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The young and not-so-young Komsomol

Pledging to resurrect the Soviet Union, over 100 young communists voted Sunday at a hastily-convened Congress to revive the Komsomol, the former Soviet Communist Youth Organization.

In a sequestered spot outside Moscow, the delegates, mostly in their 20s, adopted a new constitution endorsing the All-Union Lenin Komsomol as an "international, voluntary, independent social and political organization for youth".

The two-day Congress drew parallels with its adult counterpart, the U. S. S. R. Congress of People's Deputies, held March 17 also in a secret location outside the capital.

"We don't recognize the decision of the 22nd Congress". said organizer Vadim Filer of the decision to convene the 23rd Komsomol Congress. The All-Union Komsomol voted itself out of existence on Sept. 28, 1991, following the disbanding of the Communist Party.

The delegates vowed to teach youth the principles of Marxism-Leninism and "restore a unified, multi-national state -- the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics -- as a voluntary union of peoples, and to fight for the elimination of all forms of exploitation of man by man".

About 250 delegates and guests registered at the Metrolog House of Culture in the sleepy village of Mendelee-vo, about 20 kilometers from Moscow. Among the guests was Yegor Ligachev, former hardline Politburo member and longtime opponent of liberal reform.

"The Komsomol will never die, despite these democrats", said Lig-achev, who entered the Komsomol in 1937. "It has a brilliant future".

American Youth Communist League student coordinator Jason Rabinowitz, 24, of New York, also praised the Komsomol. "This Congress explodes the myth that Soviet youth are for capitalism", he said.

The young communists said the Komsomol was needed to help young people weather the country's economic growing pains.

"This country needs an organization to help young people in these hard times", said organizer Piler, 25, who appeared at the Congress in his Lenin pin-studded Young Pioneer leader's uniform. "There are young entrepreneurs, but what about students who have to spend 35 rubles every day on lunch when they get stipends of 340 rubles a month? "

Delegates called the Russian government's reforms a dangerous approach to economic improvement, encouraging speculation without bolstering production.

"They want to throw us into the market", said Andrei Kryshtakovich, 26, a delegate from Minsk. "But the market alone won't bring us out of our economic crisis. We need a strong government to guide us".

"Young people today are forced to become speculators just to afford living", said Valery Kargiev, 26, from Northern Ossetia. "We need people in industry, but there's no money in it

"We're not against business. We just want honest business", he said.

Congress attenders claimed that the new Komsomol would be more true to the original revolutionary Komsomol than its pre-coup counterpart.

"Back in the beginning, you risked your life joining the Komsomol", recalled Afanasy Bordadyn, 85, chairman of the Moscow Council of Komsomol Veterans, who joined the organization in 1921 and one of a handful of veterans to show up for the Congress. "But then young people started joining just to get ahead. That's why it wasn't so hard for them to leave it all behind".

The Komsomol was founded in 1918 with voluntary enrollment for youth aged 14-28.

While membership was once considered an honor for a select few, in recent years joining the Komsomol became virtually mandatory for any student. At its peak, membership numbered 40 million but dropped to about 18 million as the organization's popularity waned in recent years.

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