World Festival of Youth & Students: Carrying Forward the Legacy of Anti-Imperialist Struggle

Avoy Mukherjee

THE 19th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) was held in October in Sochi, Russia. More than 20,000 delegates from more than 150 countries participated in the festival and pledged to continue their relentless struggle to achieve peace, solidarity and social justice, with uncompromising fight against all imperialist tendencies in the present world order.

This year's festival was coinciding with the centenary celebrations of the Great October Revolution and it was because of this precise reason that the International Preparatory Committee (IOC) decided to hold the festival in Russia. The glorious Russian revolution and the subsequent socialist experiment that took place in the Soviet Union have undoubtedly proved to the world that a better planet without poverty and hunger, without inequalities, with greater progression of humankind in every field is possible.

Despite its tragic and unfortunate demise, the Soviet Union and the socialist ideals that it upheld still inspire us to continue our struggles to achieve peace, social justice and our uncompromising fight against imperialism.

Since its inception in Prague in 1947, the festival is undoubtedly the largest gathering of youth and students against imperial aggressions, war, colonisation, dictatorships, fascism, occupations and all kind of assaults on the sovereignty of the people and their causes. It is a revolutionary collective for strengthening of young people's struggles all over the world for the right to education for all, for work with rights, health, sport and recreation. It is a forum for the termination of the exploitation of people, oppression and aggression, in order for the youth to live in a society that satisfies their contemporary needs.

The 19th WFYS paid tributes to those millions of young men and women who scarified their lives to defeat the imperialist and fascist assault on humankind during the World War II. It also paid tributes to all young men and women who gave even their own lives in the struggle against imperialism; that devoted their lives to the struggle for the ideals of freedom, democracy, national independence, people's sovereignty, peace and social justice. The gathering urged upon the youth and students to end the illegal and undemocratic occupation of Palestine by Zionist forces, to end all imperial aggressions by the US-led NATO coalition across the world and also to liberate Western Sahara, the last colony in African Continent.

This year's festival was shadowed by the reactionary interventions by the Russian government and attempts by right-wing forces to appropriate the character of it. The current Russian regime tried its best to sabotage the long legacy of anti-imperialist character of the festival by inviting many right-wing and fascist government representations and organisations to the festival by bypassing the respective National Preparatory Committees (NPC) of various countries and by violating the hitherto exiting norms and conventions of festival organising.

The World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), which is the principal body behind the organising of the festival, faced many political challenges including a potential threat of hijacking of the festival by rightwing delegations which sneaked into the event with the generous help of Russian authorities. Many of the delegates from various Left youth organisations from different countries were denied visa by Russian embassies for “security reasons”. The Indian delegation too faced many hurdles first at obtaining visa from Russian government. It was with the constant high-level interventions made by festival authorities and Russian embassy in New Delhi, the India-NPC managed to send a delegation of around two hundred. DYFI and SFI together sent a delegation of eighty people through the NPC. Interestingly, the BJP government sent a huge delegation of two hundred and fifty people mainly comprising RSS-affiliated ABVP and Yuva Morcha activists. This mammoth delegation was sent to the festival under the banner of the ministry of youth affairs and the ministry of cultural affairs.

The Russian authorities, while providing accreditation and other facilities including accommodation for this government delegation in advance, refused to provide the same for many delegates from NPC-India. Likewise, the rightwing and pro-occupation Likud Party of Israel also managed to send a delegation for the festival which made an irreparable dent on the reputation of the world festival, a gathering which expresses its greatest solidarity with Palestine’s liberation and the protest against the Zionist imperial aggression in the West Asia. The WFDY had registered its strongest protest at these attempts to appropriate and sabotage the anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist character of the World Festival of Youth and Students, which is held high by the revolutionary progressive forces of the world for last seventy years.

Since its first edition in Prague in 1947, the WFYS was instrumental in spreading the message of world peace and social justice, especially in an era marked by constant imperial aggression and war. The festival and the WFDY always stood firm with the liberation aspirations of Afro-Asian colonies and effectively worked as a network binding the revolutionary youth movements across the world. The Soviet Union was the greatest strength and source of inspiration for this world youth movement. With its unfortunate and tragic demise, the collective faced inevitable backlashes in various dimensions. But the spirit of anti-imperialist struggles and hopes for a better world with peace and harmony, encourage us to keep our fights alive. In an era of increased imperial aggressions and bloody proxy wars around the planet, the relevance of WFYS is decisive. We will march together until the final victory with the slogan, ‘For Peace, Solidarity and Social Justice, we struggle against imperialism - Honoring our past we build the future!’ 

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