The IYCW and its 1975 Declaration of Principles

At its 4th International Council in Linz, Austria, in 1975, the IYCW adopted a series of documents that attempted to define the movement’s “orientation” eight years after the death of Cardijn in 1967.

This is the Declaration of Principles as modified in 1995 at the 8th International Council in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Declaration of Principles

Other documents adopted were the Review of Life and Worker Action document and the Task of Education.

Later the IYCW International Team also adopted a document The Specifically Christian and Ecclesial Character of the IYCW which was meant to complement the lack of reference to the Church in the abovementioned documents.

In any event, the Declaration of Principles proved to be highly controversial and was one of the factors that eventually led to a split in the international movement.

This is how the DOP presents the history of the movement:

History of the YCW

The movement was born at the beginning of the twentieth century from the initiative of a Belgian priest, Cardijn, and some young workers who were concerned about the pitiful conditions that their fellow workers in Belgium were facing in factories, mills and mines, and in their families and neighbourhoods.

They had to work long hours, in harsh conditions and for low wages, having hardly any free time.

Cardijn wanted to give working-class youth the possibility of organising themselves in order to be trained to stand up for their rights because he believed in their capacity to organise and free themselves from their situation of oppression and exploitation.

His conviction was that young workers are worth more than all the gold in the world. He thus founded – within the Church – a movement of young workers run by the young workers themselves.

He was inspired by a Christian tradition firmly rooted in reality, and in turn he himself has marked this tradition. Faith was developed starting from real life situations of the young workers and using the SEE, JUDGE, ACT method.

Carried by the young men and women workers who shared his ideal, the movement spread throughout Europe and later to all continents. It came into contact with young people of different cultures, beliefs, and traditions, welcoming all young workers without distinction, and actually became an international movement.

In 1975 the movement gave itself a DOP that took into account the evolution in society, and the history and experience of the movement. It is in the same spirit that we have revised the DOP.

In doing so the IYCW wants to give continuity to the experiences lived since 1975, taking into account the commitment of those militants who were inspired by the whole process. Through their action with and among the young workers committed to the struggle of the working class, the oppressed and exploited, they contributed to the building of the movement.

The world today

Today, as at the time when the movement was born, young workers are faced with the contradictions of capitalism.

These contradictions are more acute than ever. The collapse of communism has put an end to the cold war thereby making the defenders of capitalism present it as the only viable economic system for humanity today. Hence the society in which we live is a society where capitalism is dominant and operates on an international scale.

Capitalism has led to the growth of the gap between rich countries and poor countries, and indeed between the rich and poor within the countries. Technology and information are controlled by the dominant class. A small minority of rich people dominate, exploit and make decisions on behalf of a majority of people who live in poverty and in a situation of constant exclusion.

While wealth continues to increase, it only benefits a minority. Unemployment is growing around the world, more and more people have unstable and precarious jobs or work in the informal sector, while other workers are forced to migrate in order to earn a living. Women are exploited and dominated more than men. Indigenous people are forced off their ancestral land, their language and culture threatened and often destroyed.

Natural resources are destroyed without due respect for the environment. In many countries, racism, certain forms of nationalism and religious fanaticism that leads to exclusion, are on the rise.

Consumerism is pushed to extremes. The prevailing materialism, competitiveness and individualism drive an increasing number of people to despair, to a loss of the meaning of life, and to a lack of future prospects.

The rights that workers conquered in some countries are being gradually eroded. While the impact and strength of the working class and their organisations have diminished considerably, leaving them in a defensive position, the need for creating alternatives to the present society has not.

New forms of organisations, covering different aspects of life and facing new challenges, are appearing alongside the historical forms of worker organizations. All these associations and movements bring hope that society can still change.

The YCW in brief

The YCW is part of those movements which continue to aspire to, and build a new society. As a movement of young workers in action, the YCW wants the young workers to fulfil their deepest aspirations, live in dignity and build a new society.

It is a movement of, among, by and for young workers; a democratic organisation run and directed by the young people themselves.

It is a movement of education through action. It takes action right where the young workers are, and considers its task of education a priority.

It is a movement that creates communities where young workers can share all aspects of their lives; plan and review the action to change their situations. Through its action and reflections the YCW is present and active in the church.

It uses the review of life and worker action as its primary tool. In the YCW, the young workers make their own history, using experiences of the past as a basis. It is constantly evolving and deals with new needs of the young workers in particular, the working class, the oppressed and the excluded. It makes an analysis, which is reviewed periodically.

It contributes to the search for and deepening of the meaning of life, which is a crucial dimension of human life.


The fundamental objective of the YCW is that all young workers should:

^ discover the deepest meaning of their lives;

^ live in accordance with their personal and collective dignity;

^ assume the responsibility for finding solutions to their situations at the local, national and international levels.

The YCW strives towards this objective,

  • by calling on each and every young worker to have personal convictions, to disseminate a message of liberation, love, hope, justice, peace, and solidarity in action and daily life;
  • by struggling for the liberation of young workers in particular, and of the working class, the oppressed and the excluded, in all spheres of life; and this by living out new values which lead to a deep change in the mentalities of the persons and the structures of society;
  • by striving for a change leading to a new society, a classless and just society; where exploitation, poverty, starvation, discrimination will be no more; where production and consumption of goods will be directed towards the service of humanity and provide for the needs of all; where each person, nation, culture will have their place; a society of solidarity where the dream of the New Earth promised in ages past to the oppressed will, at long last, be fulfilled.

The YCW believes in the capacity of each young worker to discover their own importance and dignity reflect on all matters which affect them, and decide their own areas of commitment. The young workers’ participation is essential.

Because the YCW believes in all the above, it offers all young workers the challenge and joy of living and struggling. This is how a new person and a new society can emerge.