Report from the 15
World Festival of Youth and Students in Algiers
8-16 August this year saw the convening of the 15
World Festival of Youth and Students under the slogan, ‘Let’s Globalise the Struggle for Peace, Solidarity and Development, Against Imperialism’.
Established after the end of WWII as a broad front against imperialism, the Festival is run by the revisionist-dominated World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY). In times gone by, the festival was held in the Eastern European countries of the Soviet Bloc. In recent times, however, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, finding governments willing to host such an openly anti-imperialist event has proved difficult. The DPRK took a turn in 1989, followed eight years later by Cuba. This year, for the first time, the Festival took place, not only in a non-Socialist state, but also in an African and an Arab nation, lending the whole affair a very different flavour.
The Festival’s extensive programme included discussions on the various aspects of oppression and struggle in today’s world, as well as an anti-imperialist tribunal, at which delegates presented detailed evidence of the manifold crimes of imperialism in their own countries. Of particular interest, too, were the solidarity forums with persecuted regimes such as Yugoslavia and Iraq, those struggling for independence such as Palestine and Western Sahara, and the blockaded and persecuted socialist states of North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam. It was interesting from these meetings to see the importance attached to the Festival in the socialist countries. Each one had sent over a large and organised delegation (Cuba sponsored 300 Cuban and 250 other Latin American delegates) that included cultural performers of international calibre. The DPRK’s performers included highly trained classical and folk singers and dancers, whom the delegates of the Festival were extremely privileged to have seen. It was obvious that these beleaguered and menaced states, hated as they are for the threat they pose to the hegemony of imperialism, were taking full advantage of the chance the Festival offered to show the world just what cultural achievements they have made since their various revolutions.
The real work, however, took place outside of the main Festival program. As well as offering the chance to meet and talk with delegates from all countries on an informal basis, each residential house had its own programme of political meetings and cultural events, organised by the various parties and delegations living there, and it was in the Europe-Asia-Pacific house that the true politics of the Festival were unfolded and the great divide between oppressed and oppressor nations clearly illustrated.
The British and German delegations had brought with them a small number of delegates calling themselves Iraqi Youth and Students. Once enrolled in the Festival, these Iraqis came together, calling themselves the ‘Iraqi Preparatory Committee for the 15
International Festival’, and began to distribute large quantities of ready-prepared, anti-Iraq propaganda among the European delegates. Complete with a cover story of being ‘persecuted communists’ that was designed to win the emotional support of the credulous and confuse the uninitiated, as well as to provide a smoke screen for the real basis of the support given by the so-called communists of the German SDAJ (Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterjugend – youth wing of the German Communist Party) and YCL (Young Communist League – youth wing of the revisionist Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star)), this small group of dissident Iraqis set about their real task of disrupting the Festival, turning it from its anti-imperialist lines and dominating it with anti-Iraq sentiments.
With never a word about socialism and only the most glancing reference now and again to NATO’s terroristic bombings and genocidal sanctions, these so-called communists saturated the European Club with a slew of leaflets filled with empty accusations laying the blame for the problems of Iraq squarely on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, who, it was to be understood, is apparently profiting very nicely from the current state of affairs, growing rich while the people starve and helping imperialism maintain its ‘status quo’ in the area. No explanation was given as to why the US and Britain should feel the need to bombard and starve this supposedly useful regime into submission; no other examples were found of ‘friendly’ regimes which imperialism has previously treated to such friendly fire.
Whilst talking loudly of their right to freely participate in the Festival, the Iraqi dissidents in fact attended only two meetings – for the sole purpose of diverting the festival from its anti-imperialist agenda to one of becoming a platform for launching imperialist-inspired attacks on the Iraqi regime and blaming all the sufferings of the Iraqi people on the Iraqi regime instead of laying them at the doorstep of imperialism where they properly belong. Sadly, these witting or unwitting, paid or unpaid, Iraqi agents of imperialism succeeded to a considerable extent in this regard, thanks to the support given them by several of the European delegations. The first of these meetings was one at which the official Iraqi delegation was to be present and the dissidents attended expressly to give out their anti-Saddam literature and provoke the Iraqi delegation. Having succeeded in their mission, and with feelings of the long-suffering and isolated Iraqis running understandably high, a tussle ensued. The satisfied dissidents arrived back at the Europe club to rouse their friends into a hysterical furore over this ‘terrible’ and ‘cowardly’ attack of ’40 to one’, despite this ‘ruthless’ attack leaving the one attacked without a scratch.
With no attempt at political analysis of the concrete situation in the world today, the revisionists of the European club jumped obediently for the bait. The German SDAJ got up a petition calling for the expulsion of the official Iraqi delegation, supported by some of their counterparts from some other delegations. The various independent and YCL revisionists of the British delegation, meanwhile, tried to hide their political motivations behind a pedantic call for ‘security of delegates’, meant not only to condemn the Iraqi regime, but also as an attack on the Algerian government’s arranging of the Festival and well-known support for the Iraqi people against imperialism. This manoeuvring was exposed when it came to light that the dissident Iraqis had each been offered a bodyguard of 10 men, but had turned it down – a fact known to those making the call for security and hidden from the other members of the British delegation. One of the dissidents, when asked why they had turned down this offer, replied frankly that it was ‘better for their message’ that they were attacked. What clearer evidence was needed that these ‘youth’ and ‘students’ were at the Festival only to provoke and attack the Iraqi regime?
As anti-Iraq sentiments were whipped up amongst the European delegates, the dissident faction grew more confident. The propaganda they released became not merely traitorous but also depraved and sickening. In the name of the ‘cause of women’ they issued an article that described in titillating detail the alleged institutionalised video-taping of the rape of wives and daughters as a means of blackmailing officers and officials into staying loyal to the Baghdad government. But such sickening literature backfired onto its propagators: the pornographic detail and inverted logic betrayed the imperialist origins of such vitriol.
While these manoeuvrings were going on at the Festival, Baghdad was bombed twice. Bombings meant to further terrorise and kill the people of Iraq, and break their heroic resistance of more than 10 years. In the wake of these bombings, bearing in mind the anti-imperialist theme of the Festival, the comrades of the SLP Youth drafted a statement condemning the actions of US and British imperialism and in support of the Iraqi people. It was most revealing to see that openly bourgeois delegates from African and Asia welcomed the statement and immediately signed up in support of it, whilst those calling themselves revolutionary communists from the western imperialist countries either openly disagreed with it or hesitated to sign for reasons of ‘tactics’ on the pretext of not wanting to appear to support Saddam Hussein. It is shameful to have to admit, but it would be a sin to hide, this appalling incident at an international gathering whose professed aim was to globalise the struggle against imperialism.
The fact is that these bourgeois, coming as they do from the super-exploited nations, do not need to have imperialism explained to them, nor the need for solidarity amongst the oppressed. The left from the imperialist heartlands, on the other hand, demonstrated clearly the truth of Lenin’s explanation of a split in the working class, for their actions proved them to be thoroughly infected with bourgeois prejudice and unable to make a thorough break with their imperialist masters.
In its striving for world domination, imperialism seeks at all turns to divide the oppressed peoples of the world, and by dividing them keep them impotent and unable to fight back. it is the task of socialists not to strengthen these divisions but to destroy them by bringing a clear theoretical understanding of imperialism – what it is, how to fight it and what we must build in its place. A study of scientific socialism shows us that he who fights imperialism abroad is helping to weaken the same enemy we are fighting at home.