World Youth Festival: From Prague to Pretoria in Search of Dreams

Several generations of young people have participated for the last 63 years to festivals which have taken them from Prague to Pretoria, passing through Budapest, Berlin, Bucharest, Warsaw, Moscow, Vienna, Helsinki, Sofia and return to Berlin. Havana, once again then to Moscow, Pyongyang and back to Havana, Algiers and Caracas, singing a beautiful hymn of peace, solidarity, justice and a better future for all.

The history of the world festivals of youth and students is also, the history of humanity in the second half of the 20th century and in this chaotic start of a new century and the 3rd millennium.

It is the story of many dreams, hopes and concerns and is, above all, the history of an idea of preserved human redemption, despite the blockades, destruction and deployments, imposed recipes, stolen conquests, treason and frustrations.

Maybe a few will look back with nostalgia, even to recall those first moments of a Europe still shaken by the horrors of fascism and war. People returned from the darkness of life with an enormous desire for peace, sisterhood and progress. The world promised itself a better life.

“Youth, unite in the fight for a strong and lasting peace!” was the slogan of the first festival in the summer of 1947 and during the almost four week cold weather, some 1 200 young people from 72 countries met in Prague the capital of the former Czechoslovakia.

Preformed in the inaugural ceremony, the hymn of the democratic Youth reaffirmed the just and difficult desire.

It was the first priority, like it was in Budapest 1949, Berlin 1951 and Bucharest 1953 that followed, whose respective slogans were “Youth, unite! Forward for peace, democracy, national independence of the peoples and for a better future!”, and “No! Our generation will not serve death and destruction!”

Historically the slogans of the festivals have expressed the urgent and aspirations of the time. Peace has always been present and that is why friendship was present among the youth of the world in Warsaw 1955, Moscow 1957, Vienna 1959 and Helsinki 1962. The first of the two festivals in the Soviet capital was the largest number of delegates present, no less than 34 000 and it was a demonstrated that its success did not depend on a socialist country, but the power of mobilizing and uniting in ideals and principles that encourage and defend.

The increase of the national liberation movements, the criminal war against Vietnam, the student uprising in Europe, the struggle inside the US itself…The effervescence of a planet who has decided to fight domination added the word solidarity in the future festival slogans in Sofia 1968 and five years later the phrase anti imperialism remained to stay.

Berlin 1973 welcomed the slogan “For anti imperialist solidarity, peace and friendship!” and was repeated in Havana 1978, Moscow 1985, Pyongyang 1989 and once again in the Cuban capital in 1997. The same could be said in Algiers 2001 and Caracas 2005; although the wording was different but the message was the same:

“Let us globalize the fight for peace, solidarity, development and against Imperialism” and “For solidarity and peace, fight against imperialism and war.”

Of course the empire and its allies, have never welcomed the idea that the youth get together to exchange ideas, reflect on their problems, look for answers, alternatives and solutions, share dreams and take actions.

They have done all they can to make these festivals fail by misinformation campaigns, prohibitions and obstacles for visas, departure and transportation, attempts to block borders, provocations and sabotages and all type of reprisals.

With so much dirty work, even the collapse of the former Soviet Union and disappearance of the socialist community, the festivals have survived. And without exaggerating, we must say: Cuba was the first site outside Europe in 1978 making it the first in the third world, Latin America and the Caribbean and 19 years later preserved its historic continuity amidst the reactionary orgy and neoliberal policies in order for hope, reorganization of forces and struggle to revive.

On August 6th, 1995, in the closing of “Long Live Cuba” the leader of the Revolution Fidel Castro called on the youth of the world to organize, not in an international festival with 1,300 delegates from 66 countries, but a world festival with 10,000 or more.

The generosity of a hospitable nation, which offered their homes in the most difficult moments, was an injection of vigor and optimism, whose healthy outcome continues to last.

The Havana event or rather, in Cuba as a whole, because the 12,325 delegates from 132 nations visited the island also successfully proved the variant of a meeting that was self financed up until then with state subsidy.

Pretoria 2010 inherited the history with the commitment of saving and preserving thee events. “For a world of peace, solidarity and social transformations, let us defeat imperialism!” is the slogan of the 17th Festival.

Thinking correctly, there is no reason for nostalgia. Times have changed, but the enemy remains there and there are a growing number of people that refuse to be submitted, those that believe that a different world is possible.

The struggle continues, now in a free South Africa, tomorrow…we will see, but once again the youth of the world will get together despite creeds, ideologies, political affiliations, race, customs and languages to proclaim their right to a future of peace, solidarity, justice and progress. There will always be a Festival that will unite forces and commitments and multiply hopes.

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