East German pioneers, mid 1980s

The pioneer movement is an organization for children operated by a communist party. Typically children enter into the organization in elementary school and continue until adolesence.

In most communist countries, membership of the pioneer movement is not officially, but in practice, compulsory. That used to be the case in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and remains the case in for instance Cuba. Older children may continue in other communist organizations, but that would typically be done only by a limited number of people who might also be destined for elite position in the communist society.

Several features of the pioneer movement remind of the scout movement. It however also includes teaching, or perhaps rather indoctrination, of socialist principles.

A member of the movement is known as a pioneer and a scarf, typically red but sometimes blue, is the traditional item of clothing worn by a pioneer. The pioneer organization is often named after a famous party member that is considered a suitable role model for young socialists. In for instance East Germany, it was Ernst Thšlmann. The children were taught to chant the slogan "We are Ernst Thšlmann pioneers. We wear our red scarf with pride."

Many Cuban Americans were appalled when Elian Gonzalez emerged in Cuba wearing a pioneer uniform.

The communist parties in Russia and other countries continue to run a pioneer organization, but membership tends to be quite limited.

Czech pioneers