F – Solidarities, internationalisms, and global movements

Youth and internationalism across the globe, 1930s–1980s

Event Details

  • Date

    Thursday, 25 June - 13:00 – 15:00

    Thursday, 25 June - 15:30 – 17:30

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    F – Solidarities, internationalisms, and global movements
Convenor
  • Daniel Laqua (Northumbria University)
  • Nikolaos Papadogiannis (Bangor University)
Chair
  • Nikolaos Papadogiannis (Bangor University)
  • Daniel Laqua (Northumbria University)
Panelists
  • Ljubica Spaskovska (University of Exeter)
  • Sneha Krishnan (University of Oxford)
  • Daniel Laqua (Northumbria University)
  • Antonio Scalia (University of Catania)
  • Nikolaos Papadogiannis (Bangor University)
  • Jodi Burkett (University of Portsmouth)
  • Heather Vrana (University of Florida)

Papers

  • Ljubica Spaskovska
    ‘Youth Marches On!’: Student Internationalism, Antifascism and the Yugoslav Communist Movement

    ‘Youth Marches On!’: Student Internationalism, Antifascism and the Yugoslav Communist Movement

    The paper approaches the history of twentieth-century international socialism and non-alignment through a generational lens, bridging the interwar and the post-war periods. It traces the formation of an international leftist generation in interwar Yugoslavia, viewing the latter within the context wider progressive networks that mobilized around antifascism, anti-imperialism, pacifism and communism. The paper sheds light on this forgotten internationalism and dissects this commitment to a progressive world which formed and matured well in advance of other future communist states. The paper posits the interwar period as crucial for understanding post-1945 “Third World” anti-imperial nationalism and the different international / non-Soviet variants of socialism – African, Asian and Yugoslav. Focussing on the World Youth Congress Movement, it addresses the encounters and formative experiences of a number of prominent Yugoslav actors in the context of the social and political realities and imaginaries of colonialism and occupation on the one side, and class struggle and trade unionism on the other. The paper shows how these contexts and experiences profoundly shaped their worldviews and determined future solidarities and alliances.
  • Sneha Krishnan
    Asian Internationalism, a Juvenilia: India’s Student Christian Movement in the 1950s and 1960s

    Asian Internationalism, a Juvenilia: India’s Student Christian Movement in the 1950s and 1960s

    India’s Student Christian Movement, founded in 1912 in Kolkata, grew over the course of the twentieth century into a key site for young people’s engagement with internationalism in South Asia. The movement needs to be understood within the context of claims made by a minority religious community in a predominantly Hindu India, to geographies of belonging beyond the emergent nation-state. In the years after its founding, the movement grew in significance: its publications were widely circulated in India and elsewhere, and its delegates attended conferences of Student Christians elsewhere in Asia, and also in Europe and North America. In this paper, I will examine Student Christians’ articulation of an Asian Internationalism in the 1950s and 1960s – years during which Afro-Asian and Third World solidarities were emergent during and after the conference at Bandung. I argue that the Student Christian Movement in India played ambiguous role in this period: mobilizing youth in India within an emergent global imaginary of non-White Christian solidarity, while simultaneously expressing ambivalence for socialist and communist political projects. The paper thus contributes to complicating youth agency in this period, asking how religious and minority identity shaped an internationalist imaginary articulated primarily by young people.
  • Daniel Laqua
    Anti-Colonial Struggles in International Student Organizations, 1930–1965

    Anti-Colonial Struggles in International Student Organizations, 1930–1965

    The prominent role of university students in anti-colonial movements has often been noted. At the same time, the first organizations that organized students on an international scale were construed within existing imperial and civilizational hierarchies. My paper investigates this underlying tension and highlights a dynamic that created new openings for the inclusion voices from the global South within the associational structures of student internationalism. To address these issues, the paper draws attention to several cases where debates about empire arose within international student organization. It first highlights the case of the World’s Student Christian Federation (WSCF), whose origins dated back to 1895 and whose activities were global in scale, partly in connection with students’ missionary activity. It highlights how by the time of the WSCF’s Eastern Conference of 1933, held in Java, the organization had become a forum where wider debates about empire and global inequalities played out. In a second step, the paper shifts to the International Union of Students (IUS), which had been founded in 1946 and in which student representatives from the emerging communist bloc took a prominent role. It traces the extent to which the body embraced anti-imperialist rhetoric, offering a stage for anti-colonial student activists within a wider Cold War context. Thirdly, the paper considers the case of the International Student Conference (ISC), launched in 1951 as a Western rival to the IUS. The paper notes how the ISC’s work left room for active expressions of solidarity with particular independence struggles, as highlighted by its links with student representatives from Algeria during the 1950s. As a whole, the aim is to highlight the ambivalence of internationalism, covering both its patronizing implications and its emancipatory potentials.
  • Antonio Scalia
    Young Generations and Leftist Internationalism in Italy, 1962–1982

    Young Generations and Leftist Internationalism in Italy, 1962–1982

    This article investigates the role of young activists in Italian internationalist mobilizations between the 1960s and the 1980s. Specifically, it explores how these actors – belonging to organizations connected either with the communist parties, to the revolutionary left or the feminist movement – approached solidarity with national liberation struggles in Vietnam and Palestine, anti-dictatorial campaigns in Greece and Chile, and the question of ‘state repression’ in the Federal Republic of Germany. The first section (1962–1966) examines young activists’ role in the internationalist campaigns organized by the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and by the affiliated Italian Communist Youth Federation (FGCI). The second section (1967–1973) analyses youth involvement in revolutionary left-wing internationalism and in feminist groups refusing internationalist campaigns as based on the exaltation of male heroism. The final part (1974–1982) illustrates the zenith of violence in 1977, the rise of humanitarian solidarity and the reinvention of feminist internationalism. This study makes three claims. First, it argues that generational conflict was fundamental to the emergence of revolutionary left-wing internationalism, as activists sought to contrast radical repertoires of action with older generations’ moderation since the anti-Vietnam War campaign. Yet cross-generational solidarities persisted. For instance, both the revolutionary and reformist left chose 1940s antifascist veterans as mouthpieces for the pro-Chilean campaign. Secondly, the Greek solidarity campaign exemplifies the asymmetric effects engendered by internationalist mobilizations within young leftist militants of different nationalities: the Italians projected fears about their country on the Greek dictatorship whereas many Greek leftist students in Italy borrowed the PCI political culture. Thirdly, in the late 1970s, humanitarian internationalism promoted by the FGCI (i.e. medical aid to Palestinian refugees) supplanted violent practices (i.e. the 147 attacks against West German targets in 1977). This shift fitted with feminist reformulations of internationalism which framed the violence as “male” and enabled to support women in national liberation struggles while challenging the gender order.
  • Nikolaos Papadogiannis
    Youth Internationalism and Organized Travel between West Germany, Israel and Egypt during the Cold War

    Youth Internationalism and Organized Travel between West Germany, Israel and Egypt during the Cold War

    This paper explores organized youth mobility programmes from West Germany to Israel and Egypt throughout the Cold War. The programme with Israel was amongst the most generously funded by the West German state, especially after West Germany and Israel had established official diplomatic relations in 1965. The paper considers the extent to which these schemes helped young West Germans develop internationalist ties with people residing in Israel and Egypt. It is based on policy documents of the West German federal government and local governments, of diverse civil society groups that were involved in those programmes, brochures through which those programmes were publicized, reports on those trips, social surveys on the experience of their participants, oral testimonies and diaries. The paper argues that mobility programmes reflected a tidal internationalism: young West Germans vacillated between an attachment solely with Israeli Jews on the one side and, on the other side, engaging also with Arabs living in Israel and Egypt. This tidal condition was a joint venture between the young participants themselves and the West German civil society groups that designed and delivered such mobility programmes. Organisers and participants usually ranged from the moderate left to the moderate right and developed visions of internationalism that strayed from the Third-Worldism of the 1968ers and which, although they mobilized significant sections of West German youth, have hitherto been under-researched. The internationalist visions that the programmes in question amplified, however, were multifaceted, in which positive and darker aspects were mutually constitutive. The contact of the Germans with Israeli Jews and Arabs often rested upon negative stereotypes towards the latter, in order to approach the former.
  • Jodi Burkett
    “Unity in Struggle Is Our Strength”: Sheffield University’s Overseas Student Bureau and Student Activism between the Local and the International

    “Unity in Struggle Is Our Strength”: Sheffield University’s Overseas Student Bureau and Student Activism between the Local and the International

    The 1970s were a crucial decade for student activism in the UK, and overseas students were at its centre. The decade was punctuated by rising overseas student fees and activism to oppose these increases, the introduction of the “No Platform” policy against fascists and racists, growing racist street violence, rapidly growing student numbers, and numerous international solidarity campaigns. This paper explores the writing of overseas students themselves, a perspective that is far too often lost in scholarly work on international students. In doing so, the paper considers the perspectives of students, often from the global south, who articulated their own lives and political activism as helping to create a world of solidarity and brotherhood that transcended international boundaries. Throughout the 1970s, the Overseas Student Bureau (OSB), a society affiliated to the Sheffield University Students Union (SUSU), published an annual magazine, Target, which offered commentary and opinion on a wide range of local, national and international issues. Through the pages of this periodical, written and produced by overseas students with the financial support of the Students’ Union and the Overseas Students Trust, we can explore the attitudes and ideas of these young men and women who saw themselves as international actors promoting a view of the world, in their words, as a “Family of Men”. They advocated a position of solidarity with those struggling around the world for fair and just societies and saw this cultivation of “social awareness” as undermining the demands and desires of governments who simply wanted to produce good engineers or scientists. This paper will critically explore these views, paying particular attention to the ways in which they were classed, raced and gendered.
  • Heather Vrana
    Todo el Amor, Lisiados de Guerra en Cuba: Disability Internationalism in the FMLN

    Todo el Amor, Lisiados de Guerra en Cuba: Disability Internationalism in the FMLN

    It is widely known that medical diplomacy and ideological exchange in Central America and the Caribbean shaped the regions’ revolutions (and counterrevolutions). This paper draws attention to an underresearched aspect, namely the importance of disability to Cold War internationalisms. It does so by focusing on the film Todo el Amor, Lisiados de Guerra en Cuba (1987), which features young wounded combats of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and signals revolutionary solidarity for people with disabilities. Produced by Radio Venceremos, the FMLN’s underground broadcaster, it portrays youthful veterans as powerful symbols of sacrifice and promise for a revolutionary future in El Salvador. Smiling, they proclaim, “No importa morir” (roughly, “I do not mind if I die”) as they recount how they were injured. The film opens on a young woman in a colourful dress and a young man in a blue ringer t-shirt who smile for a photographer in front of El Capitolio in La Habana. The young woman uses a set of crutches as her right leg has been amputated; the young man’s right arm was amputated, too. The couple are comrades in love with each other, the people of El Salvador, the revolution, and the international struggle against US imperialism. They are among the hundreds of veterans who flew to Cuba to receive medical treatment and physical therapy during the war. This paper discusses Todo el Amor, field medical manuals, and diaries of two medics to emphasise how the FMLN used youth, disability, and internationalism together to envision a new society. It situates combat, injury and rehabilitation in terms of revolutionary sacrifice and as part of the creation of “el Hombre Nuevo” and, in turn, the foundation of a new revolutionary humanity. It concludes by discussing the impact of this ethos of disability on post-war disability cultures.

Abstract

Recent years have witnessed a growing scholarly interest in youth and internationalism. Publications in this field have addressed channels of youth mobility – including travel and study abroad programmes – that helped young people develop or express internationalist ideas. This body of research covers the entire twentieth century, but it particularly focuses on the internationalism of the radical left-wing youth that was active around 1968. Our double panel aims to enrich and help revise the existing scholarship on youth and internationalism in three ways. First, it approaches various forms of youth internationalism beyond that of the “1968ers”. It explores communist internationalism, as promoted in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia or by bodies such as the International Union of Students. Moreover, the contributors examine underexplored forms of internationalism that ranged beyond the political left, such as those developed by (non-left-wing) Christian organizations. Second, we will put the voices of youth from different world regions into dialogue with one another. In its critical reflection of Eurocentric categories, we take inspiration from “transregional” as well as transnational approaches. The concept of “transregional history” is constructively ambiguous, as it helps to capture the potential links between diverse units of analysis at local, national and transnational levels. Our double panel pursues such lines of enquiry by tracing hitherto unexplored forms of internationalism beyond Europe. We consider the internationalist connections among young people residing in the urban centres and provinces of European countries with those residing in North Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. We also analyse connections that did not involve young people from Europe at all, but, rather, the youth of Asia and Central America. Third, our contributors address both the benevolent and the darker elements of youth internationalism. Older work has tended to focus on internationalism as a synonym of initiatives in favour of peace, rapprochement and equality. By contrast, further attention needs to be paid to the extent to which internationalist contact among young people was also informed by nationalist agendas, imperialist visions and civilizational discourse. We will highlight a variety of tensions, for instance, the entanglement of Orientalism and internationalism in the case of youth mobility programmes between West Germany and Israel. In this, we build on important work by Madeleine Herren and Jessica Reinisch, who have argued that internationalism was never intrinsically “progressive” but could also be placed at the service of initiatives that reinforced power asymmetries and oppression. We consider this session a springboard for the formation of a network that explores youth internationalism as a multifarious phenomenon, comprising, as already mentioned, benevolent and darker aspects. At the same time, it resonates with the overarching ENIUGH congress theme, “Minorities, Cultures of Integration and Patterns of Exclusion”, as we trace both integrative potentials and exclusionary features within youth internationalism.