student rebels

The student rebels of the Depression era rank among the most effective radical organizers in the history of American student politics. They built a large and influential student protest movement, organized America’s first national strikes, and shaped political discourse on campus for the better part of a decade. No college generation before them and only the New Left insurgents of the 1960’s after them ever had as much impact on student politics in twentieth-century America.

-Cohen, When the Old Left Was Young, 1993


National Student League constitution National Student League (NSL) is formed in 1931 as a Communist-led coalition of radical and progressive students to create a nationwide, militant student movement that seeks solutions to the double-barreled crisis of the Great Depression at home and war and fascism abroad. The impetus for this organization comes from student activists at CCNY.

ASU booklet cover The American Student Union (ASU) is established in December 1935 when the National Student League merges with the Socialist Student League for Industrial Democracy. The ASU becomes the largest national student organization ever created to that point in time, with over 20,000 members. ASU leaders champion federal aid to low-income students and would later ally themselves with the New Deal.

Student League for Industrial Democracy strike The Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) is the student section of the League for Industrial Democracy, which can be traced to the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, founded in 1905 by CCNY graduate and popular writer/activist Upton Sinclair. Here, SLID members demonstrate to encourage office workers to support their union during the summer of 1935 in NYC’s garment district.

Young Communist League magazine cover The Young Communist League (YCL) is the youth division of the U.S. Communist Party. Its program includes support for unemployment insurance, full racial equality, no funding for militarism, training programs for young people, and a workers’ government in the United States, based on the model of the Soviet Union.

Young People's Socialist League meeting flyer The Young People's Socialist League (YPSL) is the youth affiliate of the Socialist Party. Its main rival on campus is the Young Communist League. This flyer advertises an anti-war meeting in Harlem.