Our Struggle Must Be United: Pan-Africanist Socialist Youth Chart the Way Forward

Tanupriya SinghMística on the first day of the youth camp. Photo: Pan Africanism Today

Youth leaders from 14 countries gathered in South Africa as part of the “Youth Camp: Pioneers of the Revolution” to strengthen Pan-African unity and solidarity across struggles.

Between October 14 and 20, activists from 17 organizations gathered in the town Bela-Bela in South Africa in the “Youth Camp: Pioneers of the Revolution”, organized by Pan Africanism Today and the International Peoples’ Assembly.

The landmark event brought together young activists and leaders from 14 countries in Africa and across the world to foster Pan-African unity and solidarity in social, economic, and political struggles.

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, Pan Africanism Today Youth Coordination member, Anele Sopazi explained that the six-day program was the result of discussions amongst progressive organizations of the region which had affirmed that “socialism is the only vehicle to realize a more equitable and just society, and that the youth forms an integral part of the struggle to mobilize and organize for its realization.”

Participants hailed from a wide range of political parties, trade unions, and sectoral organizations. The political parties present included the Workers’ Party of Tunisia, the Communist Party of Benin, the Weekend Movement from Mauritania, the Bread and Liberty and Popular Socialist Alliance parties from Egypt, the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG), the Nepal Communist Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation from the US, and Izquierda Unida (United Left) from Spain.

Also in attendance was the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), one of the major forces in the struggle for national liberation from monarchical rule in Swaziland, in spite of severe violence.

The trade unions and organizations present in the youth camp included MVIWATA– a national farmers’ organization from Tanzania, the National Union of Metalworkers of Zimbabwe, the United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe (UFAWUZ), the Zimbabwe Small Holder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the militant shack-dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, the United Textile Employees (UNITE) union from Lesotho— which led a historic strike in 2021, and the Madan Bhandari School of Asia from Nepal.

For Sopazi, “The focus was on trying to bring together our processes and link our struggles in the African continent, understanding that whilst we lead struggles within our own countries, we are all part of the same process where we are being attacked very aggressively by imperialism and capitalism, so we need to unify our struggles as young people, and have one voice and one action.”

The aim of the youth camp which included days of study, debate, and collective work, “was to emerge with a socialist program that is actionable and practical. We were much more interested in solving the problems before us, rather than diagnosing the crisis of capitalism of which we are much more aware.”

This was also emphasized by Mbali Ngwenda, another member of PAT’s Youth Coordination, “The focus was more about defining what the future looks like, and what are the steps that we have to take to get there. What does socialism look like? What is it that we are trying to build, and what does socialist construction look like? These have been some of the biggest debates we have had.”

“How do you relate to power? In terms of building socialism, what is going to happen to your organization once you get into government? How does neoliberalism react to any socialist governments and organizations? This is not theoretical, the focus is on practice,” he stressed.

‘Internationalism is a strategic necessity’

The spirit of internationalism was present throughout the six days of the youth camp. “Considering that capitalism is global and has nestled itself everywhere, it would not make sense to fight it in silos,” said Sopazi, “we need to unite our efforts at an international level and fight it together.”

The declaration issued at the conclusion of the youth camp reaffirmed support for the struggles for sovereignty, peace, and self-determination in Western Sahara, Sudan, Swaziland, Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad, and the Sahel.

The resolutions adopted at the camp pertaining to internationalism include building support for strategic solidarity campaigns for the struggles in Western Sahara, Swaziland, Sudan, Haiti, and Palestine. It also called for organizing a commercial boycott of companies within Africa that are “profiting from the oppression of the peoples,” with a particular focus on companies in Morocco, the UK, and Spain “due to their role in the exploitation of resources and peoples in Western Sahara and Swaziland.”

Participants also resolved to build support for movements and individuals facing intense political persecution, including AbM and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“The youth are also very concerned about the security of the African continent, considering the militarization of the Sahel region and specifically the actions of the US and France. We have seen it most recently in Burkina Faso where the youth have strongly opposed French intervention in the country,” Sopazi said.

“The militarization is creating more conflicts amongst our people, it is fostering more extremist groups, we have seen it in places including Mozambique and in Nigeria.”

Ngwenda added that this militarization was not a “convenient phenomenon, rather, it is very strongly linked with the resource question, very strongly linked to multinational and transnational corporations, the young people here are not confused about that. This issue has come up consistently in our discussions.”

People’s sovereignty

A crucial, related issue in this context is that of food sovereignty and security. Sopazi stated that participants had raised serious concerns about agribusiness giant Monsanto, which they said has been targeting smallholder farmers and businesses and trying to monopolize land and food and seed production.

To resist this threat, members of the youth camp adopted a series of resolutions on climate change and the environmental crisis including organizing agroecology trainings, lobbying for governments to be held accountable at COP27, and pushing to hold “developed” countries to the agreement of common but differentiated responsibility adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

They have also affirmed their support for the call led by Kenyan peasants to maintain a ban on GMOs, and “the broader struggle against monopoly control of agricultural resources by multinational corporations.”

“We need to achieve control over our resources, strategic sectors of the economy including mining, agriculture, innovation and technology must be nationalized and used for the development of our own people. We are also calling for the cancellation of debt and austerity measures being imposed by the IMF and the World Bank which lead to rising inequality and poverty that will affect young people, who are in majority in the continent,” Sopazi elaborated.

“Once we have control over our economies and resources, we can then start thinking about what a socialist model would look like.”

These objectives are reflected in the declaration — “supporting a popular project built by the people in defense of social rights, and opposing compradors and neoliberal policies” and defending “dignified labor and the construction of economic alternatives”, while resisting “precarisation and the super exploitation of the work of young people.”

The participating organizations also approved a series of resolutions related to “revolutionary arts and culture” — including the organization of cultural festivals, theater, recreational and sporting activities and clubs, organizing reading circles and seminars, and maximizing the use of alternative media to document peoples’ struggles.

All resolutions adopted around the four themes of imperialism and capitalism, climate change and the environmental crisis, revolutionary arts and culture, and internationalism are also grounded in solidarity actions to be held on key dates around the year— including Red Books Day, International Women’s Day, International Workers’ Day, Africa Youth Day, and World Food Sovereignty Day.

Importantly, in its declaration on October 20, the youth camp urged for an immediate end to the war between Russia and Ukraine— calling its global impact “politically, socially, and economically destructive” — and the “creation of processes for a peaceful negotiation”.

The statement emphasized the role of “the US, many Western European nations and NATO have played historically in “destabilizing the region”. It also highlighted the racist and biased double standards in how the crisis in Ukraine is treated in the western capitalist media, “while wars perpetrated by the west have been raging across the global south for centuries… The human impact is often minimized to suit the needs of capital.”

The statement echoed calls for NATO to be disbanded and for the involved nations to be demilitarized, particularly considering that “military spending could be better used to solve the present dilemmas of humanity.”

Speaking at the sidelines of the youth camp, Socialist Party of Zambia general secretary Cosmas Musumali warned that the scramble for Africa in the 21st century was “much more intense” involving several different dimensions, and that Africa would have to wage a struggle on issues ranging from climate change to brain drain alongside existing conditions of hunger and unemployment.

At the same time, he added importantly, that there was a change from a uni- to a multi-polar order at the global level, and when you add this repositioning to the scramble for Africa, its people and its resources, “then the need for more intensified struggle becomes clear”.

“At the center of this struggle are our youth. The youth have always been the prime drivers of any change— any revolution, any transformation, is always carried on the shoulders of the youth.”

“The time is ripe, this stage is appropriate and it is one where we say enough is enough. The youth of this continent are taking action and we see it in several countries… it is a new phase of struggle, thus intensive, thus multidimensional and it will definitely bring the changes that are desired.”