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"Create two, three, many Vietnams!" - The First Tricontinental Conference of 1966

The first solidarity conference of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the Tricontinental Conference, was held from January 3 to 15, 1966 in the city of Havana, Cuba. This massive gathering brought together over 500 representatives from eighty-two countries across the global South, representing political parties, social movements, and anti-imperial organizations, as well as trade unions, and student and women's groups.

The Conference was attended by revolutionary cadres, speaking for the peoples of the three exploited continents, all united in their fight for liberation. Never before had such a gathering of representation from Africa, Asia, and Latin America been convened in one place. Despite the different realities, cultures, beliefs, construction methods, and philosophies of each society, a common denominator was identified: the struggle against colonialism, and specifically American imperialism, which was deemed the most dangerous threat to all revolutionary processes at that time. 

Solidarity and internationalism took on a new face, as driven from the global South.

At that historical juncture, the world was caught in the midst of the Cold War, a scenario that saw the globe polarized between the communist and capitalist blocs, with the Soviet Union and the United States leading each respectively. Meanwhile, in Africa, fervent uprisings of the people, embodied in movements for national liberation against colonialism and Western imperialism, were shaking apart the old systems.

This situation meant that important delegations from the Congo, the Zimbabwean people of Southern Rhodesia, and the Liberation Movements of Angola and Mozambique attended the Conference with special urgency. Also noteworthy was the presence of the legendary Amilcar Cabral, representing the Guinean people fighting against Portuguese colonialism. Just one year after the Conference, Cabral was assassinated. The Soviet Union delegation was invited as an observer to the meeting of the peoples of the global South.

The Tricontinental Conference also saw the attendance of prominent leaders from the Latin American revolutionary movement, including Chilean Salvador Allende, Guatemalan Luis Augusto Turcios Lima, Guyanese Cheddy Jagan, Venezuelan Pedro Medina Silva, and Uruguayan Rodney Arismendi. Additionally, representatives from different factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization participated in the event. Various heads of state who couldn't attend in person sent messages, such as Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung, Egyptian Gamal Abdel Nasser, Algerian Houari Boumedienne, and Tanzanian Julius Nyerere.

During this Conference, multiple economic, political, and cultural topics were debated, whose impact resonated beyond the event. In the book "Three Continents, Asia, Africa, Latin America," edited in May 1966 by Prensa Latina, one can find the topics discussed and analyzed by the delegations during the event, culminating in the analysis of the political situation of all participating countries.

This conference arose from two fundamental preceding dynamics. One was the organization of states of the anti-colonial movement, which had founded the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961, which included not only radical regimes, but also those with a more conciliatory attitude towards imperialism. Similarly, there were movements with unconcluded national liberation wars, which had a more radical character, and these had gathered in the 1957 Organization of Afro-Asian Solidarity (OSPAA).

The remarkable soul, and driving force behind the Tricontinental Conference, was Moroccan Mehdi Ben Barka, who unfortunately did not live to see his efforts.

 Two months prior, on 29 October 1965, he was kidnapped in Paris, tortured, and brutally murdered. His assassination is believed to have been orchestrated by American, Moroccan and Israeli military intelligence, although three individuals were convicted by French courts as perpetrators. Despite this, the case remains unsolved, and the masterminds of this political crime were never brought to justice.

The Tricontinental Conference demonstrated the diversity of the global revolutionary movement, and their common interest. It saw profound debate within the revolutionary movement, including echoes of the dispute between the Soviet and Chinese communist visions. Debates also arose regarding the paths to socialism, particularly regarding armed struggle versus other, peaceful transitional methods; as well as the necessary alliances and solidarities to be forged internationally. In these discussions, Cuban positions and those of Allende of Chile were heard. Fidel Castro emphasized that, "the duty of every revolutionary to make the revolution" and criticized the lack of effective and consistent support from the socialist bloc to Vietnam, which had been under attack by the U.S. since 1955. He attributed this weakness to intra-communist disagreement, which he characterized as "byzantine discord." 

The slogan of Che Guevara, "create two, three... many Vietnams," also emerged as a direction to secure the freedom and independence of peoples.

Without going against the Cuban way, Allende expressed the following: "It will be the people of Chile themselves, and the conditions of our country, that will determine whether we use this or that method to defeat the imperialist enemy and its allies". 

Later, Allende pointed out: "We stand with the peoples of Asia and Africa and the Arab world, who fight with arms in the Congo, in the Portuguese colonies, in Yemen, in Laos, especially in Vietnam, against the common enemy. We believe that their struggles are valuable aids for the Latin American peoples who, in their own way and on each front, oppose imperialism. We stand with the fighters of Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and especially with the brave Dominican people, whose heroic battle we stand in solidarity with to conquer their freedom and expel the Yankee invaders. We also stand with those who struggle to defeat imperialism."

It is true that the participation of youth and women was fundamental in this political event. 

Most of the revolutionaries who attended were young militants and cadre, and audiovisual records show the significant presence of women. However, finding documentation that specifically details those activities of the women and youth in attendance, in a deep and exhaustive manner, is challenging.

From this Conference emerged the Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America (OSPAAAL), whose Executive Secretariat, with representatives from the three continents, is based in Havana, Cuba to this day. From OSPAAAL came the "Tricontinental Magazine," a space for information, denunciation, and militant solidarity. In its issues, in addition to written articles, a variety of posters were published that significantly contributed to strengthening the struggle, raising awareness worldwide, and denouncing what was happening against the people's struggles.

Cuba's internationalist position was clear and powerful. Fidel Castro said: "Without boasting, without any kind of modesty, this is how Cuban revolutionaries understand our internationalist duty, and this is how our people understand their duties, because they understand that the enemy is one and the same, the one who attacks us on our coasts and in our lands is the same one who attacks others. And that is why we say and proclaim that the revolutionary movement can count on Cuban fighters in any corner of the Earth. Our people have felt as their own, each and every one of the problems of other peoples. Our people welcomed them with open arms, and bid them farewell with closed arms, as a symbol of a bond that will never be broken, and as a symbol of their fraternal solidarity towards other peoples who fight, for whom they are also willing to shed their blood. Homeland or death! We will overcome!"

Undoubtedly, this event serves as an important reference point in the history of revolutionary movements. However, as internationalists of the Apoist movement, we must adopt a critical perspective to construct and strengthen revolutionary movements everywhere.  We should ask ourselves: Why did this internationalist proposal not progress and strengthen significantly? Is it perhaps because it was created within the dynamics and logic of nation-states, without questioning capitalist civilization? How can we open debates on the nuances, and the new faces, of imperialism and anti-imperialist struggle in our time? How can we foster more discussions within the international left to question the reality of nation-states and the forces that compose this capitalist modernity? How can we propose and build an internationalist proposal for our present time, while learning from these precedents?

Tricontinental Anthem

America, Africa, and Asia,

three continents united by an ideal.

Peoples never defeated,

united in their weapons of liberty.

America, your struggle grows stronger

every day, more valuable alongside Cuba and Fidel!

Marching forward ceaselessly,

long live the Tricontinental!

Long live in Africa, long live Lumumba!

Long live the beacon of revolution!

Long live in all who rise for it!

Long live the Tricontinental!

America, Africa, and Asia,

three continents united by an ideal.

Up with the invincible alliance,

the strength, the hope of revolution.

Down with imperialism!

With weapons raised, fight until victory!

Down with the oppressor and their chains!

Long live the Tricontinental!

Live in Asia and the Pacific in the peoples

growing in war for their liberation.

For Vietnam, for victory and socialism,

long live the Tricontinental!



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