Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

John Ota

20,000 youth build ties of peace and friendship

12th World Festival of Youth in Moscow

First Published: Unity, Vol. 8, No. 10, August 16-29, 1985.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Over 20,000 youth from 157 countries attended the 12th World Festival of Youth July 26-August 3 in Moscow. About 100,000 packed Lenin Stadium at the opening ceremonies, giving their warmest welcome to the Nicaraguan delegation. Most of the hundreds on the U.S. delegation have returned to the U.S. with warm memories of the friendship and desire for peace of all the many people they met.

Karen Tessler of Shreveport said what impressed her most about the festival was that it showed, “how badly people in the world want peace.” Numerous discussions with Soviet citizens convinced U.S. delegates of the mutual and genuine desire for peace and friendship. Presentations by A-bomb survivors from Japan underscored the danger of nuclear war. Soviet leader Gorbachev's offer to stop nuclear testing as a step towards a total test ban was widely publicized and warmly received at the festival.

Anti-apartheid activists from the U.S. were especially glad to meet with the African National Congress delegation of South Africa. During the week, agreements on a cultural exchange and a US. tour of Black South African trade unionists were made, and in a meeting with European groups, October 11 was set as an international day of solidarity with political prisoners in South Africa.

Many delegates agree with Carlos Flores of Lorain, Ohio that the bilateral meetings with other delegations were one of the “highlights” of the festival. There was a cultural exchange and unity in opposition to U.S. intervention in El Salvador at the U.S.-E1 Salvador meeting. The Israeli delegation clarified the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and described Israeli resistance to the invasion of Lebanon at the U.S.-Israel meeting.

The U.S. delegation was a very diverse group ranging from Republicans to anti-imperialist activists and communists. There was considerable controversy at the decision of some members of the delegation to meet with the American Embassy. Many delegates felt that some members of the U.S. delegation were actually anti-communist. More differences surfaced when Bernice King, daughter of slain Black leader Martin Luther King Jr., proposed an international day of peace when liberation forces would lay down their guns and South Africa, Poland and the Soviet Union would release their political prisoners.

While some U.S. delegates resented the fact that the interpreters left out her reference to the Soviet Union, most of the delegates were more critical of King for omitting any mention of political prisoners in the U.S., explained Michelle Lee of Oakland.

Many of the U.S. delegates also had questions about Soviet policies on such issues as Afghanistan, Soviet dissidents, or anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. A special session was set up in which Soviet government spokesman Vladimir Posner gave a spirited defense of Soviet policies.

All in all, by bringing about face-to-face contact and exchanges between thousands of youth usually separated by border, language and propaganda barriers, the festival was a unique and rewarding experience for the vast majority of those who attended from the U.S.