Day to day reports on the Festival of the International Union of Socialist Youth.
Malmö - Classic grounds for Socialism in Sweden
The opening day of the IUSY Festival
This year's IUSY camp is being held in Malmö, Sweden's third largest city. This is classical ground for the Swedish labour movement. Unfortunately this fact was not noticeable in the inauguration speeches yesterday. The only reference to Malmö that Mikael Damberg, chairman of the Swedish social-democratic youth SSU, made was to show a picture of a confused Viking with a helmet. Damberg added that this was a portrait of the local population.
Perhaps we have to remind the current leadership of the Swedish labour movement that it was in Malmö that August Palm held the first socialist lecture in Sweden in November 6, 1881. This date was chosen with care in order to challenge the upper classes, as it was also the Memorial Day of the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf. He died at the battle of Lutzen exactly this date in 1632. The theme of Palm's lecture was "What do the social-democrats want". August Palm was born in 1849 and died in 1922. He was the first real agitator for socialism in Sweden and came into contact with Marxist ideas during his travels as an apprentice tailor in Germany and Denmark. One example of how socialist ideas know no national boundaries.
Palm was inventive as at the time there was a law in Sweden, the so-called muzzle law, that forbade ungodly and anti-social agitation. He was often forced to hold his meetings in the open as all halls where closed to him. He was indicted several times and 1887-1888 he was in jail for six and a half months for braking the muzzle law. In 1882 he started the paper Folkviljan in Malmö, and he was a driving force in the start of the paper Social-demokraten in 1885 to which he managed to connect several future social-democratic leaders such as Axel Danielsson, Fredrik Sterky and Hjalmar Branting. At the beginning of the twentieth century he often criticised the increased focus on parliament and the dilution of socialist ideas.
All participants at the camp should remember that without such people as August Palm the working class in Sweden would not have the strength that it has. The social-democratic leaders should spend more time looking after the socialist heritage that Palm represents and not forget to mention him when they inaugurate the socialist youth international's camp in the city where the development of Swedish socialism began.
July 25 2000
IUSY festival 2000
The Festival has begun
Red t-shirts with Che Guevara mixed with flags, banners and fighting songs in different languages as the participants marched to the IUSY festival inauguration on June 24th. 6000 youth from100 countries have gathered at Limhamnsfältet in Malmö to meet and discuss politics for a week. This is the biggest camp that the socialist youth international has organised for 20 years, and the atmosphere reminded one of a football match as the different delegations where welcomed to the giant tent where the inauguration ceremony was held. Among all the applause and songs one could identify "Bandiera Rossa, "El pueblo Unidio", and "Hoch die internationale Solidarität!"
The camp's main slogan is "The power of solidarity" and the main themes are equality, labour and democracy, but the 150 small and big seminars cover everything from the "transformation process" in Eastern Europe to the protests in Seattle. The latter is interesting, as many were surprised and dissatisfied that the chairman of WTO Mike Moore has been invited to speak on Wednesday about "Workers Rights in the global market".
The chairman of the Swedish social-democratic youth (SSU) Mikael Damberg quite correctly stated in his speech that "our struggle can not be won in one country alone or one continent alone, our political movement must always be international." Then he made fun of a possible similar festival organised by the international right. How would the speaker's list look at such an event? " Pinochet on democracy, Kohl on financing a party and Haider on the multi-cultural society?".
The communist youth organisations could, according to Damberg, at most collect a small little boring group from North Korea, Vietnam and China. ("Cuba" it said in one of the regional bourgeois papers Sydsvenska Dagbladet instead of Vietnam, but he didn't say that. Maybe because of all the Che Guevera t-shirts...?)
As Damberg had explained to newspapers earlier, political opinions "go off" in a number of directions within IUSY. Many are a number of steps to the left of the SSU leadership) Then the general-secretary of the Swedish social-democratic party Lars Stjernkvist spoke, and that ended the football atmosphere. More and more people trooped off and so did Socialisten's journalists. Apparently he mainly spoke about IT.
July 25 2000
Interview with Bojan Stanislavski, Socialist Youth , Poland
Socialisten asked Bojan to give his view of the current situation in Poland:
- It is now 10 years since we got the first democratic parliament and parties in Poland. Most capitalist and liberal reforms have been put into action. The entire GNP, which was in a deep crisis in the 80's, is only 16% up on that level. Now we have all the problems of capitalism - hungry children, families constantly thinking of whether they should buy food or clothes, families having to decide whether the children should go to school or work on the farm.
- Money is taken from poor people and given to the rich. Taxes for the rich have recently been cut. This is a global direction. We want to turn it back.
- The last 50 years, the pseudo-socialist period, have damaged socialist ideology a lot. Our alternative to American style liberal capitalism is hard to put forward, because of the so-called communist period. We have many mental barriers we must go through. We have had a big fight together with others for education, which we think should be paid for by the state. We have also fought for social insurance. We have won some of the fights.
- Now we are taking our first independent action by standing a candidate in the presidential election.
- The old system had quite a few advantages, but we never accept non-democratic methods or dictatorship. We feel a planned economy doesn't work here, but there should be strong mechanisms to control the market. Two firms should never compete, but co-operate. Major companies should be nationalised. We have many ideological discussions in our organisation. As soon as some comrades sit down together the discussion begins.
July 26 2000
IUSY festival 2000
On Tuesday at 21:00 there was a meeting about the struggle that has taken place in Austria against Jürg Haider and black/blue Coalition. Meetings were arranged by the Austrian Youth- and Student Leagues. In spite of the late hour, so many people arrived that the tent wasn´t big enough to house them. People thronged the entrances and outside. Among other things there was shown a video about the massmobilisations.
The demonstrations against rasism and rightwing extremism were the largest ever seen in Austria and the Youth organisations played a crusial role in the mobilisation. At the seminar was sold the marxist paper "Der Funke" which is written by some members of the Austrian Socialist Youth (SJÖ).
For those who wants to read more about the Austrian Wiederstand, here follows some links to relevant sites and articles:
July 27 2000
IUSY festival 2000
The seminar about Seattle exposed a deep mistrust of the workers parties leaders
"Lessons of Seattle" was a seminar about the protests at the WTO meeting in 1999 that had people crowding both inside and outside the seminar tent on Tuesday. The questions raised at the seminar were how a global struggle can be fought against global capital and its "political wings" WTO, IMF and others. The discussion revealed a strong mistrust among many young socialists of their own social-democratic parties.
Colin Rajah, from "Just Act" in the USA, said that the protests in Seattle, which had collected between 40 000 and 80 000 people, had been the largest in the USA since the sixties. Discussions had started earlier about the MAI proposal, which would have given companies extreme privileges against people and governments. However, the turnout at Seattle surprised everybody. It showed that people did not want to have a society where profits went before human beings. WTO (the world trade organisation) has become one of the main forces trying to make the world safe for multinational companies.
To Seattle came trade unions (AFL-CIO), environmental groups and many young people who protested against the privatisation of education. However, Rajah insisted that we now "had to take a step forward". It is not enough that thousands take to the streets.
- We must break down the conflicts and find a common understanding, where the struggle for trade union rights, the environment and equality can be combined.
Another speaker from Just Act added that what is needed is an ideology. "We need clarity!" He claimed that it was not enough to react to events, one also had to show positive solutions. "What should we replace WTO with?"
IUSY is a socialist youth international. The answer should have been obvious - socialism. What exactly the socialist alternative is and how one wins popular support and fights for it should have been discussed at the seminar. There is no other driving force for the big capitalist companies than profit. The only way to get a production that satisfies human needs and looks after the environment is to transfer the major monopolies into public ownership. The discussion about the alternative to the WTO ought therefore to be about how a democratically controlled planned economy can be achieved and how it would work. What would the consequences be if the people employed in a company got control over production and the work organisation?
The participants at the seminar showed a strong will to struggle against the injustices that capitalism created in the world. Speakers wanted to build "networks" and get closer to other organisations that were active in Seattle. However, the discussion didn't reply at all to the questions that the American delegates raised.
What the American speakers seemed to be searching for was the building of a real, socialist labour party based on the trade unions. And that the struggle for socialism has to be taken into the Social-Democratic Parties world - wide. This is the precondition for a fighting socialist international. Unfortunately none of the speakers raised this. Instead there were several contributions that the Americans should "be glad" that there was no social-democratic party in the USA, that the adult parties were "part of the problem rather than the solution" (a German young socialist) and that they were practically speaking "dead" (a contribution in Spanish).
Speakers from Austria, Switzerland and South Africa had a different point of view. They wanted to turn the adult parties leftwards. Petter Larsson, political writer at Arbetet (a social-democratic daily for southern and western Sweden), agreed:
-Act within your own parties as links to other groups. Influence your parties.
He also said that Internet has made it possible to have international relations at different levels in the organisation, not solely at the top.
IUSY is actually a force on the international arena. Its members could do a lot to influence the labour movement internationally, and through that the situation in the world. However, then IUSY also needs "clarity".
July 27 2000
IUSY festival 2000
More protests against Moore
And so he arrived at the IUSY festival, the Director General of World Trade Organisation Mike Moore. Rumours had been floating around ever since the inauguration ceremony that protests would be organised. And that is what happened. Several hundred camp participants from different countries gathered on a field with freshly made banners half an hour before the meeting began. A leaflet had been produced and distributed earlier by the Austrian Young Socialists, Die Falken from Germany and others. The demonstration started in the sleeping area and then took a turn around the festival before they went into the big meeting tent. Chanting of "Freedom for the people, not for the trade" mixed with the Italian fighting song "Bandiera Rossa" and the Internationale.
Once inside the tent, booing and applause met Mike Moore. This gave a clear picture of the political contradictions within IUSY itself. Now the demonstrators also starting chanting the slogan from the struggle against Haider in Austria: Wiederstand! Wiederstand! Resistance! Even the chairman was drowned by booing when she exclaimed: "Welcome to one of the highlights of the IUSY festival!"
The theme of the seminar was "Workers rights in a global market place". What could the WTO Director General say about that? Nothing! His message was that everything had got better during the last 25 years. We would have a "more dangerous and difficult world" without organisations like WTO, IMF and the World Bank. In his eyes international solidarity was synonymous with free trade.
Pleasantly he strewed a few statistics around. "Developing countries with open economies had a growth of 4.5% during the seventies and eighties. " Other developing countries only had a growth rate of 1%. Of course he considered it "a shame on us all" that more than 2.8 billion people lived on less than $2 per day, However, he added encouragingly, "those poor countries that are most rapidly approaching the rich ones are those that are open to trade". This is not true. The only country that has managed to get into the OECD, South Korea, has built up its economy behind import controls and a lot of state interference in the economy. In addition the US opened its gates for South Korean imports, unlike imports from other third world countries.
Ulf Edström, international secretary for LO (the Swedish blue-collar trade union federation) gave a considerably darker picture of developments.
- Workers rights and trade unions are under attack all over the world. Trade union struggle is seen as a threat by the ruling classes and we see murder, torture and disappearance because of trade union activity, or co-ordinated attacks by the employers and liberal/conservative governments to abolish collective bargaining and the right to strike. Despite that more and more countries endorse democracy and human rights, we don't see any decrease in crimes against union rights."
Ulf Edström also emphasised the need for sympathy actions. When the international company Toys R Us established itself in Sweden it was forced for the first time ever to sign a union contract. This was a result of the action by fifteen Unions against the company. (Print workers refused to print the companies' ads, Refuse collectors refused to pick up the rubbish etc. That right must be guaranteed internationally; author's comment).
Even more reality entered the tent when question time began.
One participant from India explained that the price of Indian peasants products had been halved after the WTO agreement, unemployment in Indian industry had rocketed and wealth had become more and more concentrated in the hands of a few multinational companies. He also raised the position of India's 50 million child workers. To forbid them to work without providing an alternative source of income would only mean destitution and prostitution. Did the WTO have any plan to get the international companies to finance this?
Nancy from Argentina said that the liberalisation of the market admittedly had led to growth, but it had not improved people's living standards. Differences had increased. What was the answer from WTO to this?
A third speaker from the floor showed how companies investment in the developing countries was combined with a militant struggle against trade unions and degrading treatment of the employed.
Of course Moore had no answer to these questions. He claimed this were problems that the different countries governments should deal with. WTO was nothing else then their tool. He dismissed the big protests in Seattle as meaningless. "This was the USA, this was Hollywood." According to him the reason that negotiations collapsed was not the demonstration, but that the various countries could not agree upon agricultural policies, labour rights, investments etc. However, now the WTO was going to be reformed and negotiations were going to restart.
Ana Lorenzo, France, put forward IUSY's official line.
She distanced herself from Moore's glossy picture of the world and expressed sympathy with the protests in Seattle. She also criticised neo-liberalism and said that it was not enough that governments were satisfied with trying to compensate for the failures of the market. However, her suggestion for a "world government" was incredible: A widened and democratised WTO as apart of the United Nations! Where had this suggestion been discussed and agreed on? How can one imagine that this organisation could trim the claws of the big companies and introduce social justice? What has the UN succeeded with so far?
The UN is no more than the sum of all the worlds' governments. It is an organisation that is paralysed by contradictions and competition. Governments are tied up by multinational companies based in their own or other countries, and their interests in the world market. The whole of the EU stands against The USA and Japan on many trade questions. Not only that. France and The US have stood on different sides in armed conflicts in Congo-Brazzaville, Zaire and Sudan. To give third world governments more influence could sound like a democratisation, but who is sitting in these governments? The truth of the matter is that most of these regimes are completely corrupted full- or semi-dictatorships. In Afghanistan a taliban junta has thrown the country back to the middle ages. In Pakistan the military has openly taken power. In Iran the mullahs rule, in Iraq Saddam Hussein.
The whole idea ignores the fact that under capitalism society is divided into classes. The bourgeoisie own the means of production, which are the factories, machines and also, in symbiosis with the landlords, the land and natural resources. The working class that together with the poor peasants is an overwhelming majority of the earth population has control over neither production nor trade. That is the most important point. A government representative from Pakistan at WTO would not in the slightest improve the conditions of a Pakistani worker at a newly privatised steel mill. Even if he would like to see improvements for these workers, tough international competition would mean that he would have to do everything to insure that the company can reduce its costs. They are whipped into doing that. The truth of the matter is that it is only the working class internationally that can and must struggle for a better world. That struggle is about taking over the big companies. With support from the peasants, the working class can in country after country take power and create a democratic socialist world federation. That is the only realistic way to create a world government that really has the support of the majority of the world's population.
The contribution from the Swedish minister of trade, Leif Pagrotsky, to the discussion was brief. He argued that international solidarity would be to welcome goods from the textile industry in poor countries to our markets, that is, to abolish all sorts of trade barriers.
Of course as Marxists we are in favour of and exchange of goods between different parts of the world. But Mr Pagrotsky gave the impression that his suggestion was all to the benefit for the poor countries. That is false. We can agree on that the imperialistic, rich countries should abolish their import controls. But the blackmail policy from the IMF against the poor countries has forced them to abolish their import controls leading to catastrophic consequences in many cases. Domestic companies have gone bankrupt because of the competition and mass unemployment has followed. This is unacceptable.
July 28 2000
IUSY festival 2000
The IMF rules in the Philippines
Interview with Alvin M. Dizon, Philippines
What do you think about Mike Moore's opinion that everything has become better during the last 25 years?
- That is his opinion. Personally I think that the situation is getting worse. Poverty is the main problem, and the gaps between rich and poor are increasing because of neo-liberalism. The government in the Philippines is a puppet of the IMF and carries through its policy.
- Hospitals, water-districts etc. have been privatised. The prime motive of private companies is profit making. Profits before people. Deregulation is devastating us. The oil industry, Shell and Caltex, has been deregulated. They can impose overprices any time. The government has no control what so ever.
- The local industry is also affected. Products from other countries are cheaper.
- Now only rich people govern our country. We in the party Akbayan want to democratise the political system, and have as our goal to capture power for the benefit of the people.
July 28, 2000
IUSY festival 2000
Dissatisfaction at the IUSY festival
The big divide within IUSY was not just shown in the political discussions and the demonstration in the festival area against the IUSY leaderships invited guest - Mike Moore, Director General of WTO.
Dissatisfaction with the organisation of the camp was widespread. Different groups produced two leaflets, a petition and a protest meeting against the way in which the camp was organised.
However, this was only the open expression of a deep and wide rumbling. At a seminar on "The stability Pact: the Future of South Eastern Europe" on the morning of the last day, time was taken for each delegation from the Balkans to present their evaluation of the camp. Everybody agreed that it had been a very positive experience that all the Balkan delegations, 1000 young people, had been able to work together and discuss things in a friendly and open way. However, every delegation felt it was a shame that so much energy had been wasted by organisational deficiencies.
It would be a mistake to see these problems as merely organisational. Basically they are political problems. The censorship of criticism, the stopping of the showing of the film "Forrest Gump" by the leadership (on the grounds that it was "politically incorrect", Dagens Nyheter 31/7-00), the removing of the journalist passes from Socialisten reporters are not accidental. That only one warm meal a day was served (forcing delegates to buy a meal commercially for 60 Skr (approx $7) per day, something which many delegates could simply not afford), that there was hardly any vegetarian food, that no thought had been laid down on making the camp ecological was not accidental either.
In addition no arrangements had been made to give the delegations a chance to translate. It would have been easy to instruct speakers to break up their speeches into one or two sentences at a time followed by a pause for translation by the delegations themselves. This effectively hindered many delegates from understanding and participating in most seminars and conferences.
Underlying it all is the fact that the SSU (Swedish Social Democratic Youth) and IUSY leadership has felt it more important to invite and rub shoulders with a number of international bigwigs, than listening to what ordinary members need and want. This is a political problem that reflects the IUSY leadership's strategy of 'influencing' the tops for marginal improvements, rather than organising the members in a struggle for democratic socialism.
We publish below one of the leaflets given out at the camp. (Some grammatical errors have been corrected in order to make it easier to read).
Let's Party (quotation: 'Festival Daily' no.2)
This text is a contribution to making the next IUSY-Festival more democratic, more social and more environmentally friendly. We had no choice but to make this flyer because there is no medium at the festival that allows free expression of opinion.
- Attempts to place our own articles in the 'Festival Daily' have repeatedly failed.
- The demonstration against the controversial appearance of the WTO representative Mike Moore was dismissed with only a single sentence at the end of the relevant article in this so-called 'newspaper'.
- 12 posters collecting the critical voices of the festival's participants were removed.
- The unfair prices charged for food and drink divide the festival into a 2-class society.
- The total commercialisation of the festival actively counteracts the basic socialist principle of everyone collectively caring for his or her needs.
- We regard the deployment of a private police at the festival as inadequate for a socialist event.
- Quality, quantity and availability of the food have been unsatisfactory, especially vegetarians were considered poorly.
- From the ecological point of view, this festival is a disaster (sewage disposal, non-returnable glasses, plates, etc.).
- The power of solidarity would have found its way into everyone's minds easier if fairly traded products had been served instead of the caterers Nestle's products.
EXPRESS YOUR CRITICISM OF THE IUSY-FESTIVAL 2000!
IT CAN BE DONE BETTER!
Some members of 'Sozialistische Jugend - die Falken' , Germany,
July 28, 2000
IUSY festival 2000
The IUSY festival has ended!
During one week 6000 young people discussed, protested and partied together. "The power of Solidarity" was the main slogan of the festival and surely most of the participants could return home strengthened in their conviction that internationalism is alive and kicking.
Internationalism was not merely a nice slogan during the camp. Young Socialists from 100 countries tried seriously to understand the conditions in each other's countries. They tried to solve problems jointly and learn from one another. They also promised to keep in touch after the camp, for example in the Balkans and to give concrete help to each other, for example in the struggle against aids in Southern Africa.
The camp revealed cultural differences between different countries. Southern Europeans missed having bread with their meals! However, these differences were not a major problem, in fact they were enriching. More serious was the difference between the "culture" of the SSU leadership and most visitors at the camp. The SSU leadership had a strong need to play a 'leading' role and decide what leaflets one should read, what placards one could have in a demonstration, how one should dance at parties and so on. This shocked many foreign guests and the resistance resulted in the SSU leadership toning down its behaviour compared to how things normally are in the SSU. Previously they had stormed against Swedish young socialists who wore red stars. Now they had to accept that almost every other person had a Che t-shirt, that the hammer and sickle flew over the camp and that a lively demonstration was held in the camp area against IUSYs invited guest Mike Moore from WTO. Many from SSU were euphoric after the camp. As one member expressed it: "I didn't need to go around stiffly worrying about what I said." It was liberating.
Worth noting was also the fact that the seminars that were about struggle (against Haider in Austria, against WTO in Seattle and for the liberation of West- Sahara) were those that attracted the biggest crowds. Clearly there is a will to fight.
The IUSY-festival is a positive sign for socialists. However, it is just the beginning. Now more political depth is needed. The big discussions about what socialism is and how can we get it, only went on at the sidelines. Now they have to be made into the central discussions. It is these questions that must be answered if IUSY is going to present realistic solutions to the serious problems that the world is confronted with today.
In three years there will be a new camp.We can calmly predict that by then many will have developed their political positions, and that next festival will be at least as exiting and stimulating as this one.
Aug 4 2000