On the relationship between the Party and the YCL

On the relationship between the Party and the YCL


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

Across this country working-class movements are growing in a new iteration. This renewed movement is, as is plain to see, driven by the youth. Our lives are colored by lack of access to affordable education, healthcare and housing combined with a dearth of good paying jobs. Young people see a lifetime of economic struggle ahead of them and are moving to reject it. But this new life does not come without its complications. Contradictions are emerging between the young and the old, whose material realities differ drastically, thus impacting priorities, understandings and approaches for the tasks laid before the working class. CPUSA is no exception. It is crucial to the future of our Party that these contradictions are overcome so that we can step forward united to lead the burgeoning movement. The key to overcoming these contradictions lies in the relationship between the Party and the Young Communist League. It is on this relationship that the Philadelphia YCL puts forth the following questions to the Party and shares our perspective as a collective composed of Party and non-Party members that has been actively engaged in the struggle of working people in our city.

What should be the relationship between Party clubs and local YCLs?

We must view this relationship as dialectical, where both parties exercise influence on each other and the level or direction of this influence is in constant flux given the reality of the moment. We posit that the Party must take the youth question seriously and acknowledge that young people hold a strong connection to the needs of the working class. It must task young Party members with participating in the YCL and advocating the party line, but not hand down orders. Having older Party members attempt to influence the direction of the league beyond recommendations runs the risk of creating simply a Party proxy in the YCL. Furthermore, when the advocacy for the party line is faced with opposition from the YCL, consideration must be taken as to why this occurred. The Party needs to synthesize these messages communicated to them by the YCL regarding where the youth movement is and where it is headed, in order to refine its understanding of the youth question. On the other hand, members of the YCL must commit to learning and understanding the Party and its history, and to consider the Party’s perspective when deciding on the direction of League work. This back and forth will uplift the voices of younger comrades while simultaneously imbuing the youth movement with the perspective of Party collectives.

Why is the Philadelphia YCL more visible today than the Philadelphia Party?

Over the past three years, the Philly YCL has forged relationships with many contributors to the working-class movement of our city. Our participation in electoral organizing is sought out and valued. We are present in both socialist, and more broad progressive coalitions organized around issues like policing, peace, housing, labor, and LGBTQ+ rights. While we are proud of this work and young people have a place in these movements, the lack of presence from our local Party club in these spaces was frustrating to many members of the league. A feeling that the club  either saw the work of the YCL unimportant, or that they felt the YCL was a sufficient proxy for the Party in these spaces created some resentment among our membership. Regardless of intent , the fact of the matter is that the Party must be directly involved in coalitions and struggles of the working class and not rely on proxies to advance its perspective.This issue is not unique to Philadelphia, many clubs around the country are faced with dissatisfaction in the relationship between the Party and younger members and the Party’s presence in local politics. As party members we must remember the responsibility placed on us and the respective work outlined to us. In order for the work not to be ceded to only the young and energetic, it is important that we consider what an effective balance would be between the Party and League.

What is Party work and what is League work?

Since the subject of what Party work is well covered by other discussion documents, the purpose of this question is not to offer a definition. Instead, it is meant to task comrades with evaluating the current division of labor that exists in their collectives and ask if all members are carrying out the work outlined by the Party program, or is the work being left to the young who have greater capacity to be in the streets, and in the bargaining room, with little support from those that do not. Young people do deserve to be empowered to do meaningful work but not abandoned to do all of it. The obligation of carrying out the Party work must be taken up enthusiastically by Party collectives. Internally this means uplifting young comrades and including them in leadership to provide the youth’s perspective in Party work, externally it is allowing the YCL to chart its own path, free from excessive involvement of older comrades or the burden of existing as the more effective avenue for the Party program. This shifting of work will raise the effectiveness of both organizations, the Party representing itself strongly in the struggle, and the YCL being able to be a mass organization of young people motivated by the issues closest to them.


The young communists of today will go on to be the Party members and leaders of tomorrow. It is important that we consider the relationship of the Party and the Young Communist League as we enter our national convention. Creating an effective relationship between the two collectives will leave us better prepared to take on the tasks that the fight for a working class future has presented to us.



Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer