Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Report on the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students

Just hours after the passing of Nelson Mandela in December 2013, young people from across the word gathered in, Quito, Ecuador for the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students.  The Festival brought together over 8,000 young people from 88 countries.

The festival is organised by the World Federation of Youth and Students and began in the wake of World War Two when young people from across the world came together to demand international solidarity and peace.  The first festival held in Prague in 1947 had 17, 000 participants from 71 countries under the slogan “Youth Unite, Forward for Lasting Peace”. 

Young communists in Ireland have been involved in WFDY and the world Festival since its inception and former CPI National Executive member, Edwina Steward, recounts attending the 3rd Festival in Berlin in 1951 as being one of her most formative experiences helping her to develop her world outlook and put her own experiences of political activism in Belfast into the context of the international struggle against imperialism. 

This year the theme of the Festival was “Youth Unite against Imperialism, for a world of peace, solidarity and social transformation” and the CYM was delighted to represent Ireland in debates on this theme and to re-new the tradition of young Irish communists being involved in this important international event.

The opening ceremony of the event was addressed by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa  who reminded delegates that there can be no peace in the world without justice.  Members of the Ecuadorian cabinet and the Mayor of Quito was also present at the ceremony which demonstrates the level of importance the Ecuadoran government placed the festival.

Workshops, debates, cultural and solidarity events went on throughout the week allowing delegates from all countries to participate and discuss the impact of imperialism in their country and the resistance being organising to these attacks.  Each day of the conference focused on a different region of the world which provided an educational back drop for the debates. 

The CYM took part in a number of workshops and debates to explain the struggles of young communists in Ireland and outline the problems being faced by Irish young people including, unemployment, Austerity, emigration, re-productive rights, sectarianism and the legacy of the conflict in the North.  The CYM also pointed to the work being done at building a resistance to attacks on working class young people by groups such as the We’re Not Leaving Campaign.

In a special session called the ‘Anti Imperialist Court’ delegates offered testimony, describing the ways in which corporate and political imperialism was impacting on their countries and destroying their local communities.

Importantly during the course of the festival the various Communist Youth Leagues used the opportunity to hold bi-lateral discussions and exchange strategies for developing broad movements of young people and building the world communist movement.   The Connolly Youth Movement took part in discussions which fraternal groups from countries including, Colombia, Mexico, United States, Canada, India and others.  

Solidarity was another major focus of the festival, which had been dedicated to the life of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  Solidarity meetings were organised each evening with a focus on countries such as Colombia, Palestine, Western Sahara and he demand for an end to the US Blockade of Cuba.
In addition to the intense political debate there were also a range of cultural events which included displays of traditional music and dance from many different countries, Samba Bands, Andean Flutists and Ecuadorian Punk Bands. 

A mass cycle was organised with delegates from each county riding from the Festival Grounds through the streets of Quito in a call for action against Chevron for its disgraceful treatment of the ecology and inhabitants of the Ecuadorian Amazon. 

The festival closed with an open air concert which included a tribute to Nelson Mandela, music from many of the countries present and a gig by Italian Communist Ska-Punk Band, Banda Bassotti.
The importance of this festival and the role it plays in educating and developing international solidarity cannot be underestimated.  In a world where imperialist attacks on working people are more intense than ever before and were fascism is again on the march only international solidarity and class conscious struggle by the peoples of the world can hope to stop the descent into barbarism.
In WFDY’s call to for the youth of the world to take part in the festival they stated,
“In the past and present youth has always played a vital role in the struggles of all societies for progress and social justice.  The youth was militantly present in the greatest struggles of the peoples for peace, solidarity, and social transformation.  In a world where imperialism presents itself as inevitability, the anti-imperialist struggle proves that the youth chooses its own future.”

There is no doubt that the 18th World Festival successfully created a space which allowed young people to develop their challenge to global imperialism, nor is there any doubt that this is needed now more than ever.

If we want to see the development of a vibrant world movement against capitalism and imperialism then it must be the youth of today who build and lead that movement.

For the CYM attendance at the festival is only the beginning of a renewed campaign by young Irish Communists for the social transformation required to build a united socialist Ireland.     

We look forward to sending a large delegation to the 19th World Festival and commend the invaluable work of WFDY in keeping this festival alive.



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