Chair of the Young Communist League, Robin Talbot, recalls a solidarity trip to Venezuela in 2019 and discusses the work of the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the need for a solidarity in Britain.
In 2019, from 8 to 15 April, I was in Venezuela with 40 other Communist and anti-imperialist youth organisations from all corners of the globe.
The World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) is the British YCL’s international affiliate. It unites not only the revolutionary and internationalist young people of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas who are in opposition to reactionary regimes and imperialism, but also the young people who in their countries are in the government, are leading the way towards progress and social justice, are the voice of millions of young people, such as in Cuba, Venezuela, South Africa and elsewhere.
This April they met in Caracas, followed by a solidarity mission coordinated with the World Peace Council, pulling together this diverse group of representatives – many of them from hostile regional as well as ‘Western’ governments – in a tremendous show of solidarity with the Venezuelan people.
There they made it clear that young people across the world reject war and want peace and a better life, the kind they are building in Venezuela, meeting President Nicolas Maduro, various ministers and members of the United Socialist Party and Communist youth wings.
We met young men and women, including doctors, soldiers, activists and secondary school and university students, at gyms and community centres the kind we would kill for in Britain and at affordable flats being built for the public with 2.6 million already finished.
Young people in Venezuela are studying for free and deeply involved in their communities, workplaces and political institutions with a real say. They understand and are proud of the achievements and history of their country and its long struggle for independence. In fact, they learn more about British and European social and economic history than we do!
It was a far cry from the stories of public sector cuts and skyrocketing rents in our country, student debt and widespread disgust for any politician or political activity. Even the Bolivarian armed forces are completing medical training in public hospitals and interested only in national defence, as opposed to invading other countries and instructing repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia in the art of bombing children.
The Communists in Venezuela are on the frontlines of building unity amongst workers and their political organisations, between workers and agricultural labourers, and more direct workers’ control of the economy and society.
We saw and heard first-hand how this Caribbean nation is besieged by the United States, the European Union and regional allies like Brazil, who with Bolsonaro at the head has even threatened to invade Venezuela.
While we were there, there was a blackout in 90% of the country, leaving us and the rest of Caracas in pitch darkness, due to the recent terrorist attacks on the electrical system.
We heard from our comrades in Venezuela how life is hard due to the economic blockade, sanctions, the threats and media war against their country. The media war that makes it so important to connect our international solidarity with grassroots campaigning and ordinary people in this country, and do something practical in support of the Venezuelan people.
They asked us what we thought of the so-called humanitarian crisis ongoing in their country, and we laughed, because it was obviously a load of nonsense.
Despite the hardships that affect them, their friends and their families, they are determined to fight back, to build socialism, to decide the future of their country without any outside demands or interference, because that right belongs to the Venezuelan people and their political processes only.
There are a few things that can be learnt from this trip.
The first is that any people that chooses to go against the tide of United States and European capitalist domination and build a better life, whether that means massive wealth redistribution or even renationalisation of some key utilities, ultimately faces the choice of sink or swim.
That might be endless slander in the capitalist press or military intervention, the objective is the same. Ultimately, the interest of capital is the preservation and increase of profit, nothing more.
The second thing is that the best way we can show our solidarity with the Venezuelan people from Britain is through expanding and strengthening our own battles, and broadening the activities and popular support of our anti-imperialist and peace organisations and solidarity campaigns. This does not simply mean sending more representatives of mass organisations and people to Venezuela next time, although that will also be important.
This also means organising more people, in more and more determined revolts, from our organisations and our campaigns, including from the Labour Party and other political parties, against the British Government’s gutless and reactionary foreign policy.
The final thing I learnt is that the people and youth of Venezuela will not give up, and like them, if we fight, if we build maximum unity in the progressive and workers’ movements, if we root our movements in our communities and the struggles of ordinary people against capitalist exploitation, then we can win. Not only win victories for working people at home, but also, in dealing blows to this imperialist Government, win victories on behalf of peace, social progress and working people worldwide as well, including in Venezuela.
General Council meeting of WFDY, 9 to 11 April
Being a member organisation of WFDY, the Young Communist League of Britain can send delegates to WFDY meetings and activities like solidarity missions, lead groups from Britain to attend the World Festival of Youth and Students held every 4 years, and participate in WFDY’s decision-making processes.
We are not a member of the General Council, but this General Council meeting was open to non-members in order to enrich debate and encourage more members to attend the solidarity mission afterwards.
WFDY is not just a youth federation. Many members have parent organisations close to power or in power in their countries and represent millions of young people. Cuba, DPRK and Vietnam are leading participants.
It is also an essential space for exchanging information and experiences, in addition to developing relationships and joint work with our sister organisations.
I had bilateral discussions with the All India Youth Federation (Communist Party of India), Greek Communist Youth, Mexican Communist Youth, All Nepal National Free Student Union (of the newly created from a merger Nepalese Communist Party), Portuguese Communist Youth, Russian Communist Youth, Communist Youth Union of Spain, South African Students Congress, Communist Youth of Venezuela and YCL USA.
To give you some examples, the comrade from the Communist Youth of Venezuela gave an in-depth view of the Bolivarian Government and the Venezuelan state, including its serious problems, which I hope they will provide as a full article. Michael Lynch, general secretary of the YCL USA, told me how approximately 4000 people had applied to join the CPUSA since Trump’s election. They are potentially reconstituting the YCL as an independent organisation at their approaching congress in June. The comrade from Nepal told me how his new Communist government is planning to take all private educational institutions into public ownership within 10 years and construct a “New Nepal” in 20 years.
With WFDY, Britain’s Young Communists are able to play a crucial role in strengthening the international movements against imperialism and the international Communist youth movement. Part of this must be the strengthening of anti-imperialist movements in our own country and introducing more young people to WFDY’s important work.
Comrades can start by following WFDY’s activities on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and sharing YCL activities with the hashtag #WFDY so that they can pick up our campaigns.
I encourage comrades who are interested in this work to step forwards, whether as the international officer of their branch or a keen individual. I am also interested in introducing our allies in the labour and progressive movements to WFDY’s work.
The Communist presence and leadership in WFDY is essential for its unswerving anti-imperialist character. However, expanding the international struggles against imperialism, stopping imperialist actions and plans dead in their tracks, is one of the most pressing demands of our time.