Díaz Romero, president of the Continental Latin American and Caribbean Students Organization (OCLAE) and a leader of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) of Cuba, was speaking here June 20 at the opening session of the first international meeting to prepare the 15th World Festival of Youth and Students.
More than 100 representatives of 73 youth organizations from 45 countries attended the June 20-22 gathering. Participants decided to call the next world youth festival for August 2001 in Algeria. It will be the first such festival to take place on the African continent.
The gathering was preceded by an expanded meeting of the Coordinating Council of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY). The Union of Young Communists (UJC) of Cuba and WFDY then hosted the broader youth conference. WFDY, with some 160 affiliates in more than 100 countries, is the main international youth organization that has sponsored the youth festivals.
In addition to the UJC and Federation of University Students (FEU) of Cuba, participants from Latin America and the Caribbean included those from the Communist Youth of Colombia; October 8 Revolutionary Youth, Union of Young Communists, and Union of Young Socialists of Brazil; Youth of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front of El Salvador; National Party Youth of Jamaica; Youth of the Popular Socialist Party of Mexico; Communist Youth of Uruguay; and Patriotic Front, Communist Youth, and Federation of University Students of Venezuela.
From North America, the Young Socialists and youth and students commission of the Communist Party in Canada; and the Young Communist League, Young Socialists, and United States Students Association in the United States sent representatives.
Delegates from Africa came from Algeria, Eritrea, Libya, Morocco, Namibia, Western Sahara, and South Africa. Besides the General Union of Palestinian Students, most other groups that sent delegates from the Middle East were affiliated to Communist Parties in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Asian delegates came from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), India, Japan, Nepal, and Vietnam.
Participants from Europe included representatives of youth groups affiliated to Communist Parties in Germany, Greece, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Russia, and Spain. In addition, the Proletarian Anticapitalist Movement and Friends of Algeria from Italy; Rebelle, the youth group of the Workers Party of Belgium; Young Socialists in the United Kingdom; and Youth of the Socialist Party of Serbia, and Socialist Youth Movement of Yugoslavia sent delegates.
Debate on anti-imperialist struggle
Much of the discussion and debate at the meeting centered on the character and the main slogan for the upcoming world youth festival. The Latin American regional delegation proposed early on in the discussion that the central slogan be "For anti-imperialist struggle, peace, and solidarity."
Several other delegations--mainly the representatives of the two youth groups from Algeria, which are politically affiliated with the government in Algiers, the Movement of Communist Youth of France, and the Pan African Youth Movement based in Senegal--objected to organizing a festival that has an explicitly anti-imperialist character.
Aziz Abdelaziz, general secretary of the National Union of Youth of Algeria, said his organization had strong reservations about approving a slogan like the one proposed by the Latin American delegates. Abdelaziz said that after consultations with various youth organizations in northern Africa, it is clear to him that a number of progressive youth groups would not go to the festival if the slogan included an explicit reference to anti-imperialism. He was inclined toward another proposal, made by a delegate from the October 8 Revolutionary Youth of Brazil, that the slogan be "Against neoliberal globalization, for peace, and solidarity."
A large majority of delegates did not agree with this approach. A number, such as Iraklis Tsavdaridis, president of WFDY and leader of the Communist Youth of Greece, said keeping anti-imperialism in the main slogan was necessary to safeguard "the traditions of the festival movement." The first 13 festivals initiated by WFDY took place when the federation was dominated by groups that looked to Moscow for political leadership.
Other delegates who supported this view said more young people around the world are involved in struggles against imperialist domination. Israel Smith, representing the Young Communist League of the United States, for example, pointed to demonstrations in Seattle last year and in Davos, Switzerland, against the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a "hallmark of the progressive youth movement."
Other delegates were more oriented toward the class struggle around the world. Maureen Hinda of the SWAPO Party Youth League of Namibia said U.S. imperialism above all, and to a lesser degree French, British, and Portuguese imperialism, are intensifying the exploitation of peoples in the Third World, especially in Africa, under the guise of "development." She pointed to the example of the internationalist aid of Cuban volunteers in Angola in contributing to Namibia's independence and in aiding other national liberation struggles in southern Africa.
Anne Howie, representing the Young Socialists in the United Kingdom, argued for condemning all aggression by the imperialist powers, including military intervention by London and Washington in Sierra Leone under UN cover. Hwang Won Jun from the DPRK said that Washington continued to characterize his nation as a "terrorist" country for daring to stand up to imperialism, even after announcing it may drop some economic sanctions against the DPRK.
Jake Perasso of the Young Socialists in the United States pointed to growing resistance by working people in the United States--from the union-organizing struggle at Dakota Premium Foods in Minnesota, to the striking miners, to the 20,000 rallying in Los Angeles for immigrant rights, and mobilizations in the South against the Confederate flag and for affirmative action--a resistance that is evident in other imperialist countries and in Latin America. These bode well for winning young people to a revolutionary perspective and for attracting youth to a festival that has a clear anti-imperialist character.
The YS leader also said that the character of the anti-WTO protests in Seattle was nationalist and reactionary. Perasso and other YS representatives said the fight for national self-determination from Quebec to Puerto Rico to Ireland is at the center of the struggle against imperialism, which is not as powerful as it seems.
The last day of the meeting a compromise was reached among the various political forces represented. "Let's globalize the struggle for peace, solidarity, development, against imperialism!" was the slogan for the next world youth festival approved by consensus.
An appeal to the youth and students of the world was issued by the meeting calling the festival in Algiers. "World peace and security are threatened today by imperialist domination, intervention, and conflicts," the communiqué stated. "People's basic rights are deprived by neoliberal policies. Exploitation and repression are worldwide. The global struggle of all democratic, progressive and anti-imperialist forces is urgently needed."
Discussion on 1997 festival in Cuba
The appeal also stated that "the struggle of youth and students in the world to face these challenges was strengthened by the success of the 14th World Festival of Youth and Students held in Havana, Cuba, in 1997." Substantial discussion on this point was held during the meeting.
A number of delegates pointed to the success of the 1997 youth festival in Cuba in being nonexclusionary. It was open to many political tendencies and organizations that are part of the struggle against imperialism around the world but were excluded from previous festivals--from Sinn Fein Youth in Ireland to supporters of Quebec independence in Canada to the Movement of Landless Rural Workers in Brazil. That festival embraced delegations even from countries that had more than one national preparatory committee organizing participation. And it was dedicated to Ernesto Che Guevara, the Argentine-born leader of the Cuban revolution.
Several other delegates, however, pointed to some of these features as problems not to be repeated in the upcoming festival. Anke Dzewas of the Communist Party youth of Germany said, for example, that this openness led to "chaos" at the festival in Cuba. She proposed that only one national preparatory committee be permitted per country, which should go through a process of selection in determining delegates, the number of whom should be limited by a cap in each country.
These questions were not decided at the Havana meeting. They will be discussed further and settled, along with the agenda, program, and exact dates of the 15th world youth festival, at the next international preparatory meeting set for New Delhi, India, the third weekend of November.
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