Left-wing festivals showcase politics, culture

ATHENS, Greece — Autumn festivals organized by Communist parties and their allied youth groups are a longstanding tradition in many European countries, especially in Greece, Portugal, Spain and, since 1991, in the Czech Republic.

The festivals are dynamic political and cultural happenings that attract a wide audience. They highlight popular struggles and international solidarity. They celebrate the people’s movements of today while at the same time saluting victories achieved in the past — recognition that today’s activists stand on the shoulders of prior generations.

In Portugal, the Avante Festival (named after the Communist Party’s newspaper) marked the party’s 85th anniversary and the paper’s 75th birthday. The festival honored the centenary of the birth of Fernando Lopes Graca, world-renowned Portuguese composer and musicologist. Graca’s contributions to the study of folk music were rivaled only by his devotion, as a member of the Portuguese Communist Party, to the struggle against fascism.

The festival also gave a boost to the Portuguese trade union movement’s plan to hold a national day of protest on Oct. 12 against unemployment, low wages and the dismantling of social security.

The Communist Party of Spain’s festival highlighted the historic contribution of the party to the country’s struggle for democracy. It marked the 75th anniversary of the proclamation of democracy in Spain and 70 years since the start of the Spanish Civil War.

In the Czech Republic, the Festival Xalo Nobini (named after the CP Bohemia-Moravia’s newspaper) held in Prague celebrated its 15th year. The event constituted a strong response to the intense anti-communist campaign that has emerged during recent elections, a campaign that has included efforts by the government to outlaw the country’s Communist youth group.

The Prague festival highlighted the CP’s campaign against the installation of U.S. bases in the Czech Republic, reflecting the will of the vast majority of the Czech people. The campaign to free the Cuban Five took center stage as well.

In Greece, the 32nd KNE-Odigitis Festival (Communist Youth of Greece and its newspaper) took place in Athens and three other major cities. This year the festival commemorated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Army of Greece, a key force in the struggle against Anglo-American imperialism and its domestic right-wing allies during the Civil War of 1946-1949.

The Greek festival took place during an intense pre-election period, in which Communist Party candidates are running for local office, such as mayor, in virtually every district. Festival themes included anti-imperialist solidarity as well as youth’s right to education, work, culture and sport.

All the festivals are characterized by concerts, theatrical and dance performances, art exhibits and panel discussions where thousands of working people, youth, and whole families get the opportunity to dance, to sing and to learn.

The Avante Festival, for example, showcased booths from 18 areas of Portugal, displaying traditional dress, foods, wines and art. The festival in Athens had four separate stages with concerts going on simultaneously with big name bands, Greek folk music or world music. Lively panel discussions on topics ranging from “TV and ideological manipulation” to “Art and the artist on the side of the working class” were held daily, provoking debate. Book exhibitions lined the festival grounds.

The spirit of international solidarity pervaded all the events. In Portugal and Greece, for example, festival organizers hosted communist and communist youth delegations from more than 40 countries, thereby promoting shared goals like ending the war in Lebanon, freeing the Cuban Five and providing support to countries facing the threat of imperialist aggression.