|Tri-Partite Newsletter||of the 1963 |
vol. 1, no. 1
This issue contains one contribution from one of the participants of each country at the 1963 Tri-Partite Project. (Thank you!) Responses to these articles or any thoughts you would like to share no matter how brief, are urgently solicited by the impoverished editor.
Soviet youth swarming over the Virgin Lands like busy altruistic ants cynical Western parasites, self-centered bourgeois butterflies, antisocial juvenile hornets. Is this the contrast we all took away from Nalchik? I believe it is, in an exaggerated form. If this is so I want to suggest how we came to convey such a misleading view of British youth and to attempt to produce a more accurate account.
Why were we misleading? A simple question of vocabulary. The phrase used used "aims and ideals" and that is just not the vocabulary we use any longer for socially-oriented action. It seems to me that there are, broadly, two ways of measuring the idealism of youth, the one by analysing their attitude to the word, the other by evaluating the altruistic content of their lives. It is when we choose the first method that a great distinction appears between a socially oriented socialist society and a "selfish" capitalistic society. For in the former, it is natural to think of oneself as idealistic, however much one is so or not. In the latter, however, idealism is almost synonymous with naivete; it is difficult to feel oneself as idealistic, whether one is or not.
Is easiest if I illustrate this theory with my own example. Briefly, I've worked in various peace organisations, especially the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, where I was chairman for a year of the Universities' section. At present, I'm a member of the Peace Committee of the Society of Friends and here, in Blackburn, I do -some work for the town committee of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign (a world-wide campaign which is raising funds for long-term aid projects in under-developed countries) -- apart from sitting on its two principal and three of its sub-committees. Surely such an orientation is comparable to Soviet social idealism? Am I not a wooly-headed and fanatical Quaker idealist? Nothing of the sort (I hope) despite my actions, I do not think of myself as an idealist. I wonder if this experience is common to anyone in the British or American groups?
Why do I refuse the tag of idealist? Very briefly, it is because of a cautious sincerity which has become one of the cultural dominants of our time. Nothing is more outmoded than rhetorical inflation and nothing is more in tune with our age than an understatement which may, at times, border on the cynical. Hence the 'do-gooders' of our society attempt neither to be heros nor saints; like Dr. Rieux in Camus' La Peste they carry on quietly with whatever's on hand until something else needing more urgent attention turns up; there is no fuss; 'action' has become 'matter if course.'
This is the real cause for the negative impression I feel we left behind, concerning the idealism of our society. But how could we so neglect the myriad voluntary organizations which exist in a country such as Britain? Ranging from the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals to the Defence and Aid Fund which raises money for South Africans on trial for political 'offenses', from The Divorce Reform Society to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, they include thousands of organizations of pretty well every conceivable nature (and some that are not), and literally millions of supporters, contributors and active workers.
Too abstract? I shall return to Blackburn and to the girls' school my wife teaches in, by no means an exceptional school. Last year they raised £ 350 for the town's Freedom from Hunger Campaign Project, a veterinary centre in Northern Rhodesia, and another £ 350 for local charities. If you believe this is merely extorted from unwilling parents by unwilling children (which is largely untrue) then I must mention the work they do personally, making toys for a children's orphanage at Christmas and at the same time of year, collecting food parcels which they take to the poorer old people of the town for whom they also run errands.
I shall not continue the enumeration: the essential is the general principle which enables us properly to evaluate the 'idealism' which exists in this country. All I wish to repeat is that these girls are typical; that these girls who do this voluntary work are the same 'decadent' (:) girls who rave over film stars and, the latest pop craze, the Beatles; and that we are responsible for perpetuating a myth of the cynical, selfish West: a myth which draws its strength from words rather than deeds.
Snow-covered trees, frost-bitten faces and New Year's shopping may testify that winter has come and nothing much is left from 1963.
Just four months ago "vsegda bulo solntze", there were mountains and shashliks, discussions and excursions, and almost daily we had "more concrete," "more stones," "more bricks." It was a month when Andrew defended the case for the UN to the last ditch, when the air of peaceful Kabardino-Balkaria was filled with heated arguments over Kafka, when Harold relished in lamb's ears, Luda set swimming records, Russell penetrated deep into the mountains with the sole aim of stealing a metal fork, and, of course, it was the month when John M. made his heroic effort to keep all the participants of the camp forever in Moscow.
And while we did our modest job in the Caucasus, diplomatic representatives of our nations conceived a bigger project in Moscow, laying a foundation for a building of peaceful coexistence. And while the Nalchik project caused few criticism(s) (if any, apart from possible criticism of brick-layers), it was not the case with the Moscow treaty.
The Dallas tragedy deprived us of a man who contributed greatly to this joint project of our three nations, and I think that the best tribute to John F. Kennedy's memory will be the completion of this project.
New Year's eve is a time of good hopes for the future. I want to take all the best from 1963 into 1964, and to leave the troubles and tragedies of 1963 behind the December 31 mark. I want to see the understanding between our nations growing; I want to meet and to keep in touch with Nalchik camp friends (with a bow to Peggy, the editor).
I send my best New Year's Wishes for all my friends: for Jonathan - to write the lengthiest study on Camus, for Harold - to learn playing the balalaika, for Ann - to wipe out juvenile delinquency, for Andrew - to replace U Thant as UN Secretary General, for Stanley - to drink a big, big bottle of whiskey, for Russell - to become director of the biggest British hospital etc., etc., etc.
I wish our Nalchik building stood under roof and there were no cracks on its walls, because its foundation consists of stones, concrete and friendship.
The AFSC, the FSC and the CYO in the USSR have jointly designed the Tripartite Work and Study Project. This is a unique experiment among Anglo-Soviet and Soviet American cultural programs. Representatives from only three nations attended the camp in contrast to the usual multi-nation Soviet cultural projects. The discussion sessions are not open to the public media; instead they are conducted privately among 30 participants. Also, the project has a different site each year... The design of the program emphasizes the importance of environment in which study and discussion take place. The work project provides a shared, non-intellectual experience, and privacy insures an atmosphere favorable to uninhibited expression of ideas.
The site of the 1963 Tripartite Project in the USSR was a large Pioneer Camp about ten miles from Nalchik, capital of the Autonomous Republic. We seldom had access to the town but lived day to day in the country setting of the camp grounds. Five minutes in one direction from the camp was a Pioneer Camp in session (with which we had minimal contact). In the other direction, 20 minutes away on foot, was a small Kabardinian village. Soviet Participants in the camp, representing Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian and Kabardinian nationalities were chosen by the CYO. Of the participants, five spoke English very well, two fairly well and three not at all. Two knew Bengali, one Thai, another Chinese and still others French and German.
With a few exceptions, they represented a core of the bright intellectual minds of the generation coming of age in the USSR. They were all convinced Marxist-Leninists but varied in sophistication when discussing its principles and programs. At least five of them had critically juxtaposed what they had been taught with their own thoughts, the realities of their society and prospects for the future. These particular Soviet students and research workers contributed greatly to the originality and depth of our discussions. The other members of the Soviet delegation were less imaginative in their Marxist-Leninism but held or aspired to significant positions in their society.
It appears that the CYO sends very capable representatives not only to impress, as we frequently conclude, but also because they consider it important that some of their would-be leaders experience western behavior and modes of thought. Perhaps it is significant that the Soviet participants were students of politics, languages, education, economics and youth work -- all occupations in which knowledge of different kinds of people is very important
American and British representatives were chosen by the AFSC and FSC, respectively. We averaged younger in age than the Soviets and were less advanced in our studies. This was not disadvantageous, but a few more participants in graduate study or experienced in public life might have been a valuable addition.
The broadcast theme of the scheduled discussions, arranged in advance by representatives of the three organizations, was Youth. This emphasis was meant to encourage one to speak his own mind and not to feel bound by an inherited position (if this inheritance caused one to feel bound). Many questions came up during the discussions. Following are some concerning the cultural values of youth: Does an artist produce spontaneously or according to a plan, a preconceived idea? Can art also be propaganda? What is the difference between propaganda and art? Can one defend so- called "great art" that is anti-social? that is anti-semitic or segregationist? that is anti-Marxist? Does an artist have a responsibility to society? Does Socialist Realism limit an artist? If so, how?
Many people have asked if the Russians ever disagreed with one another in the presence of the entire group. They disagreed without contradicting one another. (A parallel might be found in Sino-Soviet relations: a difference in emphasis causes disagreement, but so far they are not contradicting one another). It was clear from our discussions that different emphases within the same ideology can result in extensive variety of opinion. Thinking for oneself has been encouraged within the last two years by Khrushchev's rejection of Stalin or "The Cult of Personality." One hears the opinion that individuals under Stalin were responsible for their own actions and together with Stalin bear the blame for the abuses of that period.
There are Soviet young people aware that not everything official is right and that they must take responsibility to change what is wrong ("What is not right" would be what inhibits attainment of a Communist Society). During work, and at other times outside discussion sessions, the group directed endless questions to Russians, but seldom did they reciprocate with questions about the West. They answered our questions fully and even originally, but they more often than not told us rather than asked us about our own country.
I do not attribute the lack of questions to fear. It is rather that they do not consider western societies worthy of emulation, except of course, statistically and materially. Why look backwards to Western values and institutions when history is cranking the world forward toward communism? This seems to be an assumption at the root of their thinking and perhaps keeps other-than-factual-questions from germinating in their minds.
Please send material to: Margaret Rose 630 Berkeley Ave. Menlo Park, California U.S.A. Thank you and very best wishes to everyone for the New Year.