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Vol. 71/No. 34      September 17, 2007

Venezuela event discusses 60 years
since first World Youth Festival
(front page)
CARACAS, Venezuela—Hundreds of young people from across the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East gathered here August 23-25 for a conference marking the 60th anniversary of the World Festivals of Youth and Students. It was sponsored by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), which brings together anti-imperialist youth organizations from around the world.

Miguel Madeira, WFDY president and a leader of the Communist Youth of Portugal, reported to the closing ceremony that nearly 1,000 delegates from 70 organizations in 50 countries attended the seminar. The majority came from Latin America, with the largest delegations, several hundred each, from Cuba and Venezuela.

Many of the delegates from Cuba were doctors, athletic trainers, and others serving internationalist missions in Venezuela. The Venezuelan delegation was made up of members of the Communist Youth of Venezuela, the National Youth Institute, and activists involved in the formation of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela, initiated by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.

From Europe, several dozen delegates represented groups in Belarus, Cyprus, Portugal, France, Hungary, Greece, Germany, and the United Kingdom. About a dozen came from Africa, including from Western Sahara, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola, and Lesotho. From the Asia-Pacific region, delegations came from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, north Korea, New Zealand, and the Philippines. The four Middle Eastern countries represented were Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.  
History of world youth festivals
“This seminar promoted exchanges between youth and students to reinforce solidarity and friendship among anti-imperialist youth in the tradition of the festival movement,” said WFDY president Madeira at the closing ceremony.

The first World Festival of Youth and Students took place in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1947, in the wake of World War II. Until 1989 most such festivals took place in Eastern European countries where capitalist property relations had been overturned, and participation was largely controlled by youth organizations of the Stalinist Communist parties.

“After the change in the world relationship of forces, we asked whether there would there be any festivals again,” said Iraklis Tsavaridis, former WFDY president and secretary of the World Peace Council, at an August 24 plenary session.

At a 1995 gathering in Havana called “Cuba Lives,” Tsavaridis said, “Youth responded to the call for international solidarity, and we saw it would be possible to revive the festival movement, and in 1997 the festival was hosted in Havana.”

After the collapse of the Stalinist apparatuses in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Cuban youth organizations and revolutionary forces in other countries worked to draw into WFDY, and the World Youth Festivals, youth groups whose participation had previously been limited.

The 1997 Havana festival, attended by 12,000, was marked by its political openness and anti-imperialist character. Many representatives of national liberation struggles in Africa and the Middle East and other revolutionists participated for the first time.

Harchand Singh, a longtime leader of WFDY from the Communist Party of India, noted that starting at the Havana festival, an International Solidarity Fund was established to facilitate attendance by reducing travel and other costs, especially for delegates from semicolonial countries.

The next two festivals took place in Algeria in 2001 and Venezuela in 2005. They were similar in political character and openness to the Havana gathering.

At the plenary panel here, other speakers described how the founding of WFDY and the festival movement were marked by the outcome of the second world war.

Jerónimo Carrera, president of the Communist Party of Venezuela, who attended the 1947 festival in Prague, noted the political context at the time. “We did not appreciate what the bombing of Hiroshima had meant. When news came that Tokyo had surrendered, we thought it [the bombing] was good,” he said. “It shortened the war—but at what price?”

Annalucia Vermunt of the Young Socialists in New Zealand responded to this assessment from the floor. She pointed out that the U.S. imperialist bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a barbaric assault that prepared the way for new wars. “There was no peace,” she said. “The bombing was intended as a warning to the peoples of the world. Washington was ready to march on Asia, but the resistance of the toilers in China, Indonesia, Korea, India, and the soldiers within the U.S. imperialist army stayed their hand.”

The majority of contributions from the floor at the plenary focused on the importance of the political character of the Havana, Algiers, and Caracas festivals as gatherings that brought together thousands of youth under an anti-imperialist banner. Several delegates explained how these festivals have provided an avenue for those resisting imperialism to meet and exchange ideas and experiences. Many spoke about the need to begin planning for the next world youth festival, projected for 2009.

The conference also included cultural activities, a fair featuring literature from WFDY member organizations, and workshops on education, employment, and struggles against foreign military bases.

An International Consultative Meeting on the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students followed the seminar. Nearly 100 people from 50 organizations attended. The meeting empowered the WFDY leadership to investigate possible host countries. It resolved to discuss further the next festival site at a WFDY leadership meeting in Portugal in February.  
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