During the book fair, Jan. 22-Feb. 6, dozens of Malaysian youth stopped by the Pathfinder booth. These students bought a wide range of Pathfinder titles, including books on Malcolm X and the road to workers power, about the Cuban Revolution and on the fight for women’s rights. They engaged in political discussions with the volunteers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Greece who were staffing the booth.
Ten thousand Malaysian students are currently studying in Egypt, primarily in the medical and dentistry fields. Malaysian students first started attending school in Egypt in 1957 through a program sponsored by the Malaysian and Egyptian governments.
Mohammed Faiz Mohd Yusop, international vice president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia–Egypt, opened the meeting. He said students would hear from two workers about the struggles of working people in the U.S. and the U.K., and then have ample opportunity to ask questions about socialism, communism, the working class and the Cuban Revolution.
Farley, who works in a steel mill, spoke about the socialist movement in the U.S., and Wils, who is also a factory worker, talked about the Cuban Revolution and the international fight to free the five Cuban revolutionaries framed up and jailed in the U.S. This was followed by more than an hour of discussion with many wide-ranging questions: What alternative do you offer to the Democrats and the Republicans? Why don’t workers just choose socialism in an election? What is Obamacare?
Farley explained the capitalist system can’t be changed through elections. “We run in elections to get a hearing and defend ourselves against government intrusion, but we are building a working-class party to organize to take power out of the hands of the capitalist class.” The students, many of whom are studying to be doctors, were interested in Farley’s description of Obamacare as “nothing more than an insurance scheme, not health care for all.”
Students wanted to know more about socialism and communism. Doesn’t the Soviet Union show that socialism isn’t the solution? Can’t we take the good parts from capitalism and socialism? What’s the difference between national socialism and socialism? they asked. One said if socialism was the solution why do so many Cubans go to Florida rather than stay in Cuba.
Cuba shows what workers can doUnlike what is reported in the capitalist press, “the Cuban Revolution is an example,” said Wils. “Cuba shows the working class is capable of making a revolution and start running a nation in the interests of the vast majority. Before the revolution the wealth was controlled by U.S., British and local capitalists. All that changed with the revolution. The leadership organized the workers and farmers. Youth were mobilized to teach hundreds of thousands to read and write. The new revolutionary government nationalized the land and distributed land titles to hundreds of thousands of peasants. Companies were expropriated and workers took control of safety conditions and have a say in how to organize production.”
One student asked if there was any chance the Cuban Five would ever be released. “One of the Five, René González, is already out of prison, and Fernando González should be out soon,” replied Wils. “But the legal options are all but exhausted to get the other ones out anytime soon. Gerardo Hernández, who has the longest sentence of the Five, explained some time ago that a jury of millions is needed to win their release.
“As struggles develop and more information about their fight and who they are is spread around the globe there will be a chance to win their freedom,” said Wils.
One young woman asked Farley why she supports the right of women to have an abortion. “What about the right of the innocent baby?” she said. Farley explained that the “right of a woman to decide whether and when to have children is fundamental to her full participation in society and the fight to change it. Abortions are performed in every country. Where they are illegal many women are forced into unsafe procedures and many die as a result.”
An animated discussion followed the meeting. A few of the women continued the discussion with Farley. One asked, “Do you ever feel discouraged because there hasn’t been another socialist revolution since Cuba?” Farley answered no, “because capitalism has no solution to the crisis facing working people in any country. Whether it’s the U.S., Egypt, or Malaysia, our job is to join the struggles of the workers to build a leadership that can lead the fight for power. You are studying to be doctors, but some of you will become revolutionaries, too.” A couple of the young women smiled and nodded their heads.
“This was an historic meeting for us to have this kind of exchange about the working class, about socialism, and about the Cuban Revolution,” said Yusop in closing the meeting. “We will want to use our center more in this way in the future so that we are knowledgeable about what is happening in the world.”
Some of the students returned to the Pathfinder booth in the following days to thank the socialist workers for participating in the meeting at their center. Others brought friends to join the discussions and buy more books.
In all, participants at the Cairo International Book Fair bought 439 Pathfinder books, in English, Arabic and French. Twelve subscriptions to the Militant were also purchased, along with 105 single copies of the paper.
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