October 8, 2013

Organization grows for anti-imperialist festival

Peoples Voice
Youth Bureau

Drew Garvie is the acting co‑chair of the Pan-Canadian delegation to the 18th WFYS and a member of the Young Communist League of Canada. Drew sat down with People's Voice to talk about the organizing for the Festival.

So what is the festival in a nutshell?

The festival is basically the largest gathering of anti-imperialist and progressive youth in the world. Something like 12,000 to 17,000 youth are expected to attend from over 120 different countries!  The festival itself will be held in one of the hot spots of social change in Latin America today, the Republic of Ecuador, from December 7th to 13th.

Tell us the latest news.  

The Pan‑Canadian delegation continues to grow. Endorsing groups of the festival now include CUPE Toronto District, the Canadian Federation of Students‑Ontario, several Quebec student unions, the BC Federation of Labour, the Young Communist League of Canada, the Vancouver District Labour Council, the Kamloops Socialist Club, Occupy Edmonton, and others. The Pan‑Canadian delegation will be between 50 and 100 participants. The final size of the delegation really depends on the outreach efforts of the 10 or so local committees over the next couple weeks.

            The third International Preparatory Meeting for the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students wrapped up last month in New Delhi, India. The meeting, which came after planning meetings already hosted in Ecuador, South Africa and Spain, showed that preparation for the festival is coming together quickly in a political climate facing the very real danger of imperialist war in Syria, as well as continued mass unemployment and impoverishment of youth. While the Pan‑Canadian delegation was unable to attend the most recent meeting in India, we did receive a series of reports from the meeting organizers and some participants.

And we understand there is now a basic schedule set for the festival?

Yes. The 18th WFYS will have a format similar to that of previous festivals with eight days of action: the inauguration/opening ceremonies; a day dedicated to the regions of Asia, Middle East, Europe, America and Africa; another to the host country, Ecuador; and the closing ceremonies.
            Each day will feature a series of different large‑scale conferences and seminars on broad themes, as well as smaller workshops on specific issues. Talks with cultural and political content will vary, predominantly to publicize the struggles and situation in each region or particular countries. The rough program is finalized and will be circulated after translation.
            Also on the agenda will be inter‑exchange meetings where delegates can share experiences and struggles through open forums for activists from labour, students, media, women, queer groups, etc. and a three‑day Anti‑Imperialist Tribunal which will hear presentations from around the world about the crimes of imperialism in their countries. The Tribunal will be at the end of the festival, and will symbolically judge the crimes of imperialism against the people of the world.

It is mainly a lot of politics?

Well there is also a lot of fun too ‑ social events, dances, parties late at night, etc.  Cultural, sports, and musical performances are also part of the draft programme and it looks like they are expected every day, including an anti‑imperialist soccer match. The opening act of the festival may be the Hip Hop group Calle 13. That's the word on the street, anyway.

Who are Calle 13?

Calle 13 are two step‑brothers and their half‑sister who hail from Puerto Rico. While relatively unknown in Canada, the left-wing rap group is a block‑buster hit in Latin America. They have won a record nineteen Latin Grammy Awards.
            In their biggest most recent hit "LatinoAmerica", they rap a kind of representation of the continent, singing of the struggles of its peoples. It is very powerful music and as the opening act it could kind of set a tone for the whole event.
            Like in that song when they say "You can't buy the wind, the sun, the rain, the heat, the clouds, happiness, pain," etc., and then "Here we share, what's mine is yours." This is very much linked with what is going on across Latin America right now, and especially in Ecuador where there is a rejection of the sort of monopoly capitalism and imperialism which has tried to commodify everything and a search for a different way forward, like more public ownership, environmental sustainability, and socialism.
            And the indigenous communities have a big role to place in the process, both supporting and criticizing the process in Ecuador.  So, for example, we are learning about Transito Amagua"a, an indigenous Ecuadorian women who was an organizer country's first agricultural unions and joined by other human rights activists in founding the Ecuadorian Federation of Indians in 1944. Transito struggled under very harsh conditions her entire life, but she kept fight eventually joining the Communist Party, which led again to her imprisonment.  These are really amazing stories that will be coming forward at this festival.

Tell us about the logistics.

So now we know that the Festival will take place in the brand new Quito Bicentennial Park, formerly Mariscal Sucre International Airport which is now being converted into a convention center, school, aquarium, and green space.
            Over a hundred and twenty hectares in size (that is very big!), almost all Festival activities will take place inside, including a camping area where over 5,000 Ecuadorian youth participating in the Festival will stay in large military tents.  The park is located in the north central part of the city, which is a safe and quiet area.
            The international delegates are expected to stay in hotels or in a space created especially for that purpose such as a large vacant convent. Food plans are also advanced and seem much better prepared than the past festival.

Will there be an opportunity to see other parts of the country?

Probably not, but festival delegates are already beginning to plan side‑trips after the festival, to places like the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands, or elsewhere in Latin America. Ecuador is a tremendously ecologically and climatically diverse country. The temperatures in Quito are relatively stable throughout the year between 10 and 27 degrees.
            Quito is a generally temperate climate, but December is a month of rain. The entire city is a UNESCO heritage site, and at an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,800 meters above sea level), it is the highest capital city in the world. I visited the city around the same time, in late November last year, and did not find the high altitude a problem.

Is there a deadline to register?

We have an excellent opportunity to bulk buy plane tickets through a connection to a Latin American airline. To do this we require $50 per delegate registered 45 days before our departure. We are in the process of setting up a system to collect the money and to register delegates.
            This will probably give us a very reduced rate on tickets, possibly in the hundreds of dollars less per ticket, unfortunately we will not know the deal until we do the registration. If you are going to the Festival, and haven't yet bought a ticket, please have $50 handy and watch your email as we will have to do the registration in a hurry to have tickets reserved for the end of October!
            For more information visit www.18wfys.tumblr.com or write 18wfys.canada@gmail.com. To make a donation, send cheques to the Marty Skup Memorial Fund c/o S. Skup, Treasurer, 56 Riverwood Terrace, Bolton, Ontario, L7E 1S4.
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