First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 42, October 31, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Boston–About 350 young people from every corner of the country gathered at Boston State College last weekend to take part in the Youth Conference ’77.
The multinational gathering of youth and students, including people who had traveled from as far away as Hawaii, reflected the commitment and determination of U.S. youth to struggle against oppression and to build unity with anti-imperialist fighters throughout the world.
The theme and spirit of the conference was summed up in the opening address delivered by Roy Smith, chairman of the Communist Youth Organization (CYO), one of the conference’s sponsoring groups:
“The call of this conference–’The future is ours’ and ’The world belongs to the youth,’ reflects the deepest-felt desires, hopes, dreams and interests of working and oppressed people throughout the world.
“Youth have always been willing to lay their lives on the line,” Smith added. But he stressed that it is now necessary for the youth movement to “solve the problems of what is the cause and what is the solution to our oppression.” He said that an important task of the conference was to answer these questions and to unite around plans to build a revolutionary youth movement among even larger numbers of young people.
The conference’s keynote speaker was Mzoka, a former Black student leader in South Africa, representing the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania. His moving speech was greeted with a five-minute standing ovation and chants of “Down with the racist Vorster regime! Long Live Azania!”
In his address, Mzoka warmly welcomed the militant support of the conference and pointed out the common aims of the people in Azania and the U.S. in defeating imperialism and policies of racism and national oppression.
He stressed the determination of the Azanian people to rely on their own armed struggle to achieve liberation. “We are on the verge of victory–if not this year then next year!” he declared.
The theme of internationalism was also reflected in solidarity messages presented to the conference by the Canadian Communist League, the Iranian Students Association, the Ethiopian Students Union of North America, the Communist League of Hawaii, the Group of Khmer Residents in America and the Revolutionary Haitian Organization of May 18th.
A series of workshops on different aspects of the international situation brought out the importance of fighting superpower war preparations and building support for the struggles of the third world peoples.
After a showing of the Chinese film Island Militia Women, Eileen Klehr, vice-chairman of the Communist Party (M-L), gave a talk describing the role that socialist China is playing in the international arena. Klehr, who recently returned from the People’s Republic where she and other comrades from the CPML met Chinese Communist Party Chairman Hua Kuo-feng, urged the young people to study what is going on in China today.
In another round of workshops, the conference zeroed in on the wide range of questions facing young people in the schools, communities and factories today.
Those who attended discussions on teenage unemployment resolved to build a huge youth contingent in the Feb. 18 March for Jobs in Washington.
A workshop was also held on the movement to overturn the racist Bakke decision and to extend affirmative action programs for minority and women students. The conference gave its full support to this struggle.
Puerto Rican activists from the movement to demand justice for Tito Fernandez sparked a lively discussion about the wave of police attacks on minority youth. The 15-year-old Tito was murdered by police in Bridgeport, Conn., last summer.
Another important discussion at the conference centered on building support for the struggle now going on at Kent State University against the building of a gym on the site where four students were murdered by national guardsmen during a 1970 antiwar protest.
Several Kent State students spoke from the floor about their struggle and appealed for support from students, workers and young people around the country.
The conference was also treated to an exciting cultural night which included music and theatrical performances put on by young people from many cities. Among the performers were El Teatro de los Pobres from Detroit, La Banda del Pueblo from Indiana, the Boston Fight Back Singers and a group of singers from Hawaii.
In all, the conference was a big success. A Chicago participant told The Call, “I’ve seen a lot of young people who are angry, but this conference showed me that anger has to be turned into struggle, in an organized way.”
At the close of the conference, the young people piled into cars and buses to head home, armed with many new political lessons and ideas and determined to take them back to their friends and comrades at home.