International Union of Socialist Youth - History


On August 24–27, 1907, a meeting of 20 youth representatives from 13 countries met in the German city of Stuttgart and founded the Socialist Youth International as the youth organization of the Second International. Their international office was located in Vienna and it has remained there to this day except for a few brief extraordinary periods.

The socialist youth organizations, just like their mother parties, were confronted by the growing influence of nationalism and militarism in Europe. When the First World War broke out in 1914, even though the vast majority of the socialist parties openly supported their country’s war efforts, the Socialist Youth International remained steadfast in their principled opposition to war and militarism. The organization had to move its offices to Zurich and from there it published its journal, Youth International, calling for peace, which had to be distributed illegally given the circumstances. The struggle for peace subsequently became a hallmark of the socialist youth organization.

The formation of the Communist International in Moscow in 1919 officially split the worker’s and youth movement into two sides. The representatives of the socialist and social-democratic current reconvened the International Socialist Youth Movement in 1921.

In 1925, in the wake of the fascist takeover of Italy, the youth organization from the country was forced to stop participating in the work of the ISYM. This marked the beginning of the organization’s struggle against the fascist menace. In 1933, the Berlin office was evacuated to Prague.

After the Second World War, on September 30, 1946, at the congress in Paris the organization formally became known as the International Union of Socialist Youth. It began to accept a growing number of youth organizations from outside of Europe and by the beginning of the 1950s IUSY included 73 member organizations from 50 countries. Since that time, the organization has more than doubled.

Following the Paris congress and up through the 1960s, IUSY focused on supporting decolonisation efforts and struggles for independence, especially in Africa and Asia. In the 1970s the organization was active in drawing attention to the human rights violations by military governments in South America and building up international solidarity campaigns, especially against Pinochet in Chile and Somoza in Nicaragua.

IUSY was cautiously supportive of the democratization process in Eastern Europe because the organization wanted these changes to benefit the general population, not just a tiny elite. Although the nuclear arms race ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the transition from authoritarian regimes has brought about new conflicts in these regions. Human trafficking and refugees, resulting from civil conflicts, became the new focus of efforts on the part of IUSY. IUSY formed the Balkan Roundtable and Black Sea Area Committees to facilitate dialogue and cooperation among the different countries.

Looking towards the future, there remains much work to be done. IUSY is committed to working with the member youth organizations to develop effective tools for the treatment and prevention of the HIV-AIDS pandemic. The advancement of individual human rights and liberties in many places is a special concern. The recent events have highlighted the basic economic inequality that exists throughout the world and drawn attention to the struggle for social justice and equality.

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