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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 13. October 4, 1951


John platts-mills attended Balliol College, Oxford, as a law student from VUC, received a law degree, established a successful law practice in London, and was a British Labour M.P. from 1945 to 1950. The following notes very briefly deal with a few of the topics discussed at his meetings held recently in Wellington. It is difficult, in print, to give a satisfactory idea of his personality, suffice it to say that most of those who heard him, including those who disagreed with his views, were emphatic that he was a very fine speaker and an extremely interesting man.

In 1945 he was sent to Russia by Sir Stafford Cripps with a party of young people representing various organisations to help build up war morale in that country. In 1950 he again visited the USSR in connection with the Peace Council. Mr. Platts- Mills is obviously impressed by the Soviet Unions recovery from the war, and has never hesitated to state his opinions, regardless of displeasure from "High Places." No editor allowed him to be reported at any length, though less distinguished citizens with an anti-Russian bias are recorded in detail almost daily by the New Zealand Press. In the introduction to one of his talks Platts- Mills stated, "My impression of New Zealanders is that they have a marked independence of mind, a quality which has got me into trouble in the past. This characteristic independence of thought and mind is slipping away in country after country, and even here I suspect it has left your newspaper editors, who tell me 'We have marked independence of mind, we will block you out."

Platts-Mills said that after his visit to the USSR in 1950 he was amazed at the gigantic improvement of their living standards. "The Canadian Embassy told me that in two years the standard of living had been doubled." What interested him most was "the terrific interest that people everywhere in Russia were taking in education and culture. The theatres, ballet, opera, music were packed night after night. The thing I noticed was that at the same time the circus and other lower forms of entertainment were quite neglected. I asked Ehrenburg, the writer, about this and he said that the same sort of thing was going on in the libraries. The classics, books on art, philosophy, science and a surprising amount of Shakespeare in English as well as Russian were thumbed to death but pulp literature was not used very much. They say that criticism is not possible and not allowed in the Soviet Union but if an up and coming young writer or composer produces a new book or symphony, invitations to go and discuss their work pour on them from workers' organisations all over the country. Can we imagine that happening in our society?"