By PAUL M.
Paul M. is a first-year student at San Francisco State University. Following are major excerpts from a talk he gave on Youth Day (Aug. 21, 1999) at the Socialist Action National Educational Conference.`
What a revolutionary socialist youth group is able to do is to centralize all of the experiences and knowledge coming out of all of the different struggles for liberation so we can have a complete outlook and understanding of the world.
Let me explain what I mean. If we have women who are engaged in the struggle for women’s rights, or oppressed nationalities engaged in the struggle against racist oppression, or student activists engaged in student struggles, or union activists engaged in union struggles-all operating separately from each other and on the basis of their own limited and fragmented experience-then they are incapable of drawing the correct conclusions from their struggle.
Part of the reason for an organization like Youth for Socialist Action is to overcome this problem.
We have young people who are involved in all the struggles of all of the oppressed and exploited sectors of our society. But we are centralized in one organization so that we compare the lessons of our struggles and constantly examine our politics in light of the lessons to be drawn from our experiences, in order to have an overall view of society, of its dynamics, and of our common goal of socialism and how we get there.
And on the basis of that understanding, which we call a political program, we are able to intervene in these struggles effectively and move them in a more revolutionary direction.
That brings me to my next point, which is what role we see ourselves playing in the struggle for revolutionary change in this country:
There are two essential factors in any successful socialist revolution. On the one hand, there is the objective factor-which is the conditions created by the capitalist system itself.
It’s sometimes said that the capitalists are the best revolutionaries! Not because they want to create a revolution, but because the system of capitalism, with its unavoidable economic crises and its wars, causes people to radicalize and rebel against this system. These conditions that cause a mass radicalization and lead to a revolutionary situation are called the objective factor.
The second component of a successful revolution, and this is what really determines if it will be successful or not, is a subjective factor. This factor is the revolutionary leadership present in a revolutionary situation.
It is our role, as a youth organization, to fulfill this subjective necessity and provide leadership for the struggles of young people today and ultimately in the struggle to rid humanity once and for all of the evils of capitalism.
Lenin, who was the central leader of the Russian Revolution and who made invaluable contributions on the question of revolutionary leadership, once said: “There can be no revolutionary action without revolutionary theory.”
Without revolutionary theory you have to reinvent strategies and ideas every time you go into action and are bound to make the same mistakes over again.
We take all of the events of the past, with all of our victories and failures, and we preserve this lesson in our revolutionary program, which allows us to move forward with the correct strategies for revolutionary change.
Our goal is to overthrow the strongest and most vicious ruling class in the history of the world. If we are going to take on this enemy and transform our society into a socialist society, it is not going to happen by accident.
It takes an organization, with a political program based on all of the lessons of the past, so that we are able to calculate our strategies to out-flank the ruling class through mass mobilizations.
Karl Marx, the founder of our movement, is often accused by those who want to prove him wrong, of saying that socialist revolution is “inevitable.” Since we still live under capitalism, they say, Marx was wrong.
But Marx merely said that the working class, which is in continuous conflict with the capitalist class, will inevitably rise against its exploiter. He said that the conditions for socialist revolution will inevitably be created.
Any objective look back at the history of the last century will show that Marx has been proven right. The history of the world is the history of struggle, and the masses have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to struggle.
But Marx did not say that socialism would automatically come about without the will and action of human beings. So when we look back at the many times in this last century when socialist revolution was a real possibility but the revolutionary movements lost, we see that history is not only a history of struggle but it is just as much a history of the crisis of leadership.
It is clear that there are big struggles ahead. We are seeing now the very beginnings of a youth radicalization that is bound to grow. Our generation is the first generation in the history of the United States which will be forced to cope with a lower standard of living than our parents.
Young people know that there is something fundamentally wrong with a policy of locking more of us up instead of providing all of us with decent education. So we can be sure that mass struggles will develop.
But no mass struggle is guaranteed to overthrow capitalism. The ruling class has a well worked out strategy to demobilize mass movements; and they have judges, politicians, and mass media to carry it out. The task before all of us is to build a youth organization based on a clear political program capable of leading these struggles to success.
We can’t create the objective conditions needed to cause a mass radicalization of young people-that is out of our control. The great struggle before us is to build our organization, to educate and train young people to be revolutionary leaders for the big battles ahead.
The birth of Youth for Socialist Action comes at a crucial time in history. It is clear that if the capitalist ruling classes of the world are allowed to continue their drive for profits at the expense of our planet and the vast majority of people who inhabit it, then humanity has no future except for barbarism and ultimately annihilation.
Our environment can’t withstand forever the destruction leveled upon it by the capitalist class, who destroy it for the sake of profits. Furthermore, the wars which will inevitably occur because of capitalist competition threaten the very existence of humanity with nuclear disaster.
I say this not because I think our struggle is impossible. Despite the great obstacles that lay before us, we have the greatest advantage over our enemies. We have the advantage of representing the great majority of human beings on this planet. Our struggle is the struggle of all the oppressed and exploited victims of capitalism the world over.
So even though our battle is not going to be easy, we have the power to tear this whole system down and build a truly just, equal, and free society, which is controlled by the people themselves through our own democratic institutions.
But we don’t have the slightest chance of defeating the rulers without an organization that has absorbed the lessons of revolutionary struggles around the world and applies those lessons in a correct political program.
The growing revolutionary leadership-represented in this country by Youth for Socialist Action and the political party we stand in solidarity with, Socialist Action-is the only thing that will stand in the way of the complete destruction of humanity by the ruling class and their profit system.
This is the historic task that we have taken upon ourselves. In the future, when people look back at this time, they will judge our generation by how well we responded to this vital obligation.
So I hope that all of the young people who are here today will join our struggle for the liberation of the oppressed and exploited and to build a society where young people will not only be guaranteed all of the basic necessities of life but will be encouraged to develop into complete individuals free from the confines of capitalism.