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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion At Victoria University College, Wellington, N. Z. Vol. 24, No. 4. 1961

Forums, Friendship & Fantasy

Forums, Friendship & Fantasy

An article in the last issue of Salient informs us that a World Youth Forum, "organised along the lines of the highly propagandistic world youth festivals," is being boycotted by all respectable anti-Communists. Cheers.

The World Youth Forum, to be held in Moscow, in July of this year, is, as Salient's earlier article makes clear, an offshoot of the various World Youth Festivals that have been held in Europe in the post-war period. All these festivals have stressed the nobility of their intentions: to promote peace, to encourage friendship between young people of different nations. All these festivals, too, have duly been exercised by Western groups such as the International Student Conference and the World Assembly of Youth. These festivals, it has been said, are Communist-dominated; they have Communist majorities on their organising committees, and few Western groups support them anyway. This argument does not seem to realise that if more Western countries co-sponsored such festivals, there might be fewer Communists on their organising committees.

But this is not the main issue. The main issue is simply, that these festivals, and this 1961 Forum do constitute one of the few remaining chinks in the Iron Curtain. They do provide opportunities for Communist and non-Communist students to meet; and, where there is a meeting between East and West, why should it be assumed that the West will come off worst? If the wicked Chinese delegate wants, as Salient suggested, to attack American imperialism at the Forum, then it should be easy enough for Western students to attend the festival and show up his stupidity. If the West cannot come out best in any real conflict and interchange of ideas, it had best abandon any attempt to oppose Communism in any shape or form. To boycott the festival is at once a confession of defeat and an imposition of ignorance; a confession of fear of left-wing ideas, and a desperate attempt to prevent those who remain unafraid from enquiring into and discussing them.

The Forum is, of course, being held in Moscow, and some may say this means the cards are stacked in the Communists' favour. Maybe, but the last youth festival was held in a Western country, and this was denounced as a treacherous Communist manoeuvre by the West. Moscow cannot do right: heads we win, tails they lose.

Festivals, of course, are not God's gift to the human race. Nor, probably, is the 1961 World Youth Forum. Just because people meet together they do not love each other like brothers for ever after.

Meeting at the United Nations has not noticeably increased the fraternal amity of the United States and the Soviet Union. But if we cannot feel that those who disagree with us are angels Persil white from the Pearly Gates, we can at least lay ourselves open to conversion if our opponents arguments should, heaven forbid, be superior. There are not so many opportunities for reasoned argument about the state of the world between young people fundamentally opposed that we can afford to neglect such lucky chances. If we can hitch our wagon to an appropriate youth organisation, we should try to get to Moscow in July.

O. Gager.