By Bronwyn Cragg
From September 1-5, members of the Europe and North America (CENA) region of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) convened in Portugal for an in-person meeting. The Young Communist League of Canada was pleased to send a delegate and to be able to participate in a successful meeting which saw anti-imperialist youth organizations from 16 countries across Europe and North America gather to discuss youth and student issues with particular emphasis on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The CENA meeting of WFDY took place in the context of the Festa do Avante! which is an annual cultural festival hosted by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) in Seixal, Portugal. This year also marks the centenary of the foundation of the PCP and the 75th anniversary of the foundation of WFDY.
In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the PCP hosted the Festa do Avante!, implementing increased hygiene and safety measures and reducing capacity of the festival. Seeing the festival’s great success and having guaranteed the health and safety of all attendees, the PCP decided to host the festival again this year, the second festival having taken place under the uncertain conditions of the pandemic. Despite harsh criticism from other parties, the festival – like its namesake (“onwards” in Portuguese) – went forward as planned.
The Festa do Avante! featured performers from across Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries, promoting local Portuguese culture and supporting cultural workers who have long been out of work due to pandemic restrictions and the cancellation of many shows. The festival grounds which covered a large, sprawling area of 30 hectares included dedicated spaces for an anti-imperialist film festival, theatre performances, multiple stages for musical performances, a sports venue, children’s activities and regional products and foods from across Portugal. It also featured a central exhibition space with information and artefacts from the 100-year history of the PCP. Each of these spaces was frequently sanitized with social distancing and mandatory mask wearing to ensure the safety of all participants.
Overall, although at reduced capacity, the festival saw approximately 40,000 visitors. This is a significant increase from last year which saw around 17,000 visitors. All visitors were required to test negative for COVID-19 before entering.
Throughout the weekend, the festival grounds were a militant and lively space where comrades of all ages could eat, drink, dance and meet with other communists and progressives from across the world. It was a common sight to see both seasoned and first-time festival attendees dance the Carvalhesa together and build new friendships.
The Festa do Avante! concluded with a large rally of comrades from the PCP, the Portuguese Communist Youth and international organizations with speeches from young communists and General Secretary of the PCP Jerónimo de Sousa. The rally was energetic and militant, and comrades ended by singing Avante Camarada!, the Internationale and the Portuguese anthem in unison. Finally, the festival finished with a well-attended concert by Portuguese singer and guitarist Tim alongside Teresa Salgueiro which took place at the “25th of April” stage.
The festival takes place in the early days of the PCP’s campaign in the upcoming local elections which will take place on September 26. The PCP runs under a coalition with the Partido Ecologista “Os Verdes” (CDU). The CDU hopes to improve the lives of Portuguese workers by increasing access to public transportation, raising the minimum wage to 850 EUR (about 1,250 CAD) per month, guaranteeing free childcare, reducing taxes, increasing the country’s cultural budget and bolstering monetary supports for pensioners.
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