Young Communist leader speaks to Texans

DALLAS — The national coordinator of the Young Communist League, Erica Smiley, spoke to audiences in Dallas and San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 2-6. While she was primarily on tour to boost the People’s Weekly World fund drive, she also sowed seeds for a stronger youth movement.

In every discussion, Smiley emphasized the growing political power of U.S. young people. She sees the 2008 elections as a great opportunity to improve the situation for young people everywhere.

For those who criticize today’s young activists, Smiley sets the facts straight: “The situation is not the same as it was in the heyday of the student movement in the 1970s. Young people don’t have nearly the same financial opportunities that they had then. Today, they have to work, sometimes at more than one job, plus go into deep debt to stay in college.”

She helped distribute 200 copies of the People’s Weekly World newspaper at El Centro College in downtown Dallas on Nov. 6, and many of the students were glad to get the paper and to share their political views with Smiley.

“But,” she added, “they were just finishing their school day and rushing to their evening jobs,” so they were not able to talk for very long.

Another big problem that college students face today is the limited budgets of their campus organizations. In the 1970s, student governments had a great deal of power over the distribution of funds they received as their share of student fees. They could organize events and bring in speakers. Today, those millions of dollars have slipped away from their control, Smiley said.

Nor will the situation for America’s young workers get better by itself, Smiley told audiences. The United Auto Workers’ contract with Ford was settled during her Texas visit, and she pointed out that the “two-tier” wage system, whereby newly hired workers have a much lower wage scale and worse benefits than those with more seniority, creates much further hardships on youth.

Many Texans were interested in Smiley’s recent participation in the Venceremos Brigade in Cuba. She fairly beamed as she talked about her experiences there. Some of the “brigadistas,” she said, thought they were seeing a workers’ paradise, with all problems solved.

However, Smiley seemed much more impressed with the fact that young Cubans are aware that many problems continue, especially because of the vicious way that the United States government prevents their having normal trade relations with other countries, but that they are fully engaged in collectively solving them.

“The Cuban revolution belongs to the people of Cuba,” she said.