Young Communist League
Young Communist League USA is the youth wing of the Communist Party USA.
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. 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 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 communist leadership from the trade unions. In 1949 the Congress of Industrial Organizations ), "giving into Cold War pressures, expelled eleven left and Communist led unions, representing more than 900,000 workers".
1949 was also the year the Labor Youth League 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 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 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 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 of America 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. 
2002 YCL Leaders and Members
Source: People's Weekly World, March 30, 2002, p. 21
- Libero Della Piana - National Coordinator
- Shelly Delos - Managing Editor of the YCL's magazine
- Jennifer Perna - National Council member from Philadelphia, a teacher
- Jarvis Tyner - former National Chair of the YWLL, a "precursor to the YCL"
- Gloria Freedman - 86 years old, member of the CPUSA
In a report to the National Committee meeting of the Communist Party USA on November 20, 2004, (originally delivered at a YCL conference) Jessica Marshall, YCLUSA National Coordinator outlined examples of YCL electoral activity, including helping Missouri Democrat John L. Bowman, the League of Pissed Off Voters and the Democratic Party itself.
- It's important to note here that this is a generation of young people that have no particular allegiance to the Democratic Party and show hope for the possibility of further developing independent and progressive voter coalitions and voting blocks. But this generation of voters also was mature enough to recognize the importance of uniting in this year's election to elect John Kerry and defend themselves against a President and Congress that has been wreaking havoc on our lives for quite some time. This represents a tremendous opportunity for the YCL as we continue to grow and work to build broader, progressive coalitions of youth and students.
- Of particular importance to the YCL in our efforts to deepen and broaden our relations with other progressive youth and student organizations, were our YCL Midwest Summer and GOTV election projects. In July, we went to St. Louis where 13 YCLers (5 of whom stayed for the whole month) volunteered alongside the party, Planned Parenthood, CBTU, SEIU and AFSCME, and others on several campaigns including the victorious campaign of John Bowman who is here today. During that same period we sent 12 volunteers to Cleveland where volunteers worked with the Vote Mob and participated in labor walks.
- We worked on everything from phone banking to lit drops and led precincts in Akron for the VoteMob operation....Both the Milwaukee and Chicago YCLers worked in Wisconsin, helping to chaperone a group of 400 high school students on election day who participated in a massive knock and drag effort to get people to the polls, in addition to their work with Vozes, an immigrants rights group, the League of Conservation Voters and ACT on door-knocking and GOTV efforts.
- In New York YCLers were delegates and founders of the local organizing committees of the National Hip Hop Political Convention. In Providence, Miami and Chicago YCLers helped head up the League of Pissed Off Voters efforts. YCLers staffed Democratic Party operations and headed up precincts in Ohio and Florida. A YCLer from Virginia was a canvas director for a progressive young candidate in a tight race in Ohio. In Miami, the newly formed club helped ACT organizing efforts at Miami Dade Community College.
Midwest Voter Project
This Fourth of July, 2004, activists from across the country joined activists in Missouri, to defeat George W. Bush. Communist Party USA and Young Communist League members, alongside friends and allies from Texas, California, New York, and everywhere in between, have been plugged into local political battles.
The goal of the CPUSA’s Midwest Project was to defeat Bush and the ultra-right in America’s heartland. Central to the Missouri "part of the Midwest Project is helping to elect progressive, pro-labor candidates. Strengthening grassroots coalitions and building a broader movement to defeat Bush is tied directly into the efforts to build the Party and YCL."
After Missouri, the Midwest Project workers went to Ohio.
Helping Barbaro and Barack
- In Chicago YCL members were very active in the Youth for Obama efforts and one member worked with the United States Student Association and his student government to register over 1,000 new voters. New York YCLers worked on the election bid of Frank Barbaro in Brooklyn and to defeat Republican Olga Mendez in Upper Manhattan. In Buffalo, YCLers worked with Citizen Action and went to work in Ohio.
Using the Democrats
- But even though the ultra-right is in retreat, kicking and screaming and even calling Hillary Clinton’s half public-half private healthcare proposal “socialist”, they still haven’t been defeated. As Communists, we have to finish the task of isolating the ultra-right and completely removing them from power—using the Democrats to finish the job.
Backing Obama in '08
- This election, the league is largely banking on the candidacy of the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. Smiley, who has been at the helm of the league for the past two years, noted that they will support any Democratic candidate who may potentially loosen labor laws and pass broad social reforms.
- “Obama is an excellent candidate, but it’s not about Obama or Clinton,” she said recently over a breakfast bagel in a coffee shop down the street from the Obama campaign office in Brooklyn. “It’s about beating the extreme right wing; at the end of the day, they’re just playing their roles.”
- The league doesn’t claim official ties to the Obama campaign, and the Obama campaign did not respond to repeated phone calls and e-mails to its Chicago headquarters seeking comment.
- Rather than introducing its own candidate, as the Communist Party last did in 1984 with Gus Hall, the league decided to back the Democratic Party candidate who members believe supports the most proletariat-friendly platform.
- “If we were to run our own candidate this year,” Smiley said, “some people would vote for him, taking away votes from Clinton or Obama, and McCain might jump in. That would be terrible!”
- Smiley, who sported a red T-shirt with the words “Troublemakers Union,” said the league members fear that an official endorsement of Obama could hurt the senator’s chances to become president because a stigma is still attached to communists.
- Docia Buffington, co-chair of the Chicago chapter, which has about 30 members, said in a phone interview that they have concentrated their campaign efforts on Little Village, a predominantly Latino area of the Windy City.
- “I think it was clear that most people were excited about Obama rather than other candidates,” Buffington said. “I think that he does represent a certain kind of change, or it seems so.”
- History of YCL Part II, Tony Pecinovsky, YCL website, accessed September 4, 2011
- PWW Midwest vote project in high gear, by: Docia Buffington July 15 2004, page 2