In 1961, the members of the Canadian Trotskyist youth organization joined the New Democratic Youth, where they worked to win NDY members to the program of revolutionary socialism. Despite repeated attempts by the NDP/NDY leadership to eliminate the socialist current, through expulsions and other means of suppressing debate, the revolutionary current in the NDY grew, and the magazine Young Socialist Forum reached an ever-wider audience.
But the conservatism of the NDY leadership eventually stultified the organization’s internal life, and cut it off from the growing wave of youth and student radicalization across Canada. In 1967, the Trotskyists decided to launch a public youth organization that could appeal to the new generation of radicals, while continuing to take advantage of any opportunities that might remain for socialists to work with or in the NDY.
The following two statements appeared in the August-September 1967 issue of Young Socialist Forum.
On July 8, a movement was born. Over 120 young people from across Canada met in Toronto for a three-day Conference called by Quebec’s Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes and by Young Socialist Forum.
We came from many backgrounds and experiences—from the New Democratic Youth; from the anti-war movement; from high school and university campaigns for democracy in education.
We met to exchange experiences, to discuss our problems, and to project directions for Canadian socialist youth. Most importantly, we met to found a new movement for social change—the Young Socialists/Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes.
We didn’t form the YS/ LJS lightly, or without thought. The debate and discussion took up all the time available—though we were able to take one night off for a party. We faced the massive problem of correlating the experiences of people from Vancouver with those of the Québécois, of finding a direction that was meaningful to all of us. The main resolution before the Conference was extensively amended twice before it was unanimously adopted.
Our experiences laid the basis for the movement we formed. Having seen the failure of other youth organizations to win more than temporary success, we attempted to learn from their mistakes.
We wanted a democratic organization, free from bureaucratic decrees and unilateral decisions. We wanted a movement that could be independent, drawing only on its members and supporters for resources—not on some rich patron or some dominating parent organization. We wanted an activist organization, dedicated to the cause of socialism, a movement that wouldn’t put its "image" before its principles. We wanted to take from the past the fire, not the ashes.
Jacquie Henderson, who is now organizer for the Toronto Young Socialists, expressed our feelings when she spoke at the Conference: "Our generation is bugged by the whole scene. We’re put down and turned off by the schools, and we can’t stand the thought of forty years on the assembly line. We face lives of uninterrupted mediocrity. So we rebel, we declare that we want no part of this society. But just rebelling, just dropping out, is no answer. It leads nowhere. We have to find new directions, new roads. We have to organize, and participate in the world-wide movement for the right to be human. Our generation faces an enormous task—we have to prepare for it."
In every country, young people are escaping from the traditions of the past. The old movements have in large measure become conservative—they offer no meaningful direction to young people. The Young Socialists/Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes hails the efforts of our generation to find new roads and stands with young people everywhere who are working against war, poverty and injustice.
Our Conference devoted most of its time to discussing what we could do, as socialists, in Canada.
Vietnam is the focus of international politics today. The YS/LJS sees as one of its major tasks the building of the Canadian movement against this war, which everyday threatens to escalate into a nuclear holocaust. We will work for united action against the war, for a movement which will encompass all organizations and individuals in the campaign against American intervention and Canadian complicity in this tiny country.
Despite the relative political freedom we enjoy in Canada, our schools are run like prisons—run in the interests of the elite that controls Canada. The universities are socially and financially inaccessible to most students—and are controlled by Boards dominated by big business. We will work for a Canada-wide campaign democratize the high schools, to end arbitrary exercise of power by teachers, principals and school boards. We join with the increasing numbers of students who are demanding the right to be represented on the university Boards of Governors, and who are working against the price tag society puts on education.
We support the New Democratic Party, not because of its timid program and bureaucratic leadership, but because it is the party of the trade union movement, of the organized working people in Canada. It is these people, when they pass beyond their present limited perspective, who can truly change Canada. The YS/LJS will work, in every election campaign, for NDP governments at the Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels—and if the NDP doesn’t run, we will. We call for a united New Democratic Youth, to which all radical organizations can affiliate, free from the present stifling atmosphere of witch-hunts and expulsions.
The YS/LJS will carry, in the most effective ways possible, the sort of actions which the LJS in Quebec and supporters of Young Socialist Forum have carried; regular public forums, demonstrations, soap-box speaking.
We are part of a generation of dissatisfied Canadian youth: we will be wherever our generation is—from Beatles concerts and coffee houses to high schools and universities.
The YS/LJS was formed to meet a real need—the need for an independent socialist organization built of youth and by youth, an organization committed to a course of action and involvement.
The Young Socialists/Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes is on the way—join us in international movement for socialism.
We were born during and after the most destructive war in history, and raised in the shadow of the bomb.
We live in a world torn by crises and wars—as Vietnam has shown, the mighty resources of the American colossus and its allies stand ready to crush popular movements for social change wherever they rise, around the world.
We are told that in Canada there are no classes, that we live in a land of equal opportunity for all. Yet the great wealth of this country—the factories and mines and forests—are owned by a tiny minority. While our parents struggle to pay their bills, the economic elite basks in luxury.
We have been taught that we live in the "Free World"—yet our government supports dictators such as Salazar and Ky and spends more on instruments of destruction than it does to eliminate poverty and hunger.
We have been taught about democracy in schools which resemble prisons.
Tens of thousands of our generation will be unable to finish their education—doomed by lack of funds to dehumanizing jobs. We see little future in this society other than socially enforced conformity in a culture which thrives on mediocrity.
We live in a society which declares human emotion "sinful", and which hypocritically denies the right to love without fear.
We live in a society which puts a price tag on everything. Even poets, writers and artists find the road to "success" demands that they shape their art to the whims of the wealthy and privileged.
It is no accident that the music of our generation is the class-conscious beat of the London and Liverpool slums and the driving soul sound of America’s black ghettos. This music, springing from the oppressed, finds a response in the hearts of young people who are beginning to question every aspect of the society around them.
Our generation is increasingly disillusioned. We seek new paths, new roads forward. We search for social change.
In July 1967, young people from across Canada came together to form the Young Socialists/Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes (YS/LJS). The YS/LJS was founded in the conviction that this disillusionment, this ferment, is part of a world-wide process of social struggle and social change. The world can be changed. For our generation and for humanity it must be changed. As socialists we believe that this ferment must be harnessed to the great task of transforming this society—of building a new world.
We stand for a world which can eliminate poverty and hunger and war; a world in which freedom is more than a word in a textbook; a world in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the producers themselves and the products of man are available to all.
We stand for socialism!
Our heritage is rich. We look back to William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau; to Louis Riel; to the men who took part in the Winnipeg General Strike; to the men who fought the army and the cops to bring industrial unionism to Canada—and we look to the struggles of our own time.
The lack of direction and the great problems of disorientation among Canadians are only a pale reflection of a world phenomena. In other parts of the world the people have already launched a tremendous struggle against the world-wide imperialist system. As socialists our perspective extends beyond Canada. We must approach the international capitalist system as internationalists.
We stand with the oppressed, with all those who struggle for a better world. With Cuba, first workers state in the Western Hemisphere. With the guerrilla and resistance fighters from Bolivia to Angola, from Spain to Harlem.
Above all, we declare our full solidarity with the heroic people of Vietnam, who have fought for nearly three decades against invasion and oppression. We see as one of our major tasks the mobilizing of a mass movement for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam NOW.
Around the world humanity is saying "Enough" and is beginning to move. Though our lives and conditions be different; though we live in different parts of the world; though our struggles take different forms; ours is a common goal—an end to the oppression and exploitation of man by man.
The YS/LJS was founded in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution—which, by overthrowing the old order and building a workers state, opened a new era of socialist revolution on a world scale. The YS/LJS learns from the great revolutionaries of this era—Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg. We hail all those who carry this tradition forward—Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Hugo Blanco.
We defend without reservation or qualification, the great advances made by the USSR, Eastern Europe and China. However, the great achievement of the Russian Revolution could not overcome the problems inherited from Tsarist days. Faced with tremendous poverty, illiteracy and economic and cultural backwardness, encircled by hostile capitalist nations, the young workers state succumbed to bureaucratic degeneration under Stalinism. Stalinism permeated and seized control over the Communist International founded by Lenin, and thereby established itself China. It followed the Red Army into Eastern Europe. The struggle is now under way to open the road to socialism in workers states and to establish genuine socialist democracy. Part of the heritage of the YS/LJS is the uprising of Hungarian and Polish workers and students in 1956 against bureaucratic tyranny.
For Real Democracy
Our generation has been raised to think of Canada as a country steeped in the ideals of liberty, equality and brotherhood.
What democratic rights we have were not handed to us on a silver platter—they were won in struggle—by men such William Lyon Mackenzie—by the organized labour movement, inspired and often led by socialists.
For most Canadians democracy remains a word without meaning. We are cut off from the ability to make decisions affecting our own lives. The giant corporations determine all the key questions.
What does Canadian democracy mean to the Canadian Indian, deprived of his heritage and birthright? to the worker whose strike is broken by the corporate controlled courts and police forces? to non-white immigrants faced with racism? to the many Canadians who live in poverty, denied the social power to escape it? to women denied by law the right to control their bodies, cut off from many jobs? to students trapped in meaningless courses in regimented schools?
Behind the facade of parliament lies the fact of a fundamentally undemocratic distribution of power that is inherent in capitalism. Sociologist John Porter has estimated that less than one thousand men, privileged by birth, own and control the Canadian economy. This uncontrollable power enables them to manipulate and control Canada’s social institutions for their own ends.
The YS/LJS defends the rights that we won—and works to extend democracy to all areas of life. We call for the nationalization of the gigantic corporations and monopolies, with control exercised, not by government bureaucrats, but by the people who work in the publicly owned industries. Only when we have economic democracy, when production is planned for use and not for profit, when the right of all to share in the abundance of our country is established - only then will democracy be truly established.
Democracy Rules? Not in Schools!
Our educational system, from pre-school to university, is designed to produce uncritical quiescent cogs who will fit into present day society with as little friction as possible. The education system is bent to serve the narrow interests of the businessmen who control it. From the beginning of our education we are streamed and divided. In high school it is disgustingly and openly carried out—working class students are directed to the technical schools and "community colleges", while middle and upper class students go into the "academic" courses. The high schools which should be centres of knowledge, of questioning and curiosity, are like the factories, run with regimental discipline, designed to fit the students into the monotonous routine of the jobs that await them.
The universities remain basically the preserves of an elite—the children of the well to do. For most high school graduates the cost of university is prohibitive—not to mention all the many other difficulties faced by students from workers families in schools oriented to our highly competitive society.
The YS/LJS calls for a thorough democratization of the schools. Student representation on all governing bodies, student control over student activities and discipline. End the tyranny of the school boards and administrators—kick business off the boards. End religious instruction in schools. Free education at all levels with a living allowance for students over 16. Let’s have an education system for students.
Self Determination for Quebec
It is over two hundred years since the British conquest of Quebec, yet the rulers of English Canada still suppress the rights and aspirations of the Quebecois. The economy of Quebec is dominated by English Canadian and American corporations—and young French Canadians are relegated to the worst jobs. The oppression of Quebec has a national as well as a social character, and the YS/LJS stands opposed to the oppression of any nation. We recognize the right of Quebec, as a nation with distinct historical, linguistic, cultural and geographic characteristics, to determine its own relationship with English Canada—up to and including separation. This is not a decision for English Canadians to make—it must be the decision of the people of Quebec.
Support the NDP
How can Canada be changed? Certainly no elite will serve the task. We do not want to replace one group of masters with another. Nor do we want the patronizing assistance of those whose real interests lie with the present system. We must look to those whose interests lie in change—to the working people of Canada, the people who work in the factories and offices of our society. They built the society—and they too are cut off from power and progress by the tiny minority that owns the wealth in Canada. The bosses need the working people—but the workers don’t need the bosses.
Despite the relative quiescence of the working people, it is clear that their very life situation forces them to come repeatedly into conflict with the system. They find themselves in daily conflict with the employers in the struggle for decent wages and security. The wave of strikes in Canada today is only a preview of what can happen—of what will happen.
In 1961, the organized trade union movement broke from the big business parties to build their own—the New Democratic Party. Despite its present timid and image-conscious leadership, despite its milk and water program, the NDP, owing to its social composition, stands as a constant challenge to the power of the barons of industry. The YS/LJS whole-heartedly supports the NDP, the party of the working people in Canada. It is these people, when they see the need for real social change and are armed with a socialist program and leadership, that will build a socialist Canada. We as young people must participate in this process. We call for a mass, action-oriented New Democratic Youth—free from the odour of expulsions—free from the fetters of domination by the present leadership of the NDP. We call for an NDY to which all radical youth organizations can freely affiliate, an NDY which unites young people in support of the labour party.
A Socialist Canada in a Socialist World
Those who doubted fifty years ago, that socialism would ever come about, are challenged today by the existence of post-capitalist states encompassing one-third of the world population. The world’s peoples are clearly on the road to the most thoroughgoing social change in history.
A new world is being created—a world which will put people before money, which will create a participatory democracy every level. The potential of mankind virtually limitless, if it is freed from economic and social oppression.
Young people everywhere are beginning to break from the conservatism of the old official Communist and Social Democratic misleaderships. New movements are being formed, new directions are being tried. Our generation faces the task of finding the means to take up the struggle which the old movements have failed to carry—to participate in the international movement for socialism.
The YS/ LJS was formed to serve these aims. As a democratic and organizationally independent movement of young people, we are part of the world community of socialists and part of our generation in Canada. We have no illusions that the way will be easy, no visions of quick success. But the future belongs to humanity and socialism!
Copyright South Branch Publishing. All