Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 14. 1970
World Youth assembly
World Youth assembly
"Lies and misrepresentation' by the American press are one of the strongest impressions brought home by Ross MacRae, a New Zealand delegate to the recent world youth assembly in New York. The assembly, part of the twenty-fifth anniversary observances of the United Nations, received highly critical attention from news media throughout the western world. But, says Ross, although the assembly had a distinctly anti-western and particularly anti-american bias, it was not so one—sided or so subject to eastern-bloc manipulation as American newsmen tried to make out. For example, it called upon the Soviet Union to withdraw its forces of occupation from Czechoslovakia and to restore democracy there.
Ross MacRae, one of New Zealand's five delegates to the assembly, is a second—year psychology student at Vic. He became a delegate after responding to an item in a newspaper calling for applications. The selection process took place over a weekend in June when a large number of candidates from all over the country were reduced to five after interviews by two selection committees comprising representatives of various youth groups. The committees seemed to be seeking the political orientation and "thinking style" of candidates, and, says Ross, he tried to present himself as a reasonable radical and to steer clear of a "rock—throwing image.' Unfortunately, despite the aim of having a cross-section of New Zealand youth represented at the assembly, all five selected were students.
All member countries of the UN had been invited to send up to five delegates and in addition several international youth organisations were represented but from the first there was argument as to whether many of those present were eligible and just who or what they represented. For example many delegates were accused of being too old: as reported in the press one eastern—bloc "youth" was reputed to be 47 years old. The assembly quickly resolved itself into four commissions dealing separately with the topics of world peace, development, education, and man and the environment. Ross was in the world peace commission, the most boisterous and the most publicised of the four. Political manoeuveing was rife; but whereas the press blamed the Russians and eastern Europeans for this, in fact everyone was guilty. He had indulged in it as much as anyone, said Ross, explaining that all the delegates had sought advantages from the absence of established procedures at the assembly.
The world youth assembly had been probably the first time on a universal scale that young people and representatives of revolutionary movements had got together and spoken out on their opposition to imperialism, particularly American imperialism. It could possibly have been the makings of solidarity between revolutionary movements and liberation fronts all over the world. The fact was that the Soviet Union in its foreign policy did support revolutionary movements. This was interpreted in the west and in the western press as a strategy to oppose the western powers. That might or might not be; but it could equally be said that the revolutionaries at the assembly had used the Russians. Certainly, no one had been out to destroy the assembly as the press had said several times.
The press had also been prozionist; they had represented Israeli delegates as open-minded young "victims" trying to communicate and get through to some negotiation but foiled by the rigidity of others. While there had been some truth in this view, the reporters gave no weight at all to the very strong arguments which were made against the Israeli case. In Ross' view the Israeli arguments had been 'thoroughly put down and rubbished".
Many of the delegates were deeply involved in revolutionary movements in their own countries and had not been willing to sit down and exchange the sort of platitudes heard at the United Nations. Incidents of bad temper had been blown up into world headlines but to criticise the assembly on the ground that a lot of steam was let off was to "miss the point by a long way". Ideas for world peace were already in existence; the need was to fight for them. This had been done by the assembly but was ignored by the press.
One big regret was that with ten days of dawn- to -dusk talking delegates had had no opportunity to get together in a relaxed situation until the end of the assembly. Most of the contact between them prior to that had been merely political, trading support for resolutions and so on.
If there was little time for socialising among the delegates there was even less for activities apart from the assembly. The extent of Ross' sightseeing in New York had been a walk through Greenwich village at night. But although the other New Zealanders returned almost immediately to this country, Ross was able to stay another five weeks in the United States during which he "tried to cram in as much experience as possible". He visited a number of hippie communes, both urban and rural, and made contact with many politically—involved university students.
He says he came away with a strong feeling that "things would be very hot on campus" when the universities, presently in the middle of a vacation, started up again in the (northern) fall.
You may have noticed a very-facetious article in the last 'Salient', entitled !Saga in Three Parts' We hope no-one took the aspersions cast and snide remarks made as gospel. Special apologies to Graeme Nesbitt and John Tucker.