The CPGB-ML was pleased to take part in the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) held this August in Caracas, Venezuela. The festival provided an excellent opportunity for organisations and groups from around the world to discuss issues, share experiences and foster understanding in order to progress further along the path of revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle.
During the four years since the last WFYS, held in Algiers, the worldwide crisis of capitalism has been deepening, and the fight for control of markets and raw materials has led to a steady increase in predatory imperialist wars. The bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have firmly opened the eyes of the world to the inhuman and oil/profit-hungry nature of imperialism. It should come as no surprise, then, that in attendance at this world festival, with anti-imperialism as one of its slogans, were over 17,000 people from 144 countries. The location of this year’s festival was also an important factor in its prominence.
The Bolivarian Revolution
For the past seven years, Venezuela has taken a path that has incurred the wrath of the imperialist world. Under the presidency of Hugo Chavez Frias, the country has been transformed by a Bolivarian (ie, anti-imperialist) revolution, realigning itself on the side of the progress of the Venezuelan and Latin American masses and away from the interests of the country’s tiny comprador bourgeoisie and their imperialist (mainly US) string-pullers.
The fifth largest oil producer in the world, Venezuela has made great strides in restricting foreign ownership and control of its industries, choosing instead to invest oil profits in improved services for the people of Venezuela. To this end, 12 ‘missions’ have been set up, each one tasked with meeting the needs of the country’s working people and substantially raising their living standards.
The health mission, for example, has been given the job of constructing an accessible national health service, freely available to all. While they wait for new Venezuelan doctors to be trained, this new health service is being staffed mainly by 20,000 Cuban doctors. The education mission is working to abolish illiteracy and raise educational standards, making sure everyone gets access to basic education and massively expanding the places available in further and higher education. The housing mission, meanwhile, is working to construct decent social housing for the millions currently living in slum dwellings, especially in the barrios around big cities like Caracas.
Chavez’s government has also begun to take the next step of recognising that the only way to maintain this programme and continue to raise the living standards of the masses is to ditch not just imperialism (ie, foreign capitalism), but local capitalism too, and to build socialism in Venezuela.
Having the festival in such a country, with the opportunity to support and experience the Bolivarian Revolution, gave an optimistic and enthusiastic atmosphere to the proceedings, as well as providing much inspiration to the participants as they returned home to rejoin their own struggles against imperialism.
The opening ceremony on 8 August saw the bulk of those attending parade around Fuerte Tiuna, the main military barracks in Caracas, marching proudly past President Chavez and other international dignitaries. The evening was a mass of colour and excitement, with each delegation lining up behind its national flags and emblems. The strength and pride of the delegations from the socialist countries and those nations that have victoriously fought for their independence was apparent to all, as they stood strong and united behind their flags. The CPGB-ML delegates were proud to carry flags bearing the party’s emblem – the hammer and sickle inside a star.
The evening was rounded off with a tremendous speech from President Chavez, who made it clear that it is capitalism that is the enemy of the humanity. Chavez may not have begun his Presidency as a socialist, but he is certainly being influenced by the good comradeship and sound understanding of the Venezuelan and Cuban communists. During his speech he stated, to much applause, that: “Neo-liberal globalisation is no more than another word for imperialism, and imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, as Lenin said.” He also made reference to the great socialist examples of the Chinese revolution and the Soviet Union, and to the humiliating defeat that US imperialism suffered in Vietnam, concluding with this statement: “I have said this earlier. I am convinced more than ever, and I will retain this belief until I die, that the only path to destroy capitalism is socialism. It is the only way to save the planet and the new generations.”
Work of the delegation
Each day there were several conferences, workshops and seminars in four venues located around Caracas. These sessions dealt with a variety of topics, from anti-imperialist struggles in Vietnam, Nepal, Western Sahara, Palestine, Colombia, Cuba and Korea, to more general discussions on topics such as socialism, imperialism, democracy, human rights and culture. The British delegation organised two sessions, one on the subject of Trade Unionism and another on British Imperialism. Comrades from the CPGB-ML were only a small part of the total delegation from Britain, which included members of the imperialist Labour Party as well as various Trotskyite and revisionist organisations that act as ‘left-wing’ apologists for the Labour Party.
The platform at the meeting on trade unionism was loaded with social democrats and opportunists of various shades. One of our party’s delegates, however, was able to introduce into the discussion the role of the labour aristocrats in the British trade union leadership who promote the imperialist and social-democratic British Labour Party. He also highlighted the reactionary roles played in the name of trade unionism by the imperialist-backed Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions and the so-called Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe, pointing out that not all ‘trade unionism’ is necessarily progressive.
The meeting on British imperialism did include progressive speakers, including delegates from Sinn Fein and ZANU-PF (the latter being insisted upon by our delegates). Our delegates gave full support to their Zimbabwean and Irish comrades in the face of critics from the floor, who arrogantly lecture them on how they should run their national liberation struggles. These critics failed to recognise the successes achieved by both Sinn Fein and ZANU-PF, or the anti-imperialist nature of both these struggles.
During both sessions, CPGB-ML members did their best to expose the imperialist nature of the Labour Party, and many delegates from other countries expressed their amazement after the meetings that members of this imperialist party had come to an avowedly anti-imperialist festival!
Solidarity with all anti-imperialist countries
Being held in Latin America, the festival was naturally a magnificent opportunity to celebrate the successes of the revolutions in Cuba and Venezuela. The anti-imperialist stand of Venezuela is indeed inspiring, and Cuba has bravely stood up against US imperialism, making great progress with building socialism in the face of military aggression and economic blockades.
Our delegates felt that it was also important during this festival to raise the profile of the defiant and heroic Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The DPRK has made fantastic strides in building socialism, and an event such as the WFYS should be a prime opportunity to show appreciation for the often overlooked achievements of the Korean people, as well as giving the solidarity that a socialist country deserves. CPGB-ML delegates expressed from the floor their belief that the revolutionary movements growing in South America today had a duty to recognise and stand in solidarity with the achievements of the Korean people, who fought to a standstill the invading armies of imperialism. The people of the DPRK have endured six decades of imperialist meddling and aggression, but in spite of this, they have managed to build socialism in their country. What better example for the world’s toiling masses?
Social democrats, revisionists and Trotskyists were much in evidence during the festival. CPGB-ML delegates worked hard, however, to counteract the bad impression given by these British opportunists, speaking at meetings and displaying our party’s literature on stalls at every opportunity. Our delegates made good contacts with representatives of fraternal Marxist-Leninist parties and organisations and with those engaged in national liberation struggles in various parts of the world. In this way, our party was able to make its modest contribution to countering the reactionaries’ attacks on scientific socialism.
All in all, the festival was an inspiration, an excellent experience for our delegates and very valuable in consolidating existing contacts as well as forging new bonds with communists and progressive peoples from all over the world.