Cadres’ Schools and Classes:
The annual YCL National Residential School was held at Netherwood in September, and was attended by twenty-six comrades. It marked an important progress in the development of our cadres.
• The National Committee of the League devoted one of the sessions of its last meeting to a report on the CPSU. Congress which Comrade John Gollan came to give, followed by questions and discussion.
• A full National Committee School on the CPSU. Congress and Stalin’s new work is to be held in January.
• Districts and Areas are holding schools and classes on the 19th YCL. Congress, the CPSU. Congress and the British Road.
• A special study guide on the British Road for YCL Schools is in preparation.
• London is planning a week’s cadres’ school for January.
• Challenge is paying more attention to reporting successful Branch Nights, as well as publishing more educational material, particularly linked with the Branch Night themes and the Reading Programme through articles, book reviews and so on.
• A series of Workshop Talks has already started on fundamental problems, and articles on episodes from working-class history are planned.
Taking Socialism to Youth
The League aims to capture the imagination of youth with the perspective of a socialist future full of opportunity and adventure, through public meetings, debates and film shows, joint discussions with other youth organisations, especially the Labour League of Youth, participation in Youth Parliaments and in the life of the youth movement, sales of our pamphlets and our paper Challenge, sending speakers to other youth organisations and more invitations to non-members to attend YCL Branch Nights.
We must link our education with every step in the struggle we are waging for a cut in the call-up, in defence of living standards and for international youth friendship.”
The 1952 National Congress of the Young Communist League, held in the Beaver Hall, London, on October 25-26, showed little sign of there being a feeling of the need to bow under pressure. The credentials report shows that there were 318 delegates, of whom 241 were full delegates elected by 151 branches and District Committees, 41 were fraternal delegates, and 36 were consultative delegates, including members of the retiring National Committee. The gender split showed of branch delegates that “166 were lads and 75 were girls”, with an average age was 21; 118 were under 21. [`Free Britain’s Youth – report to the 19th congress of the Young Communist League, October, 1952]
The YCL went all out for the Bucharest festival, intended to showcase the People’s Republic of Romania, and held from August 2nd to 14th in 1953, at the then newly-built 23 August Stadium. More than 30,000 young people from 111 countries participated in the Festival under the slogan `No! Our generation will not serve death and destruction!’. The event was organised against a background of world-wide persecution of Communists. Cases highlighted were those of west German, Philipp Müller, a delegate to the 3rd WFYS who had been killed during a demonstration, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had been convicted of espionage in the US and executed. Other stated goals of the festival were to protest against the Korean War and to support the liberation movements in the French colonies of Algeria and Indo-China (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). With this background, the festival was a gigantic anti-war demonstration.
The Fifth World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) was held in 1955, in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. This was the period when the conception of peaceful coexistence between the imperialist and socialist bloc had been mooted by Nikita Khrushchev. In the same year, the Bandung Conference of non-aligned developing world states was held. This strongly criticised the western powers for keeping colonial possessions. The need for a struggle against the danger of nuclear annihilation and for the end of colonialism dominated the festival. More than 30,000 young people from 114 countries participated and the festival motto was `For Peace and Friendship – Against the Aggressive Imperialist Pacts’.
The 6th World Festival of Youth and Students opened on 28 July 1957, in Moscow, the first festival to be held in the Soviet Union. Some 400 British students alone attended this Festival as remarkable turnout alone, which was felt to be reflective of the enormous role students had played in the movement against intervention in Suez [WNV January 3rd 1959 – John Moss].
Overall, the festival attracted some 34,000 people from 131 countries- the largest such event. Reforms brought in by Khrushchev enabled foreigners to visit more easily for the first time in decades. A particular feature of this festival was the prominence of musicians from many world cultures, who poured into the USSR. Soviet citizens danced in the streets with foreigners from all over the world. Jazz musician Aleksey Kozlov had a chance to play with foreign musicians. The popular ensemble Druzhba from Leningrad became the winner of the First Prize in popular music, thanks to its lead singer, Edita Piekha, who sang in many languages. Edita Piekha, Vladimir Troshin and international guests of the festival together performed the popular song `Moscow Nights’.
A highlight of the festival was the showing of a three minute film of Paul Robeson greeting the event. Since the US authorities had effectively domestically exiled the world-famous singer because of his refusal to bow down to anti-Communism, this was the only means he had of being involved in the 1957 Moscow Festival. His filmed was made entirely in Harlem by Pete Seeger and Robeson not only sang, he made a brief and unambiguously supportive speech. The festival also saw the appearance of the enormously popular song `Moscow Nights’, which went on to become perhaps the most widely recognised Russian song in the world.
The Communist Party had come through the most testing of periods during the worst years of the cold war. John Gollan had reported in 1955 that the Party had “several hundred factory branches with 15% of our membership organised on a factory basis. There are some hundreds of factories where we have three or more members. After the February Extended Executive 12 areas formed 54 new factory branches”. What Gollan called “our best factory branch in Scotland” had a regular daily sale of 300 Daily Workers, the best Sheffield factory branch (which would surely have been Shardlows) a regu¬lar daily sale of 120, our best Lancashire factory branch a regular daily sale of 135 (probably Trafford Park), our best Middle¬sex branch a regular daily sale of 210 and our best Midlands branch (almost certainly Longbridge) sold 350 daily. [Build the Communist Party report to March 12th 1955 EC, Communist Party]
But a concern existed that much of the Party’s work in factories might be feeding a “ginger group” conception. At the November 1954 EC Johnnie Camp¬bell made a call to “turn the Party outwards to the people”. Some districts were already much engaged in this, for example in 1954, Lancashire, Scot¬land and Yorkshire the 316 branches there organised about 700 meetings between them, not counting the municipal election activity. Special membership meetings addressed by Harry Pollitt saw a response across the Party with “more Party public activity in these last three’ winter months, with poster parades, deputations, meetings and so on, than we had at the height of last summer … In Lancashire we were doing about four factory-gate meetings a week, in Scotland, 14 and in Yorkshire five gate-meetings a week … These meetings … are done in the main by our full-time Party workers … Our factory comrades appear publicly before the people and in many cases are recognised as leaders of the workers. But this is not the same as the appearance of the Party as an organised force. … they are seen mainly as Communists or militant shop stewards and not the Communist Party. The Party activity has got to be organised alongside this.”
Perhaps Communists might have been thinking that they had weathered the storm, borne the worst of the effects well and could now look forward to restoring the Party to its early strength and even surpass this. If they had thought this, they had no idea of what was to come next, even if these trials and tribulations would in turn give way to a new lease of life, there were further stresses and strains to withstand yet.