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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol 7, No. 4 June 7, 1944

Two Books Reviewed

page 3

Two Books Reviewed

Dawn In Siberia

A cycle of human social development is shown by C. D. R. Phillyss in "Dawn in Siberia," an account of the struggles of the little-known Buryatians against continual pressure from their enemies, the property owners within, and imperial administrators. The rise of individual wealth and feudalism, inevitable and sharply defined in such a fertile and isolated country as Buryatia, is traced up to its tyrannical climax. The cycle is completed by the advent of the Soviet Government, bringing back a communism on an infinitely higher plane than the early clan system.

Legends and a rich description of the country and customs of Buryatia reveal the nature of the people and their problems. Division of labour between rich horse-dealers and hunters comes when trade is introduced with furs as currency for foreign merchandise. This leads to slave-labour and feudalism.

History shows foreign exploitation interacting with the local magnates when Imperialist Russia conquers Buryatia in the seventeenth century. There are tales of unbridled greed and cruelty.

Such a history naturally brings out to its full extent the emancipating effect of the Soviet Colonial policy.

An interesting feature of the book is the parallels to be drawn to present-day situations. Puppet governments are made of self-seeking local powers; religion is used by conquerors as further impetus of persecution; the Imperialist colonial policy conforms fairly well to the treatment of backward nations in the British Empire. These are characteristics, then, of all totalitarian conquests.

We see also the history of this small country related to the history of the Soviet Union. The more closely the democratic system of the State approximates to complete freedom of secession, the rarer and weaker will the striving for secession be in practice.


Battle Hymn Of China

Agnes Smedley, journalist, after two years spent studying China's history, was unprepared for what she met when, impelled by what she calls her "historical curiosity," in 1928 she crossed the Soviet-Chinese border.

Her book is a living document to the incredible poverty and equally incredible heroism of the Chinese. For twelve years she travels over vast areas by train, motor-car, or, as is more usual, on horse or foot. Through the Japanese lines with guerilla units, through hundreds of Chinese hospitals jacking equipment, through the cordon sanitaire with which Chang Kai Shek encircled and fought the Chinese Soviet areas and armies, until the fight of the latter for national unity against the aggressive Japanese finally won the day. But even up to the time she left she spoke of the tragedy that allowed Chang Kai Shek to have among his assistants corrupt men who did infinite harm by maladministration, political discrimination and corrupt practices. Her main theme is the story of the endless devotion and sacrifice of millions of Chinese soldiers. "Victory will not be easy, but we will fight until victorious. We have our faith—tell your countrymen. ..." A procession of men throughout the years pass her on their way to the battlefields where capture means death, and a wounded man has little chance to live. The Japanese attacked Manchuria in 1931; since then China has not been at peace.

This book is dedicated "To the soldiers of China, poor, glorious pioneers in the world struggle against fascism."