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Youth learn about Soviet peace work

Cathy Laurier and Paul Ogresco — July 1984

ZAPOROZHYE – A conference of Soviet and Canadian youth was held in the Soviet Union from May 17 to 31. It was organized by the Committee of Youth Organizations of the Soviet Union and the CanadaUSSR Association to bring youth of both countries together to acquire a better understanding of each other’s cultures, traditions and perspectives.

In open discussions, involving people from a broad spectrum of Soviet society, participants in the conference expressed a wide range of views on issues such as the economic, social and moral consequences of the arms race, detente and cooperation between Canada and the USSR, and the role of youth in securing peace.

The Canadian representatives came from a wide variety of backgrounds. Delegates included peace and student activists, leaders in the Inuit and Indian communities, and representatives from the Junior Farmers of Ontario, the Doukhobors, the Young Communist League, and the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians.

Despite variances of opinion, all the delegates felt that the most urgent task confronting young people today is the prevention of nuclear annihilation.

All stressed the need for putting a halt to the arms race and channelling resources toward meeting human needs. It was also concluded that international relations should be based on peaceful co-existence and detente. The renunciation of aggression and of interference in the internal affairs of other nations was seen as one of the principal means of achieving these aims.

The trip offered Canadian delegates the unique opportunity to learn first-hand about the many organizations and committees actively working for peace in the Soviet Union. Much of the work is carried out at the grassroots level, through committees organized in the workplaces, schools, youth groups and professional associations. Organizing mass rallies is seen as one of the key ways of consolidating the movement, Iand expressing solidarity with peace activists throughout the world. Last year eleven million Soviets took part in peace marches.

Although peace groups have the support of the government, they receive no funding from either the state or the Communist Party. Rather, fundraising depends entirely on voluntary contributions.

People can contribute to the S0viet Peace Fund, which was set up to handle the finances of peace groups, in a number of ways. For example, a workplace collective might vote to donate the proceeds from the day’s work, an author might donate the proceeds from publishing one of her works, or a youth group might organize a concert for peace or a walkathon.

Youth play a very prominent role in the Soviet peace movement, comprising about two-thirds of its activists. Besides mobilizing people for demonstrations, youth organizations also sponsor such activities as concerts, athletic events, and competitions for artwork, poems, songs and so on, around the theme of peace. The Committee of Youth Organizations, together with the Soviet peace Committee was instrumental in having the first day of school at all levels devoted to peace education. It is also quite common for students and youth working, for example, on summer construction brigades, to vote to donate some of the earnings to the Peace Fund.

In summary, the conference was a very worthwhile and everyone learned a tremendous amount from each other. The willingness to engage in constructive dialogue and our mutual desire for peace and understanding certainly made this conference a success, and paved the way for future cooperation through the Third Annual Conference of Canadian and S0viet Youth to be held next year , as well as through the World Festival of Youth and Students which will be held in Moscow next summer.

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