Yesterday by happenstance I came across the announcement that the 19th International Festival of Youth and Students would be held in Sochi starting tomorrow. RT America had failed to publicize it — probably because of all the flack it’s getting in the US, including being threatened with having to register as a foreign agent.
Today, Saturday, thousands of young people in various ingenious costumes representing their countries paraded in Moscow prior to flying to Sochi on the Black Sea. The first international youth festival was held in 1947. It is organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), a United Nations-recognized international non-governmental organization, jointly with the International Union of Students, one of the various pro-Soviet bodies set up after World War II.
The fact that Russia is hosting the event (which does not come at regular intervals and is hosted each time by a different country) is yet another testimony to the fact that, far from being isolated, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is generating growing worldwide support.
Alas, on the same day that this event is taking place, thousands of young men in neighboring Ukraine are holding a torchlight parade in honor of the founders of the OUN, a fanatically nationalist party that killed Poles and Jews for Hitler during World War II in hopes of gaining independence from the Soviet Union. This demonstration could qualify as sentimental, were it not for the fact that in 2014, the grandchildren of those founders were the decisive, muscular force in the US-fomented ‘revolution’ against Ukraine’s pro-Soviet president, who then moved into key positions in the government.
During the French presidential election back in May and the equally crucial German election for chancellor that followed, I wrote that it was the situation in Ukraine that made the risk of right-wing victories in Europe all the more sinister. Well, it just so happens that Austria goes to the polls tomorrow, in an election that could result in a right-wing, anti-EU, anti-immigrant coalition, a few hundred miles away from those parading Ukrainian nationalists.
All this brings us back insistently to 1936, when the Olympic Games were held in Hitler’s Berlin, while the Popular Front gained power in France for the first time, setting the stage for the central battlefield in World War II between France and Germany: it was the third time in less than a century that Europe’s twin powers had clashed, starting in 1870, then in 1914. Today, as the International Festival of Youth and Students takes place in Russia, in the venues built in 2014 for the Olympics, European fascism’s Ukrainian allies holda torchlight parade.
Starting tomorrow, in the southern resort town of Sochi, 20,000 people between the ages of 18 and 35 from 150 countries will gather under the theme: “For peace, solidarity and social justice, we struggle against imperialism. Honoring our past, we build the future.” In addition to fun and games, concerts and sports events, they will discuss urgent political issues, including fighting xenophobia and movements for universal access to health and education.
Clearly, this formula harks back to the Cold War and the tried and true Soviet formula for winning friends and influencing people: invite them by the thousands into your home, again and again. The US countered by inviting future leaders and opinion-makers via the Fulbright scholarships, to enjoy the perks reserved for the one and a half percent, turning the world into two camps, each with its followers.
Today, however followers are increasingly deserting one camp and coalescing around the other. The latest contributors to that trend are President Trump’s abandonment of the Paris Climate Accords, which angered the entire world, and this week’s attempt to scuttle the anti-nuclear deal with Iran, which is shaping up as the final nail in the trans-Atlantic coffin.
|Ukrainian Nationalist parade