In August 2021, the YCL held its 50th congress at which members of the organisation passed medium-term resolutions for action, as well as electing its new leadership and updating the constitution.
The League has grown tremendously in the past few years, and as a result, we have been able to orchestrate larger campaigns with comparatively more recognition from the public. Proudly, our members are active on a wide range of fronts and a voice for the future of Britain’s youth throughout the labour and progressive movement.
What next for our glorious League?
As we grow, it is essential that we cement the positive trends, and mitigate against the negative ones, so that our organisation grows in the right way. Sometimes this means thinking ahead and forecasting the challenges of the future.
The challenges ahead for the working people of Britain and the world are enormous and we should have no illusions about that. As it stands, there is a lot of work to be done, and we need not only our own members, but other young people to feel well equipped and confident to lead the struggle.
If we are Communists in a cadre organisation that aims to represent the needs and interests of the working class, then we need to focus carefully on the development of all of our members as activists and leaders in their own right, and above all else, cement our relationships with the people, learn from them and fight for and alongside them.
We are workers, so this should not be too difficult, but it does require taking stock and building our organisation and movement in a strategic way.
It also requires the rejection of ever-present bourgeois ideas of politics, where everything is clear-cut, easy and idealistic. In fact, campaigning in a particular field or the level of a workplace, school or campus, we learn the nuances and practicality of every struggle.
The key is to link these up with an overall strategy and vision.
Well trained, responsible and confident leadership
In September 2021, the Central Committee held online training based on discussion around our aims and principles, communist approaches to collective work, and the ideas of Xi Jinping and Alvaro Cunhal.
This workshop is called “Communist approaches to collective work, developing the organisational and political culture of the League” and is available for officers of League branches, districts and nations.
Leadership is the honour and responsibility of every elected officer, whether that person is a member of the Central Committee elected at all-Britain congress, convenor of a commission or advisory group, or branch secretary elected by the branch of a small area.
That person’s duty is to learn and put into place the rules, aims and principles, the medium-term decisions of our congress, and the outlook of our programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism. That person’s duty is to guide the positive development of their League organisation.
Leadership is the responsibility of every officer, in fact, of every member of the League. Every member should feel entitled to make proactive contributions to the life of the organisation within the proper boundaries. Clear systems and guidelines encourage this to happen.
We need well-trained and confident leadership, fluent in the political issues (of their local area, area of work, Britain and/or overseas) and rules-based working, able to manage other people and promote their good efforts, and loyal to the organisation, the working class, the cause of Socialism, and our values.
This is essential not only for the YCL, but for the entire labour and progressive movement. The youth movement in Britain needs this culture as well. We can play an important part in bringing that culture in order to strengthen our movement.
Strong leadership at each level of the organisation is also necessary for our work to be coordinated and strategic, making smart interventions into the political situation in Britain.
Developing this culture is a constant work in progress. As a Communist organisation, we rely upon the input of our individual members to make our campaign work as rich and useful as it needs to be, and the development of leadership is no different.
Lessons from The Governance of China
The Governance of China is a three-volume collection of speeches and pieces written by Xi Jinping, covering a wide range of issues relevant to China and its Communist Party.
As a rule, every League member, and ideally every activist in the labour and progressive movement, must be a leader.
What is a good leader and good leadership from a Communist perspective?
“In summary, good officials must be firm in their ideals and convictions, willing to serve the people, diligent in work, ready to take on responsibilities, honest, and upright.” – The Governance of China, ‘Train and Select Good Officials’, June 2013.
Our organisation is privileged to have leading youth activists from all over Britain within our ranks. They represent a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, generations, geographies, and areas of work. As such, our members have a variety of skill sets and knowledge.
We need to make time to share these with each other, especially with new members and activists in our movement, and as others get older or take on different responsibilities, we need to give them the proper guidance and opportunities to excel.
Leaders need to be competent, but more importantly, they need to have solid moral and ideological foundations that keep them steadfast and courageous in the face of problems and difficult questions.
Where do we get our moral fibre? From our people, our communities, our movement, and our faith in Socialism and the amazing and inspirational things it can provide for humanity. We need to remain down to earth and in tune with the people.
This gives us the strength to make sacrifices. Sacrifice is a noble thread that runs throughout the more than 100 years of our organisation.
Sacrifice can mean contributing our time to local campaigns or fighting for better pay and conditions at work, or it can mean the supreme sacrifices that have been made in decades gone, such as the lives laid down in the International Brigades, fighting fascism and for peace and democracy in Spain.
“For us Communists, conduct is a yardstick that measures our faith in Marxism, our convictions in Socialism and Communism, and our loyalty to the Party and the people.” – The Governance of China, ‘Enhance Party Conduct, Uphold Clean Government’, and Fight Corruption, January 2016.
We need to set aside the time to know our activists and their interests, their strengths and weaknesses. Shortcomings need to be pointed out in time while good work is praised and rewarded.
If the organisation is trusting and closely knit, then criticism and self-criticism can be conducted in a way that is free, frank, respectful and focused on positive solutions.
Leaders need to set an example, not only in the organisation, but to others in the movement and wider society as well.
People should see the YCL in their area as role models and know that we have their best interests at heart.
We need to develop rules-based systems and standards so that we can measure ourselves objectively. Individual and collective achievements should be made visible and celebrated.
“A Marxist party has lofty political ideals, and pursues noble goals. Its political character is wholesome, and its discipline is strict. If it is no longer politically wholesome, there is no way it can retain its progressive nature and integrity. This is why reinforcing its political foundations is of fundamental importance to our Party.” – The Governance of China, ‘Initiative and Resolve in Reinforcing the Party’s Political Foundations’, June 2018.
We need to set our sights on greater, more long-term and strategic goals. As the calibre of the League grows, our capacity to understand the trends, act incisively, and change things for the better in Britain will grow.
The Education Commission is meeting in February to discuss how our League can go ahead with the important tasks of Marxist-Leninist education and developing our cadres and leadership.
If you are responsible for education for your branch, then you need to be involved.
We need leadership at every level of the organisation, whether that is horizontal (for example, areas of work), or from bottom to top.
The YCL are currently in the process of developing education within all sectors of the organisation. Here are some areas:
- A standardised education programme giving every League member the knowledge and tools they need.
- Standardised forms for feeding back and writing reports, making the exchange of experiences, successes and areas for improvement habitual.
- Guidelines for what educational and cultural activities should be done by branches, eg reading groups, day schools, local history and tours, including activities open to non-members.
- The development of grassroots organising skills, especially focused on trade union and community work.
- A mentoring programme – making existing members responsible for guiding and integrating new members fully into League life.
- The development of structures such as branches, districts and nations and commissions and advisory groups, as well as clear leadership and line management.
- A candidacy programme that gives new members everything they need to get set up as Young Communists, learn the basics and meet other members.
- Meetings as places for useful discussion and proactive participation. Branch annual general meetings and district and national congresses as large opportunities to take stock of our progress, rethink what we are doing, and plan for the future.
At every step, we need to ask ourselves how best we can fight for Britain’s young workers and students, and avoid the temptations of hot air and going through the motions.
Conquer your future
These are some ideas about where I believe we need and want every member of our organisation to be. I encourage people to read the articles about Communist leadership and organisation linked at the end of this article if they would like more food for thought.
If you are a member of the YCL, I hope that you found these ideas useful.
If not a member, then why not? I hope that you see that we take educating and empowering our movement very seriously, join us, or work with us.
We have a mammoth task ahead of us. Britain’s youth and the youth of the world are counting on us to do everything we can.
That may seem daunting, but we can achieve almost anything if we maximise the potential of our members and our movement, and work at the maximum of our collective strength.
One young Communist might feel like a drop in the ocean, or achieve a considerable amount for one human being. However, there is no question that hundreds or thousands of youth who learn how to work together and fight together, will also determine a wave of change and move mountains on earth.
For that reason, every League member – and every progressive youth activist – must be a leader!
Robin Talbot, is the Chair of the YCL