"Let's globalize the struggle for peace, solidarity, development, and against imperialism" is the official theme of the festival, which takes place in Africa for the first time ever. Well over half the delegates come from this continent, especially North Africa, and from the Middle East.
The most numerous delegation, 1,100-strong, is from Algeria, the host country. It includes a large number of students from the National Union of Algerian Youth (UNJA).
Other student and youth groups and individuals are also part of the delegation from Algeria, including 50 students of Berber origin and whose families live in Kabylia. This is a region to the east of Algiers where Berbers, the indigenous people of northern Africa, comprise the overwhelming majority.
According to several of these students, and Tariq Seghir, a UNJA leader, Algeria's National Preparatory Committee for the festival extended 400 invitations to groups and individuals in Kabylia to take part in the gathering. No Berbers currently living in Kabylia accepted them, however, according to these sources. Instead, they heeded the call to boycott the festival issued by social democratic groups that have been leading antigovernment protests in Kabylia since April.
A number of the students of Berber origin attending the festival said they had taken part in recent college sit-ins and other demonstrations supporting the language and cultural rights of the Berber people.
The second-largest delegation from Africa comes from Western Sahara. Its 420 members divided their forces between the four campus dormitories housing delegates from Africa, the Americas, Asia/Pacific and Europe, and the Middle East, respectively, to spread their message. They have organized solidarity tents, dinners, rallies, workshops, and cultural activities to expand and deepen support for their struggle to end the colonial occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco's army and Moroccan settlers.
Delegations from Angola, Namibia, and South Africa include several dozen youth each.
Besides Algeria, more than 2,000 delegates came here with help from governments in North African countries and the Middle East that have majority Arab populations. They hail from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt, and Tunisia, among others.
Large delegation from Cuba
The second-largest participation is from the Americas, with approximately 1,300 attending. The delegation from Cuba of 750 is the largest in the world outside Algeria. The Cuban government provided three planes to transport these delegates here.
Youth and students from 56 countries are represented in the Cuban delegation. Most of these delegates--such as the two youths from Puerto Rico and individuals from almost every country in the rest of the Caribbean, one from Argentina, and a dozen from Central America--did not have sufficient resources to get here on their own. Their countries and organizations would not have been represented otherwise.
Among the delegates from Cuba, 250 are students from other countries, mostly the semicolonial world, attending the Latin American School of Medicine or the International School for Physical Education and Sports in Cuba.
The second-largest group from the Americas is the 250-person delegation sent by Venezuela. Smaller delegations came on their own from Brazil (65), Mexico (35), and Haiti (4).
From North America, there are 14 delegates here from Canada. Four of these are from Quebec, and marched with Quebecois flags, painted with the slogan "Independence for Quebec," at the opening ceremony.
Nine came from the United States, two organized by the Young Communist League and seven by the Young Socialists. This group marched in the "July 5 Olympic Stadium" during the festival's inauguration with handmade signs demanding "Cancel the Third World debt," "U.S. out of Vieques now!" and "U.S. hands off Cuba," among others.
Hundreds are here from Asia and the Pacific. They include 150 from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 150 from India, 130 from Vietnam, more than 100 from Nepal, 12 from China, 6 from East Timor, 3 from Australia, 2 from New Zealand, and individuals from Kanaky (New Caledonia), Burma, Sri Lanka and several other countries.
Present from Japan are a group of Koreans resident in that country. This is the first time in decades that the youth groups affiliated with Japan's Socialist Party and Communist Party have abstained from participating in such a gathering.
Participation from Europe is smaller than from other continents. Nearly 70 are here from Italy, organized largely by Friends of Algeria. About 60 came from Germany, 33 from the United Kingdom, 30 from Greece, and 22 from Sweden. Smaller groups hail from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, among others.
The delegation from Spain has nearly 50 youth, 40 of whom come from Catalonia. These youth marched at the opening ceremony with the Catalan flag, despite opposition from the half dozen delegates of the Union of Communist Youth of Spain (UJCE). The delegates from France are 15 Algerian immigrants. Some 120 delegates came from Russia. Small delegations from Armenia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia are the only ones from Central and Eastern Europe or the former Soviet republics.
'Imperialism is humanity's main enemy'
The festival's political program includes five "thematic" centers of discussion on topics such as "Peace and Security," "Democracy and Human Rights," and "Globalization and Development." Each of these have several sessions. Other events include forums in solidarity with national liberation struggles from Palestine to Western Sahara, from Puerto Rico to East Timor. A number of workshops are also planned to work through challenges confronting young workers and trade unionists, peasants and rural youth, women, or young artists and writers. The program also includes soccer games, chess and tennis tournaments, and other sports and cultural events, as well as sightseeing in Algiers.
The opening session of the first discussion on August 9 centered on "Peace and Security" was characteristic of the politics of the festival.
The president of the World Council For Peace, who resides in Greece, opened the program. His presentation focused on what he called "the NATO-ization of the world." Washington has given the Atlantic imperialist military alliance the green light to intervene not only in Europe but "anywhere in the world to advance American interests," he said, "without even seeking the permission of the United Nations Security Council in most cases." That's the main threat to world peace, he stated.
He praised "anti-globalization" protests from Seattle two years ago to those in Genoa, Italy, in July as the harbinger of a new, progressive movement and called for putting pressure on the imperialist powers to dissolve military alliances like NATO and agree to disarmament.
Most speakers who took the floor after the opening remarks, however, focused on the popular struggle against imperialism. The first speaker in the discussion was Jorge Luis Alonso Contreras, a member of the National Bureau of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) of Cuba.
He began by pointing to the effort by Cuban communists to mobilize nearly 800 people from 56 countries for this festival as a contribution to the struggle against imperialism. He spoke extensively on the fight of the Cuban people to successfully resist 42 years of Washington's unrelenting economic war.
Despite the U.S. blockade, Contreras said, Cuban revolutionists will not give up an inch in defending their ideas, their revolution, and socialism. "It would be an illusion to seek devices or institutions that could guarantee peaceful coexistence between the exploiters and the oppressed nations. As long as the empire to the north of Cuba exists, as long as the imperialist system exists around the world, we can never lower our guard or soften our defenses. This is the only way to fight for peace and security."
"The U.S. imperialists and their allies in Japan are the sworn enemy of the Korean people and the number one enemy of humanity and of world peace," said Son Kyong Nam, speaking for the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Until the struggle to get the 40,000 U.S. troops and their nuclear weapons out of south Korea and reunify the Korean peninsula, and similar anti-imperialist struggles, are victorious, he stated, "we cannot achieve peace, we can't have a world without violence and wars."
Ismael Guadalupe, representing United Youth of Vieques, described the colonization of Puerto Rico by U.S. imperialism since 1898 and the struggle today to end the U.S. Navy's use of Vieques for bombing practice and to get the U.S. Navy out of Puerto Rico. He proposed a resolution be adopted to internationalize support for the Vieques struggle "as a concrete contribution to peace."
Ogmundur Jonsson from the Young Socialists in Iceland spoke about the intensifying inter-imperialist competition between Washington and its capitalist rivals in Europe. This competition between the top imperialist powers over control of markets and raw materials has marked the last century and has produced two world wars, he said.
"The conflict between the rulers in America and Europe has now sharpened with Washington's drive to build the so-called missile defense system," Jonsson added. "In this lineup, smaller imperialist powers like Iceland have to choose this or that alliance. The rulers in Iceland have allied themselves more and more with NATO and Washington. Progressive youth in every imperialist country have to struggle together with working people to take power out of the hands of the exploiters and warmongers in each of the countries we live in, to reach the goals pointed to in this workshop, like revolutionists did in Cuba."
A representative of the General Union of Palestinian students spoke, stating, "We need to reorient our debate towards rehabilitating the national liberation struggles in the progressive youth movement to guarantee dignity and freedom of the oppressed nations and eventually peace in the world." This student leader also argued that the "anti-globalization" protests in Seattle or Genoa did not have an anti-imperialist character, and have confused many youth because right-wing groups are so comfortable in taking part in them, and cannot be pointed to as an example to follow.
Alfonse Malone from the United States explained why Washington's foreign policy--from Puerto Rico to Cuba to Western Sahara--is an extension of domestic policy. He described the toughening resistance by working people and small farmers in the United States to the offensive against working and living conditions by the employers and the government--from recent strikes and union organizing drives by garment workers and meat packers to the union organizing gains of the carpenters and struggles of working farmers. These are among the best allies of revolutionists in Cuba, of those fighting for national liberation from Puerto Rico to Korea, he said.
The "national missile defense" referred to by other speakers is not only aimed at achieving nuclear first-strike capability for Washington against its imperialist allies and Russia, he said. It is also part of the U.S. rulers' moves to justify the establishment for the first time of a "North American command," after prettifying its name, in order to put the rulers' armed forces in a better position to be used against working people inside the United States in the future. He ended by pointing to a speech by José Ramón Balaguer, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba, in which the Cuban leader argues that socialism is the only viable option for humanity's survival.
A delegate from Cyprus, and from the Communist Youth of Greece, came back to the themes of the opening presentation to press for disarmament and dissolving military alliances like NATO. The overall thrust of this session, though, was decidedly anti-imperialist and pro-socialist, as was the case with a number of other sessions.
Clarity on anti-imperialist struggle
August 10, for example, was dedicated to the Americas. A combined forum in solidarity with the struggles of the people of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Colombia took place that afternoon. The panel included María Pili Hernández, representing the youth of the Fifth Republic Movement of Venezuela, the party founded by Hugo Chávez. She described changes in Venezuela's constitution and other measures by the Chávez government as an alternative example, a "third road," in the fight against imperialism. A few other delegates, from Colombia and Brazil in particular, echoed this view.
Otto Rivero, speaking for the leadership of the UJC of Cuba, outlined the gains of the Cuban Revolution and spoke of the need for socialist revolution in each of the countries of Latin America. Elizabeth Santiago from the Socialist Front in Puerto Rico read a statement that Puerto Rican independence fighter Rafael Cancel Miranda sent to the festival, which complemented Rivero's remarks.
Two different perspectives were clearly, though not polemically, presented by the panelists. The first implied support for a regime that takes some measures to confront imperialist domination without challenging the underlying capitalist social relations in the country, as the Chávez government has done. The second focused on a need for socialist revolution as the only way not only to win genuine national liberation but to defend national sovereignty and open the road for toiling humanity to confront its basic tasks imposed by history.
One of the last speakers during the discussion at this meeting, was Jacob Perasso, organizer of the Young Socialists National Executive Committee in the United States. Workers and farmers will struggle against the brutalities of capitalism, propelled by the lawful functioning of the capitalist system itself, Perasso said. He described the varied and geographically spreading proletarian resistance in the United States as an illustration of this point. The central challenge, Perasso said, is forging a working-class leadership in alliance with the toilers on the land, that draws the lessons of 150 years of struggle and recruits and trains young workers, farmers, and students in a cadre party--for which a revolutionary youth organization is a school--as the Bolsheviks did in the Russian Revolution of 1917.
In his summary remarks, Otto Rivero referred to some of the points by Perasso and reinforced them. Building a Marxist leadership with political clarity is necessary to lead a revolutionary struggle for power, Rivero said. He added that the class forces that will lead such a revolutionary process to victory are the same as those in the Russian Revolution: workers, farmers, and soldiers, who won students to the side of the toilers. This is what will be needed in other countries in the future, the UJC leader said.
That day's activities ended with entertainment at the Verdun Theater, a large, open-air amphitheater in downtown Algiers. Its 6,000 seats were full for the event. Musicians, singers, and dancers from the Americas delegations--mostly from Cuba--performed.
The program included a few brief presentations by student leaders. One of them was Yanelis Martínez, a UJC leader who is also on the secretariat of the Organization of Caribbean and Latin American Students (OCLAE).
Speaking on the occasion of the 35th anniversary since OCLAE's founding, Martínez said the student federations represented in OCLAE and at the 15th world youth festival are part of an emerging anti-imperialist youth movement that is revitalizing OCLAE.
This student and youth movement has growing opportunities to link up with working people in a struggle for continental revolution in the Americas, she concluded.
Festival activities continued through August 16, with other days dedicated to the struggles of the peoples of other regions of the world.
Festival participants buy socialist books to read, study, discuss
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