By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
In behalf of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, I extend warmest greetings of solidarity to the organizers and participants of the Youth Solidarity Festival. It is fitting that your festival, a self-organized event of the People’s Global Camp, has adopted the call “Youth unite, fight and claim our future” as your theme.
The youth in all regions are indeed rising up to stake their claims to the future, but only to find out that there are monsters to confront and battles to fight. The ILPS welcomes initiatives such as this youth festival, in which progressive youth movements of various nationalities reach out across the seas to strengthen their unity in the common cause of fighting for a bright future.
The global crises and their impacts on the youth
The whole world continues to undergo the worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. As the global depression prolongs and worsens, the monopoly bourgeoisie continues to accumulate and concentrate capital in its hands. The wealthy few pass the burden of crisis to the people and aggravate the crisis of the entire economy. Thus underdevelopment of the third world countries, unemployment and poverty have worsened. Income gaps have further widened between the super-wealthy 1% and the impoverished 99%.
Since the latest economic and financial crisis shook the world in 2008, the people of all countries have suffered rising mass unemployment, the intensified exploitation of labor through cutbacks in wages and social benefits, and loss of livelihood and access to resources in the so-called informal economy. The living and working conditions of the people are getting worse in general. The youth are among the most vulnerable and hardest hit. Millions are dropping out of school and either find no jobs or take extremely underpaid jobs. Among their ranks, unemployment and underemployment rates are the highest, while income levels are among the lowest.
Liberalization of investment, trade and finance has further impoverished the already underdeveloped economies, and made the wealthiest nations and corporations even wealthier. More and more public assets are being privatized and businesses deregulated, making such key social services as education and health less accessible to people, especially to the youth. This is especially because the imperialist powers have stuck to the discredited neoliberal policies, including those being imposed by the WTO which we are now protesting.
The imperialist powers, despite their competition over spheres of influence, agree with each other in shifting the burden of crisis to the Third World countries and peoples. Thus, while North America and Europe are themselves mired in crisis, the situation is even worse among the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, which are the victims of superexploitation, unequal trade, unfair debt, intensified plunder and environmental ruin.
In these Third World countries laid prostrate by both foreign and feudal monopolies, agrarian backwardness and rural poverty are driving millions of people to migrate to urban areas and overseas. The most vulnerable, especially the youth, end up taking domestic or contractual jobs that are hazardous and least compensated, or worse, end up living in the streets victimized by criminal syndicates and the police. Migrant workers are also susceptible to racial, ethnic, and sexist discrimination.
Neoliberal policies on social services, especially cutbacks on public education budgets and subsidies, combined with privatization and commercialization, violate the youth’s basic right to education and the right to job security of teachers and education workers as well. In addition, imperialist-controlled institutions such as the World Bank increasingly tamper with the curricula and textbooks of national educational systems, attuning them to the labor, technical, and research demands of global capitalism and the transnational companies.
Faced with seething social crises and unrest, imperialist states take the lead in conducting neoliberal offensives in the field of culture and ideology. They distract the people’s attention, especially of the youth, from the real capitalist roots of the crisis and try to rechannel social unrest into divisive conflicts among the ranks of the people by whipping up all sorts of regressive currents like chauvinism, racism, religious bigotry, fascism and warmongering.
Using their predominant control of the schools, churches, mass media and telecommunications monopolies, they attempt to dissipate people’s anger and the youth’s rebellion into safe arenas such as consumerism, narrow reformism, blind anarchism, ilusionism and other currents that obscure the anti-imperialist and class struggle. When the people can no longer be deceived and rise up in organized mass struggle, they are met with the full force of the fascist state and its armed minions.
Conflicts are growing among imperialist powers over economic, political, security (including espionage) and environmental issues, and over particular regional or local flashpoints. Imperialist states cut back on social spending but increase military spending, pampering the armed forces and defense industries as central to its military strategy of protecting and expanding its own global sphere of influence. The youth are either targeted as military recruits to become cannon fodder for imperialist and mercenary armies, wage workers in and around military and naval bases, and many of the youth end up become economic or political refugees in their own countries or abroad.
The world’s youth on the march
In the face of the crises and unrest and in defense of their interests, the people are fighting back throughout the world, both in the imperialist heartlands of North America and Europe and in Third World countries. On the frontlines of people’s resistance are the youth in their millions. We in the ILPS welcome the enthusiasm and salute the heroism of the youth movement. Their voices and actions resonate in this Youth Solidarity Festival that you are now holding.
In the past five years, from North, Central and South America, to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the youth of all nationalities have shown determination and audacity in launching school-based strikes, off-campus protests, progressive cultural events including “flash mobs” and lightning rallies, human barricades, camp-outs, and other types of mass actions in urban and rural areas to fight for the rights of youth and students, and to fight for general people’s rights hand in hand with the rest of the people.
All over the world, the student youth have launched powerful waves of university uprisings and other student protests against the rising cost of higher education and budget cuts on public education. In 2011, students in at least five Latin American countries held a common day of mass action. In 2012 and continuing to this year, coordinated student strikes broke out in Chile, Quebec, United Kingdom, the US, Australia, India, the Philippines, and other countries. Most of these were supported by the academic community, especially teachers. In many cases, they are linking arms with the rest of the oppressed sectors of society.
In the huge street marches, demonstrations and general strikes that have broken out especially in Europe, Latin America, and South Asia, the bulk of protestors are young workers, out-of-school youth, students, and rural and indigenous youth. In some countries where political uprisings have challenged unpopular regimes, youth protestors have shown heroism in confronting fascist security forces, manning barricades to protect communities from fascist attack, and engaging in open and secret propaganda actions to raise the people’s morale.
These powerful waves of the youth movement are certain to advance further as the global crisis deepens. Extended student strikes that converge with the broader mass movement, such as occured in Quebec, Chile and elsewhere in recent years, have shown that the youth and the people as a whole are increasingly ready to confront and reject the neoliberal agenda of imperialism.
The youth movement throughout the world, through campus, community, and special-interest organizations at the local and national levels, can form networks and alliances at regional and global levels for more coordinated actions and for sharing stategies and campaigns to defend and promote their various economic, political and cultural rights as students, as workers and peasants, and as out-of-school youth.
ILPS Commission No. 8 has been set up to assist ILPS chapters and member organizations in reaching out to other youth and student organizations and in mobilizing the broad youth masses to defend their rights and address their various concerns. Youth organizations of diverse persuasions can find ways to unite for joint activities to achieve common objectives.
The youth movements, in their specific national contexts, must establish and strengthen alliances and convergences with the various basic sectors such as the worker and peasant masses, with the women’s movement and with indigenous peoples, to form a formidable united front against imperialism and the worst local oppressors. In the process, the youth can maximize their potential in the various arena of activism, from organizing and political action to cultural and creative work, from socio-economic empowerment to international solidarity.
The future belongs to you, the youth of the world. Unite in the common cause of anti-imperialism, democracy, social justice, development and international solidarity. Fight against the imperialists and the reactionaries. Create a fundamentally new and better world. I wish the participants of the Youth Solidarity Festival greater victories in forthcoming mass struggles.