In 1970, as more and more young people were understanding the central role of the working class in social change, the Young Workers Liberation League (YWLL) was formed. The YWLL was based on two basic concepts. The first was the fight against oppression and a need to unify all youth, across racial and ethnic lines. The second was the strategy of organizing young workers around issues of wages, job security, discrimination in the work place and peace; and show the relationship these struggles had to the working class and socialism.
Repression, war, militarism and the prospect of dying for US imperialist aggression in Vietnam was the only future capitalist society offered American youth. But the YWLL offered something else, a future free of poverty, racism, sexism, exploitation and war.
Shortly after its founding the YWLL was invited, by the Ho Chi Minh Working Youth Union to visit Vietnam, see areas destroyed by US bombing and exchange experiences with Vietnamese youth. In 1970 half a million US troops were still in Vietnam. Between 200 and 400 US soldiers, and thousands of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, were being killed every week. And the war was costing US taxpayers $30 billion a year, diverting money from social programs like education, healthcare and social security.
The YWLL played a key role in the growing anti-war movement in the 1970\'s, always emphasizing labor\'s material interest in ending the war. In 1974, the peace majority in the US and the heroic people of Vietnam forced the US to withdraw from Vietnam.
Under the Nixon Administration youth were branded as criminals and access to higher education was a luxury few could afford. In this period the YWLL spearheaded the struggle for youth jobs at union wages, affirmative action and academic freedom. It helped to make the connection between jobs and peace, social needs and military spending, racism and budget cuts.
The YWLL organized among young workers, especially those in basic industry, in its ranks, and reflected the diverse, multi-ethnic, multiracial working class. A centerpiece of Marxist-Leninist ideology is internationalism and the YWLL always struggled against imperialism around the world.
On September 4, 1970 Allende was elected President of Chile. During this period the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) held a regional youth conference in Chile. The YWLL sent a delegation and were invited to a reception with President Allende, just weeks before the US backed coup by fascist general Augusto Pinochet. After the bloody overthrow the YWLL played a leading role in campus organizing, sponsoring speakers and forming a broad-based community, religious, labor and student solidarity movement.
During the labor and social upheavals of the 1970\'s the YWLL was a strong organizer of youth. But the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1979 marked a huge setback to youth, working people and peace worldwide. In 1983, as the Reagan Administration was cutting more and more money from social programs and diverting it into the military budget to fight the \"Evil Empire\", the YWLL set about re-organizing itself into a Marxist-Leninist youth organization, the Young Communist League (YCL).
Reagan\'s insanity demanded the rebirth of the YCL and a new approach to organizing youth for peace, jobs and equality. The conditions youth faced fifty, forty even fifteen years previous were qualitatively different than the conditions youth faced in the mid-eighties.
This new generation of youth and students were not as susceptible to the same cold war lies and anti-commuism. The newly re-instituted YCL fought against campus budget cuts, union busting and Reagans\' dirty war in Latin America. The YCL was a key fighter against Apartheid South Africa and US military aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
It held sit-ins, demanding that Angela Davis and Gus Hall, long time General Secretary of the CPUSA, be allowed to speak at campuses and fought the huge cuts in social spending that devastated the public educational system.
The YCL built broad voter registration coalitions and focused special attention on the oppression of youth of color. Budget cuts on social programs disproportionately hurt people of color. The YCL paid special attention to the Reagan and Bush Administrations\' attacks on social programs, won through years of struggle, and how those attacks effected working class youth, especially youth of color.
The YCL developed new campaigns in the 1980s to defend affirmative action, abortion rights and gay and lesbian rights. In 1990-1991 the YCL opposed the brutal war waged on the people of Iraq and the genocidal effects of economic sanctions. The YCL was part of the \"Battle in Seattle\" and helped to expose the anti-worker, anti-people and anti-youth policies of the IMF and the World Bank.
As the century came to an end YCL members fought to defeat George W. Bush and the ultra-right. The YCL played very important roles in local and national coalitions and aided in get out the vote drives in Ohio, Illinois, California, Texas, New York, Missouri, all across the country and was also in Florida protesting the theft of the elections by Bush and his brother Jeb.
And now, a year after the brutal terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Bush Administrations response, the YCL is in the forefront of organizing for a mass peace movement with in the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and was on the steering committee of the United We March coalition that helped bring nearly 100,000 people to Washington on April 20, 2002.
After 80 years of being in the struggle the YCL is as young and energetic as ever. Our 7th National Convention, in November, is quickly coming upon us and we look forward to building bridges and making connections with broad cross-sections of the youth and student movement. Especially now, in this time of anti-corporate up-surge and youth activism, the YCL can play a key role in forming student, labor, environmental, community and GLBT coalitions. The next 80 years is bound to be just as exciting, as we continue to struggle for education, healthcare, union rights, peace and socialism.