Young Socialist Alliance Records, 1954-1992

Scope and Content Note

The collection documents the origins and development of the Young Socialist Alliance from 1954 through its absorption by the Socialist Workers Party in 1992. Most of the collection consists of mimeographed material produced by the national office to keep local members informed about national and international developments and to coordination their political activities. There are virtually no files of original correspondence. The records are organized into eight series: YOUNG SOCIALIST LEAGUE PAPERS, YOUNG SOCIALIST PAPERS, GENERAL MAILINGS, NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MINUTES AND RECORDS, LOCAL REPORTS, HISTORY, SUBJECT FILES, and PAPER RECORDS. Almost the entire collection is available on microfilm only. After microfilming, all material was returned to the Socialist Workers Party. Because the records were filmed in parts at three different times, the reels bear three different call numbers.

Background information on the coalition of youth organizations which established the Young Socialist in 1957 and which eventually led to the formation of YSA is found in the first two series. Included here are newsletters and minutes of the National Action Committee of the Young Socialist League (1954-1958), which represented one faction of the radical newspaper's founders, and editorial board minutes and mailings of the Young Socialist. Minutes of the Midwest Conference of Young Socialists (February, 1958) are filed at the end of the 1958 material at Micro 726, Reel 1, Frame 696. The Young Socialist itself, as well as numerous other publications of the YSA, is available on microfilm in the Wisconsin Historical Society Library.

The third series consists of chronologically-arranged GENERAL MAILINGS of the Young Socialist Alliance. Here may be found mimeographed letters and memoranda to local organizers, together with financial and sales reports. Beginning in the late 1960s reports on anti-war organizing became an increasingly important part of the communications. Scattered material such as local reports, formal protests, and letters from individual members were sometimes duplicated for distribution and are therefore also included here as are minority faction statements and reports on the activities of other left wing organizations.

The NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MINUTES AND RECORDS consist of mimeographed minutes of the YSA's National Executive Committee, together with some supplementary material distributed to committee members. This section includes minutes and materials documenting national committee plenums and national conventions. However national conventions are seldom represented by any documentation beyond the summary minutes.

The LOCAL REPORTS consist of detailed descriptions of YSA locals prepared during the 1970s. The reports are of several types, with the organizational (or leadership) reports and the team (or regional) reports being most numerous. Although the content of the two reports is similar, the organizational reports are filed chronologically, while the team reports are filed alphabetically by region name. The organizational reports were prepared by representatives of the YSA national organization who travelled around the country to present reports to the branches about the national situation. Generally, these representatives visited each branch annually in the spring and fall. The purpose of the regional teams is less clear, although they seem to have focused on publication sales. The authors of the regional reports are seldom identified. Taken together, the reports contain very useful accounts of the conditions within each local, as well as its problems and relationships with other radical organizations.

The HISTORY files consist of copies of articles about YSA and the Young Socialist. Of note among this small series is an unpublished manuscript by Gus Horowitz and a transcript of an oral history interview with Tim Wohlforth.

The alphabetically-arranged SUBJECT FILES consist of a variety of materials transferred to the Historical Society after the dissolution of the YSA. This series contains virtually the only material in the collection that reflects the original filing order used by the YSA national office, although some materials (such as the miscellaneous publications, study guides, reports, etc.) probably represent fugitive documentation that was never correctly filed by the YSA. Included are correspondence, memoranda, flyers, clippings, and minutes. Most of the series dates from YSA's last years as a separate organization, although a few items are older. The most recent material primarily documents YSA's involvement with the international student movement of the 1980s, especially its relationship with South Africa. Also dating from the 1980s are files pertaining to the trials of several expelled dissidents and information on conferences and defense cases. Of special interest is the correspondence of YSA officer Greg McCarten with the Prisoners United, an organization of prisoners in Texas prisons. Files on Harvard, San Francisco State University, and other schools relate to student activism in 1969, although little of the material specifically relates to YSA involvement in these actions. Also dating from this period is correspondence (in the Chapter file) about the involvement of a YSA member with the Symbionese Liberation Army and a limited run of minutes of the New York chapter of YSA. Also listed with this diverse material is a print of To Make a Revolution, a film by David Weiss concerning the YSA during the early 1970s.

Finally, PAPER RECORDS is a small amount of material, 1965-1971, presented by Fred Halstead. Included is miscellaneous incoming correspondence, reports to the National Executive Committee, and other items, mainly relating to opposition to the Vietnam War.