The communist workers movement is continually weaving in new generations of young workers and youth attracted to the proletarian movement, training another generation of fighters. The responsibilities and structures that young socialists adopt today flow from a long tradition of communist youth organizations. Below are the "Theses on the youth movement" drafted by leaders of the Communist Youth International and adopted by the Executive Committee of the Communist International in August 1920. It appears as an appendix to Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! - Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress, 1920. This two-volume collection is part of the Pathfinder series "The Communist International in Lenin's Time." The book is copyright by Pathfinder, reprinted with permission.
1. The founding of proletarian youth organizations around the world results from several factors: the increased capitalist exploitation of young workers in all factories and workshops and in home industry, which can only lead to their spiritual and physical degeneration; militarism, whose burdens are born above all by working-class youth; the danger that their ranks will be permeated by bourgeois-nationalist ideology through the schools, the press, bourgeois youth organizations, and so on; and the special psychological characteristics of the younger generation.
2. Communist youth groups arose in every country as part of the development of the workers' movement as a whole during and after the imperialist war. This occurred in part through old Socialist youth organizations going over to the camp of the Communist International and in part through splits in these organizations.
3. The Communist youth organizations have the following tasks: the communist education of working-class youth, active participation in bringing down capitalism (the defense of the proletarian dictatorship and soviet construction after taking power), and the struggle to reorganize work and education on a new socialist basis. As much as possible, the Communist youth organizations promote the cultural development of young workers along the lines of the Marxist world view as well as physical education, which currently must aim primarily at military preparation.
4. The most important element in the communist education of youth, aside from theoretical education, is their taking an active part in the daily political struggles of the working class. It is in this respect that the Communist youth organizations are different from the social-patriotic and centrist youth groups. Their political struggles, in addition to their educational significance, have great and real importance for the international Communist movement.
5. 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. The independent action of working-class youth is the first prerequisite for their revolutionary communist development. By contrast, the social patriots' exercise of tutelage over the youth results in an opportunist, petty-bourgeois development. The communist development of young people requires special methods of work that reflect the special characteristics of their age group.
6. The relationship between the Communist parties and the Communist youth organizations will take different forms as a result of differences in objective conditions and in the state of the party in each country. In some countries, where the formation of Communist parties is still in flux and the youth organizations are just breaking away from the social-patriotic and centrist parties, our main slogan is that of the absolute political and organizational independence of the youth movement. Under such conditions this slogan is objectively revolutionary! The slogan of absolute independence is wrong, however, in countries where there are already strong Communist parties, and where this slogan is used by the social patriots and the centrists against the Communist youth and to mislead the youth. There the Communist youth organizations have based themselves on the program of the Communist Party.
7. In all countries where old and active Communist parties existed, a strong relationship between the Communist Party and the Communist youth organization was established. The form this took was that the Communist youth organization adopted the program of the Communist Party and functioned in the framework of its political positions. At the same time, in these cases, the youth (1) had their own centralized organization; (2) decided for themselves how to carry out their organizational, agitational, and propaganda activities; (3) decided the place and the forms of their participation in political struggle; and (4) discussed the main political questions. All youth organizations must arrive at this relationship with the Communist Party, not through compulsion by the party, but by being convinced and making their own free decision.
8. The Communist parties support the Communist youth organizations intellectually and materially, without tying this support to petty interference in the activity of the youth organization or the exercise of tutelage over it. For their part the Communist youth organizations support the Communist parties in the full range of their organizational activity, legal and illegal, and their political work.
9. The Communist International hails the formation of the Communist Youth International, whose basic tasks are the centralized leadership of the Communist youth movement, support of the national Communist youth groups, the formation of Communist youth groups where none yet exist, and international agitation around the ideas of communism and the youth movement.
10. The Communist Youth International is part of the Communist International. As such it subordinates itself to the decisions of the congresses of the Communist International and the political directives of its Executive Committee. It carries out independently its work of leading, organizing, strengthening, and broadening the youth International.
11. The Communist Youth International and its groups take part in the congresses of the Communist International. The executive committees of the Communist International and the youth International exchange representatives with decisive vote.
12. The Communist International assigns to its Executive
Committee and its member parties the task of spreading the
idea of the Communist youth movement among party members and
the broad working masses.
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