Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 5. May 7, 1946
[Article on the World Federation of Democratic Youths USSR Delegation]
(Early this year the World Federation of Democratic Youth sent a delegation to the USSR. Among the British representatives was John Platts-Mills, formerly a VUC student, and now a member of the British House of Commons.)
I Saw the 17 members of the British Youth Delegation when they had just completed, their tour of the Soviet Union and arrived home. They answered a regular barrage of questions on many aspects of Soviet life that I put to them on your behalf.
Had Soviet Youth easy access to careers?
John Platts-Mills, Barrister and M.P., answered that one. "Nobody in this country knows the truth about Soviet Youth's access to careers. They have to pay for higher education, but every student while studying is paid a wage by the State. This varies from place to place, but on an average is between 200 and 400 roubles a month. This is twice the cost of the courses. Each year students receive increases, just as though they were working in a factory.
"Books and lodging are provided free and the only things which, a student has to pay for are food and haircuts. The result is an intelligentsia which is expanding at a terrific rate. At the moment one can't see any limit to this expansion."
Lt. James Callaghan, RNVB, MP for Cardiff South, with four and a half years' service in the Navy behind him, chipped in with his contribution on the subject.
"Every young man in the Soviet Union really feels that he has a Field-Marshal's baton in his haversack."
He told us, by way of illustration, the story of the director of one of Stalingrad's largest factories.
In 1928 this man was a young labourer digging up the ground and preparing the site of the factory. When the factory opened he obtained a job on one of the machines. He studied and worked his way up, charge-hand, foreman, section foreman. At the outbreak of war he was called up and became a Major in the Bed Army.
Then when Stalingrad was being rebuilt he was recalled to take up the post of director.
"Youth in the USSR," he concluded, "has opportunities of responsible and worth-while work in a way that 1 am sure no other youth in the world has at the present moment."
I explained our readers wanted to know about the spare-time activities of young people. Do they have a good time? The delegation agreed. They were "certain that young people in the USSR have a good time." "All very impressed at the high standard of recreation available for young people." "Amazing facilities for sport. Each town has stadiums; boxing gymnasiums, skating, football, etc." "The right to rest is an important part of their lives. I believe it is even written into the constitution."
Mary Robinson, leader of the YWGA Central Club, who was nominated by the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Organisations, said: "The spirit of the people is the first thing that hits you."
Twenty-five year old YWCA Edna Thomas told us that there was no demob problem, and nobody talked about such a problem as they do in this country. All the emphasis was on re-building the country and everyone who came out of the Army had a job waiting for him.
—Reprinted from "Challenge," English Youth Weekly, March, 1946.