From the 23rd-20th July over 360 young Socialist, Feminist and Ecological activists from 17 countries descended on a campsite near Otranto in the South of Italy for the 34th International Socialist Youth Camp. The annual camp, held in solidarity with the Fourth International, is a unique opportunity for young revolutionaries from around the world to meet, share experiences, analyse the world and organise to change it. 8 comrades attended from Britain, including 4 from Scotland.
The fact that this camp occurred on the centenary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution was not ignored. Speakers at the educationals and rallies during the camp drew on the triumphs and lessons of the experiences of Lenin, Trotsky and the Russian revolutionaries. The world has changed a great deal since the storming of the Winter Palace, but many of the issues that the theorists of the early 20thCentury wrestled with – exploitation, patriarchy, imperialism and inequality to name just a few – are still present. Those concerned with fighting these evils in the 21st century can’t help but draw inspiration from the struggles of the Bolsheviks.
However, the politics of the camp didn’t limit itself to a focus on the classical Marxist canon. To do that would make our politics stale and dogmatic. Instead, the camp focussed on the world as it is today, discussing topics such as the increasing precariousness of work in the 21st century, the emerging women’s movements and challenge of climate change. Alternative strategies for anticapitalists were also presented, with Communia Network (the organisation that hosted the camp) detailing how they had swapped traditional party work for helping building worker’s cooperatives that operate outside the capitalist market. Worker run workplaces also played a part in the practical elements of the camp: the (delicious) food that was served came entirely from local co-operatives.
The camp, self-organised by the youth, is broken down thematically by day. Topics for each day ranged from the struggles of the youth today, imperialism, women’s and LGBTQ oppression and ecosocialism. Days typically started with a morning educational (often delivered by a guest to the camp), followed by numerous workshops that took place later in the day. This format allowed for participants to delve in-depth into a particular topic, encountering ideas and theories that they may not have had the chance to consider before. Furthermore, the structuring forced people to engage with topics that they may have dismissed or ignored in the past – men were compelled to attend sessions on women’s liberation during the day on feminism for example.
Non-mixed spaces are also a large element of the camp, with time being allocated for both a women’s and LGBTQ space on every day. These spaces allowed oppressed groups to self-organise and discuss and debate issues that impact their everyday lives, as well as conduct within the camp. For example, a debate emerged in the women’s space about the playing of sexist music at the camp parties. An impromptu demo was held on the final evening protesting the playing of a problematic artist, sparking a debate that will likely be continued at camps to come.
Every year I attend the camp I am reminded how important internationalism is in the fight for socialism. Meeting and sharing experiences with comrades from around the world not only provides us with insight, but also inspiration and motivation. At a time when wave of reactionary politics is sweeping the world (manifesting itself in Trump, Brexit, Modi, etc.) being a socialist can often feel depressing, tiresome and hopeless. The camp is the perfect antidote to these feelings, reminding you that, no matter how bad things seem, there are multitudes of people worldwide who believe that another world is possible and are fighting the same battles as yourself.
Socialist Resistance would like to thank the youth of Communia Network who arranged an incredible camp. Next year’s camp will take place in Denmark and will be organised by the Socialist Youth Front alongside the Danish section of the Fourth International.