The Young People's Socialist League was the name of the youth section of the Socialist Party of America. The group emerged in New York City, the product of a group of Socialist activists who sought to counter the "false teachings" instilled in young people by the school system and to build social relationships of young socialists with one another and to instill them with discipline and training so as to help make them valuable and productive members of the adult socialist movement. Individual groups formed a "Young People's Socialist Federation" (YPSF) in 1907.
On May 17, 1907, a Young People's Socialist League was established in Chicago, including 30 members. Key organizers were Charles Schuler (still secretary of the organization at the end of 1913), A.W. Mance, Merle B. Haver, and Rube Burrows. The participants determined to establish their own headquarters and held a number of entertainments and social events as a fundraiser for that purpose. In November 1907, the group opened up their headquarters on the 3rd floor of the Chicago Daily Socialist Building.
[fn. "The Chicago YPSL," The Party Builder, whole no. 59 (Dec. 20, 1913), pg. 6.]
The next year the publishing association responsible for producing the New Yorker Volkszeitung began to issue The Little Socialist Magazine for Boys and Girls -- a publication which was renamed The Young Socialists' Magazine in June 1911.
While the work of the YPSF was begun "with energy and enthusiasm," according to early organizer Louis Weitz, the situation quickly deteriorated, with falling levels of participation, financial difficulties, and a seeming inability or unwillingness of the national Socialist Party to take the task of youth organizing seriously.
A continent away from New York City, there was an active Young People's Socialist League circle formed in the Bay Area of California towards the end of the first decade. In February of 1909 the YPSL sponsored the formation of a Socialist Sunday School for younger children in the same area.
A conclave of young socialist groups was held in June 1911 which approved a new constitution for the organization and elected new offiicers.
There was still no national organization binding the numerous largely autonomous local organizations together until 1913, at which time the SP's National Committee was pushed into action by the efforts of California State Secretary T.W. Williams, a close supporter of the largest American youth Socialist organization, the Young People's Socialist League, with approximately 1200 members. While there was support among some for the formation of a semi-autonomous organization which elected its own National Secretary and 3 of 5 members of its Executive Committee, in the end the National Committee of the SPA decided to form a "Young People's Department," directly attached and fully subordinate to the National Office..
National Committeeman James M. Reilly of New Jersey stated in an article written upon the conclusion of this meeting that "it is not the intention of the Party to interfere with any of the young people's Socialist organizations now in existence. The aim is rather to lend assistance and cooperation." The Youth Department would be "a sort of clearing house for Socialist literature especially suitable for the young," Reilly indicated, adding that the department would be put in charge of "a comrade who has had experience in such work and understands the young mind." The Youth Deparment was slated to begin its work on October 1, 1913.
[fn. James M. Reilly, "To Work With Young People," in Young Socialists' Magazine, June 1913, pg. 2.]
The first "Director of the Young People's Department" of the Socialist Party -- the appointed National Secretary of YPSL -- was J.A. Rogers, Jr., who reported that when work commenced on Oct. 13, 1913, some 48 actually functioning leagues were incorporated in the national YPSL organization. To this some 64 new leagues were organized by the end of December 1913, bringing the total for the organization to 112. "A membership conservatively estimated at 4,800" was claimed.
[fn. J.A. Rogers, Jr., "Report of Young People's Department for October, November, and December 1913" in Young Socialists' Magazine, Feb. 1914, pg. 13.]
The first election of YPSL's National Secretary (Rogers having been appointed) took place by referendum vote in 1915. William F, "Bill" Kruse was elected to the position. Kruse served at the post from July 1915 through July 1, 1919. Outgoing National Secretary Bill Kruse recalled in December 1918 that when he began his first of two terms as the head of the YPSL in July 1915, the organization consisted of about 1,000 paid members, spread out in about 100 "nominal" leagues -- "most of which existed only in our address file."
In 1919 Oliver Carlson of Detroit was elected the new National Secretary of the YPSL, garnering a plurarily of votes to defeat two opponents.
1. "First National Convention of YPSL" --- Chicago, IL --- May 1-4, 1919.
According to an announcement in The Young Socialists' Magazine of March 1919, this convention was "not commanded by the constitution," but rather
"had no official standing. For that very reason, however, it would be easier to stick to a working program rather than one of high sounding resolutions and hair-splitting constitutional changes. All actions of this convention will be sent out to referendum, and all reports as to better means and methods of work, the real purpose of our gathering, will be made avaialble to the leagues."
The so-called "First National Convention" was attended by 41 delegates, from 14 different states -- including one all the way from Seattle, Washington. Three fraternal delegates were also seated.
The Convention marked a big step towards organizational independence, as it adopted the first YPSL constitution -- a document which provided for organizational independence for the YPSL -- the only affiliation mentioned in the document is internationally with "with the Young People's Socialist Leagues of the world." No mechanism for control of the organization by the Socialist Party is specified in the organizational framework approved. The organization was to issue its own dues stamps and collect its own funds, handle its own finances, elect its own officers, issue (or revoke) its own charters, and conduct its own propaganda. The organization was to be open to young Socialists between the ages of 15 and 30 without regard to gender, race, or creed.
Governance was to be by a relatively powerful National Secretary, elected to a 2 year term. The National Secretary was subject to the control of a National Committee which was to consist of 1 member for each state organization or unorganized state with at least 100 average paid members, plus an additional delegate for every 500 average paid members. Supreme authority was to be vested in a bi-annual convention; elections to be held by referendum. Dues were established at 5 cents a month per member to the National Office (plus whatever state or local dues might be collected); 2 cents a month per member for Junior YPSL, open to children ages 12-16.
With a split of the Socialist Party clearly in the offing, in the summer of 1919 YPSL National Secretary Oliver Carlson polled the state and local YPSL organizations as to their intentions should the Socialist Party split. A clear majority indicated to him that the YPSL should attempt to steer a middle course through organizational independence. By the time this split became a reality at the end of August 1919, Carlson had unilaterally removed himself from the National Office, instead having the Post Office transfer mail service to his home, from which he attempted to establish de facto YPSL headquarters. This arrangement proved highly unsatisfactory to the Socialist Party which was paying his weekly salary -- mail stacked up and went unanswered, the Young Socialists' Magazine began to become irregular, and Carlson's long unexplained absences caused the SP's NEC to first suspend his paychecks and then terminate his employment by the party altogether.
In September 1919 Carlson attended the founding convention of the Communist Party of America as a fraternal delegate of the YPSL; Chicago YPSL activist Samuel Hankin attended the founding convention of the Communist Labor Party and was accorded full delegate status. There was no formal representation of the YPSL at the Socialist Party's Emergency National Convention that same week, although Bill Kruse attended in his capacity as an elected delegate of the Socialist Party of Illinois. Kruse later wrote an account of the SPA convention for the benefit of the Yipsel membership.
It is clear that the Socialist Party was initially willing to accept an independent YPSL, the case having successfully been made by Bill Kruse and others that only in this way did the organization have a chance to circumnavigate the shoals of factionalism that had grounded the adult Socialist movement. The 1919 Emergency National Convention in Chicago unanimously approved revision of the SPA's constitution in this regard, deleting the section dealing with the YPSL and instead incorporating provisions formally establishing a "Young People's Department" operating at the pleasure of the National Executive Committee. At the SPA NEC's September meeting, Bill Kruse was prevailed upon and convinced assume the role of head of the "Young People's Department." The party also asserted its ownership of The Young Socialists' Magazine, of which Kruse resumed editorship effective with its "August-September 1919" issue, issued late in September -- although Kruse was careful to explain in an open letter to Yipsel members that he made no claims to be the National Secretary of the organization.
On Oct. 13, 1919, the 7th Convention of the YPSL of New York, in session in New York City, voted to sever connections with the Socialist Party. The resolution making the organization independent declared:
The Socialist movement in America today being torn by factions, affilaition with any one of them at the present time will both hinder and interfere with the YPSL in its work. ONly as an idependent body can we organize and work effectively. Therefore, be it resolved, that we, the members of the YPSL of New York, sever our connections with the Socialist Party and declare ourselves not bound by any organization whatever.
[fn. "Yipsels Sever Relations with Socialist Party," NY Call, Oct. 14, 1919, pg. 1.]
3. Special Conference --- Rochester, NY --- Dec. XX-XX, 1919.
The 1919 special Rochester Conference, coming in the wake of the split of the Socialist Party, formally severed the relationship of the YPSL organization with the national SP. Instead, the organization was declared independent of all existing parties.
Death of the Independent YPSL.
The Red Raids of 1920 spelled the death of the Independent YPSL. As Secretary Oliver Carlson later recounted:
Thousands were arrested; other thousands were being searched for. Large numbers of those who had declared themselves Communists decided that the game was too perilous. They dropped out of the movement - and the Communist parties themselves were organizing as best they could underground. That all of this should also reflect itself in the youth movement is obvious. Section after section gave up its ghost and died. Others carried on as mere social centers, doing no revolutionary work. A few -- and very few, indeed -- sought to go ahead as best they could with their youth work. Nationally, neither YPSL or IYPSL could be considered as functioning. The remaining few who hitherto had sought to work amongst the youth, now threw their full weight into the work of building up and strengthening the underground parties.
[fn. Carlson, "Looking Backward," The Young Worker, June 1, 1924, pg. 4.]
Socialist Party Reestablishes its own YPSL.
The May 1920 convention of the SPA called for the reestablishment of a YPSL subject to the direction of the NEC of the Socialist Party. On Sept. 5-6, 1920, New York YPSL circles loyal to the SPA gathered in a reorganizational conference and pledged their allegiance to the national party and to work for the Debs-Stedman ticket in the campaign that fall. They issued a Manifesto to Socialist Youth declaring these intentions. A reorganized national YPSL grew around this organization.
In 1932, the YPSL had 3,355 members in 153 circles. Of these, 1,968 were male and 935 were unemployed.
[fn. Socialist Party of America papers, Duke University, microfilm reel 81.]
The April 1935 session of the NEC of the YPSL dealt extensively with the situation in New York State, in which the Militant-dominated YPSL organization had been locked out of its offices by the Old Guard dominated Local New York organization for the YPSL's decision to refuse to support The New Leader, the weekly newspaper of the Old Guard. In addition, YPSL members were blackballed from the adult party by decree of the New York State Committee, headed by Louis Waldman.
The NEC of the Socialist Party had been called in on the matter and at its March 23-24, 1935 session an ultimatum issued to the Old Guard-dominated New York organization to adhere to the national party constitution, which called for automatic membership of YPSL members of 2 years' good standing.
The April 1935 plenum of the NEC affirmed the actions of its New York branch. It claimed authority over the New York YPSL organization, rather than subjecting it to the authority of the adult party corresponding with it -- with the National Executive Committee of the YPSL subject to the authority of the NEC of the adult party.
The Red Falcons, the children's organization of the Socialist youth movement, was said to consist of 2,000 members.
A delegation from the Young Communist League was received on Saturday, April 20, with a set of proposals for joint action, including a campaign for the YCL and YPSL to work together to organize workers into the AF of L unions. The NEC rejected this offer, on the grounds that while YPSL had consistently engaged in pro-union activity, the Communist Party had considered the AF of L a "fascist" organization and worked for its destruction.
The meeting was attended by National Chairman Arthur G. McDowell, National Secretary Winston Dancis, and NEC members John Strobel (Wisconsin), Gloria Waldron (Missouri), Robert Parker (Ohio), Milton Weisburg (PA), Leon Shull (PA), Tarmo Hannula (MA), Aaron Levenstein (New York), and Noah C.A. Walter, Jr. (New York).
[fn. "YPSL National Executive Upholds New York Action," Socialist Call, v. 1, no. 6 (April 27, 1935), pg. 6.]
The 8th National Convention voted to raise the upper age limit for YPSL membership to 30.
Elected as National Chairman was Ernest Erber of Chicago, formerly the County Secretary of the Chicago YPSL. Erber was also an editor of the Trotskyist Socialist Appeal. He was elected with no opposition. Ben Fishcer of New York was elected National Secretary. Fischer was formerly the City Executive Secretary of the Yew York YPSL and the National YPSL organizer for the Detroit-Toledo district. Fischer defeated Winston Dancis in a contested race, 48 votes to 39.
Elected to the NEC were: Wiston Dancis, New York, retiring National Secretary of the YPSL; Hy Fish, Cleveland; William Goldberg, California; Tarmo Hannula, Massachusetts; Charles Hryniewiecki, Milwaukee, WI; Aaron Levenstein, New York; Leon Schull, Philadelphia, PA; Gloria Waldron, Missouri; and Milton Weisberg, Pennsylvania.
Following conclusion of the Convention, the new YPSL NEC met, adopting a resolution calling for a party-owned press.
A delegation from the Young Communist League was in attendence to present what was later characterized as "a vague united front offer" -- a proposal which was turned down by the YPSL NEC.
[fn. "YPSL Raises Top Age Limit" etc., The Socialist Call, vol. 1, no. 19 (July 27, 1935), pg. 7.]
YPSL splits, with majority following Trotskyist Left Wing.
In 1937, the YPSL at its national convention elected to endorse the 4th International, effectively casting its lot with the party's Trotskyist Left Wing, which was in the process of being expelled from the organization.
Meeting of the NEC --- Philadelphia, PA --- Sept. 2-3, 1937
9A. 9th National Convention ("Left Wing," regular) --- Philadelphia, PA --- Sept. 3-5, 1937.
The 1937 Philadelphia Convention of the YPSL was a controversial gathering, with adherents of the Socialist Party's majority "Clarity" faction jockeying against loyalists of the "Appeal Tendency," the party's Trotskyist Left Wing. On September 2, the National Executive Committee of the YPSL, dominated by Clarity, held a session to pass judgment on the credentials for the upcoming convention. Recognizing that the Left Wing was almost certain to win majority control of the convention, and thus the organization, an effort was made to delay the scheduled start of the gathering, with the NEC session held over through the morning of September 3 -- the date at which the convention was scheduled to begin. The 5-2 Clarity majority of the NEC sought to give voice and vote in advance to the challenged Clarity delegation from New York -- over 50 delegates, for an organization of just 357 paid members, of whom 41% had voted in the last city elections for candidates of the Appeal faction.
[fn. Crushing Left Wing Majority at YPSL Convention Make Impossible Alibi Attempt of Socialist Call," Socialist Appeal, v. 1, no. 6 (Sept. 18, 1937), pg. 5.]
The Left Wing "Appeal" faction also met as a formally organized caucus for two days in advance of the opening of the convention.
[fn. Crushing Left Wing Majority at YPSL Convention Make Impossible Alibi Attempt of Socialist Call," Socialist Appeal, v. 1, no. 6 (Sept. 18, 1937), pg. 7.]
Left Winger and National Chairman of the YPSL Ernest Erber called the gathering to order on September 3, despite the NEC's refusal to submit a final credentials report. The combined body joined in singing "The Internationale" and raising clenched fists; this was followed by a walkout of the Clarity group, headed by Al Hamilton, which proceeded to the local YWCA to hold a convention of its own.
Some 148 people remained in the hall after the departure of the Clarity faction, including 104 regular delegates.
[fn. Crushing Left Wing Majority at YPSL Convention Make Impossible Alibi Attempt of Socialist Call," Socialist Appeal, v. 1, no. 6 (Sept. 18, 1937), pg. 5.]
9B. 9th National Convention ("Clarity," insurgent) --- Philadelphia, PA --- Sept. 3-5, 1937.
At the YPSL convention held at the Philadelphia YWCA following the walkout of the Clarity faction some 92 delegates were seated, the overwhelming bulk of whom were from New York City (53) or Philadelphia (12). An additional 5 of the voting delegates were members of the outgoing NEC of the YPSL. Only 1 delegate came from states west of the Mississippi River.
[fn. "Crushing Left Wing Majority at YPSL Convention Make Impossible Alibi Attempt of Socialist Call," Socialist Appeal, v. 1, no. 6 (Sept. 18, 1937), pg. 5.]
"Operating a Socialist Sunday School," by Kenneth Thompson [November 1910] Rare participant's account of the structure and operations of a Socialist Sunday School written by a Bay Area Young People's Socialist League activist. The SSS in Oakland was established by the YPSL Study Class in February of 1909, Thompson says, with an elected instructor coordinating the lesson and leading singing in conjunction with a YPSL standing committee of 3, of which Thompson was a part. The SSS elected its own officers and conducted its own formal meetings, a form of practical training "not taught in any other school for children," Thompson indicates. Suggestions about lesson content were made by the children themselves. "The lessons are carefully worked out so that the class struggle is always before the children as the basis of the Socialist philosophy, and without the class struggle we would have no Socialist movement; always careful not to blind their young minds with any false conceptions of 'justice, right,' etc., other than class justice," Thompson states. Picnics were held, group singing and "red flag drill" conducted in association with entertainments of the regular SP, and newspaper advertising sales contests held in conjunction with The Oakland World. "The Socialist work among children is one of the most important branches of the party work, and should be encouraged in all cities and towns where there is a party organization," Thompson states.
"Patriotism," by Ralph Korngold [June 1911] This short essay, really a prose poem, by Socialist Party activist Ralph Korngold was published in the monthly magazine of the Young People's Socialist Federation and Socialist Sunday Schools. "The capitalist class, by making the workers propertyless, has made them fatherlandsless. The workers have no country. This is no more your country than the shop you work in is your shop or the factory you work in is your factory. You are simply employed there, that is all.... I can imagine Morgan being patriotic, or Rockefeller, or Weyerhauser, but why a workingman, no matter to what country he belongs, should be patriotic is more than I can see.... Let Rockefeller and Morgan fight their own battles. The workingmen of the world have but one common enemy -- the capitalist class of the world."
"The Young People's Socialist Federation," by Louis Weitz [Sept. 1911] This short article from the monthly Young Socialists' Magazine published by the New Yorker Volkszeitung was written by the director of the Young People's Socialist Federation. It provides a brief outline of that organization's history -- short on specific detail but nevertheless providing important clues about the origins of the youth section of the Socialist Party of America which eventually emerged as the Young People's Socialist League. The Young People's Socialist Federation is said to have begun in New York City in 1907, apparently started in an effort to "erase the false teachings of both our public and private institutions of learning," to develop interrelationships between young socialists and instilling training and discipline among them, and thus preparing these youth for active and productive participation in the socialist movement in the future. Beginning with "high hopes and enthusiasm," this project seems to have become something of a debacle, with falling membership, financial difficulties, and a failure of the Socialist Party to treat the matter with sufficient seriousness. Nevertheless, a small core of activists persevered, and a reorganization was made at a June 1911 gathering of Young Socialist clubs, which adopted a new constitution and elected a new set of organizational officers. Little work had taken place in the slow summer months of 1911, Weitz confessed, but he held high hopes for renewed activity in the coming fall months.
"A National Organization is On Its Way!" by J. Louis Engdahl [April 1913] Powered by the success of the Los Angeles Young People's Socialist League, with 1200 members, and the support of State Secretary of the Socialist Party of California T.W. Williams, movement was for the establishment of the national YPSL organization had finally begun, according to this report by Chicago Socialist Louis Engdahl. An estimated 200 autonomous and "practically independent" Socialist youth organizations had sprung up in American, needing "only a centralized movement to put them in active operation," Engdahl indicated. In accordance with this objective, information was being gathered about the strength and resources of each for presentation to the forthcoming annual meeting of the Party's National Committee (essentially a convention with representatives present from each state organization). A debate was underway over the structure of such an organization, with some favoring a sovereign but associated organization electing its own National Secretary and 3 of 5 of the member s of its National Committee, while others favored creation of a subordinate youth department of the Socialist Party, akin to the structure already extant for women.
"To Work with Young People," by James M. Reilly [June 1913] Short article in The Young Socialists' Magazine by a Socialist Party National Committee member from New Jersey announcing the May 1913 decision of the NC to establish a Youth Department attached to the National Office, effective October 1, 1913. Reilly states that "It is not the intention of the Party to interfere with any of the young people's Socialist organizations now in existence. The aim is rather to lend assistance and cooperation.....The department will also be a sort of clearing house for Socialist literature especially suitable for the young." He notes that "We Socialists do not believe in forcing our faith -- so to speak -- on anyone. We do not wish our children to be Socialists because we are. The true Socialist wants his children to do their own thinking, and of course form their own conclusions." However, the SPA had been negligent in providing even rudimentary information about itself to young people in any systematic way. Through this new department it was hoped that first steps would soon be taken in this regard.
"SSS Organizes on National Scale," by William Kruse [Sept. 1918] On July 27-28, 1918, a conclave was held in New York City bringing together representatives of the Socialist Sunday Schools movement from 6 Eastern cities and the National Office of the Socialist Party. The group made recommendations for the centralization of the SSS movement through the office of the SPA's Young People's Department in Chicago, suggested curriculum for each of three age groups, and elected a provisional National Executive Committee of 5 for the SSS movement, headed by Dr. Antoinette Konikow of Boston as Chairman and YPSL head William F. Kruse of Chicago as Secretary. The gathering also recommended the dropping of the counterproductive word "Sunday" from the SSS, suggesting instead the new name "Socialist Schools of Science" for the movement. This new name would be used in all future correspondence from the National Office, the conference indicated, and local organizations were advised to do likewise. "It is not at present the intention of making the SSS an iron-bound Party affair, but there must be some central point of contact between the various school organizations and it is but right that, as in the case of the YPSL, this point be the Young People's Dept. of our Party," this article stated.
"National Election in YPSL: Wanted -- A New National Secretary," by William Kruse [Dec. 1918] Two-term National Secretary of the Young People's Socialist League Bill Kruse decided not to run for re-election in 1919. This light-hearted article lists his picks as qualifications for his "ideal" successor. He thus indirectly illuminates many of the tasks which he fulfilled during his 4 years at the helm of the organization. Some concrete details about the size of the organization also trickle through -- a paid membership averaging about 5,000 per month (although slightly down in the 4th Quarter of 1918, it seems) with a magazine circulation to match. The YPSL maintain 8 state organizations and paid Kruse a salary as National Secretary of $23 a week. Kruse notes that his successor "should know what socialism is, and how to practice its ethical basis in his own dealings with his comrades, and he should be a disciple of Liebknecht and Debs rather than Scheidemann and Spargo."
"The Yipsels and the Socialist Sedition Case: Part 1 -- The Prosecution's Case," by William F. Kruse. [Feb. 1919] One of the biggest show-trials conducted by the Wilson Administration against its radical opponents was the Trial of the Five Socialists -- a group of defendants which included former Congressman and NEC member Victor L. Berger, Socialist Party National Executive Secretary Adolph Germer, Secretary of the Young People's Socialist League William F. Kruse, Editor of the SPA's official publications J. Louis Engdahl, and former head of the SPA's Literature Department Irwin St. John Tucker. The five were indicted for alleged violation of the so-called "Espionage Act" on Feb. 2, 1918, and were finally brought before Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis for trial beginning on Dec. 9, 1918 -- nearly a month after conclusion of the war. This article on the prosecutorial hijinks behind the trial was written by defendant Bill Kruse for the monthly magazine of the YPSL. This first installment of a three part series was published in the Feb. 1919 issue of The Young Socialists' Magazine.
"Yipsels and the Socialist Sedition Trial: Part 2 -- The Defense," by Harry L. Gannes [March 1919] New Editor in Chief of The Young Socialists' Magazine continues the story of the "Trial of the 5 Chicago Socialists" (Berger, Germer, Engdahl, Kruse, and Tucker) begun in the previous issue of the magazine. The 18 year old Gannes provides a number of tidbits, fine detail, about the defense's argument in the trial, cross-examination, final arguments in the case, instructions to the jury, and the verdict and the reaction of the assembled Socialists thereto. Despite failing to prove the substance of its case, Kruse indicates that the government was able to sell a specious conspiracy argument, resulting in a guilty verdict against all five defendants after only four hours of deliberation. Gannes depicts the trial as a "baptism of fire" for the relatively new national Young People's Socialist League organization which it managed to withstand well, its witnesses performing ably without flinching or compromising.
"Constitution of the Young People's Socialist League: Adopted by 1st National Convention -- Chicago, May 1-4, 1919." This seems to be the first formal constitution of the Young People's Socialist League, the youth section of the Socialist Party of America. Inspired by the experience of European Socialist parties in the field of youth organization, Young People's Socialist Leagues (under various names) began to spontaneously arise in the United States from about 1907. The movement was particularly strong in such cities as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. It was not until mid-October 1913 that a Young People's Department was established by the SPA National Office, with the YPSL national organization headed at first by a Secretary appointed by the National Committee of the SPA (J.A. Rogers, Jr.). Elections for National Secretary were held by referendum in 1915 (Bill Kruse), 1917 (Bill Kruse), and 1919 (Oliver Carlson). The first National Convention of the YPSL was held May 1-4, 1919, in Chicago -- at which this constitution was approved. Adoption of the YPSL constitution marked a de facto leap towards organizational independence, as no mechanism for SPA control was included in the specified framework. The YPSL was to issue its own dues stamps and collect its own funds, handle its own finances, elect its own officers, issue (or revoke) its own charters, and conduct its own propaganda. The organization was to be open to young Socialists between the ages of 15 and 30 without regard to gender, race, or creed. Governance was to be by a relatively powerful National Secretary, elected to a 2 year term. The National Secretary was subject to the control of a National Committee which was to consist of 1 member for each state organization or unorganized state with at least 100 average paid members, plus an additional delegate for every 500 average paid members. Supreme authority was to be vested in a bi-annual convention; elections to be held by referendum. Dues were established at 5 cents a month per member to the National Office (plus whatever state or local dues might be collected); 2 cents a month per member for Junior YPSL, open to children ages 12-16.
"The National Emergency Convention Through Yipsel Eyes," by William F. Kruse [events of Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 1919] Participant's report of the Socialist Party's 1919 Emergency National Convention in Chicago by the former National Secretary of the Young People's Socialist League. Kruse, elected by the Socialist Party of Illinois as a delegate to the convention, relates the story of the SPA gathering in Machinist's Hall through the prism of his former organization. He indicates that he and other friends of the YPSL were able to persuade the Constitution Committee and then the convention itself to liberate the YPSL from formal Party control by deleting constitutional provisions that the YPSL "shall be under the control and direction of the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party," in favor of language establishing a "Director of Propaganda and Education among the young" who "shall organize and cooperate with the existing Young People's Socialist Organization for the extension of propaganda and education among the young people." In this way it was hoped that the YPSL might be able to steer its way clear of the factional war that was decimating and disorganizing the adult socialist movement. Kruse also makes mention of the "Minority Report" on international affiliation that he put forward with Louis Engdahl. He emphasizes the commonality between Majority and Minority perspectives: "All agreed that the Second International was dead. All repudiated absolutely the Berne Conference. All agreed that the new International would have to be organized upon the definite and rigid basis of the class struggle. All repudiated the social patriots who had stood by their warlords in time of test and struggle. All agreed that those who entered coalition governments with the bourgeoisie could not sit in the International. The distinction came on the point of whether the Third International should come into being through the call issued by the Communist Party at Moscow, or upon some subsequent call...coming from some other source among the revolutionary socialist parties of Europe."
"National Yipsel Head Under Charges." (NY Call) [Sept. 27, 1919] Brief news snippet from the pages of the New York Call announcing that charges had been brought against Oliver Carlson, head of the Socialist Party's youth section, by William Kruse, former head of the Young People's Socialist League ("Yipsel"). "The charges are that he has not occupied his office, although regularly drawing his wages; that he has had his official mail directed to his home, and that he refused to occupy his seat at the national convention, but attended the convention of a party formed as a rival to the Socialist Party instead," the article states. Kruse had been placed in interim charge of the YPSL organization. The article ironically notes that Bill Kruse had himself recently been "the leader of the "Left Wing" element in the national convention, but that he refused to bolt the party."
"An Open Letter to All Yipsels," by William F. Kruse [late September 1919] This open letter, sent out by former YPSL National Secretary Bill Kruse to all of the organizations state organizations and circles, provides important details about the history of the organization in the turbulent months around the Socialist Party split in the summer of 1919. As the Aug. 30 Emergency National Convention of the SPA approached, YPSL National Secretary Oliver Carlson polled the state and local YPSL organizations as to their intentions should the Socialist Party split. A clear consensus indicated that the YPSL should attempt to steer a middle course through organizational independence. When this split became a reality at the end of August 1919, Carlson unilaterally removed himself from the National Office, instead having the Post Office transfer mail service to his home, from which he attempted to establish de facto YPSL headquarters. This arrangement proved unsatisfactory to the Socialist Party which was paying his weekly salary -- mail stacked up and went unanswered, the Young Socialists' Magazine began to become irregular, and Carlson's long unexplained absences caused the SP's NEC to first suspend his paychecks and then terminate his employment by the party altogether. William Kruse was convinced to take over the National Office's "Young People's Department" and resume editorship of the YSM -- although Kruse was careful to explain in this open letter that he made no claims to be the National Secretary of the organization. "The Socialist Party regrets exceedingly to part company with its younger comrades at this time, but feels that the Yipsels know best what will help maintain the integrity of their organization. If by this step the young comrades can avoid the fratricidal strife that has torn the older movement, the Party will put no obstacles in the way of such a step," Kruse states.
"Young Reds Break with Yellow SP," by Maximilian Cohen [events of Oct. 12-13, 1919] On Oct. 12 and 13, 1919, a closely watched convention of the Young People's Socialist League of New York was held. The gathering was attended by representatives of the 3 main radical parties: Alexander L. Trachtenberg for the Socialist Party of America, Fannie Jacobs for the Communist Labor Party, and Harry M. Winitsky (convention Day 1) and Bert Wolfe (Day 2) for the Communist Party of America. In addition, Bertha Mailly and David Berenberg were in attendance on behalf of the Socialist Party-linked Rand School of Social Science. The primary order of business for the gathering was to determine the organizational affiliation of the New York YPSL in the aftermath of the 1919 split of the SPA. The New York convention anticipated the eventual action of the national YPSL organization, ultimately deciding upon an official policy of "neutrality" and severing relations with the parent Socialist Party. A new State Board of Control was elected, including 4 supporters of the CPA, 1 supporter of the CLP, and 2 supporters of the SPA. All references to the Socialist Party were deleted from the organization's constitution. The New York YPSL convention also adopted a resolution repudiating the Berne International and declaring itself "an integral part of the International Communist movement."
"Manifesto to Socialist Youth: Adopted by the Reorganizational Conference of the New York Young People's Socialist League, September 5 & 6, 1920." The New York state organization of the Socialist Party's youth section reorganized itself at a conference held in New York city on Sept. 5-6, 1920, which issued this "Manifesto to Socialist Youth." It briefly recounts the history of the YPSL during the 1919-1920 period: "A few of the younger comrades, influenced by the older ones, who were opposed to the Socialist Party, tried to bring the party differences into the YPSL. Instantaneously, the YPSL was turned into a battleground, where the whole "Left Wing" controversy took up the time of the organization. Instead of fighting capitalism, the comrades fought themselves." As a result and "Independent YPSL" was launched, according to this manifesto. This group was "independent in name only," however, it being "a guise under which a group of Communist leaders could put through their aims," according to manifesto. The 1920 conventions of the Socialist Party of America and the Socialist Party of New York called for a YPSL under the direction of the National Executive Committee of the SPA, which this reorganized New York YPSL pledged to be, adding its pledge to work for the Debs-Stedman ticket in the fall Presidential campaign.
"History of the American Socialist Youth Movement to 1929," by Shirley Waller [circa 1946] A summary history of the early Socialist and Communist youth movement in America written circa 1946 by a member of a small Trotskyist organization, the Workers Party. This material is an extended excerpt of that first published as two small circulation WP bulletins. These bulletins quickly went out of print and were brought back only as a mimeographed pamphlet in 1959 (with additional material) by the Socialist Workers Party. Waller's history is encumbered with an orthodox Trotskyist periodization which declares a "beginning of the degeneration of the YCL" from late 1923 and makes an ahistorical declaration of an "abrupt halt" to the "organic process of the youth movement" from 1925. These dates obviously were chosen based upon the political position of one Soviet Russian Communist Party leader vis-a-vis the others rather than on the basis of objectively observed and persuasively documented historical events in the YCL itself. That said (and despite several glaring factual inaccuracies corrected here in the footnotes) this history is not without interest as a thumbnail sketch of the evolution of the Socialist Party of America's youth movement into the Communist youth movement of the 1920s.
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