Sources on the Development of the Socialist International (1907-1919)

International Youth Conferences

(engl. version)



The International Federation of Socialist Young People's Organizations 1907-1919

by Gerd Callesen

The mid-1880ies saw the birth of the earliest socialist youth organizations in a number of European countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark), some of which did not, however, prove viable. About ten years later, the Verband Jugendlicher Arbeiter [Association of Young Workers] was founded in Austria, but not until the turn of the century did most European countries have first or second generation youth organizations, for example in Denmark only the third attempt (1907) proved sustainable.

The International Socialist Congress in Paris in 1900 took up the question of youth or how to organize young people and was seen as part of and dealt with in connection with the struggle against militarism. The congress adopted a resolution appealing to all parties to organize young people in opposition to militarism. Allegedly, a conference was also held by youth representatives, whose consequences, however, proved just as short-lived as those of a meeting held during the Amsterdam International Socialist Congress in 1904.

A new point of departure arose in connection with a congress held by the social-democratic Youth Associations of Southern Germany in late September 1906. Karl Liebknecht spoke on the struggle against militarism "Militarismus und Antimilitarismus" [Militarism and Anti-militarism] and in continuation of this intervention a motion to prepare the ground for a Socialist Youth International was carried. Hendrik de Man, a representative of the Belgian Socialist Youth Organization, who studied in Germany, was put in charge of this assignment. The preparatory work was to be completed before the International Socialist Congress of 1907 to be held in Stuttgart. de Man began his activities, and as from December 1906 he succeeded in publishing a Bulletin of the Youth International both in a French-language and a German-language version. March 1907 saw the formal establishment of a provisional Bureau of the Youth International which gave financial support to de Man. By way of preparing for the congress planned for August 1907 de Man produced a pamphlet containing the reports of existing youth organizations which were published in German and French in time for the congress. The congress was attended by 21 representatives from socialist youth organizations in 13 countries, who between them represented 60,000 members. A considerable number of the delegates were to play a prominent role in the labour movement in the following decades. This Congress formally adopted a resolution to set up "The International Federation of Socialist Young People's Organizations" (IFSYPO).

In addition to the oppression to which they were exposed on the part of governments and employers' organizations even in those countries where the "adult" labour movement could operate legally, the youth organizations, and thus their International were facing two serious problems. One was insufficient organizational and political stability, and the other was the failure on the part of the existing labour organizations to take any interest in them. This disinterest at times turned into blatant resentment against any independent activities on the part of the youth organizations. In respect of the International this phenomenon manifested itself in plans to subordinate the Youth International to the International Socialist Bureau in Brussels as can, for instance, be seen from the draft statutes of 1912. This attempt was, however, successfully opposed by some of the activist youth organizations.

The initiative for one of the few joint actions carried out by the IFSYPO was taken by the International Secretariat: in March 1908, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, the associations of the various countries simultaneously published an edition of their respective journals with contributions on Karl Marx. By and large, the assignment set by the Secretariat was completed. The journal of the Austrian organization, "Der jugendliche Arbeiter" [The Young Worker] supplied the highest number of contributions which were, however, complemented by national contributions in the different national journals. The shared contributions were written by Leopold Winarsky: Karl Marx; Josef Petersilka: Bei Karl Marx' Grab [At Karl Marx' Grave]; Karl Kautsky: Was uns Marx ist [What Marx Means to Us]; Max Adler: Über die materialistische Geschichtsauffassung [On the Materialist Concept of History]; Lebendige Worte von Marx [Living Words of Marx] - a collection of quotes; Henriette Roland-Holst: Marxismus und Ethik [Marxism and Ethics]; Emil Vandervelde: Der Marxismus und die Arbeiterbewegung [Marxism and the Labour Movement], of which nearly all were published in the periodicals of the Belgian/Flemish (de Jonge Socialist), Danish (Fremad), Finnish ((Tuohus), German (Arbeitende Jugend), Norwegian (Ung-Socialisten), Swedish (Fram) and Swiss (Der Jungbursche) youth organizations. "In this manner the working youth of Europe in a most appropriate manner celebrated the founder of scientific Socialism by taking on board his teachings," is what the Bulletin of the IFSY reported on 15 April 1908. In all probability, other youth organizations will also have published these contributions.

In some of the countries, the youth organizations split - large or small sections of the organizations were receptive to the criticism which syndicalist groupings levelled against the tactics pursued by the Social Democratic labour movement (e.g. in Denmark, Sweden, and Italy). In some of the most important countries like France, Great Britain and the United States the time before the First World War hardly saw anything beyond a very rudimentary labour youth organization. In other countries membership fluctuated considerably - even Belgium whose youth organization was characterized by strong traditions and energetic activism did not escape this type of problem. During the years before the First World War, the youth organizations of Austria, Belgium, Bohemia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway and Sweden became the organizations with the strongest membership figures. The Labour Youth Organization of Germany was not - for legal reasons - affiliated to the IFSYPO. However, political considerations may have been significant, too: the International with Karl Liebknecht as its President was too far to the left for the liking of the German party majority. Nevertheless, the German organization played an active role in the wings.

At the Stuttgart Congress the struggle against militarism and the issue of education and training was chosen as the most important fields of activity for the Youth International. Among other issues taken up for discussion were the labour-market situation of working-class youth and the question of abuse of alcohol, and resolutions dealing with these issues were adopted. Such resolutions were not binding, however, but were to be seen as guidelines. All things considered, the organizational structure of the IFSYPO was very loose, even more so than that of the "adult" International - by nature more of a liaison office than an actual organization. To be sure, the President, the Secretary (de Man, and from 1908 the Austrian Robert Danneberg) and the Bureau were elected. A bulletin was published fairly regularly from 1906/07 in French and German - the English version starting in 1908 - but after 1908 this was more of an information paper and did not include much internal discussions on the tasks and objectives of the International. Nevertheless the bulletin does include important material such as the annual reports and reports of the international conferences which makes it all the more regrettable that it has not been possible to compile one single complete edition in at least one of the languages from the collections of the archives. However, the German-language and the French-language versions nearly complement each other. Further complementation can be achieved by means of the periodicals of the affiliates. This is particularly true of the Austrian periodical Der Jugendliche Arbeiter [The Young Worker], but also for the Danish youth organization's monthly Fremad [Forward].

Disagreements between the affiliates were not battled out - only to a limited extent are they reflected in the columns of the theoretical periodical of the German Social-Democratic Party, the Die Neue Zeit during the years 1907 to 1914. As an organization the IFSYPO remained weak, and when war broke out in 1914, the Secretary simply discontinued the activities of the secretariat. He would await the end of hostilities. The association seemed to have died in peace

In 1910 and in 1912 the Youth International held conferences in connection with the International Socialist Conferences in Copenhagen and Basel, respectively, and prepared for the next one to be held in 1914 in Vienna which - like the other planned congresses - could not be held.

Not long after the outbreak of war and the closing down of the IFSYPO Bureau, various affiliated organizations in the non-belligerent countries Italy, Switzerland and in Scandinavia set up mutual contacts aimed at convening an international youth conference to rebuild the Youth International. This initiative was successful and the Bern Conference was held from 4 to 6 April 1915 with 16 delegates from 10 countries. Here Willi Münzenberg was elected Secretary and with exceptional vigour he managed over the next few years to set up an comprehensive organization which was to play a decisive role in the new formation of the labour movement during and after the First World War. Not least the International Youth Days starting in 1915 and the periodical Jugendinternationale [Youth International] were of central importance in this context. The periodical appeared in German, and in a (shortened) Scandinavian edition. Allegedly an Italian edition also existed while a considerable number of the articles were published in French by the periodical Voix des Jeunes [Youth Voice], the Swiss youth organization's periodical. In a short excerpt from the report written by the Willy Trostel, the successor of Willi Münzenberg, to the 4th Congress concerning the period 1915 to 1919 mention is made of the fact that up to 1918 a total number of 300.000 copies of the periodical had been sold (Jugend-Internationale No. 16, December 1919 p. 15/16).

During the war years, the IFSYPO came close to becoming a unified political movement with similar policies in many respects. Although it would not be correct to speak of a uniform political theory on the part of the Youth International, by the end of the war all the organizations perceived themselves as revolutionary. Yet already in 1919 the IFSYPO disintegrated into the three main directions of the political labour movement, and at the 4th IFSYPO congress, the majority joined forces in the Communist Youth International.

In some respects, the documents presented here go beyond the actual congress material and an attempt is made to make all the documents published by the International available. However, also such documents as were not published by the IFSYPO are presented, for instance the pamphlet published by Willy Trostel Was wollte Münzenberg? [What did Münzenberg want to achieve?] and the memoirs of Georg Tschitscherin - which are relatively rare, but of interest in connection with the development of the Youth International. Unlike the chapters concerning the Vienna Congress of the International and concerning the Women's International the present chapters does not only include printed publications, but also some manifold material and some letters and other types of archival material held at the Arbetarrörelsens Arkiv och Bibliotek (Stockholm), at the International Institute for Social History (Amsterdam), at the Schweizerischen Sozialarchiv (Zürich) and the Verein für Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung (Vienna). Some material - for example the circular letters preparatory to the fourth congress in 1919 - could not be retrieved in their original version, and have therefore not been included in the collection. However, quotes and lengthy excerpts from theses circulars and other writings, are for example included in Willi Münzenberg's volume Die sozialistischen Jugendorganisationen vor und während des Krieges. [The Socialist Youth Organization Before and During the War], Berlin 1919, which has found its place in this documentation. The three postcards published by the IFSYPO: The Press of the Youth International, Karl Liebknecht and Höglund/Hedén/Oljelund have not been included, either. Translations into other languages of the German-language editions have not been included here, but such translations exist in various languages, among them Karl Liebknecht's Militarism with Special Regard to the International Young Socialist Movement, Glasgow 1917, originally published after the Stuttgart Congress. Apparently this book was published without any direct links to the Youth International. With a few exceptions, it has not been possible to include newspaper reports such as declarations made by the Bureau of the International.

In the series Sozialistische Jugendbibliothek [Socialist Youth Library] published by the Swiss youth organization three pamphlets were published by the Internationale Verbindung sozialistischer Jugendorganisationen, IFSYPO (pamphlets 14, 15 and 16); only these three publications are made available in this documentation.

In terms of time, this section of the Documents on the Socialist International goes beyond the two other sections: the bibliography by Georges Haupt ends in 1914 and for this reason, among others, it only registers 14 documents. Here a far larger number of documents are made available as is also the IFSYPO periodicals: Bulletin 1906-1914; Jugendinternationale 1915-1919; Zirkularschreiben 1918-1919. As regards the first 11 numbers of Jugendinternationale a reprint publication issued in 1921 was preferred. They were published in Latin typeset that can more easily be read by contemporary readers; numbers 12 to 15 are, however, published in their original typeface as there is no reprint version of them. The Jugendinternationale was banned after the publication of No. 10. No. 11 of the periodical was published as a Mayday number 1918 under the title Brot, Frieden und Freiheit [Bread, Peace and Freedom]. The Zirkularschreiben of the IFSYPO was published as a substitute between March 1918 and April 1919 after which time it again became possible to publish the Jugendinternationale.

Karl Liebknecht's speech to the Copenhagen Congress in 1910 is published in the version that appears in the Gesammelte Reden und Schriften by Karl Liebknecht vol. 3, Berlin 1960, as the original source, the Brandenburger Zeitung was not available.

The Bulletin was published more or less regularly from the turn of the year 1906/1907 in German and French - and in English from 1908. Of the German edition the numbers 1-2 were typewritten, numbers 3 to 13 were lithographed and after that printed; the French and the English were originally published in the lithographed form and subsequently they were manifold. The circulation figures were fairly modest: the annual report stated that the circulation figures for the German and English during the first few years were around 50 copies each whereas the French version came out in about 25 copies. Some of the Bulletins are incomplete - for the French version this is true of numbers 1910 No. 7; 1912 No. 4 and 6; 1914 No. 3; in the English edition, the numbers 1910 No. 1 and 1911 No. 4. No. 12/1910 of the English edition is in fact 1910 No. 10; the German edition No. 5/1911 (November 15) is enumerated as number 4.

In all, the following numbers of the Bulletins are missing:

Bulletin der Internationalen Verbindung Sozialistischer Jugendorganisationen
1907 No 7, 10;
1908 No 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22;
1909 No 2-6, 9;
1910 No 4, 8, 10;
1914 No 2, 3

Bulletin de la Fédération International des Jeunesses
Vol. 1906/1907 Nr. 6, 9 and 10
Vol. 1908 and 1909
Vol. 1910 Nr. 1
Vol. 1913 Nr. 1, 5, 6

Bulletin of the International Federation of Socialist Young People's Organisations
Vol. 1908 - 1909;
Vol. 1910 No. 3;
Vol. 1911 No.5, 6;
Vol. 1912 No. 1-2, 4-6;
Vol. 1913-1914

In the event of any users of this website being aware of the location of these numbers, we should be grateful for this information.

Among the most important accounts of the development of the Youth International is the work of Richard Schüller, who apparently had access to the archive of the Youth International for the years 1915 to 1919 that still existed then. His account provides access to hitherto unknown source material as he quotes from the central documents as does Alfred Kurella, Gründung und Aufbau der Kommunistischen Jugendinternationale [Founding and Building the Communist Youth International]. This is also true of the account provided by Willi Münzenberg of his '15 years in the proletarian youth movement', which must act as a substitute for the documents that remain unavailable. A partial archive of the IFSYPO is to be found in the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam; this material was used by Patrizia Dogliani in her study of the IFSYPO. The Main Protocol of the Danish youth association for the years 1907 to 1919 is held by the Labour Movement Library and Archive in Copenhagen. The protocol constitutes a good overview of developments within the IFSYPO - in particular it is a rich source of information for the time of the World War.

The documents presented here are located in:
Arbeiderbevegelsens Arkiv og Bibliotek, Oslo,
Arbejderbevægelsens Bibliotek og Arkiv, Copenhagen
Arbetarrörelsens Arkiv, Stockholm,
Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Bonn
Gosudarstvennaia Obshchestvenno-Politicheskaia Biblioteka (Socio-Political State Social Political Library), Moscow
Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, Amsterdam,
Institut für Soziale Bewegungen (ISB), Bochum
Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Sotsial'no-Politicheskoi Istorii (Russian State Archive of Social and Political History), Moscow
Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek, Bern
Schweizerisches Sozialarchiv, Zürich
Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR, Berlin
Verein für die Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung, Vienna


Richard Cornell: Revolutionary Vanguard: The Early Years of the Communist Youth International 1914-1924, Toronto 1982

Patrizia Dogliani: La "Scuola delle reclute". L'Internazionale giovanile socialista dalla fine dell'Ottocento alla prima guerra mondiale. Torino 1983

Heinrich Eppe: 70 Jahre Sozialistische Jugendinternationale / Verf.: Heinrich Eppe ; Wolfgang Uellenberg. - Bonn : Sozialistische Jugend Deutschlands, 1976. - 247 p. - (Dokumente / Sozialistische Jugend Deutschlands Die Falken ; 12/13)

Heinrich Eppe; Die Kraft der Solidarität : 80 Jahre Sozialistische Jugendinternationale / [Hrsg.]: Internationale Union der Sozialistische Jugend (IUSY). - Vienna, 1987. - 133 p.

Ludwig Frank: Reden, Aufsätze und Schriften. Berlin 1924.

Radomir Luza: History of the International Socialist Youth Movement, Leiden 1970

Hendrik de Man: Wie wir die Jugendinternationale gründeten. In: Arbeiter-Jugend. Monatsschrift der Sozialistischen Arbeiterjugend. Berlin. 24. Jg., Oktober 1932, Nr. 10.

Willi Münzenberg: Die dritte Front. Aufzeichnungen aus 15 Jahren proletarischer Jugendbewegung. Berlin 1930

Wolfgang Neugebauer: Bauvolk der kommenden Welt. Geschichte der sozialistischen Jugendbewegung in Österreich. Vienna 1975

Achim Reinhardt: Rolle und Funktion des Sekretariats der ‚Internationalen Verbindung Sozialistischer Jugendorganisationen' (Entwicklung und Tätigkeit 1907-1917), Leipzig 1965

Richard Schüller: Von den Anfängen der proletarischen Jugendbewegung bis zur Gründung der KJI, Berlin 1931

Jørgen Würtz Sørensen: Socialdemokratisk ungdom. Fremskridtsklubberne i Jylland 1885-1904. In: Meddelelser om forskning i arbejderbevægelsens historie. 8/1977. pp. 4-17

Jørgen Würtz Sørensen: Udviklingen i den ungsocialistiske bevægelse i Danmark 1900-1910. In: Meddelelser om forskning i arbejderbevægelsens historie.12/1979. pp. 4-24

Die Neue Zeit. Stuttgart. Jg. 26 - 32, 1907 bis 1914

Timeline for the development of the IFSYPO:



Provisional edition of the international Bulletin



establishment of the provisional international Bureau



1st Congress Stuttgart



2nd Congress Copenhagen



3rd Extraordinary Congress Basel



4th Congress Vienna (did not take place)



Conference in Bern



1st International Youth Day



1st Bureau Meeting Zurich



2nd International Youth Day



2nd Bureau Meeting Stockholm



3rd International Youth Day



Bureau Meeting/Conference Berlin



Bureau Meeting Zurich



Conference/pre-Conference Vienna



1919 International Youth Day (various dates)



4th Congress (= 1st Congress of the Communist Youth International)

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