In 1943, as World War II was raging in Europe, the Young Communist League was dissolved because of the influence of Earl Browder, then Chairman of the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA), who advocated a rejection of Marxism-Leninism. Based on Browder\'s theories, many believed the wartime unity of the Soviet Union and the United States would continue and that the class struggle had ended. They failed to analyze the reality of capitalist society, and its aggressive, imperialist nature. Browder dissolved the Communist Party a year later, founding the Communist Political Association in 1944.
American Youth for Democracy (AYD) replaced the YCL. Instead of being a broad anti-fascist organization which championed the cause of working class youth, the AYD was a step backward from a Marxist-Leninist youth organization. The AYD did campaign for youth rights and struggled against racism, the cold war and anti-communism, but did not meet the needs of youth in the post-war era.
The Communist Party was refounded in 1945. In 1947, as the political climate continued to shift to the right, policy makers passed the Taft-Hartley Act, despite the objections of the National Labor Relations Board and President Truman. Taft-Hartley limited the ability of unions to bargain collectively and required union officers to sign non-Communist affidavits, in an attempt to remove working class, communist leadership from the trade unions. In 1949 the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), giving into Cold War pressures, expelled eleven left and Communist led unions, representing more than 900,000 workers. This had a devastating impact on the American labor movement. Many right-wing labor leaders encouraged the belief that by jumping on the cold war bandwagon, and expelling communists, they could escape the harsh effects of Taft-Hartley and keep their unions intact.
1949 was also the year the Labor Youth League (LYL) was founded by young communists and other working class youth. The LYL was an independent Marxist-Leninist youth organization which had fraternal relations with the Communist Party (CP). The LYL made significant contributions to the building of democratic youth unity against communist paranoia spurred on by Senator Joseph McCarthy. On November 24, 1950 the LYL held its first National Convention. Paul Robeson, a fighter on behalf of African-Americans, a well-known political and cultural figure and Communist, addressed more than 5,000 youth in attendance. He said, \"you are acting in the best tradition of the young generations which have preceded you at every critical moment of our history.\"
During the height of McCarthyism, when Party members all over the country were being tried and convicted on trumped-up charges of \"conspiring to overthrow the U.S. Government,\" the LYL did all it could to continue the tradition Robeson spoke of. Fighting for peace, racial equality and democracy won the LYL the attention the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB) and the LYL was placed on its subversive organization list in 1953. The SACB had the power to issue subpoenas and attempted to force Communist Party members, and any other organization it deemed \"subversive,\" to register under the provisions of the infamous McCarran Act.
Anti-communism was and is a tool wielded by the right-wing against civil rights and by employers against unions. At the height of McCarthyism, with many LYL and Communist Party members in jail, some felt that youth would not join a Marxist-Leninist organization and proposed establishing \"socialist clubs.\" The LYL fell apart and youth activists across the country started local independent radical youth organizations.
The fifties gave way to the sixties and youth, on campuses across the country, started demonstrating and protesting, calling for an end to the war being waged in Vietnam. This new movement became a turning point in the re-birth of a working class student movement.
In 1964, out of this new radical upsurge, the WEB DuBois Clubs, USA was formed. The DuBois Clubs were named after W.E.B. DuBois, the champion of African American liberation, who joined the CPUSA in 1961. The DuBois Club took an active role in opposing the U.S. war being waged on the people of Vietnam by publishing literature, holding campus educationals, demonstrating and working within the AFL-CIO to build working class opposition to the war. The first mass youth demonstrations against the war in Vietnam were organized by the DuBois Clubs. The DuBois Clubs also became an active participant and leader in the civil rights struggle. Young activists recognized that racist oppression was an experience shared by all African Americans and emphasized the nature of that oppression.
The DuBois Clubs were targeted by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover\'s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). COINTELPRO not only harassed the CPUSA and the DuBois Club, but also caused trouble for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party and many other progressive and leftist figures. The FBI targeted the DuBois Clubs for violent police attacks and right wing terrorism. When the San Francisco Headquarters of the DuBois was bombed in 1966, authorities never investigated the crime and no one was ever convicted.
By the end of the sixties, with the anti-war movement growing and conditions for youth worsening, an increasing number of working class students believed socialism to be the only solution to the problems they faced. In 1970, the DuBois Clubs, other young radicals, and youth members of the Communist Party came together to found the Young Workers Liberation League (YWLL).
Next Issue: The YWLL years, the youth struggle against Reaganism, and the refounding of the YCL to today.