The Challenge of the New Youth Radicalization
YS-LSA DB Vol. 7 No. 1  (1970)

The Challenge of the New Youth Radicalization

YS-LSA DB Vol. 7 No. 1 (1970)

Presented by the Central Executive Council to the 1970 Convention

Capitalism on a world scale is in a state of intense crisis. It is faced with continual convulsions, economic crises and revolutions. One third of the world's people, in Russia, Eastern Europe, China and Cuba, have freed themselves from its control in massive social upheavals and revolutionary struggles continue to confront it in every part of the globe. In Vietnam, Palestine, Bolivia and throughout the whole colonial world, the imperial power of capitalism is being challenged. At the same time, the advanced capitalist countries face within their borders a radicalization on an unprecedented scale, primarily among youth. France in 1968, the occupation movement in Quebec, and the upsurge of U.S. students in response to the invasion of Cambodia have demonstrated the potential of this new radicalization - a radicalization which no capitalist class has been able to hold back.

The crisis of the imperialist system has been felt sharply in Canada. The ruling class is increasingly revealing its inability to solve the obvious problems of poverty, unemployment and inflation — even PhD's find themselves unable to get jobs in this "affluent" society. All the efforts of the capitalist class to alleviate the crisis have only intensified it. Despite all their White Papers and Royal Commissions, poverty continues to exist, unemployment increases.

Canadian youth feel the crisis of modern capitalism directly - it is their future which is at stake. The intensifying radicalization of youth, expressed in a general rejection of authority and the established order, springs from the fact that this society is unable to satisfy human needs. Everywhere there is a search for new ideas, new roads - for changes in every aspect of our society, changes that cannot wait.

Capitalism promises the world but it cannot deliver the goods. More than that, it distorts and perverts humanity's potential. Nuclear energy could enrich the world - instead capitalism produces the Bomb. Modern birth control and abortion could free women to control their bodies and begin to control their lives, but instead it is withheld from those who need it most, young unmarried women, by hypocritical attitudes and archaic laws. Agricultural techniques make it possible to end starvation --instead the government pays farmers not to grow wheat.

Capitalism puts profit before people. It has demonstrated its willingness to use repression, war and genocide to maintain itself. The tiny minority that owns and controls the economy turns everything into a commodity. You aren't a human being: you're a consumer, an employee, a body, a statistic. Anything which can't be bought and sold is irrelevant or dangerous to the system.

The youth rebellion stems directly from the alienation and regimentation capitalism produces. It takes on a variety of forms, as youth radicalize around their own experiences and protest against the aspects of the system that affect them physically and emotionally. The new radicals are lashing out against the most brutal and dehumanizing aspects of the system against war and racism, against the oppression of women, against the destruction of our environment.

They demand self-determination for themselves, for the Vietnamese, for women for all the oppressed. The demands for human liberation, though they may not reflect a thorough understanding of the nature of the problem and its solution, have a revolutionary dynamic. Their direction is thoroughly anti-capitalist.

Quebec - Vanguard of the Radicalization

The depth of the crisis of Canadian capitalism is revealed most blatantly by its inability to satisfy the national aspirations of the Québécois. Anglo-Canadian and American capitalism have been oppressing Quebec as a nation for decades. They have used Quebec as a pool for cheap labor and a source of super-profits. The domination of English-speaking capital in Quebec has produced the most profound radicalization in Canada, perhaps on the continent. Massive protests have swept Quebec year after year.

Students have been in the forefront of these struggles demanding a french-only school system and adequate educational facilities. They have been propelled by the knowledge that even after school, this system has nothing to offer them.

(Prime Minister Pierre) Trudeau's response to the growing independentist movement was the harshest repression this country has seen in decades. The War Measures Act suspended all normal democratic procedures, in an attempt to behead and destroy the movement for independence. Seventy-five hundred troops occupied Quebec, confirming the federal government's determination to maintain power over Quebec, whatever the cost. The War Measures Act graphically illustrates that Quebec is a nation of hostages, kidnapped 200 years ago.

They talk about minorities which threaten democracy; the most dangerous, most anti-democratic minority in the country is the capitalist class and its front men in Parliament.

The greatest threat to the continued rule of that class is the radicalization of the Québécois , a radicalization which expresses itself in the demand for independence. Independence from everything the English-speaking bosses and their representatives in Ottawa stand for. Capital speaks English in Quebec: as a result the movement against capitalism is expressed as a movement for unilingual schools, for the preservation of Québécois language and culture, for independence. Only socialism — the placing of the wealth of the Quebec nation in the hands of the Québécois —can make political independence meaningful.

The ruling class has no answer to the demands of the Québécois except brute force, in order to preserve stability they had to eliminate civil liberties —there is no clearer indication of the dilemma before Canadian capitalism. Trudeau attempted to halt the independence movement: instead he intensified the hostility of the Québécois to the federal system, and opened the eyes of many English Canadian youth to the true nature and importance of the struggle of the Québécois . Trudeau's prestige, his image as a progressive swinger, is at its lowest ebb.

Socialism poses the only alternative to the oppression and repression of capitalism - for Quebec and for English Canada. Capitalist society has created the means for satisfying humanity's needs - but only socialism can put these means to work. The massive wealth controlled now by a minority must be placed in the hands of the majority. Just for a start we have to eliminate the duplication and waste, the hunger, poverty and ignorance, that so-called free enterprise generates. Only a planned economy, with the offices, factories and schools under the democratic control of the workers and students, can make that possible. Only by establishing a society which says that people are more important than profit can we ensure self-determination, liberation, for everyone.

But it is not enough to be aware of the problems and the solution. We have to be able to bring about the solution. Capitalism has generated the crisis which can lead to socialism, and the material conditions that make socialism realizable, but only a mass movement led by revolutionary socialists can ensure that the change will take place. It can't be done without an organization, a program, a strategy - all designed with the single aim of destroying the old society and building a new one. That's what the Young Socialists/Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes is all about.

A Mass Action Strategy

Fundamental social change — socialism — requires a revolution, a change in the whole structure of society, brought about by the conscious action of the majority of Canadians. No minority or elite, whether through some form of coup or through reforms, can accomplish this change.

The involvement of the YS/LJS in the building and leading of mass movements is based on our recognition of this fact. The system is designed to keep people divided and isolated, to keep them within established channels. Mass action, independent of and directly challenging the ruling class, presents a challenge to capitalism which it cannot co-opt. The power of the oppressed — workers, women, students, Québécois, the Native people — lies in their lack of any vested interest in the present system, in their numbers and in their ability to act collectively in their own interests.

At the same time, we recognize that a mass socialist movement will not be established except insofar as people, through their experiences, come to recognize its necessity. Through involvement in mass action against the system, people come to understand the nature of that system and the necessity of transforming it. The many students who have come to socialist conclusions as a result of their participation in the anti-war and women's liberation movements are concrete proof of this.

The test of a revolutionary movement and its program is in its participation in mass movements - in its ability to provide the correct direction for them and, through that process, win people to socialism. Over the years we have seen a variety of organizations which rejected mass action wither and die; and there are still a number of groups, including Maoist grouplets, the remnants of the new left, and the (pro-Moscow --ed) Communist Party, which consistently oppose a mass action strategy. They opt instead for either piecemeal reforms or some imaginary short cut to the revolution. The YS/LJS, on the other hand, has established itself in the forefront of the most important mass struggles going on in Canada today precisely by its realization that independent mass actions are essential in the struggle for socialism.

Women's Liberation

In the women's liberation movement, our orientation to building a movement which can unite all women, regardless of their views on other matters, in a struggle against oppression, is absolutely necessary for it to realize its full revolutionary potential. The tremendous success of the abortion caravan gave us a small glimpse of the potential of a movement built on this basis. Recently there has been a drive by some ultra-leftists to divert the movement away from mass action towards the creation of a women's organization composed solely of avowed revolutionaries. This perspective not only isolates the movement, thereby rendering it powerless, but it also excludes women from becoming revolutionaries through participation in the struggle against their oppression. The February 14 actions for the repeal of the abortion laws are counterpoised to the strategy of the ultra-lefts and will be crucial in the extending of a mass action perspective and the education of the movement.

The Antiwar Movement

The role of the YS/LJS in building the anti-war movement is well known. The slogans we have long advocated — "Withdraw U.S. Troops Now" and "End Canada's Complicity" have been conclusively shown to be the only slogans which can build a mass movement while opposing U.S. imperialism and its Canadian supporters one hundred percent. Through these transitional demands — demands which relate to the present level of political consciousness and direct that consciousness against the capitalist class - we have become the leaders of the anti-war movement in every part of the country.

Our role in supporting the Vietnamese revolution stands in contrast to the ultra-leftists who have vacillated between ignoring the movement and trying to lead it into violent confrontations with the cops; and to the reformists, like the Communist Party, who have attempted to turn the movement into a left-wing pressure group on the ruling class. It is only through mass independent action that the rulers of Canada and the U.S. can be forced to halt their aggression in Vietnam — a victory for the Vietnamese would be a victory for everyone who wants to build a better world.


An issue to which the mass action strategy is particularly relevant is the fight against the growing American domination of the schools. This anti-imperialist sentiment has been one of the main results of the world wide crisis of imperialism and a prominent factor in the radicalization of Canadian students.

U.S. imperialism dominates the whole capitalist world. Every national capitalist class has had to work out an arrangement with these cops of the world, but few have worked out such a cozy relationship, as the one between the Canadian and U.S. rulers. The U.S. invades a country; Canada explains how it is a peacekeeping move. Trudeau passes the War Measures Act; Nixon phones up to see if he needs any help. Canadian capitalism has fully adopted the values, concepts and objectives of American imperialism. As a result all capitalist institutions in this country, particularly the educational institutions, are at the service of American imperialism by special arrangement with the Canadian capitalist class.

In response to this problem the Waffle Caucus in the New Democratic Party and others have proposed a quota restricting the number of American professors who would be allowed to teach in Canada. But this proposal does not effectively challenge the roots of the Americanization problem. The fight against the Americanization of the universities is the fight against capitalist control.

The effective response to Americanization lies in mass student action. Demands like "End campus complicity in the U.S. war effort" and "No research or strategic resources for the U.S. war machine", confront the problem directly and can lead to mass actions against Americanization, and at the same time confront the capitalist class and its universities here in Canada.

The universities must be taken out of the control of the profit-hungry minority and put to the service of the revolutionary struggle. The YS/LJS program for the campuses puts forward such demands is Big Business off the Boards of Governors, and for control of the university (including course content and hiring and firing) by the students, faculty and staff. We don't want courses that are abstractly "Canadian" — we want the true history of the Canadian working class, the Native people, the suffragist movement: the history that capitalism hides. We want a university that is open to everyone, with living allowances for all students. It is through mass action around such demands that the university can be transformed into an organizing centre for the struggle against U.S. imperialism and its Canadian junior partners.

Response to the War Measures Act

The mass movements which now exist are are only the beginning. We can expect mass actions on a variety of issues to merge in the coming period — on local student questions, on domestic social questions like pollution and in particular around the defense of civil liberties and democracy. Our response to the War Measures Act crisis is an exemplary model of the way in which the YS/LJS acts to build mass movements.

Though Trudeau succeeded in temporarily demobilizing the Quebec independence movement by arresting over 400 of its leaders, the Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes moved out immediately to challenge Trudeau's repression. In the midst of the repression, despite the arrest of two of the most prominent campaign workers, we moved the Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes - Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière mayoralty election campaign into high gear, and we transformed it into a campaign against the repression.

We picketed the army, distributed election leaflets illegally, organized protest meetings in the midst of the occupation. A special issue of Jeune Garde was published. We participated in launching a broad defense committee. Everywhere we made the lessons clear: only massive public action can defeat the attack. For a period we were the only group to meet the attack frontally, but today protests of the trials of those charged under the War Measures Act are beginning to develop on a broad scale.

At the same time, in English Canada, the Young Socialists were among the first to cut across the chauvinism that Trudeau was counting on. Within hours of the imposition of the act we held the first public speakouts, rallies and demonstrations on many campuses. We initiated committees for the defense of civil liberties; we sent speakers through Eastern Canada and to the United States. Our co-thinkers in the U.S. organized demonstrations at Canadian Consulates.

Maintaining this activity, and in particular, building united defense of the Québécois now facing jail for their ideas, is a first priority for the YS/LJS at this time. The defense of those arrested is the defense of the right to free speech in this country - a right which exists not through the benevolence of the bourgeoisie, but was won through the struggles of Canadian working people.

Working Class Political Action

The victory of the mass action strategy for socialism is predicated on two closely related factors: the entry of the working class into the struggle to overthrow capitalism, and the successful creation of a revolutionary working class leadership.

Those who write off the working class as a potentially evolutionary force are in fact writing off socialism as a realistic perspective. The development of a mass revolutionary student movement will play a crucial role in the process of transforming the system. But only the working class, comprising the vast majority of the population, has the strategic economic and social position to eradicate capitalism and organize society democratically and in the interests of the vast majority of Canadians.

It is crucially necessary, then, for revolutionary students to ally themselves with the most politically advanced sectors of the working class, and support independent political action by the working class. In English Canada this means first of all support of the New Democratic Party as the political party of organized labor.

But at the same time as supporting the NDP as a break with the political parties of big business, we must recognize that the NDP's present image-conscious leadership and program of reforming capitalism will never bring socialism to Canada. That's why we fight for a socialist program in the NDP and are conscious of the necessity to build a revolutionary party. Such a party must have a program and organization adapted to confronting the bourgeoisie at every turn and must be rooted in the working class. In Canada, the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière with its program and organizational concepts has such a perspective.

As the YS/LJS constitution states, we are in full political solidarity with the LSA/LSO. We are part of a common movement which has the goal of building the revolutionary party. In many areas, YS/LJSers have been instrumental in launching new LSA/LSO branches. At the same time, the experience and support of the LSA/LSO have been essential to the building of the YS/LJS.

An International Strategy

Youth are beginning to confront capitalism on an international scale. The development of an international strategy, designed to meet and defeat imperialism on all fronts, is an essential basis for building a revolutionary movement. The struggle of the Vietnamese, the struggle of the Palestinians, the struggle of the Québécois, the struggle of English Canadian youth — all of these are part of a generalized anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist thrust. Our internationalist outlook is not sentimentalism: it is based on a recognition of the fact that only a concrete international strategy can establish socialism.

It is for this reason that we build the movement against imperialism in Vietnam, for example, and it is for the same reason that we are a sympathizing organization of the Fourth International — World Party of the Socialist Revolution, founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938. Our organization and all our activities are geared to one end — a socialist (Quebec and handwritten insert ed.) Canada in a socialist world.

During the ten years since our founding, the YS/LJS has grown from a handful of activists into a cross-Canada organization. Since our last convention in particular, we have seen important growth, reflecting the impact of the new radicalization.

In Fredericton, the leadership of the New Brunswick Socialists, and in Saskatoon the leadership of the Committee for a Socialist Movement, have joined the YS/LJS. This process — decisions by already existing groups of revolutionaries that it is necessary to join the YS/LJS - is just a small reflection of the deepening radicalization. It is towards this radicalization which the YS/LJS must direct itself.

A number of experiences indicate the potential that exists. In Montreal, the Leger for Mayor campaign marked a break- through for our movement, established new connections and opportunities for us on a broad scale. The campaign was symbolic of the opposition of the Québécois to the War Measures Act, and the vote we received reflected this. On the New Brunswick South Shore, a group of high school and working youth have joined the YS/LJS as a result of their experiences in a company town. The Beaver Harbor and Black's Harbor locals are now moving to spread socialism throughout the region.

One of the most dramatic indicators of the possibilities before us was the speaking tour we organized for a leading LJS'er, Penny Simpson, a victim of the War Measures Act. This was the most successful speaking tour that we have ever organized in Canada. Meetings of hundreds of students were the norm. In St. John's, Newfoundland, 1500 students -- 25% of the student body — turned out. Everywhere we came into contact with new radicals who were interested in finding out about and joining the YS/LJS, often in cities in which no radical organization has ever had any strength. In Peterborough, Ontario, for example, the tour laid the basis for the launching of a large YS local on the Trent University campus.

Tasks Before the YS/LJS

The new radicalization gives our movement the possibility of growth on an unprecedented scale. Making this growth a reality this growth a reality is the most important task of the YS/LJS in this period.

This is not a task which can be postponed or delayed. We are at present in the best position of any left organization to organize these new radicals. We have the program that can meet their needs, and we have the largest and most active organization in the country. But no revolutionary organization can ever rest on its laurels. Unless we move now to give the new radicals the program and organization of revolutionary socialism, the radicalization may well be diverted or dissipated by the bourgeoisie and by other left currents.

Regional Organizing

There is not a city in this country in which a local of the YS/LJS cannot be established. Concretely. this means full time traveling organizers in those areas where it is feasible and generally preparing ourselves to move into new areas very quickly.

Regional organizing involves more than recruitment: it also involves the education and consolidation of new locals. The role of the cross-Canada leadership, in developing a unified understanding of our program and organization is particularly important, and will be increasingly so in the coming period.

Careful attention to education takes on added importance in a period of growth. The ideas of Marxism, as developed over the past century, are the only reliable guide to revolutionary action. Only systematic educational activity, through reading, classes, educationals at local meetings and so on, can ensure that the movement is equipped to meet the even greater challenges we will face in the future. We aim to have every member of the YS/LJS familiar with our program, and capable of putting it into effect in a wide variety of situations.

The greatest potential for the growth of revolutionary socialism exists in Quebec, In particular through connections in the high schools and the CEGEPs. Jeune Garde, now a bi-monthly tabloid, will play a key role in this process. Montreal, with the full support of the cross-country movement, must be seen as the organizing centre for the entire Quebec nation.

In the areas in which we are already established, we must expand our efforts to reach and organize radical youth. Selling the Young Socialist, holding a wide variety of educational activities, campus forums, social activities and so on, must be increased. Our involvement in mass movements, in particular defense of Quebec civil liberties the anti-war movement, the women's liberation movement and the movement against the Americanization of education continues to be central to our activity. Our movement must reflect the dynamic and creative spirit of the new radicalization, angry, irreverent and above all revolutionary.

We are not building the YS/LJS just for the sake of adding numbers to our ranks. We are attempting to build a movement of leaders capable of leading the student movement in the struggle for socialism in this country. Our democratic centralist organizational structure, involving full internal democracy and full unity in action, is vital to this process.

The growth in numbers and influence of the YS/LJS over the last year is only an indication of the possibilities before us. Our task is to realize this potential.

Copyrite 2004 ~ 2012 Forward Group Last updated: March 26th,2012 9:30 pm
All Rights Reserved - Webmaster: