Youth

Youth

The Communist Youth League (Kommunista Ifjúsagi Szovetseg-- KISZ) catered to young people. KISZ was the HSWP's official youth organization. It claimed to represent all the country's youth and sought to educate young people politically and to supervise political as well as some social activities for them. KISZ was the most important source of new members for the party. Its organizational framework paralleled that of the HSWP and included a congress, central committee, secretariat, and regional and local committees. Membership was open to youth from the ages of fourteen to twenty-six years, but most of the full-time leaders of the organization were well over the age limit. In the 1980s, KISZ had about 800,000 members. Membership was common, if rather pro forma, among university students (96 percent of whom were members) but was lower among young people already working (31 percent).

In the late 1980s, KISZ undertook sweeping reforms of its own organizational structure. In April 1989 delegates to the organization's national congress voted to change the name of the organization to the Democratic Youth Federation. According to declarations adopted by the congress, the newly refashioned federation would be a voluntary league of independent youth organizations and would not accept direction from any single party, including the HSWP.

A separate organization within KISZ, the Association of Young Pioneers, was formed for youngsters in elementary school. Membership was open to children from six to fourteen years of age. The Young Pioneers served many of the same functions as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the West. The organization also attempted to explain to children the basic tenets of the MarxistLeninist worldview. Joining the Young Pioneers was a matter of course for most youngsters in elementary school. Most meetings took place in classrooms of primary schools. Bands of Young Pioneers could be seen on many ceremonial occasions, dressed in the organization's characteristic white shirts and red ties. The summer camps sponsored by the organization were a highlight of the year for many children.

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