BY MEGAN ARNEY
PARIS - The Movement of Communist Youth of France (MJCF) held its congress here February 29 to March 3. More than 750 elected delegates attended the meeting along with representatives from 63 different youth organizations around the world.
The congress opened with an international forum, where international delegates explained the challenges facing youth in their respective countries. As part of the forum, a video on Yugoslavia provoked discussion about the warring factions there and the role of imperialist powers occupying the nation.
Many people saw the troop build-up in Yugoslavia as a step toward peace, but a few delegates voiced opposition to imperialist troops being there.
A debate broke out around Cuba after Rogelio Polanco, from the Union of Young Communists in Cuba, spoke about the recent aggression by the U.S. government following the downing of two U.S.-based planes by the Cuban armed forces.
Jack Willey, representing the Young Socialists in the United States, spoke about the importance of actions against Washington's aggression and pointed to the Cuban revolution as an example to emulate. A delegate from the MJCF responded, "I'm against the blockade of Cuba. But let's call a spade a spade, Fidel Castro is a dictator."
Several others, mostly from the MJCF, joined the debate in support of the Cuban revolution. Over the next three days Petro Alesandrini, the delegate who sparked the debate, spoke with Polanco and YS members from the United States and Canada, and decided to visit Cuba this summer to learn more for himself.
A political report opened the congress, with three days devoted to discussion. The delegates took up a range of issues, including military conscription, fighting the fascist politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, solidarity with Algeria, drug abuse, the recent nuclear tests by the French government in the Pacific, and unemployment.
On the third day of the congress, public workshops discussed several issues, including education, jobs, and the military. Unemployment in France is officially at more than 12 percent, and many youth work temporary or part-time jobs.
A lively exchange took place around the MJCF's support for the mandatory military service that all young men must participate in.
One MJCF delegate, who was a conscientious objector from military service, asked, "how can we be against nuclear testing or murder and turn around and support conscription? The military has even been used to break strikes."
Others explained their support for the mandatory service. "Conscription... educates youth and gives many people a future," stated one delegate.
Informal discussion during breaks was lively. Several delegates, especially a group from La Rochelle, were quite interested in the political situation in the United States. The first evening, one person asked YS members about the Black rights struggle in the United States, in particular the Million Man March and the fight to free Pennsylvania death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Thomas Nielson, from the Communist Youth Union in Czechoslovakia, discussed the challenges his group faces. "I definitely support the Cuban revolution and the fact that the people still fight with the economic situation they face," he said. "But it's very difficult to get the truth about Cuba in Czechoslovakia. I came here to meet other young communists and learn about struggles in their countries."
The congress ended with a speech by the general secretary of the Communist Party of France, Robert Hue, and a closing address by MJCF general secretary Sylvie Vassallo. Throughout the congress MJCF members recalled their participation in the December strike movement protesting the French government's austerity drive, often singing the Internationale and chanting the popularized slogan, "Tous ensemble! Ouais!" (All together! Yes!)
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