Convention Discussion: Building the YCL

BY: Lisa Bergmann| May 4, 2014

Submitted by the CP/YCL Collective

Over the last three to four years, the Young Communist League has become an organization that is cherished by many young people in our country.  The YCL has also contributed to the Party and to the broader movement’s work.

This is in large part because we have fought for the multi-racial and inclusive gender quality of the YCL, which upholds the YCL’s history as a multi-racial, working class youth organization.  Also, we have recently prioritized more educational support within the YCL.  Four years ago some national YCL gatherings were challenged in racial and gender composition.  This past summer of 2013 showed big improvements.  Nearly 80 youth applied to attend the YCL school in Chicago.  The composition of those who attended was nearly equal men and women, included non-gender conforming youth, and included 9 Latino, 12 white, 9 African American, 5 Native American.  

The welcoming, multi-racial, multi gender character of the YCL is something we must continue to prioritize because it distinguishes the YCL from other youth organizations.  Also, having strong composition inside the YCL will ensure that it stays relevant to the progressive movement, and other organizations that are successfully emphasizing broad inclusion.  In addition, continuing a focus on Marxist education within the YCL will continue to distinguish it from other youth organizations.

What is the difference the YCL has made in people’s lives?  This is an important question and we must ask and answer it.  

First and foremost, for those who are members of the YCL, the organization has become a home where thoughts can be expressed freely.  This has been as important for youth from rural conservative areas, where progressives might be few and far between, as for youth who live in more urban progressive areas, but who are still searching for answers as to why their communities are plagued by poverty and violence.  

YCL clubs and collectives have become a safe haven and activist training ground for many youth.  One YCLer who recently lost his home in a fire knew he could turn to the YCL for support, and he received this support.  Another YCLer who faced charges after being racially profiled by a police officer also knew she would get support and did.  A third has said that the YCL makes him feel hopeful when everything else around him feels impossible to handle.  

For many of our members the YCL is the first place where they learned to door knock for progressive candidates, chair a meeting, lead a discussion about political issues, teach a class, organize a march to end violence, or write a news article.  YCLers have also had the opportunity to expand their Marxist education.  

There are currently YCL clubs or YCLers that attend Party meetings in Chicago, New York, New Haven, Hartford, Oakland, LA, Houston, St Louis, Orlando, Philadelphia, Dallas, and possibly others.  Over 400 students have joined YCL or Party online in the recent period.

The broader progressive movement has benefited greatly from the presence of YCLers and young Party members in their midst.  Here are some examples:

  • In Florida, during the 2012 elections, Josh LeClair reported that often times it was the Party and YCL members who made up the majority of the door knocking team at the Labor Walks in Orlando area.  
  • The articles that the YCL wrote about the Legislative Conferences of the United States Student Association were posted to the USSA’s main website and shared with their members as an example of strong reporting.  
  • In Northern California, YCLers and young party members have worked with the Party at Juneteenth events to honor community members who are doing so much but who go unrecognized.  
  • The Chicago YCL Haymarket Club has been central to the Idle No More movement there and has brought knowledge of that movement to our Party. 
  • Earchiel Johnson has established the YCL writing collective and has encouraged members to write on the Affordable Care Act, LGBT issues, and more.
  • Lisa Bergmann, National Coordinator of the YCL, was among the 200 arrestees in last October’s civil disobedience outside the Capitol for immigration reform.  
  • In Connecticut YCLers door knocked to help elect New Haven’s labor-community majority Board of Alders and the first African American female mayor. The marches for jobs for youth-jobs for all that the YCL and New Elm City Dream organized set the tone for the Aldermanic agenda prioritizing youth, jobs, and ending violence. 
  • Last summer, the YCL National School provided the USSA, Chicago Students Organized to Save our Schools, the Dreamers, and others a space to share their work.

Through the Peoples World share campaign, new online memberships, the YCL Facebook Page, the establishment of the new YCL website, and other social media venues, the YCL has invited thousands of new young people to engage in political debate and discussion regarding current events and Marxist history/theory.  Social media outlets have connected us with new members who have, with the right follow-up, sometimes ended up joining clubs or participating in YCL schools and actions.

Some other specific accomplishments of YCL members in the recent period include:

  • Leading or co-leading classes at our YCL school this past summer
  • Organizing African American History Month events with the CPUSA
  • Organizing the U.S. delegation to the 2013 World Festival of Youth and Students
  • Participating in the We Are Walmart Campaign and the Fight for 15
  • Organizing summer voting camp in Florida Summer of 2012
  • Presenting over 1,000 signatures to Congress for Jobs for Youth, multiple marches and events organized to promote youth jobs
  • Establishing new YCLUSA website
  • Expanding writing and sharing of the Peoples World
  • Rekindling connections with the USSA and expanding the YCL and Party’s student base/ program
  • Being part of a multi-racial coalition that won $1 million to re-open a historic community center in New Haven, CT.

There is much that still needs to be improved in terms of the YCL’s growth and educational development.  Some of this responsibility lies with the YCL itself.  The Party can also be tremendously helpful where possible.  

There is a qualitative difference in how the YCL develops when the CPUSA is directly involved with supporting YCLers and their development.  In instances where the YCL grows more “on its own”, the education piece is often missing and it is easy for young people to get confused or misled.

This last section is a brief how-to suggestion guide for Party districts/ areas that would like to expand their work with youth.  We understand that many districts have plenty on their plates already, so apply whatever is useful in your area.  The YCL appreciates all that the CPUSA has done in recent years to help us grow.

Five ways a Party collective can starting a YCL or youth work are:

  • Bring a young person with you to a Party event or club meeting, rally, demonstration, union meeting, political campaign, etc.
  • Invite young members to share Peoples World articles on issues affecting youth through the PW share campaign (contact Joe Sims)
  • Host a movie night, open mic event or art competition for youth
  • -Ask young people to host a speaker from the Party or YCL at their school or class.  Form relationships with progressive student groups on campus.
  • -Attend important youth actions like the Fight for 15, the Dreamers, Keystone XL protests. Invite youth you meet to the next Party event/ meeting to share their work.

For Party collectives that already have a working relationship with a YCL club or young Communists in your area, you can help develop their thinking and leadership:

  • Provide access to Peoples World articles and Party literature. Encourage participation in National Party calls and educational opportunities.
  • Attend meetings of their club when you can to provide support. Share information regarding developments in the broader labor and progressive movements so that they can engage fully with these.
  • Invite YCLers/young Party members to be part of planning Party events, have them play a visible role.
  • Invite YCLers to participate in National YCL activities such as YCL schools, posting to the YCLUSA website, etc.
  • Invite YCLers to write for the PW on issues that are affecting them/ they are passionate about. Invite them to be a part of the preconvention discussion and to share their ideas and experiences.
  • Encourage YCLers to participate in weekly YCL National Leadership Collective calls.  For more information, contact Lisa or Earchiel.  

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

For details about the convention, visit the Convention homepage
To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014



    Lisa Bergmann works as an organizer for the Young Communist League USA.

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