Children's Democratic Organizations

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Children’s Democratic Organizations


voluntary mass associations of children and adolescents. Children’s democratic organizations provide ideological, political, and moral education for the younger generation under the leadership of the Communist and workers’ parties, democratic organizations, trade union groups, women’s committees, youth organizations, and other progressive groups with whom they are in contact. They provide an organizational framework within which children and adolescents participate in the workers’ struggle for socialism and communism, peace and democracy, national independence and social progress.

In their work, children’s democratic organizations strongly encourage independence of action and self-government through games and competitions, in accordance with the psychological and pedagogical rules of upbringing and the development of the child and adolescent personality. The principles, content, forms, methods of work, structure, symbols, and attributes of children’s democratic organizations depend on the goals and tasks of the particular organization, the social and national conditions within which it works, and the special features of the country’s historical development. There are children’s democratic organizations in the socialist countries, in countries that have recently achieved national independence, and in the capitalist countries.

The first children’s democratic organizations arose at the turn of the 20th century. The intensification of the contradictions of capitalism and the class struggle of the proletariat made possible the development of the revolutionary youth movement. Young workers participated in strikes, meetings, and demonstrations of the working people, distributed clandestine literature, and actively helped the socialist youth leagues. In 1916 and 1917, following a decision of the International Bureau of the Association of Socialist Youth Leagues, children’s socialist groups and leagues were founded in several countries—for example, the Friends of Children in Austria, the Sunday Schools in Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries, and the Young League of Hours for Peace and Sagas of Sweden. However, the activities of these groups and leagues were mainly cultural and educational.

The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia and the founding of communist parties and the communist youth leagues under their leadership encouraged an upsurge in the international revolutionary movement and the development of children’s communist and democratic movements in many countries. The first communist children’s groups and leagues in Soviet Russia were founded between 1918 and 1920. These included the Young Communists in Nizhny Novgorod and Odessa, the children’s committees and children’s city councils in Byelorussia, the Ant Hill in Perm’, the Children’s Communist Party in Tula, and the Young Labor Army and the Young Spartacists in the Ukraine. When the Civil War ended, conditions were ripe for the formation of a single communist mass organization of children under the leadership of the Komsomol, which was founded on May 19, 1922, by the Second All-Russian Conference of the Russian Communist Youth League.

At about the same time, children’s communist organizations were founded in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and other capitalist countries. The Second Congress of the Communist Youth International (CYI, held in 1931) directed the national youth leagues to organize children’s groups. A committee of the children’s communist movement was set up within the executive committee of the CYI to coordinate the work of the children’s communist organizations and carry out international measures for the protection of children’s rights. The first conference of leaders of the children’s communist organizations of 11 countries was held in Berlin in September 1922. The CYI defined the chief tasks of children’s communist organizations as “uniting proletarian children under the leadership of communists, awakening the class consciousness of proletarian children, and raising them in the spirit of proletarian solidarity and struggle against the exploiters. All the activity of the children’s groups must be directed toward making the child a comrade-in-arms in a united front of the proletarian struggle. The children’s communist group is therefore the first stage in the communist organization of youth” (Partiia, komsomol i detskoe dvizhenie. Sb., 1928, pp. 32-33). V. I. Lenin and other prominent figures in the international communist and workers’ movements, such as N. K. Krupskaia, F. E. Dzerzhinskii, M. I. Kalinin, S. M. Kirov, K. Zetkin, G. Dimitrov, E. Thälmann, W. Pieck, M. Thorez, P. Togliatti, and Ho Chi Minh, devoted much energy to working out the ideological foundations and political tasks of the youth and children’s democratic movement.

The children’s democratic organizations in the capitalist countries worked under difficult conditions in the 1920’s and early 1930’s. They were hounded by the authorities and the police and opposed by the churches and schools, and they had to fight the influence of the bourgeois youth organizations. Nevertheless, the children’s democratic organizations, encouraged by the successes of the international revolutionary movement and using the experience of the V. I. Lenin Pioneers Organization, were increasing their influence over working people’s children. In 1926 there were children’s democratic organizations in 18 countries, with a total membership of about 45,000, rising to about 150,000 by the early 1930’s (not including the USSR and the Mongolian People’s Republic).

The democratic children’s organizations opposed fascism and militarism, collected money for the International Organization for Aid to the Fighters of the Revolution, and held international children’s weeks. They aided strike committees and strikers’ families, unmasked false information about the USSR, and organized political discussions in the schools. On the eve of World War II, when fascism and militarism battled the democratic forces in the capitalist countries, the Sixth Congress of the CYI (1935) decided to disband most of the children’s democratic organizations. This decision was made in accordance with a resolution of the Executive Committee of the Comintern on altering the form of struggle to protect workers’ children from fascism. During World War II (1939-45), workers’ children of many countries participated in the struggle against fascism and aggression and in the struggle of the nationalities for national independence. The history of the children’s democratic movement will forever revere the names of adolescent national heroes, such as Lenia Golikov, Zina Portnova, Valentin Kotik, Boris Tsarikov, Marat Kazei, and Volodia Dubinin of the USSR, Kim Dong and Le Van Tham of Vietnam, Mitko Palauzov of Bulgaria, Witold Nodelski of Poland, Franco Cesani of Italy, Bosko Buha of Yugoslavia, and Eleni Papageorgiou of Greece.

In the socialist countries, children’s and adolescent’s mass organizations have become an organic part of the state system for the socialist upbringing of the younger generation. A state network of young pioneers’ palaces, houses, and other educational institutions outside the school has been created for them. The children’s organizations of the socialist countries help the working people to the best of their ability in economic and cultural development. International meetings of children of the socialist countries have become traditional, and all countries have international friendship clubs. The young pioneers’ organizations of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, the Mongolian People’s Republic, the USSR, and the Hungarian People’s Republic have been awarded orders for excellent work in the socialist upbringing of children and adolescents.

In 1971 the mass organizations of children and adolescents in the socialist countries included the V. I. Lenin All-Union Pioneers Organization (founded in 1922), the Dimitrov Septemvriiche Pioneers Organization in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria (1944), the Hungarian Pioneers League (1946), the League of Cuba (1964), the Pioneers Organization of Yugoslavia (1942), the League of Polish Scouts (1945), Sonendan in the Korean People’s Democratic Republic (1946), the E. Thälmann Pioneers Organization in the German Democratic Republic (1948), the Sühe Baator Pioneers Organization of the Mongolian People’s Republic (1925), the Pioneers Organization of the Socialist Republic of Rumania (1944), the Pioneers Organization of Socialist Youth of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1945), and the Ho Chi Minh Pioneers Organization of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (1941).

The influence of the children’s democratic organizations in the capitalist countries rose during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Groups and detachments of these organizations are usually set up according to the place of residence of the children and adolescents; as a rule, their activity is prohibited in state and private schools. The children’s democratic organizations participate in the political campaigns of the workers and disseminate peace appeals and the election campaign literature of the Communist and workers’ parties. Their members study the history of the revolutionary struggle and the life and work of the people in the socialist states and correspond with children and adolescents from other countries.

The children’s democratic organizations in the capitalist countries include the Pioneers of France (founded in 1945), the Pioneers League of the Free German Youth of West Berlin (1967), the Young Guard in Austria (1946), the Democratic League of Pioneers of Finland (1945), the Young Pioneers in Norway (1952), the Running Forward group in Switzerland (1961), the Pioneers League of Belgium (1945), and the Forest People in Great Britain (1925). In the countries of Africa and Asia that have gained national independence, the children’s democratic organizations participate in eradicating illiteracy and reviving the national economy and culture. Some of these organizations are the Pioneers Organization of the Republic of Guinea, the Pioneers of Senegal, the Pioneers of the People’s Republic of the Congo, and the Nasserites’ Vanguard in Egypt. The national scouting organizations are also altering the type of activity they carry out, and many of them cooperate with the children’s democratic organizations (for example, the scouts of Iran, Pakistan, Algeria, and India).

Many children’s democratic organizations have set up groups for children from the first few grades of school, and in some countries for children of pre-school age: in the USSR the Octobrists, in the Hungarian People’s Republic the kisdobos (little drummers, named in honor of heroic children of the revolution of 1848-49), in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria the chavdarcheta (named after the legendary hero Chavdar), in the Mongolian People’s Republic the bogatyri, in the Polish People’s Republic the zuchy (the bold ones), in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic the Iskras, in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam the August children, in the German Democratic Republic the Young Pioneers, in Great Britain the Elfins in the Forest People, and in Austria the Storm Petrels in the Young Guard. These groups prepare children for future membership in the children’s democratic organizations.

Many children’s democratic organizations publish their own newspapers and magazines. The World Federation of Democratic Youth and its International Committee of Children’s and Youth Organizations (SIMEA) coordinate the work of the children’s democratic organizations. SIMEA sponsors seminars for leaders of the children’s democratic organizations and conferences of scholars, children’s writers, and journalists; it also organizes international contests of children’s art and athletic contests and conducts campaigns in defense of children’s rights. The traditional international children’s summer program provides summer vacations at the Artek camps in the USSR, the W. Pieck Republic in the German Democratic Republic, the Kranevo camps in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, and the Csilleberc camps in the Hungarian People’s Republic. The different sections of the children’s democratic organizations maintain contact with one another, and the movement as a whole cooperates with progressive international organizations. In Czechoslovakia, France, Finland, Great Britain, and some other countries there are international summer camps. The children’s democratic organizations are active in the fight for implementing the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the UNESCO program for the development of culture and education. Many progressive international organizations have noted and praised the work of the children’s democratic organizations in raising children and adolescents in the spirit of the ideas of peace, social progress, humanism, and internationalism.

The bourgeoisie attempts to counteract the revolutionary influence of the children’s democratic organizations on the younger generation and to indoctrinate children and adolescents with bourgeois ideology. To this end, it sets up numerous children’s religious organizations and chauvinistic military and athletic youth and children’s leagues. The most reactionary of the bourgeois children’s organizations were the Hitlerjugend in Nazi Germany and the Balilla in fascist Italy. Boy scout and girl scout groups sprang up in many countries in the early 20th century. In 1972 the scout organizations in the capitalist countries had a membership of about 10 million. Some recently created organizations claim that their aim is not political education but promotion of general cultural and physical development and the vocational orientation of children and adolescents. These are so-called children’s nature leagues, playground associations, and amateur clubs, such as the Boys’ Clubs, the Future Housewives, and the Future Farmers in the USA, which begin working with children between the ages of seven and ten. However, their work is essentially aimed at indoctrinating the younger generation to be faithful to the ideals of bourgeois society.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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