Young Communist League (Britain)


Young Communist League (Britain)

The Young Communist League (YCL) is the youth wing of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB). It claims succession from the organisation founded in 1921 as the youth wing of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) by the merger of the Young Workers' League and the International Communist Schools Movement.

The CPGB itself wound-up in 1991 but its YCL had effectively folded some years previously. Whilst the CPGB was able to formally decide to dissolve itself it did not have the constitutional competence to formally dissolve the YCL.

The organisation that is the adult body allied to the current YCLGB claims to be the refounded successor to the CPGB. This claim is disputed by some but the organisation includes many former CPGB members in its leadership, backs "The Morning Star", the successor to "The Daily Worker", the paper founded by the CPGB and has adopted a programme, "Britain's Road to Socialism" that is remarkably similar in ideology to the historical version first launched by the CPGB in 1950. The CPB and the YCL are widely recognised as the successor organisation to the CPGB by Communist Parties around the world, including the Cuban, the Greek, the French, the Indian, the Chinese, and the Russian. etc

Historically, the League grew slowly, reaching a peak of 16,000 members in 1943. While organisationally independent, the group was always closely linked to the CPGB and its activities and fortunes broadly followed those of its parent organisation, membership fell to about 600 following the events in Hungary in 1956.

A recruitment drive started in 1966 around the slogan "The Trend - Communism" associated the group with wider cultural trends in society. Pete Townshend of The Who was a prominent but short-lived member and the "The Trend" campaign emphasised the power of music in social change. Throughout this period YCL membership grew to over 6000 members and a generation of young members - led by Barney Davis (national secretary), George Bridges (London secretary) and others challenged the political approach of the parent party.

The YCL took a lead in condemning what it defined as the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (the Party called it at the time an intervention) but the position was only adopted by a 60:40 vote and, eventually, a group of members some split along with much of the CPGB's Surrey District to form the New Communist Party of Britain in 1977.

1968 proved the start of a long decline in membership, characterised by competition between different tendencies and a practice of disciplinarianism against those who opposed the revisionist trend. The official Party employed the tactic of pulling out of the YCL those Party members who rocked the boat. Thus the leadership was managed to be almost exclusively eurocommunist, but controversies were stronger felt than in the CPGB at least until a decade later.

During the period 1974, when most oppositionalists were excluded, and 1979 YCL membership declined dramatically. According to some historians of the CPGB's history, the YCL was fundamental in reshaping the parent party's attitudes (and thus had influence on the wider left). In particular, from 1975, the YCL emphasised the importance of cultural politics as distinct from class politics. YCL leaders linked with Communist students such as party organiser Dave Cook - and feminists such as Beatrix Campbell, Sarah Benton and intellectuals Martin Jacques and later played important roles in the parent party: all of them opposing the then dominant strain of trade union orientated politics in the party.

In 1979, its congress adopted a new programme, "Our Future", which did not commit the group to Marxism and removed the policy of democratic centralism. The new programme exacerbated divisions in the group, and in 1983, with membership down to 510, democratic centralism was re-imposed. By 1987, the league had only fifty members. It slid away from actuality in the next couple of years and, in response, the Communist Campaign Group (the forerunner to the CPB) set up a new body.

Current activities

The YCL is organisationally autonomous and decides its own activities and priorities, but is constitutionally tied to support for the CPB's programme, "Britain's Road to Socialism".

By following "Britain's Road to Socialism", the goals of the YCL are almost identical to the CPB's, but with particular emphasis on various topics. For example, the slogan of the CPB is "Peace and Socialism", whilst the slogan of the YCL is "Peace, Jobs and Socialism". The YCL is particularly concerned with issues specific to young people such as the inequalities between the minimum wage categories and student tuition fees.

In their own words: :"The YCL is a revolutionary youth organisation committed to achieving a socialist society based on public ownership and democratic control. Based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism the YCL aims to develop and encourage the political consciousness of young people and to increase their involvement in the class struggle at a local, national and international level.

:The YCL works to build and strengthen the unity of the progressive youth movement and calls upon young people to work together to defend their rights, at work and in education, and to struggle for peace, jobs and socialism".

The YCL publishes a bimonthly magazine, called "Challenge", recalling the historic name used since the early 1930s. The journal consists of contributions from YCL members and sympathisers, and succeeded the title "Young Communist" as the chief organ of the organisation some years ago.

The YCL is a member organisation of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY).

References

*Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley, "Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations"

External links

* [http://www.ycl.org.uk Web site of Young Communist League]
* [http://www.communist-party.org.uk Web site of Communist Party of Britain]
* [http://www.wfdy.org/ Web site of World Federation of Democratic Youth]
* [http://www.grahamstevenson.me.uk/ YCLGB history in 1960s and 1970s] ]


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