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Leap, But Look


Youth groups and their conferences, run by professional "young people," and often taken over by extremist groups, are constant thorns in the side of any school or college administration. To those who have watched organization after organization mushroom suddenly in the fertile soil of good intentions and able publicity, only to die or become discredited almost immediately, the proposal of an International Student Conference in Prague this summer can bring no starry-eyed enthusiasm. Clearly it will be impossible to divorce political differences from any phase of the convention; for example, the establishment of a permanent world youth organization, complete with written constitution, should provide some fiery debates between the Russians and the British. The conflicts which must surely break out among these young people can be but a reflection of similar basic differences between their elders, though there may indeed be more areas in which they can reach agreement. The government-sponsored delegations that will represent such states as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, the hold of the Communist ideology on many young European minds today, and the active participation of groups like the AYD, create a very real danger that a well organized minority can seize control of the ISC. If this should be the outcome of the sincere and honest preliminary work and planning by a broadly representative group of organizations that is presently laying the foundations for the meeting, it should be regretted but not unexpected.

Nevertheless, Harvard undergraduates must send a representative to the meeting. If it should prove to be a failure, the College and the other New England institutions which it is to represent ought to have an observer on the spot who will be able to report back to them the fact of and reasons for its collapse or domination by one element. If, on the other hand, it is a success, and a working international association is set up, Harvard should have a part in the discussion and actual labor involved in the formation of a constitution; ideas representative of those predominant here should be presented. If, and this seems most likely, the Conference starts off on the fence, teetering first one way and then another, the weight of Harvard students should be utilized to urge the deliberation and actions into channels which lead ultimately to a useful and permanent group.

The delegate who will be sent from this institution must be one who can see the inherent possibilities in such an undertaking, but is still wise enough to retain the somewhat dispassionate view of an observer. He must realize that, in spite of the unusually wide variety of groups backing this particular convention, and the specific nature of the topics under investigation, clever management and adroit manipulation can all too easily capture the affair for one faction or another. It is in a hopeful if not glowing attitude that the College must accept the Conference. But caution, which is vital, need not develop into a spirit of cynicism and fear that would prevent acceptance of the proposal, for whatever the result, it is incumbent on Harvard students to be represented in the discussions.

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