ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY (logo here) YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF AMERICA
The split of the Socialist Party of America in 1919 affected its youth section, the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL), as well. A segment of the organization departed its ranks amidst the controversy, while the organization attempted to steer to a position of neutrality between the warring factions of American Communism, the Communist Party of America and the Communist Labor Party of America. While both of those organizations approved the operation of a youth section in principle, in practice they had other pressing concerns and did nothing along that line. Loyalists to the SPA attempted to regain the organization for the mother organization, and amidst factional rancor and financial poverty, the national organization dissolved, as did most of the local units of the organization.
Article XII of the constitution of the Communist Labor Party of America, passed at the group's founding convention in September 1919, included provisions calling for the formation of a "Young People's Communist Labor League." This group was to be under the control of the various city, county, and state organizations and was to be entitled to elect a fraternal delegate to the annual conventions of the party. However it appears that this organization was never launched in practice, with the CLP organization being driven underground by the so-called Palmer Raids held that winter.
As early as 1920, a skeleton of a "Young People's Communist League" was in existence. This organization sent a fraternal delegate to the 2nd Convention of the United Communist Party [Kingston, NY, Dec. 24, 1920 to Jan. 2, 1921], where he delivered a report on Communist youth activity on Dec. 26. It was at this convention that a serious effort was taken to establish a Young Communist League of America. The convention resolution may be downloaded here. "H. Edwards" was appointed national organizer by the party, provisional rules and first leaflets were drawn up, and organizational work was begun in all the major cities in which the UCP had a presence. By April of 1921, the YCLA claimed that "about 20 groups" were "definitely organized."
[fn. "H. Edwards" [Oliver Carlson], Report to the 2nd World Congress of the YCI," NARA M-1085, reel 939, doc. 122.]
The YCL was headed by a "Provisional NEC" from January 1921 until the formal founding convention of the organization, held in May 1922. The organization was marked by financial difficulties during this interval and also an internal controversy in which 2 members of the Provisional NEC were suspended and finally expelled from the organization.
[fn. YCL Bulletin No. 5, June 5, 1922, pg. 2.]
Secretary of the Provisional NEC Oliver Carlson later recalled the severity of his initial organizational task:
The initial work was very difficult. Individual contact had to be made with responsible young revolutionists. Very few of them had any conception whatsoever of underground work; and those who did have were for the most part fully occupied in the party. But little by little groups were established in the larger cities of the East and Middle West.
[fn. Oliver Carlson, "Looking Backward," The Young Worker, June 1, 1924, pg. 4.]
This organizational challenge came to an abrupt end for Carlson when early in the Spring of 1921 the Young Communist International announced plans for a Congress, slated for Italy. Carlson departed for Europe to act as American delegate to the Congress, which was moved to Jena and Berlin, Germany, due to the Fascist threat in Italy. Initial sessions were held from April 7-10, 1921, before the Congress was abruptly terminated, due to the failure of the Soviet delegation to attend and at the request of the Communist International to move the gathering to Moscow and to hold it in conjunction with the forthcoming 3rd World Congress of the CI. This "real" 2nd Convention of the YCI took place from July 9-24, 1921, with Carlson ("Tucker") being joined by a second representative of the American Young Communist movement, Gus Schulenberg ("Morton").
It was at this time that the slogan "To The Masses" was being advanced in the Communist movement, and Carlson and Schulenberg returned from Moscow with instructions to build the American Young Communist movement as a legal entity with a view to the establishment of an authentic mass movement. This proved a matter of great controversy in the American Communist Party, which was beset by factional warfare and nearly bankrupt in the interval. Little was accomplished organizationally in Carlson's absence; nor was much accomplished in the way of underground youth organization upon his return. It was only the establishment of a successful parallel Workers Party of America for the underground Communist Party of America that opened the horizons for youth organization. A roughly equivalent scheme of parallel organizational structure was envisioned, with the underground Young Communist League designed to control the activities of its legal counterpart.
There were incidentally representatives of the "Young Workers League" of New York and Detroit which attended the founding convention of the WPA, but Carlson indicates these were little more than skeletons of old circles of the Independent Young People's Socialist League from these cities.
[fn. Oliver Carlson, "Looking Backward," The Young Worker, June 1, 1924, pg. 4; June 15, 1924, pg. 4.]
The "Provisional Secretary" of the YCL as of March of 1922 remained Oliver Carlson.
[fn. RGASPI, f. 515, op. 1, d. 155, l. 5.] 1. Founding Convention YCLA --- (Bethel, CT?) --- early May, 1922
It was not until the spring of 1922 -- after the United Communist Party had joined the Communist Party of America to form the unified "Communist Party of America, Section of the Communist International" -- and immediately prior to the establishment of a legal Young Workers League, that a convention was held for the YCLA. According to Theodore Draper, the underground gathering was held in Bethel, Connecticut on April 20, 1922. This location and date seems doubtful however, as an archival document has surfaced which indicates that the founding convention was actually held in the month of May.
The founding convention of the YCL (called "The Y" in underground documents) was attended by 14 regular delegates, representing Districts 2 (New York), 3 (Philadelphia), 5 (Chicago), and 12 (Minneapolis). The gathering heard a report from Max Bedacht dealing with problems and actions of the 3rd World Congress of the Comintern and the Feb. 1922 Special Conference.
The founding convention adopted a constitution and a program for the YCL and a resolution on the relation of the"Y" and the "L," detailing the control mechanism between the underground YCL and the overground YWL. It also elected a governing National Executive Committee of 5, which included Secretary "Walter Clark," as well as members "Brian," "Dawes," "Jacks," and "Hall." Secretary "Clark" was the representative of the YCL organization to the ill-fated CPA Convention held at Bridgman, Michigan, in August 1922.
Initiation fee in the YCL was 50 cents and monthly dues were 25 cents per month. Dues were receipted with dues stamps issued by the National Office. The basic unit of organization was the "Group" consisting of (in ideal circumstances) from 5 to 10 members and meeting at least every other week. Groups elected their own "Group Captains" to coordinate with the center. Multiple groups in a locale were parts of a "Section" of up to 5 groups; multiple Sections in a locality combined to form a "Sub-District," which was in turn part of a "District" organization with boundaries following those of the underground CPA. The NEC elected the District and Sub-District Organizers. Each level of the YCL organization had its own governing Committee, which supervised and disciplined lower levels of organization.
[fn. Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (NY: Viking, 1957), pg. 344; Comintern Archive, f. 515, op. 1, d. 152, ll. 10, 12.]
The NEC of the underground YCL was to have issued a mimeographed monthly bulletin for its members and to have produced an official organ called Young Communist every 3 months. Specimens of the bulletin are found on the CPUSA-Comintern Microfilm Reel 9, located in delo 152, ll. 10- 11 (Bulletin 5, June 5, 1922); l. 16 (Bulletin 6, July 31, 1922 -- pages 3 & 4 only); ll. 20-27 (Bulletin 7, Oct. 31, 1922); l. 28 (Bulletin 8, Nov. 17, 1922). No issues of the official organ are known to have survived.
The underground YCL remained in existence throughout 1922 and into 1923, duplicating the role of the underground CPA vis-a-vis its legal arm, the Workers Party of America.
On Nov. 18, 1922, "Walter Clark" was assigned to other work by the NEC of the YCL, and "Frank Warren" replaced him as National Secretary.
YOUNG WORKERS LEAGUE OF AMERICA
A resolution passed by the founding convention of the Workers Party of America [New York: Dec. 23-26, 1921] acknowledged the need for a national communist organization for young people. In January of 1922 a National Organizing Committee was established (controlled by the underground Communist Party of America). Secretary of this NOC was Oliver Carlson of New York City, formerly the national leader of the Independent Young People's Socialist League (IYPSL).
Before there was a formal Young Workers League, there was a publication. In Feb. 1922, shortly after the conclusion of the founding convention of the Workers Party of America, there was launched a new publication, a monthly magazine called Youth. This first variant of the YWL's official organ was formally produced by the "Young Workers League of New York," located at 208 E 12th Street, New York. Price was 10¢ per copy, or 8¢ in bundles of 10 or more.
The name of the publication was changed to The Young Worker effective with it's second issue, March-April 1922, with the auspices likewise altered to read "National Organization Committee for the Young Workers League of America." Editorial address was similarly shifted at this time to YWL, Room 405, 799 Broadway, New York. Oliver Carlson was listed on the masthead as the Secretary of the organization, with the first editor apparently the individual signing himself "M.S." Effective with the 4th Issue, June-July 1922, Carlson began being listed as "Editor," with Martin Abern the Secretary of the YWL, Harry Gannes the Business Manager of the publication, and G.A. Schulenberg the Treasurer of the YWL. The publication was once again moved at this time to Room 9, 1145 Blue Island Avenue, Chicago.
1. First National Convention YWLA --- Brooklyn, NY --- May 13-15, 1922.
An agenda for the gathering was prepared in advance by the National Organizing Committee and published in the pages of The Young Worker, official organ of the nascent group. The gathering was scheduled to begin at 1 pm, but owing to "the usual delays," the convention was not called to order in Finnish Socialist Hall, Brooklyn, by Secretary of the NOC Oliver Carlson until 4:30 pm. The first convention was called to order by Oliver Carlson, who delivered a keynote speech to the gathering later published in the June-July 1922 issue of The Young Worker as "The Road Before Us." Noting the origins of the National Organizing Committee in the aftermath of the founding convention of the Workers Party of America (but saying nary a word about the parallel underground organization), Carlson claimed an organizational presence in 46 cities with a membership "at the very least" of 2200, based upon convention figures.Temporary rules and an order of business, prepared by the NOC, were read, as well as a message of greeting from Otto Ungar on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Young Communist International in Moscow.
[fn. Oliver Carlson, "The Road Before Us," in The Young Worker, v. 1, no. 4 (June-July 1922), pg. 18.]
Thirty uncontested regular delegates and 5 fraternal delegates were present, representing 7 city organizations of the YWL and 1 branch of the IYPSL, as well as 16 contested delegates. Among the fraternal delegates were a representative of the New Jersey state organization of the IYPSL, two representatives of the Workers Self Education Center of New York City, Benjamin Lifshitz of the United Toilers of America, and C.E. Ruthenberg of the workers Party of America. Given the floor for the purpose of expressing formal greetings, Lifshitz urged the YWL to remain completely independent from any revolutionary political party, while Ruthenberg (just released from prison), urged the convention to place the YWL under the political direction of the Workers Party of America. A fight over the credentials of the 16 contested delegates subsequently took place in the credentials committee, not being resolved until the session held the afternoon of May 14, at which the (WPA-friendly) recommendations of the committee were approved by an overwhelming vote over the bitter objection of a (UTA oriented) minority.
[fn. Oliver Carlson, "Our First Convention," in The Young Worker, v. 1, no. 4 (June-July 1922), pp. 7-8, 20.]
The Founding Convention of the Young Workers League of America approved a manifesto, program, a set of resolutions, and a constitution for the organization. Membership in the organization was open to "all proletarians" between the ages of 14 and 30. There were originally no constitutional links between the YWL and the Workers Party of America -- ostensibly its parent organization. The YWL (referred to as "the L" in underground documents) was in practice controlled by a parallel underground organization, the Young Communist League of America (called "the Y").
The basic unit of organization of the YWL was the "Branch," consisting of not less than 5 or more than 150 members. Two or more Branches in a single locale formed a "City Central Committee." These various Branches and City Central Committees were implicitly part of Districts of the organization (presumably following the districts of the Workers Party of America) although this detail is not explicitly specified.
The YWL was to hold annual conventions, governed in between these events by a National Executive Committee of 7, of whom at least 5 were to be residents of the city in which headquarters were located. Five alternates were also chosen, to be filled into the NEC as vacancies arose according to the order of votes received for each alternate. While the National Organizing Committee had previously been based in New York City, Chicago was chosen as the headquarters city of the YWL by the founding convention and the group maintained its first headquarters at 1145 Blue Island Avenue, Room 9, Chicago, IL. The initiation fee in the YWL was 25 cents and dues were collected of 25 cents per month. All initiation fees and 10 cents of every month's dues went to the national organization in support of its operations.
[fn. Oliver Carlson, "Our First Convention," in The Young Worker, v. 1, no. 4 (June-July 1922), pg. 20.]
The 1st Convention elected the following officers:
National Secretary: Martin Abern (role temporarily filled by Oliver Carlson in May 1922).
Abern resigned for reasons of health Oct. 19, 1922, and was replaced as Secretary by Harry Gannes.
National Executive Committee (7): Martin Abern (Secretary -- Minneapolis), Oliver Carlson (Editor -- New York), Harry Gannes (Business Manager -- Chicago), H. Jacobs (Philadelphia), L. Marks (Boston), Gus Schulenberg (Treasurer -- New York), Herbert Zam (New York).
Neither Marks nor Jacobs lived in the headquarters city, so they did not attend NEC meetings. Zam resigned Aug. 10, 1922.
NEC Alternates (5): 1st Alternate: John Edwards (Chicago), 2nd: A. Zanen (Philadelphia -- did not serve), 3rd: George Oswald (Chicago), 4th: W. Theinert (Providence, RI -- did not serve), 5th: Nat Kaminsky (New York City -- did not serve).
After the exhaustion of this list elected by the convention, the NEC began to coopt members to fill vacancies, in accordance with the national constitution: 1st: Max Salzman, 2nd: William Reynolds.
WPA CEC Representative: Earl Browder.
With all the resignations and cooptations, the NEC stood as of the Nov. 26, 1922 meeting:
National Executive Committee (7): Oliver Carlson, Harry Gannes (Sec.), H. Jacobs, George Oswald, William Reynolds, Max Salzman, Gus Schulenberg.
George Oswald resigned Dec. 9, 1922, and was replaced by R. Garver.
An index of minutes of the NEC of the YWLA for 1922 has been prepared, listing the exact archival location of each of the 18 sessions of the body in the Comintern Archives.
"Leaflet No. 1" was issued in a quantity of 40,000 copies in July 1922.
Leaflet No. 2, "Will You Scab?" was issued in a print run of 50,000 copies in July 1922.
Manifesto, Program, Resolutions and Constitution of the Young Workers League of America. [c. Nov. 1922] -- 39 pgs., 10 cents.
Harry Gannes and George Oswald: Youth Under Americanism. -- 15 cents.
The YWL also distributed a pamphlet of the Young Communist International:
A Word to All Adult Workers. [available c. Nov. 1922] -- 16 pages, 5 cents.
2. 2nd National Convention YWLA --- Chicago, IL --- May 20-22, 1923.
The 2nd Convention of the YWLA, held in a hall called "Folkets Hus" belonging to the Scandinavian Workers Club of Chicago, was attended by 31 delegates, representing a membership of "nearly 2,000." Some 13 states were represented at the gathering, despite the fact that expenses of delegates were funded by the branches themselves and thus many were unable to send representatives for financial reasons. Martin Abern was elected first chairman of the gathering and Bill Schneiderman of Los Angeles was elected permanent secretary of the convention. Abern delivered a report to the convention on the recent 3rd Congress of the Young Communist International [Moscow: Dec. 4-16, 1922], which he attended in an official capacity as delegate of the YWLA (then a fraternal party of the YCI, the official mantle being granted to the parallel underground Young Communist League of America). The gathering voted unanimously to maintain its international affiliation with the YCI with a view to eventually emerging as the official American affiliate of that organization.
Primary topics for discussion (the form of organization of the organization, the need for concrete work in the economic field, the need for work on matters of childrens' organization and sports organization) were set through a communique from the Executive Committee of the Young Communist International in Moscow, written April 10, 1923 and published in the YWL's official organ after the conclusion of the convention. The convention was also attended by a KIM delegate to the convention, the Swiss-born Sigi Bamatter, a member of the EC of the YCI, who later published an account of the event in the YWL's monthly magazine. Bamatter's presence was never announced on the floor of the convention, nor did he openly address the gathered delegates.
Following the YCI's emphatic lead, the YWL anticipated the "bolshevization" of American Communist organizational structure when it adopted a "Thesis on the Organization of Shop Nuclei." This proposal was formally presented on behalf of the NEC by John Edwards, which faulted the territorial form of organization for a failure to make connection with the masses of youth and calling for a restructuring of the organization on a shop basis. This proposed change closely mirrored the model method of organization adopted by the YCI itself at its 3rd Congress, a scheme by which it claimed the German youth section had swelled its ranks by 10,000 in only two months. This proposed year-long transition to the Shop Nucleus form of organization had already been attempted by the Neffs, Ohio branch of the YWL, according to a report in the organization's official organ, "long before it had been heard of in the rest of the country."
Max Shachtman paid homage to the IWW in his analysis of this fundamental change of organizational structure:
"Every young worker an agitator on the job," was the slogan. On the job was the place to organize, to spread propaganda to your bench mate, or your friend in a coal pocket, in the department store or the high school. That was how the IWW built up a native American membership of tens of thousands and failed only because it was a dual organization which fell into the hands of anarchists and anti-political syndicalists. Following them in their organizational form, we have the advantage of not being dual in form, but a supplementary organization, and of having a strongly centralized leadership in a political organization. On the job, literature can be distributed, the class position of the worker pointed out, and the class nature of the state indicated when the policeman's club hits Mr. Scissor Bill, Jr., on the head when he is picketing. At the point of productions, as the Wobblies liked to call it, was where applied Marxism could be taught which would be worth a month of unattended study classes with their sectarian exclusiveness, gaining in size every day -- but in the same direction as an ingrown nail.
A minority report by Herbert Zam of New York City attempted to reconcile and retain both organizational models for primary party units, geographic and shop, but debate at the convention was one-sidedly in favor of the Shop Nucleus form, and the minority report only garnered 2 votes.
The approval of the new mode of organization made moot the question of foreign language branches, since it was believed that "organized on the job, the young workers speaking a different tongue would be drawn together with the others and be forced by circumstances to give up their tendencies towards seclusion into their own little branches." Indeed, Workers Party of America fraternal delegate Jay Lovestone boldly declared that foreign language federations had been "the bane of the movement" in the United States. The question of foreign language federations was officially deferred to the incoming NEC, but the will of the convention on their continuation was unmistakable.
Upon a report of John Edwards, the convention passed a set of Economic Demands for young workers, including the 6 hour day, the 5 day work week, minimum wages, annual vacation pay, and prohibition of using workers under age 20 in dangerous occupations. The incoming NEC was instructed to draw up a communication with the Organization Committee of the AF of L urging the initiation of a campaign to systematically organize young workers.
An educational program, prepared by Martin Abern, was adopted without change and a report on workers' sports organization by Alfred Albright received, which called for the YWL to take the initiative in establishing an American section of the Red Sport International. Albright also delivered a report on Anti-Militarism. The convention pledged itself to fight against the rise of an American White Guardist organization, whether it call itself the American Legion, the Ku Klux Klan, the Fascisti, or something different altogether.
In response to an appeal by Jay Lovestone on behalf of the Workers Party of America, the relationship of the YWL and the WPA was tightened by a change to the constitution requiring a YWL member to join the WPA at the age of 25, with a corresponding rule that a member of the WPA aged 20 or under must join the YWL. The YWL also went on record as favoring a move of WPA headquarters from New York City to Chicago. The convention was also addressed by Leslie Morris on behalf of the Young Communist League of Canada.
The YWL program was accepted as a basis of discussion for the coming year, with a view to being formally ratified at the subsequent National Convention of the organization.
[fn. Max Shachtman, "The Second Convention," in The Young Worker, v. 2, no. 6 (June 1923), pp. 2-5.]
The convention approved a set of resolutions on International Relations, the Economic Demands of Youth, Education, Militarism, Sports, Press, Foreign Language Sections, and the Relationship of the YWL to the Workers Party of America.
The 2nd Convention elected the following officers:
National Secretary (1): Martin Abern.
National Executive Committee (8): Martin Abern (Chicago), Alfred Albright (Chicago), Sydney Borgeson (Minneapolis), John Edwards (Chicago), Harry Gannes (Chicago), Nat Kaplan (New York), Max Salzman (Chicago), John Williamson (Seattle).
NEC Alternates (8) (alphabetical): Nat Carmen (New York), Natalie Gomez (Chicago), Paul Klein (Chicago), Max Lerner (New York), Barney Mass (Kansas City), Rebecca Sacherow (Cleveland), William Schneiderman (Los Angeles), Max Shachtman (New York).
In his memoirs, future YWLA Secretary John Williamson recounted his first experience in national radical politics which he experienced at the 2nd Convention of the YWLA:
Before adjournment, a National Committee of 8 members and 8 alternates was elected. The overwhelming majority, including myself, were young people who had never before been on a National Committee....
To my surprise, after the convention it was decided in the Executive Committee that I should move to Chicago and take over the post of National Industrial Organizer. My first reaction was against leaving Seattle but the pressure of the argument finally convinced me. It was further decided that on my way home I should stop at Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Superior, and Butte. In each of them I was to make a convention report and, if possible, address a public meeting and get subscriptions for The Young Worker....
I returned to my job in Seattle and gave a week's notice. To the credit of my mother, she never raised an objection, although I was an only child and her main support. She insisted, "If that is what you want to do -- but be sure it is -- then I will never say no." We agreed she would come to Chicago after I had a job and had found a place for us to stay.
In Chicago, during the next 12 months I worked first in the stockroom of the Marshall Field department store and then in the big factory of J. Dietzgen Col, where I made triangular boxwood rulers. I almost landed a job as a streetcar motorman, but was a few months short of their 21-year minimum age requirement. I did my political work in the evening. As Industrial Organizer I had the main responsibility of implementing and developing the convention's new policies.
[fn. John Williamson, Dangerous Scot. (NY: International Publishers, 1969.), pp. 49-50.]
At the end of 1923, the YWL claimed (rather optimistically, it would seem) a membership of about 4,000, organized in 150 branches spread across 100 cities. A membership for the Junior Section of 2,000 in about 30 cities was also asserted. Both of these extremely round figures are to be regarded with suspicion until documentary evidence as to the actual size of the dues-paying membership comes to light.
Effective with volume 3, which launched with an issue dated Jan. 1, 1924, The Young Worker changed its format from a magazine to a 4 page broadsheet. Frequency was increased at this time to bi-weekly publication. In an article written in mid-April 1924, former editor Oliver Carlson intimated that the circulation of the paper at that time was between 7,000 and 8,000 copies per issue.
By the end of 1924, the YWL claimed a membership of between 3,500 and 4,000 in 150 branches.
3. Mid-Convention Conference --- Chicago, IL --- May 30-31, June 1, 1924.
Immediately after the return of the YWL's delegates from the 4th World Congress of the Young Communist International [Moscow: July 15-24, 1924] -- these being John Williamson, Oliver Carlson, and John Edwards -- a decision was made to reorganize the structure of the YWL. A 3 member Secretariat was elected, to be in full charge of outlining the political and organizational work of the YWL and determining questions which might arise in between meetings of the full National Executive Committee. This paralleled changes made to the Workers Party of America, which itself subdivided its Central Excecutive Committee into specialized departments.
The new officers were as follows:
National Secretary: John Williamson.
Secretariat: Marty Abern, Oliver Carlson, John Williamson.
Editor (Young Worker & Young Comrade): Max Shachtman.
Party Representative: Marty Abern.
Industrial Department: Mass, John Edwards, R. Garver.
Anti-Militarist Department: Max Shachtman, John Harvey.
Children's Department: Max Salzman, Nat Kaplan (joint Junior Directors)
Agrarian Department: Nat Kaplan, Gomez.
Sport Department: Harry Gannes, Buckley.
Educational Department: Oliver Carlson, Marty Abern.
Negro Department: John Edwards, Owens.
Research Department: Bergeson, Kline.
Foreign Youth Department: Secretariat (above) plus 1 representative from each language group.
[fn. "NEC Reorganized," The Young Worker, Oct. 1, 1924, pg. 1.]
The YWL's official organ, The Young Worker, went to a weekly publication schedule effective with the February 28, 1925 issue. The broadsheet newspaper consisted of 4 pages and bore a cover price of 5 cents.
4. 3rd National Convention YWLA --- Chicago, IL --- Oct. 4-6, 1925.
The 3rd Convention of the YWL was marked by a severe factional split between supporters of William Z. Foster and of C.E. Ruthenberg that paralleled the split in the adult party. The report of the credentials committee seating a majority of the Ruthenberg groups delegates was approved by a margin of 29-20. In the debate on the report, Jack Stachel of the Ruthenberg group declared that the YWL had a membership estimated at between 1800 and 1900 and claimed majority support for his faction.
James P. Cannon spoke to the convention about his differences with Foster. William Z. Foster also addressed the gathering, concluding his speech with the words "I am for the Comintern from start to finish... and if the Comintern finds itself criss-cross with my opinions, there is only one thing to do and that is to change my opinions to fit the policy of the Comintern." Max Bedacht reported for the Ruthenberg majority group, which was the majority faction of the CEC of the WPA.
The 3rd Convention elected a 20 member National Executive Committee consisting of 10 members from each faction. The officers were as follows:
National Secretary: Samuel Darcy.
National Executive Committee:
Joseph Angelo, Samuel Darcy, Samuel Don, John Harvey, William Herberg, Nat Kaplan, Valeria Metz, George Papcun, H.V. Phillips, Max Salzman, Al Schaap, Max Shachtman, Peter Shapiro, Morris Schindler, William Schneiderman, Jack Stachel, Patrick Toohey, John Williamson, Sam Winocur, Herbert Zam.
During 1925 the Young Pioneers' League of America was established for children under 14 years of age, replacing the Junior Section of the YWL. The YPLA's magazine was a monthly entitled The Young Comrade.
YOUNG WORKERS (COMMUNIST) LEAGUE OF AMERICA Youth Conference --- Bellaire, OH --- Feb. 28, 1926. Youth Conference --- New York, NY --- March 5, 1926. Pioneer Camps and YWL Summer Schools
The Workers Party's first youth summer school was held in 1925 at Waino, Wisconsin. About 50 students attended and the program lasted for four weeks.
The Finnish Federation, the largest in the WPA, adopted the summer schools as an important task. During the summer of 1926 the YWL ran a national school in Chicago, with 16 students, as well as three district schools, based in Waino, WI; Waukegan, IL; and Winchedon, MA. These schools conducted full-time 5 week program of courses at Waino, 4 weeks at the other schools. Approximately 140 youngsters attended.
The Young Pioneers, the junior section of the YWL, held three summer camps in 1926, in Chicago, New York City, and Boston, attended by 700 to 800 children.
During the summer of 1927 there were four district schools held -- Boston, Ohio, Waino, WI, and Winlock, WA. The Wisconsin and Washington schools conducted an ambitious 6 week program, while the other two schools conducted a 5 week program. Approximately 160 young communists took part. As you may discern from the photos of Waino (above) and Winlock (below), the average age of participants varied substantially between specific summer schools. In an essay which he wrote for the 1927 Yearbook of the Winlock School, Director Oliver Carlson advocated a rather older rather than younger average age, stating that "the boy or girl of 14, 15, or 16 years who is still in school has not as yet been forced to shift for himself, to make his own living, and to feel the pressure of the class struggle. To such a one the class war and all other theories relating to it cannot be duly appreciated."
The Pacific Northwest school was held at Winlock, WA from July 10 to Aug. 20, 1927 and was attended by 42 students -- 24 girls and 18 boys. Age of participants ranged from 14 to 23, with the great bulk between 15 and 18. The students followed the following topics: Sociology, American Social and Labor History, Marxian Economics, Class Struggle History and Theory, Imperialism, Problems of Socialist Reconstruction, Cooperation, Current Events, Public Speaking, and Theory and Practice of Young Workers' Organization. 28 of the students came from 15 towns in Washington state and 13 students came from 6 towns in Oregon. In addition, there was one participant from Rock Springs, WY. Of the participants, 23 were members of the YWL, 1 was a member of the W(C)PA, and 19 were non-party. As funding for the camp was raised through the pages of the Astoria, OR communist newspaper Toveri, it should come as no surprise that nearly of the participants had clearly Finnish surnames. Director of the Winlock school was Oliver Carlson, who had been involved in earlier party youth schools in New York, Chicago, and Wisconsin.
Classes began at 9 am and carried through until 2:50 pm, with an hour for lunch. Students had additional less formally directed activity, which included research, recreation, songs, and athletics until 4:30 pm. Monday Evenings were spent in YWL nuclei meetings, Friday evenings featured lectures, and plays and entertainment took place on other evenings.
The students elected a six member discipline committee, which set rules for the school, times that students were to be in their quarters, and so on. A chart headed "Roll of Dishonor" was posted to note rulebreakers and thereby maintain discipline.
Five Young Pioneers summer camps were held in 1927, located in the Boston, New York, Ohio, Detroit, and Chicago districts.
Information about 1928 is less complete. At a minimum, there was once again a party summer school held in Woodland, Washington attended by 54 students -- 30 girls and 24 boys. The School was held from June 24 through August 4, 1928. The composition was rather older than the 1927 Pacific Northwest school, with 11 students between the ages of 25 and 34. Washington remained the home of the greatest percentage of students (21 of the 54), closely followed by a contingent of 20 from California (11 from Los Angeles, 9 from Northern California). An additional 12 students were from Oregon and 1 hailed from Vancouver, British Columbia. It seems that in contrast to 1927, almost all participants were members of the YW(C)L or the Workers (Communist) Party (35 and 15, respectively). Only a minority of participants had Finnish surnames, again in contrast to the 1927 school.
In addition to director Oliver Carlson, a cook and a technical manager, three instructors joined the faculty: Marion Gray (Agitprop Director of District 12), Al Schaap (District 12 Organizer), and Frank Waldron [Eugene Dennis] (Subdistrict Agitprop Director in District 13). Student committees were formed for athletics, entertainment, photography, library, publicity, wall newspaper, student annual, and discipline.
On the 4th of July, students were transported by truck to the opening of Tualatin Park, 8 miles south of Portland. Revolutionary songs were sung and public speeches were delivered by Henry Routtu (on the YWL), Fred Walker (on Workers Education), and Rose Rubin (on the significance of July 4th to the working class). The students also took a field trip to a non-union lumber mill in Longview, Washington on July 11th. A group of students also agitated against militarism at Vancouver, Washington that same day at a Citizens Military Training Camp.
Plans were set in motion to establish a similar school in California the following summer.
According to the published figures of the Young Communist International, the American YCL had 1,085 members in March of 1926, a figure which had advanced to 1,712 by November of that same year. By June of 1927, the organization's membership was up to about 1,900, hitting the 1,950 mark by the end of the year.
[fn. The Communist Youth International: Report of Activity Between the 4th and 5th Congress, 1924-1928. (New York: Young Workers (Communist) League of America, 1928), pg. 143.]
By way of contrast, according to the 1930 edition of The American Labor Yearbook, a hostile source, pegged the membership of the Young Communist League "based on dues payments" at about 500 for 1926, 700 for 1927, and 1,860 for the first ten months of 1928.
Plenum of the NEC of the YW(C)L --- city? --- May XX, 1927
This was the last plenum of the NEC prior to the holding of the 4th National Convention.
4. 4th National Convention YW(C)L USA --- New York, NY --- Oct. 30 - Nov. 2, 1927.
The 4th National Convention of the YW(C)L was preceeded by a dance at the Harlem Casino on Saturday night, October 29, 1927, to which all members of the organization were invited.
A partial list of delegates published in The Young Worker issue of Nov. 1, 1927 included:
D1 (Boston): Kay, Shohan, Kangas. D2 (New York): Plot, J. Harrison, Miller, Rubenstein. D3 (Philadelphia): Bender, Feldman, Carroll. D5 (Pittsburgh): Minerich, Jaffe. D7 (Detroit): Joe Roberts. D8 (Chicago): Lurye, Glotzer, Green, Novack. D9 (Superior/Twin Cities): Tenhunen, Boverky, Bernick, Sankary. WPA: Bedacht, Wolfe, Stachel, Weinstone, Bittelman.
The convention was addressed by Max Bedacht, who delivered the report of the Central Executive Committee of the Workers (Communist) Party to the gathered delegates. Herbert Zam deliivered a report on "The Situation of the Youth and the Problems of the League," John Williamson delievered a report on "The Problems of the Youth in Industry," and Pat Toohey delivered a supplemental labor report on "The Situation in the Mining Industry.
The convention paid particular attention to the war danger, following a report by Paul Crouch on "The War Danger and Anti-Militarist Work." For the first time at a YWL convention the children's movement was a major topic of discussion, following the report of Will Herberg, "The Pioneer Work of the League."
An unsigned article in the December 1, 1927 issue of The Young Worker attempted to paint the factional situation in extremely rosy colors:
The convention was completely distinguished by the complete absence of factionalism or the factional spirit from its proceedings. It is not too much to say that the convention completed the process of unification and that the League left the convention with all signs of factionalism completely eradicated and really unified.
[fn. "Four Day Convention Shows Good Results," in The Young Worker, v. 6, no. 16 (Dec. 1, 1927), pg. 7.]
The leadership of the Executive Committee of the Young Communist International was lauded in a report by Nat Kaplan on "The 7th Plenum of the ECYCI."
As the unsigned report on the 4th Convention put it:
The aid of the ECYCI in the unification of our League was...tremendous. Beginning with the binding agreement signed by the representatives of the two former groups in Moscow and by a representative of the EC, the ECYCI exercised a close and direct supervision over the development of our internal situation, thus directing and stimulating the process of unification. If we have achieved som measure of political clarity and have arrived at unity so quickly and completely we must remember that this was made possible only by the help and guidance of the ECYCI.
[fn. "Four Day Convention Shows Good Results," in The Young Worker, v. 6, no. 16 (Dec. 1, 1927), pg. 7.]
This rosy assessment of the purported elimination of the factional struggle did not actually reflect reality, however, as the factional wars continued to wage in the YW(C)L unabated.
5. 5th National Convention YW(C)L --- New York, NY --- April 26-XX, 1929.
The 5th National Convention changed the name of the organization to "Communist Youth League of USA."
The main report was delivered by Herbert Zam, who spoke on "The Report of the NEC, the Struggle Against the Right Danger, the Position of the Young Workers, and the Tasks of the League." An organizational report was also delivered by Sam Darcy.
All decisions of the convention were said to have been unanimous.
The convention declared that "the biggest obstacle holding back the development of the League is the bitter factional struggle, which is a reflection of the struggle in the Party and arises from the same basic causes."
COMMUNIST YOUTH LEAGUE OF USA
The change of the name of the Young Workers (Communist) League was extremely short-lived, as sometime in the summer of 1929 (circa July), the name of the organization was again altered to "Young Communist League of USA."
YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF USA 6. 6th National Convention YCL USA --- New York, NY --- July 4-XX, 1931.
The 6th National Convention was attended by 63 delegates, 16 alternates, 17 members of the National Executive Committee, and 17 fraternal delegates. According to statistics published in The Young Worker, this group was said to include 69 members who were 22 years old or younger and to be comprised of 61 native-born whites, 10 native-born blacks, and 18 foreign-born.
"July Plenum" --- New York, NY? --- July XX-XX, 1933. 7. 7th National Convention YCL USA --- New York City? --- June 22-27, 1934. 8. 8th National Convention YCL USA --- New York City --- May 2-5, 1937. 9. 9th National Convention YCL USA --- New York City --- May 11-15, 1939.
sources: American Labor Year Book. (NY: Rand School of Social Science, various dates), 1923-24: pp. 166-167. 1925: pp. 165-166. 1926: pp. 254-256. 1927: pp. 135-136. 1930: pg. 142. 1932: pp. 116-117. The Young Worker (1927-1929), passim. Red Dawn: Commencement Annual of the Northwest Young Workers Summer School. (Astoria, OR: Pacific Development Society, 1927). Red Student: Commencement Annual of the Pacific Coast Workers Summer School. (Astoria, OR: Pacific Development Society, 1928).