Youth For Freedom

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

According to Thomas Frank Youth for Freedom was a South African government front operation:

And here we encounter one of the right’s great lost causes. You don’t have to dig very deep into the conservative literature of the Eighties before you hit apartheid South Africa. Today the issue makes conservatives uncomfortable, naturally, and few of them will own up to the passion with which they once worked to rationalize that government or to vilify its foes. But in those days, South Africa’s agonizing racial problems, its prosperous but beleaguered business community, and its stout defiance of all things communist made it a potent symbol for American conservatives: South Africa was essentially like us, and yet the liberals, with their sanctions and divestment strategies, with their airy do-gooder moralism, were prepared to sell out this loyal friend, just as they had sold out so many others.
As it happened, Jack Abramoff had visited South Africa in 1983 to meet with student leaders, presumably including Russel Crystal, who headed an energetic right-wing outfit on that nation’s campuses. Crystal was a sort of South African doppelgänger to Abramoff, echoing not only the American’s tactical thinking but his combative style as well. In the early Eighties, Crystal’s group declared “all-out war” on its campus adversaries, who, he said, were “undermining the will of the Western world”; on one occasion his followers reportedly threatened a peaceful left-wing demonstration with baseball bats. Just like the College Republicans, Crystal’s student organization spent heavily, and Crystal boasted about its financial “support from the business community.”
One month after Jamba, Crystal’s student group hosted a second right-wing Woodstock, bringing together conservative college students from around the world. The event was called “Youth for Freedom,” and a “Dear Delegate” letter given to each participant explained its purpose: It was 1985, the U.N.’s “International Youth Year,” and high-minded youth congresses were happening all over the world—most of them “under the leadership of . . . communist front organisations . . . to propagate their own marxist/leninist agenda.” The duty of the righteous was obvious: “to gather the true defenders of liberty and freedom”; to ponder “the security and prosperity of the free world”; and to draft a statement to which “conservative students worldwide” might rally. Although Abramoff is listed as the very last speaker on the official “Youth for Freedom” program, none of the attendees I talked to remember seeing him there. and a gaggle of College Republicans made up the American contingent. Color was added by a representative of the German extreme right. (Bonus points: he had been a U-boat captain during World War II.) The delegates listened to a denunciation of divestment. They received an expensively printed booklet about the martial and philosophical achievements of Jonas Savimbi. After the conference, the kids were given a treat: some of the “youth for freedom” got to go to a military base to see a riot-control demonstration.
Coverage of the conclave in the South African press focused on the lavishness of the proceedings and the great expense involved in flying everyone to Johannesburg. The participants stayed in the finest hotel in the city, and the conference provided a squad of interpreters and a video crew to document it all. Obviously, Russel Crystal’s tiny student group couldn’t have paid for all of this by itself, and Crystal himself kept mum about the financing. But other freedom-youths confirmed that the gathering had been at least partly funded by South African corporate concerns, in the now-familiar political-entrepreneur pattern: “The business community in South Africa is very enthused about any face-lift possibility that they can gain,” one of the organizers told Allan Nairn. .”[1]



  1. Thomas Frank ‘The wrecking crew: How a gang of right-wing con men destroyed Washington and made a killing’, Harpers Magazine, August 2008