In Mobilizing Youth
, Susan B. Whitney examines how youth moved to the forefront of French politics in the two decades following the First World War. In those years Communists and Catholics forged the most important youth movements in France. Focusing on the competing efforts of the two groups to mobilize the young and harness generational aspirations, Whitney traces the formative years of the Young Communists and the Young Christian Workers, including their female branches. She analyzes the ideologies of the movements, their major campaigns, their styles of political and religious engagement, and their approaches to male and female activism. As Whitney demonstrates, the recasting of gender roles lay at the heart of Catholic efforts and became crucial to Communist strategies in the mid-1930s.
Moving back and forth between the constantly shifting tactics devised to mobilize young people and the circumstances of their lives, Whitney gives special consideration to the context in which the youth movements operated and in which young people made choices. She traces the impact of the First World War on the young and on the formulation of generation-based political and religious identities, the role of work and leisure in young people’s lives and political mobilization, the impact of the Depression, the importance of Soviet ideas and intervention in French Communist youth politics, and the state’s attention to youth after the victory of France’s Popular Front government in 1936. Mobilizing Youth concludes by inserting the era’s youth activists and movements into the complicated events of the Second World War.