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Ernest Erber

The YPSL and the AYC

(August 1936)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol.2 No.7 , August 1936, p. 9.
Transcribed and Marked up by by Damon Maxwell for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE PROBLEM that faced the YPSL at Cleveland as an organization of revolutionary Socialist youth may be summed up as follows. (1) The existence of the American Youth Congress is a living fact that cannot be altered by calling it good or bad. (2) The YPSL has been part of the AYC since its inception and therefore carries a certain share of the responsibility for its existence. It has a further responsibility to the groups that have looked to it for leadership in the AYC. (3) During the last year all the tendencies that make the AYC a Junior People’s Front have been strengthened and all the tendencies that make it a united front have been weakened. (4) The YPSL knew it could not permanently be part of a People’s Front movement even if it remained with objections to the character of the movement. It therefore had to hold the perspective of fighting to change its character and to assume the perspective of breaking when it became obvious that no hope of effecting such a change remained.

Only One Course Possible

The question then arises as to what change the YPSL could propose. The League understands that a united front organization on a permanent basis for even minimum demands like the American Youth Act becomes a propaganda organization in the end and propaganda is a function revolutionists always jealously reserve for their own organization. The circumstances permitted only one course. We proposed that the AYC become a machinery to keep organizations in contact with one another so that it could readily initiate united front actions as the need for such actions arose. This was our central proposal and we carried the fight around it as it effected every other question that arose before the Congress.

Comrade Thurber is correct when he says the YPSL stresses the need of a working-class base for the AYC and such activities as will align it on the side of labor in the class struggle. We did not however, approach the question from the need of the AYC declaring that it needs a working-class base. As Marxists we seek to involve the middle classes in the class struggle on the side of the workers not by saying that a movement without a labor base is valueless, but by involving the middle class elements in united front actions with the working-class. We rest assured that the working-class leadership of such united fronts will not be threatened as long as the leaders of the working-class themselves do not betray its interests. (The People’s Front is precisely such a betrayal of the interests of the workers to those of the middle classes.)

A “CIO” for the AYC

The YPSL has not broken with the AYC. We have remained in and built a bloc of powerful trade unions and other organizations to carry on the fight inside the AYC to convert it into a united front machinery. We still continue the agitation for our united front pact called a “Declaration of Purpose” which we proposed at Cleveland. We will engage in all united front actions the AYC carries out like parades, demonstrations, mass meetings (we will let the YCL run the art exhibits and boat rides). But we will do more than agitate for the correct united front structure. We will demonstrate what we mean by initiating united front actions outside the AYC in which we will involve youth organizations of both the working and the middle class youth organizations in the AYC and organizations outside the AYC. If the YCL remains obstinate and continues to impose its People’s Front concept upon the AYC by means of its mechanical control, it may become necessary to utilize these united front actions outside the AYC to build up a new united front center for the organizations of youth willing to act on specific questions of the fight against militarism, for civil liberties, and for the defense of the economic interests of the youth.

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