Third Congress of the Communist International
The Communist International and the Communist Youth Movement
12 July 1921
1 The young socialist movement came into existence as a result of the steadily increasing capitalist exploitation of young workers and also of the growth of bourgeois militarism. The movement was a reaction against attempts to poison the minds of young workers with bourgeois nationalist ideology and against the tendency of most of the social-democratic parties and the trade unions to neglect the economic, political and cultural demands of young workers.
In most countries the social-democratic parties and the unions, which were growing increasingly opportunist and revisionist, took no part in establishing young socialist organisations, and in certain countries they even opposed the creation of a youth movement. The reformist social-democratic parties and trade unions saw the independent revolutionary socialist youth organisations as a serious threat to their opportunist policies. They sought to introduce a bureaucratic control over the youth organisations and destroy their independence, thus stifling the movement, changing its character and adapting it to social-democratic politics.
2 As a result of the imperialist war and the positions taken towards it by social democracy almost everywhere, the contradictions between the social-democratic parties and the international revolutionary organisations inevitably grew and eventually led to open conflict. The living conditions of young workers sharply deteriorated; there was mobilisation and military service on the one hand, and, on the other, the increasing exploitation in the munitions industries and militarisation of civilian life. The most class-conscious young socialists opposed the war and the nationalist propaganda. They dissociated themselves from the social-democratic parties and undertook independent political activity (the International Youth Conferences at Berne in 1915 and Jena in 1916).
In their struggle against the war, the young socialist organisations were supported by the most dedicated revolutionary groups and became an important focus for the revolutionary forces. In most countries no revolutionary parties existed and the youth organisations took over their role; they became independent political organisations and acted as the vanguard in the revolutionary struggle.
3 With the establishment of the Communist International and, in some countries, of Communist Parties, the role of the revolutionary youth organisations changes. Young workers, because of their economic position and because of their psychological make-up, are more easily won to Communist ideas and are quicker to show enthusiasm for revolutionary struggle than adult workers. Nevertheless, the youth movement relinquishes to the Communist Parties its vanguard role of organising independent activity and providing political leadership. The further existence of Young Communist organisations as politically independent and leading organisations would mean that two Communist Parties existed, in competition with one another and differing only in the age of their membership.
4 At the present time the role of the Young Communist movement is to organise the mass of young workers, educate them in the ideas of Communism, and draw them into the struggle for the Communist revolution.
The Communist youth organisations can no longer limit themselves to working in small propaganda circles. They must win the broad masses of workers by conducting a permanent campaign of agitation, using the newest methods. In conjunction with the Communist Parties and the trade unions, they must organise the economic struggle.
The new tasks of the Communist youth organisations require that their educational work be extended and intensified. The members of the youth movement receive their Communist education on the one hand through active participation in all revolutionary struggles and on the other through a study of Marxist theory.
Another important task facing the Young Communist organisations in the immediate future is to break the hold of centrist and social-patriotic ideas on young workers and free the movement from the influences of the social-democratic officials and youth leaders. At the same time, the Young Communist organisations must do everything they can to ‘rejuvenate’ the Communist Parties by parting with their older members, who then join the adult Parties.
The Young Communist organisations participate in the discussion of all political questions, help build the Communist Parties and take part in all revolutionary activity and struggle. This is the main difference between them and the youth sections of the centrist and socialist unions.
5 The relations between the Young Communist organisations and the Communist Party are fundamentally different from those between the revolutionary young socialist organisations and the social-democratic parties. In the common struggle to hasten the proletarian revolution, the greatest unity and strictest centralisation are essential. Political leadership at the international level must belong to the Communist International and at the national level to the respective national sections.
It is the duty of the Young Communist organisations to follow this political leadership (its programme, tactics and political directives) and merge with the general revolutionary front. The Communist Parties are at different stages of development and therefore the Executive Committee of the Communist International and the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International should apply this principle in accordance with the circumstances obtaining in each particular case.
The Young Communist movement has begun to organise its members according to the principle of strict centralisation and in its relations with the Communist International – the leader and bearer of the proletarian revolution – it will be governed by an iron discipline. All political and tactical questions are discussed in the ranks of the Communist youth organisation, which then takes a position and works in the Communist Party of its country in accordance with the resolutions passed by the Party, in no circumstance working against them.
If the Communist youth organisation has serious differences with the Communist Party, it has the right to appeal to the Executive Committee of the Communist International.
Loss of political independence in no way implies loss of the organisational independence which is so essential for political education.
Strong centralisation and effective unity are essential for the successful advancement of the revolutionary struggle, and therefore, in those countries where historical development has left the youth dependent upon the Party, the dependence should be preserved; differences between the two bodies are decided by the EC of the Communist International and the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International.
6 One of the most immediate and most important tasks of the Young Communist organisations is to fight the belief in political independence inherited from the period when the youth organisations enjoyed absolute autonomy, and which is still subscribed to by some members. The press and organisational apparatus of the Young Communist movement must be used to educate young workers to be responsible and active members of a united Communist Party.
At the present time the Communist youth organisations are beginning to attract increasing numbers of young workers and are developing into mass organisations; it is therefore important that they give the greatest possible time and effort to education.
7 Close co-operation between the Young Communist organisations and the Communist Parties in political work must be reflected in close organisational links. It is essential that each organisation should at all times be represented at all levels of the other organisation (from the central Party organs and district, regional and local organisations down to the cells of Communist groups and the trade unions) and particularly at all conferences and congresses. In this way the Communist Parties will be able to exert a permanent influence on the movement and encourage political activity, while the youth organisations, in their turn, can influence the Party.
8 The relations established between the Communist Youth International and the Communist International are even closer than those between the individual Parties and their youth organisations. The Communist Youth International has to provide the Communist youth movement with a centralised leadership, offer moral and material support to individual unions, form Young Communist organisations where none has existed and publicise the Communist youth movement and its programme. The Communist Youth International is a section of the Communist International and, as such, is bound by the decisions of its congresses and its Central Committee. The Communist Youth International conducts its work within the framework of these decisions and thus passes on the political line of the Communist International to all its sections. A well-developed system of reciprocal representation and close and constant co-operation guarantees that the Communist Youth International will make gains in all the spheres of its activity (leadership, agitation, organisation and the work of strengthening and supporting the Communist youth organisations).