young Socialists Of Canada

The vehicle for our youth work in Canada is the Young Socialists, a Trotskyist youth movement. The purpose of the Canadian YS is defined in its constitution: "to educate youth in the program of revolutionary Marxism and enlist the youth of our society in the struggle to build a vanguard party..." The relationship to the Canadian Section is clearly set down in the constitution: "The Canadian Section and the YS are autonomous parts of a common movement. The YS declares its adherence to the objectives and program of the Canadian Section, but within that framework is completely autonomous as an organization."

The history of the YS dates from 1960-61, when young members of the Canadian Section set up Trotskyist youth groups in Toronto and Vancouver. Neither group numbered initially more than half a dozen. From the beginning we placed our central emphasis on building these groups, on building the forces of Trotskyist youth in Canada.

The formation of the New Democratic Party, Canada’s labor party, in 1961 presented us with a tremendous opportunity and challenge. We were reluctantly compelled to give up the open face of our youth groups in order to join and establish ourselves in the youth wing of the NDP. Henceforth our youth movement operated on two levels. Externally, most of our comrades were active members of the New Democratic Youth and prominent leaders of its left wing. Internally, we bent every effort to build our own Trotskyist youth organization, recruiting to it the most advanced young radicals we met, both in the NDY and through the open activities of our adult movement.

In 1962, our comrades in Vancouver initiated a mimeographed publication of our tendency in the NDY—Young Socialist Forum. In 1963 about 30 comrades were expelled from the NDY—almost our entire NDY fraction. The expelled comrades continued the publication of Young Socialist Forum in a printed format, and established it as the open face of Canadian Trotskyist youth. Within a year we were able to rebuild our fraction in the NDY to a greater strength than before. In 1965, we held our first convention and drew together our youth locals in a democratic-centralist Canada-wide organization, the Young Socialists.

The Young Socialists arose in English Canada,. However, we now have an open youth group in Montreal of both English-speaking and French-speaking comrades, the Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes. The LJS holds forums, and circulates both La Lutte Ourvriere, French-language publication of our adult movement and Young Socialist Forum.

We now have functioning locals in six centers. The YS makes considerable financial demands on its members, and sustains our magazine, our headquarters, three full-time workers, as well as the expenses of our day-to-day activities. We have achieved a real hegemony among radical youth tendencies: we are the only tendency to have a cohesive national structure, a popular magazine, regularly held public functions across the country We are the leading political influence in the student anti-war movement. Our membership has been doubling every 2-3 years. We now have more militants than any other radical youth organization except the New Democratic Youth, whose activists are, to a large extent, our own comrades.

Our Orientation to Youth Work

Our goal of building a Trotskyist youth movement is based on the conviction that young people face their own distinctive problems, have their own social outlook, and that they will come to socialism through their own organizations under a leadership which develops out of their own ranks. But who Are these youth? What is the proper field of activity for a youth movement? The Canadian Section itself is very young—the average age of delegates to its last convention was only 25. What is the proper division of labor with the adult movement?

We see the schools and the universities as the natural arena for youth work. Students face the characteristic dilemmas and share the characteristic attitudes of young people. We attract some young workers, but they are mainly those fresh out of school, and not yet engaged in trade union activity. We are not a movement of young adults. Active trade unionists, no matter how young, face the same problems and are attracted to the same organizations as adult workers.

Young people usually leave school, marry and assume the responsibilities and outlook of adults before they are 25. The YS has an age limit of 27—but this serves the purpose only of enabling us to develop a mature, experienced youth leadership. YS members tend to leave the youth at a younger age, and our average age is 21. The average age of members of our leading bodies is also 21.

Our recruits come in roughly equal proportions from the universities, the high schools, and from among young workers. Of our membership, roughly one half are in school. Roughly one fifth are in trade unions—most of them having entered a unionized shop after joining the movement.

We have campaigned through the New Democratic Youth and our open activities for democracy in the schools, and a number of our comrades have participated in student struggles in the high schools. We are now working at rounding out a full program for, youth, and at presenting it more regularly in our publication, Young Socialist Forum.

The Young Socialists have a Trotskyist program, and are organized along the principles of democratic centralism, But the Youth is not a mirror image of the adult movement nor is it a fraction of the adult movement working in the youth arena. The YS recruits more aggressively than the adult movement, and at a more basic political level. Its discipline is more flexible, and its propaganda in general more oriented to the problems and concerns of young people. The YS has been able to reach out far more broadly and more boldly, recruit and integrate young revolutionaries into the Trotskyist movement, and has thus enormously speeded the growth of the adult section.

Our Work in the New Democratic Youth

The New Democratic Youth has the largest membership by far of radical youth organizations in Canada, and its right wing leadership is our main rival for hegemony of Canadian radical youth. The Communist Party is weak and the Maoist movement stillborn, and neither have any real influence among young people. There are no other groups claiming to represent Marxism. The much publicized New Left is weak, disorganized and. non-political in orientation.

The New Democratic Party was formed in 1961 on the initiative of the bureaucracy of the main Canadian trade union federation and a group of reformist politicians, and it was saddled from the beginning with a reformist leadership and program. But its formation was a break with bourgeois politics for the labour movement, and thus a step forward for the whole working class. Since 1961 the NDP has won the support of hundreds of thousands of workers. In contrast to the social-democratic and communist parties of Europe, the NDP has no strong reformist tradition, and although it has hardened in the past fear years, its leadership is far less firmly entrenched.

The League for Socialist Action, public face of our movement in English Canada, calls on workers to support and join the NDP, and to join us in the struggle to win the NDP to socialism. Not surprisingly, the LSA has been outlawed by the NDP leadership. We have a substantial number of comrades working in the party, where we have organized a socialist caucus—while the LSA continues to present its ideas openly.

The formation of the New Democratic Party had an enormous influence on radical youth: opening the way for them to join a mass movement engaged in the struggle for political power, and to make contact with the mass organizations of the working class. While the NDP leadership has not encouraged the growth of the Youth, and has saddled it with a reformist do-nothing leadership, the Youth has maintained 2500 members on the books since its foundation.

We entered the NDY and plunged into the task of building it, and of organizing the socialists in the NDY into a left caucus struggling to win it to a socialist leadership and program. At the same time we bent every effort to strengthen our own group, and to increase our own forces. We did not aim to split the NDY, or some part of it, from the Party, and set up an independent centrist youth tendency. We saw our task not as creating a centrist youth movement, but as building the Trotskyist youth, Our strategy was to utilize the NDY as an arena for our propaganda and our recruitment, an arena in which our contacts and comrades could maintain contact with the mass movement, the NDP, and fight out the decisive alternative between reformism and revolutionary socialism which the NDP has placed before Canadian radicals.

Our "Left Caucus" in the NDY is loosely organized and operates as a flexible united front of socialists in the NDY. We have resisted tendencies for the Caucus to take on a more highly organized character or more advanced program in order to prevent it from becoming a substitute for our own revolutionary socialist youth movement.

At every stage of our NDY work we maintained a strong open face. During the period when we had no open youth face, we utilized the public face of the adult movement, the League for Socialist Action. The LSA holds weekly or fortnightly forums in the main centres, to which we brought our youth contacts. It publishes a monthly newspaper, giving us the invaluable weapon of a popular publication carefully presenting the Trotskyist line on all major questions, whose content is determined by our movement alone. The movement always maintained a substantial number of open comrades who could directly present the Trotskyist point of view to our contacts, and convince them of the necessity to join the Trotskyist movement.

Since 1963 the Young Socialists have had their own public face, the magazine Young Socialist Forum. YSF now maintains public headquarters, holds regular public meetings, dances, and other activities, sponsors university Socialist Clubs, and even runs for election to civic office. Young people have been attracted all the more readily to a youthful expression of Trotskyist ideas.

Our independent pole of attraction was an invaluable aid to our NDY work. The attractiveness of the NDY to militant youth is limited by the reformist program of the NDP, and a good part of the socialists in the NDY were sent there by us, after we got to know them through open activities. Open work is a pole of attraction for NDYers, showing them the effectiveness and necessity of broad revolutionary socialist propaganda and of building an independent revolutionary socialist group. We met nearly half our recruits through our open work. While the NDP has huge support among young people, few of them are attracted to the NDY. In those centres where we are established our public activities are more attractive to young people than those of the NDY.

Anti-War Work

While Canada is not participating directly in the fighting in Vietnam, the Canadian government supports and aids the US. war effort in a variety of ways: diplomatic support, apologist for the U.S. on the International Control Commission, and open seller of war material. The war has had a great impact on Canadian politics, and is the biggest political question for young people.

For over a year, the main priority of our external work has been to build a student anti-war movement in Canada. We were held back for a time by the opposition of every other political tendency to the building of a united anti-war movement, and the lack of any spontaneous protest by Canadian students.

All this delayed the emergence of a real student movement until this Autumn, when we were able to call, on our own initiative, a Canada-wide Student Days of Protest. The action was carried in most of the major Canadian cities, and while the size of the demonstrations was usually modest, it was the most impressive student action in Canada in many years. Over a dozen student committees formed around this action, and most have remained active. Three of them are based in the high schools. The student committees have bypassed the other political tendencies, and by and large have attracted politically uncommitted students who have radicalized around the issue of Vietnam.

We are the only political tendency with any real influence in this movement, and in most areas we are its recognized leadership. Our program for the anti-war movement is widely accepted in the movement. Student committees have generally worked together with community committees in common projects and most student committees circulate the Canada-Vietnam Newsletter, which broadly reflects our positions in the movement. Our biggest project now is the Russell Tribunal and we hope in the coming months to launch a major action around it. At the same time we hope to bring the committees together in some kind of Canada-wide federation.

We have pushed for a program based on End Canadian Complicity and Immediate Withdrawal of U.S. Troops. We have one through a struggle against the proponents of "negotiations" similar to that in the U.S.—though far less intense. "Withdrawal" is now accepted by most of the student committees. We have pushed for the slogan End Canadian Complicity in order to turn the movement against the Canadian supporters of the war, against our own capitalist class, and take it out of the track of supporting some kind of anti-American "De-Gaullist" tendency in Canada.

We have not raised the slogan of support of the National Liberation Front in the anti-war committees. We are aiming for a broad united-front movement of all those who oppose the war. Of the third of the Canadian population who favour Withdrawal of U.S. troops only an insignificant minority would be prepared to support the Vietnamese revolution. We wish to emphasize our ties with the U.S. anti-war movement and our desire to save the lives not just of Vietnamese—but of the American G.I.’s as well. The program of the anti-war movement must be clearly based on self-determination for Vietnam and 100% opposition to U.S. presence in Vietnam—but it must be a program for a mass movement of Canadians not yet ready to defend socialist revolutions. Our own movement, the Young Socialists, is carrying out the task of explaining and openly defending the Vietnamese revolution to young people.

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