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Hail, ‘Young Spartacus’!



by James P. Cannon


[First published in The Militant, October 24, 1931]


One of the first positive results of our national conference is the decision of the National Committee, in agreement with the newly appointed National Youth Committee, to launch an independent club for young workers in New York and to begin the publication of a special youth paper. With this the Communist League will begin a momentous experiment which will call out the intense interest and warm sympathy of all who fight under our banner. So far as we know, we will be the first section of the International Left Opposition to form such an organization and to come out with a special organ appealing to the proletarian youth. We are pioneering on a new field in the worldwide struggle of the Marxian wing of the movement. But all the circumstances warrant the step, and we are confident that the results will quickly vindicate it.


The situation and the special problems confronting the Communist youth are not the same as those of the adult movement, or at any rate they are not exactly the same; and it is from this circumstance that different tactical and organizational methods flow. The Opposition youth remain—as the conference resolution said—a faction of the Young Communist League, as our organization is a faction of the party. But the relation of forces and a number of other conditions in the youth movement are far more favorable for independent action up to a certain point.


Stalinism has wrought devastation enough in the party, but in the Young Communist League the results have been truly catastrophic. On the other hand, the Marxian educational work of the Opposition has awakened a far wider response, speaking proportionally, in the ranks of the Communist youth than in the adult organization. And this is not without valid reasons. The youth are not, and in the nature of things cannot be, weighted down with as hard and heavy a crust of bureaucratic cynicism as is the case in the party. The youth react more sensitively to revolutionary ideas. The youth are the barometer, as Trotsky said at the beginning of the struggle against bureaucratism in 1923.


All our experience in America supports this idea. We do no boasting. We have never deceived ourselves or others with exaggerated claims. But we can say with absolute confidence that the flower of the Communist youth in America are already enrolled in the ranks of the Opposition. A bold step forward is now justified and necessary.


If the youth work the Opposition is now undertaking on a wider scale has an admittedly experimental character, the same can be said with no less justice of all that has been attempted up to now in this domain by the party, and even by the Comintern. We maintain that the problem of effective work among the youth has not yet been solved in the capitalist countries, and under the regime of the epigones it has been cynically mismanaged and abused. They have been corrupting and perverting the revolutionary youth, training young bureaucrats as Fagin trained young thieves. What is wanted is the education of a cadre of frank and honest young worker-revolutionists able to organize and lead a proletarian mass movement. This task belongs to the Marxian Opposition. It will bring new methods and a new spirit to the work.


We expect that the first issue of the youth paper of the Opposition—the plans for which are already under way and which it is to be hoped will not long be delayed—will reflect this new spirit and be welcomed in the youth movement like a fresh breeze. To do this it will not have to borrow anything from the Young Worker, that pallid and unhealthy caricature of grown-up Stalinism at its worst. The aim which we and our young collaborators aspire to is to make a real youth paper, to interest young workers and not to command them, to convince and educate them and not to herd them like sheep for a faction that has no ideas. No pretensions, no diplomacy, no high-politics, no slavish aping of the big talk of the elders, but a young communists’ paper for young workers.


In deciding to call the new paper Young Spartacus, the joint committee has endowed it with an inspiring historic name. The name of the great leader of the colossal slave revolts of antiquity was the banner around which Liebknecht and Luxemburg assembled the dispersed vanguard of the German proletariat. It can well become the symbol of the revolt of Communist youth against the corrupting influence of Stalinism, and their assault against the capitalist order. The name imposes obligations. We are convinced that the young militants of the Opposition will fulfill them. In their great undertaking they will have the unqualified support of every member of the Communist League.



See also


Young Spartacus New York. Newspaper of the Spartacus Youth League, National Youth Committee of the Communist League of America, 1931-1934