Our latest congress arrives at a point in history when the struggle for socialism has taken on a new urgency. The struggle being fought in Britain and abroad by our movement and allies is no longer just the struggle to replace an evil, oppressive and exploitative system. It is no longer just the struggle for a peaceful world which guarantees a dignified and full life for everyone. It is now also a time critical fight to save our planet and all of humanity, before it is poisoned and destroyed by capitalism.
The natural disasters and record temperatures that we have witnessed in recent months underline just how urgent this struggle has become. For Britain’s young communists, living, working and struggling in this time, the inspiration of our past and the weight of the tasks we are charged with must be matched by our determination and our organisation.
We are armed with a powerful tool, Marxism-Leninism. With this, we can understand the world as it is, how it is constantly changing and, most importantly, how working people can consciously change it for the better through our collective strength and action. But theory must be matched and tested and refined in practice, through hard won experience and lessons learned.
This is the core purpose of our Congress. To analyse our successes and our failures and to spur ourselves and each other on to greater victories. The YCL exists because we understand that: i) that the transition to socialism is essential and urgent for humanity, ii) that a vanguard communist party is necessary for that to occur and iii) that that party requires a youth wing.
The youth do not form a separate class, but in every progressive and revolutionary struggle in Britain and across the world we have seen young workers and students play a decisive and energetic role. We are a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist youth organisation. We are democrats, internationalists, socialists and part of a mass movement, both here in Britain and globally. As Comrade Lenin famously said, the task of the Young Communist Leagues are simple: “Learn. The youth in general who want to advance to communism should learn communism”.
One of the primary duties of all our comrades is to continuously develop and refine their understanding of the theory and practice of Marxism Leninism and the interrelation between the two. This is a life long task and one which must always be grounded in practical revolutionary work in the broad movement. The YCL and the Communist Party are not narrow sectarian organisations. We selflessly help to build the labour movement and the broad movement for progressive change in Britain, in doing so strengthening them organisationally and politically. As part of our strategy and growth, we also fight to win more and more young people to communism and support for the Communist Party and its programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism.
In performing these tasks, we are working to train ourselves and each other as the next generation of Communist Party cadres, strengthening and building the YCL and the Party, the broad movement and the struggle for socialism in Britain. Through hard experience, the international communist movement has developed and organises according to the principles of democratic centralism.
While misunderstood by some and slandered by others or reduced to the issuing of orders by faceless bureaucrats, in reality democratic centralism allows for the fullest possible democratic debate, followed by unity of action and purpose. It is the essence of working class democracy in the fight for socialist revolution. Working people cannot afford to be divided. Unity is our only weapon. Without it we are nothing. With it, we are invincible. Our Congress is at the heart of this model of organisation.
Through democratic centralism, during the Congress, and at all points, all of our members have a duty to take part in the formation of policy and a duty to fight for the policy on which the YCL decides. There are no passengers. The obligations and privileges of membership and the discipline of the YCL are voluntarily accepted on joining and apply equally to all members whatever their position.
We see the regular farce of ‘political debate’ within the youth wings of ruling class parties in Britain – often trivial, always tightly corralled or overridden by professional politicians and all generally just a forum for careerism. By contrast, our congress will feature robust and meaningful political debate on the real issues confronting young people in Britain today – without the need for ‘adult minders’ from our mother Party.
Rather than a series of tediously orchestrated ‘debates’ and chances for individual grandstanding, our congress relies on and requires freedom of criticism and self-criticism by all comrades. But always, when a decision is taken by the democratic majority, it is the duty of all to carry it out. Factional activity of any kind is not permitted at any time because it destroys the unity of the Communist movement.
This has been a lesson hard learned by the international movement for the damage it can inflict. It is also something what was recently underlined in more general terms here in Britain by the defeat of the left within the Labour Party.
Despite the efforts by anti-Communists, both right and ‘left’, to misconstrue the ideas of democratic centralism, the dictatorship of the working class or to denounce us as ‘totalitarian’ – we are democrats in truest sense of the word and uphold the tradition of working class democracy. We believe in a truly democratic society. A society controlled by working people. A society which operates not only in the interests of the working classes of Britain but also our planet and all humanity.
In this struggle, we work to embody and exemplify these ideals, which we fight to make a reality. Within our own organisation, within the League itself, we aim to foster the democratic ambitions of our class. We are determined that our own organisation and our Party must be a beacon, democratic and incorruptible.
This is the context in which our Congress is so essential. While the struggle for Socialism is there to be won, there will be a historically essential need and role for the Communist Party and its YCL. Any young person who upholds our values and ideals, has the patience to struggle, the willingness to learn and believes that socialism is urgent and essential for humanity, who wishes the privilege of calling themselves a communist and calling others comrade, should take their place in our ranks.
Johnnie Hunter is the General Secretary of the Young Communist League