Last weekend, over 400 delegates from 49 countries and 95 organisations, movements and parties from across 5 continents travelled to Paris for the first World Youth Conference. Called for by the Youth Writing History Network, a global network of various organisations and movements that are united in the search for an alternative life, the conference started with a reminder of those who paved the path for this conference and gave their life in this struggle. From the UK, 8 delegates from different anti-fascist and youth organisations were present.
The organisers reminded everyone that “With this first internationalist youth conference, we are starting a step forward to unite the youth of the world”. Florian Andree gave the opening speech explaining the history of the youth conferences connected to the Kurdistan Freedom Movement. The first youth conference occurred in Amed in 2015, followed by a youth conference in Kobane, a city known for its heroic resistance against ISIS, in 2019. Just months after each conference, the Turkish state killed many comrades and imprisoned hundreds. In 2015, the Kurdish youth defended themselves in the city wars and the siege of Amed, and in 2019, the Turkish state invaded Rojava and bombed Kobane. Symbolically of the State’s repression against youth organising is the bombing of the venue of the Kobane conference. And today, in Europe, we see the same attacks against us with a different face. Many youth organisers from the global south were denied entry into the “fortress Europe”.
The system’s attempt to break the revolutionary youth spirit is present in every context and in all of us. The time we are in at the moment is a time of chaos, which brings dangers, but it also includes a lot of chances and possibilities. Florian reminds us that if we know how to use these chances and possibilities, we can take big steps forward together. He analysed that since the breakdown of real socialism (in Kurdish discourse, real socialism is the name given to the form of state socialism that dominated the 20th century and peaked in the Soviet Union), the world has been in crisis. The world’s powers, the US, Russia, and China, struggle and fight to define a new world order. In the last 30 years, a war has been going on that is spreading with increased speed. The attempt to build a new world order, with the US being the leading force, has failed. There are new forces that want to have a “bigger piece of the cake”. The hegemony of one superpower has been rejected.
We should not get bogged down trying to take a stance in every conflict. Instead, we need to look at the third party- where are the democratic structures, the youth and the women in the current global crises? In this period of a third world war, we can see destruction, suicide, genocide and ecological catastrophes all around us, but there is also a lot of hope. We have seen the greatest strike of history in India, uprisings against climate breakdown globally and massive youth demonstrations in France.
The problem we are facing is not the lack of motivation or upset with the current state of our world but the fact that our enemy is very well organised through different forms, militarily, politically, and culturally, while we are often split and divided. Yet even though “the enemy might be big, it doesn’t have the power of the people- we are the people”. If we manage to be united rather than divided by our diversity, we will be an unstoppable force. He ended his speech with Ocalan’s words: “Young we have started, and young we will succeed”.
We continued watching videos by some friends who could not attend the conference due to visa issues:
Jay Affed, from the progressive youth organisation of Lebanon, addressed us, explaining the current crises in Lebanon and calling on us to stand together and find common solutions. Afterwards, comrades from Rojava, the internationalist commune and YPJ sent their greetings and reminded us that fighting is not only done with guns but also with books and pens.
A representative from the South African Youth Organisation shared their guiding slogan, “Nothing about us, without us”. She reminded us of the system’s attacks in South Africa; 25 young people in her organisation have been assassinated since the establishment in 2005. She called on all of us; we need you!
The Komalên Ciwan, the umbrella organisation of the Kurdish youth, started their message: “Maybe we have never seen each other and not got to know each other, we might have many differences, are from different places, from different nations, have different cultures, beliefs and traditions. Yet our hearts beat for the same path. We are fighters for a free life”.
At the conference, three panel discussions took place. The first discussion was framed around the question of how to understand the peak of today’s crisis. Representatives from each of the five continents shared the main social contradictions and problems of their context and the effect those have on the youth.
The second day was filled with workshops participants designed beforehand on topics such as youth and the liberal way of living, the problem of ecology and the problems of indigenous youth and oppressed people. Participants described the workshops as “insightful, making the connections between all struggles very clear. The same systems show with different faces in all contexts, particularly strongly affecting young people from oppressed and indigenous backgrounds.” “It gives me hope to see that people from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe are coming together here, realising that, despite their differences, there are many things which connect them.”
The day was concluded with a lecture on Free Women’s ideology of the Kurdistan Women’s Movement. In the lecture, the participants were reminded of the intrinsic link between women and life, seeing the root of today’s crisis in the emergence of patriarchy and the concomitant disconnection from nature. As young women, we hold many solutions to today’s problems and should not shy away from leading the path towards freedom.
With the lecture still in mind, the third day started with a panel on Young Women Writing History. Representatives from Peru, Catalunya, Rojava and South Africa explained the current attacks women face in their contexts. Rosita, from Peru, highlighted the need for intersectionality and understanding that indigenous and working-class women are often ignored in feminist discourses. In Peru, the upper and middle class had the right to vote, while poor and indigenous women did not, so her organisation focused on the right to vote and study for Campesinas. A representative from the Catalan organisation Arran highlighted the contradiction in Europe that racialised and migrant people are often blamed for sexual and patriarchal violence, which leads to an intrinsically anti-feminist “gay and feminist nationalism”—abusing gay and feminist causes to further racism and justify nationalism and the nation state.
The final panel of this historic conference was focused on what the next steps should be, how we can maintain the connections made over this weekend, and how we can share and unite our struggle when we all return home. As such, all comrades on the panel affirmed the need to concretise the links made over this weekend into a worldwide youth-led revolutionary front. In particular, the comrade from Rojava spoke about the need to support the Revolution by applying its principles and commitment to women’s liberation to our own movements and contexts. The panel was opened up to the floor, where comrades from every continent proposed tangible steps we can take, with a focus on building the next conference to ensure these connections are not lost and of developing a more active social media presence as a network to disseminate the ideas and findings of the conference.
An important final contribution was offered by a comrade from Abya Yala, who read out the names of fallen comrades from their struggle and asked the audience to repeat ‘presente’ after each name, ensuring that these martyrs will never be forgotten and grounding the end of the conference in the recognition that whatever our next steps are, we must take each of them holding the memory and repeating the names of those whose sacrifice made this conference, these exchanges of ideas, and these new commitments possible.
The conference concluded with all participants gathering on stage to hear the Youth Writing History Network’s final declaration, interspersed with spontaneous revolutionary singing, mixing the chants of the Kurdistan Freedom Movements with Bella Ciao and the Internationale. These simple acts of collective joy affirmed that this movement is internationalist, connected to its many overlapping histories, and committed to producing a new future.
After 3 intense days, we returned to the UK energised and focused. Comrades from all over the world have offered us insights into their local contexts and internationalist ambitions, demonstrating our common goals and ways we can adapt our approaches based on our widely varying conditions. Although the task at hand can seem insurmountable at times, we gain inspiration from the relationships formed within these discussions and advice from friends in the Global South and North alike, despite the differing ways in which the power structures of capitalist modernity manifest within our countries.
Specifically, we can better understand the ways struggle can be waged within the imperial core based on the knowledge of those in the post- and neo-colonies dealing with the exploitative practices that maintain forms of accumulation upon which society in the metropole relies. This does not mean exoticising or attempting to emulate these movements but learning from ideological approaches that can be adapted to our very specific context, that of a nation state built on empire and industrialisation stretching back centuries, during which white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist patriarchy entrenched itself into the fabric of UK society to create the sense of capitalist realism under which we now live.
Understanding these movements alongside ideological education inspired by the Kurdish freedom movement and the thought of Abdullah Ocalan gives us hope for future organising that centres the liberation of women rather than simply liberal approaches to equality, simultaneously offering adaptable structures which potentialise the confederalisation of what are often disparate movements and organisations towards liberation for all.
As youth, it is our role to continue this work at a local and international level, maintaining the links we have established here in Paris and returning to our local organisations with the understanding and energy necessary to take genuine steps towards a democratic society away from capitalist barbarism.