Report on the Young Socialists,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.