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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 14. September 26, 1957

N.Z. Delegates Report: Arab Delegates Least Peaceable [Report from Gwenda Martin]

Tom Garland, Pip Piper and I are here representing N.Z.S.L.F. (nearly defunct federation of student socialist clubs) at the W.F.D.Y. Congress.

Our general impressions are:—
(1)Too many people talk too long about too little.
(2)Opposition to H-bombs and colonialism, and to sectarianism in W.F.D.Y., and desire for more co-operation and exchange across the curtain, are agreed on by almost every speaker.
(3)Almost all delegates speak in a peaceable, conciliatory way; imperialism (specially U.S., British and French) much condemned, but it is the policies, not the nations, that are attacked.
(4)Least peaceable group are the Arabs, nearly all of whom speak against the Israeli nation as a whole, whereas both Israeli speakers were very conciliatory.
(5)Most speakers think their own areas deserve more attention from W.F.D.Y.

We are brassed off because, despite appeals for brevity, long speeches continued. A New Zealand contribution was booked for this morning, but the programme was ruined by some official.

This afternoon we started on the special Commissions, and Pip left for a Teachers Conference in Wat saw tonight. We are all washed out like discharge, but without the satisfaction of the cause ascribed in the song.

Among shorter and better speeches were these snippets:—
  • • An Indian: "More breadth wanted . . . W.F.D.Y leaders behaved as if they had a vested interest in the organisation. Let us work more positively for the principles of U.N."
  • • An Italian Socialist delegate: "Truth lies in all camps."
  • • A Dane: "The Hungarian affair has caused a revulsion of feeling against the Soviet Union . . . W.F.D.Y. is much discredited by its past. There must be more direct co-operation with Western youth organizations."
  • • A Russian: ". . . There have been shortcomings . . ."
  • • An Israeli Zionist-and-Arab Youth delegate: "National movements in the Middle East are being incited by sinister forces against one another. . . . we and the Arabs are natural allies. . . we object to all supplies of arms to our area from any source whatsoever, we object to W.F.D.Y.'s association of Israel with the Anglo-French assault on Egypt. The issues are separate."
  • • A Chinese delegate: "There must be unanimity here if possible. Majority views must not He railroaded over a minority."
  • • An Irish delegate: "Extreme nationalism cannot unite Ireland. . Anti-Catholic organizations in the North don't help . . ."
  • • Myself (at the Commision of Reciprocal Relations across the Iron Curtain): "New Zealanders are in the habit of regarding themselves as belonging to Europe. . . . we believe we should consider ourselves as belonging also to South-East Asia. We appeal to the Asians to include us in their regional plans. Australians and New Zealanders could probably be useful in the sports seminars advocated by our Indian friend yesterday."
  • • A Yugoslav: "The Yugoslav Youth Movement was wrongfully expelled from W.F.D.Y. in 1949. Youth cooperation should not be affected by relations between governments . . . Enmity towards western youth bodies (e.g.. Co-Sec.. World Assembly of Youth) are legacies of the cold war and must be overcome."

If only we had less conferring we would have been living a kingly life. Address: Hotel Ukraine, where I share a room with an Auckland girl, private bath, etc., telephone, radio (which I ruined by plugging into the bed-lamp plug-hole), and balcony over a street in the centre of the city.

We confer (and usually eat) in the half-built Agricultural Show Building, about a quarter of an hour's bus ride away. Tom and Pip's room is almost identical.

Sunday we picnicked on the Dnieper, and had a party in our room at night after dancing cabaret-style in the dining-room, with a rapidly-diminishing bottle of vodka on the table. But such idleness is now far away, with conference sessions ending at 11 p m.

The timetable allows for no shopping, so I skipped this afternoon. There is nothing to buy in the U.S.S.R. except L.P. records, standard price 7 roubles (6/8). Prices for food and clothes are fabulous, but it is hard to judge—exchange rate is unreal. Rents are very low—e.g.. our interpreter in Moscow, a teacher, paid an unusually high rent at 120 R. per week summer and 150 R. winter, and was paid 1200 R. a month last year, rising to 1500 R. this year: but his wife was also working. That seemed to be standard rent for 2-roomed flats—but still much less than we would pay for the same thing in Wellington.

All delegates agree that the standard of housing, and taste in clothing and architecture, are very low but improving. Nobody looks underfed, but I think many older people's faces are a study in tragedy.

—Gwenda Martin.