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Background: Building on a socialist tradition, the GDR worked hard to establish the Jugendweihe, something of a rite of passage for 14-year-olds. It was intended, among other things, to replace the Christian ceremony of Confirmation, and inspire the youth with a love of socialism and the German Democratic Republic. By 1989, over 5,000 committees involving 150,000 volunteers organized the ceremonies. Leading up to the ceremony itself was a series of meetings to prepare participants for the event, and remind them of the glories of socialism. This is material for leaders of one such session in 1960. It is interesting that Stalin’s works are still recommended reading.

The source: “Einen zuverlässigen Wegweiser braucht jeder Mensch — brauchst auch du. Inhalt und Methode der Jugendstunde zum Thema IV des Jugendstundenprogramms” (Berlin: Zentral Auschuß für Jugendweihe in der DDR, 1960).


Every Person Needs a Reliable Compass — You Do Too

Content and Methods for a Youth Meeting on Theme IV of the Youth Meeting Series


 

A. Which goal do we want to achieve in this youth meeting?

The youth should recognize:

  1. We need the scientific worldview of the working class if we are to really understand the social transformations and the great events of our day and are to contribute consciously to building socialism, the future of humanity.
  2. The worldview of the working class is not just any “faith” in the progress of humanity, but rather a scientifically-based understanding of the world and its laws, whose truth and correctness are constantly proven by new scientific-technical achievements.
  3. With the help of a scientific worldview we can not only explain everything in nature and society, but also become capable of changing the world in ways that put it in the service of human progress. It is therefore a weapon of the working class.
  4. The socialist worldview gives people the strength to fight bravely for the best ideals of humanity.

B. Preparing the youth meeting

Since the danger of abstract theorizing is particularly great with this theme, we must lay the groundwork for a lively discussion. We should therefore secure a good film with an inspiring positive hero whose example makes particularly clear the strength of the socialist worldview. Examples of such films are “How Steel is Hardened,” “The Young Guard,” “Ernst Thälmann — Son of his Class,” “The Real Person,” “A Communist,” or “A Human Story.”

Of course, a theatrical experience can be well suited to involve the youth in this youth meeting.

Another way is reading a book (or the most important parts of a book), e.g., B. Ostrowski’s novel “How Steel is Hardened.” This can be good preparation for the youth meeting and lays the foundation for an educationally valuable discussion.

C. On the content and methods of the meeting

The theme of this youth meeting could under some circumstances lead one to a little lecture on the foundations of Marxist-Leninist philosophy. However, we instead want a lively discussion on questions of the worldview that relates to the interests and receptivity of the youth of this age range.

If at all possible, we should base the meeting on a strong book or film experience (see Section B). If that is not possible, we read Ernst Thälmann’s “Letter to a Young Fellow Inmate.”

We ask this or a similar question at the beginning of the discussion:

“Pavel Kortschagen (or the hero of the book or film under discussion) devoted his entire life to freeing humanity. — Where did he find the strength and confidence for his courageous struggle?”

This question will lead the children from the viewpoint or experience to the question of a worldview and its role in the lives of people. Naturally we must work out in the discussion what a worldview is. Our definition should be as simple as possible:

A worldview is a coherent outlook on nature, society, and thought. A worldview determines how we see the things and events in our environment, and how we are influenced by them.

With the example of two contradictory characters from the book or the film, we can make clear that there are differing worldviews, progressive and reactionary, which despite differences in detail lead back to two fundamental worldviews: the materialist scientific, and the idealistic unscientific.

The boys and girls should understand why we speak of the materialist worldview of the working class as the scientific worldview. (We do not discuss religious views of the world, and do not want to discuss other idealistic worldviews.)

The working class depends on the discoveries of astronomy, physics and chemistry, and bases its worldview on the discoveries of natural sciences as well as on the knowledge of the laws that govern the life of society,

The children will be able to point out that for example the landing of the Soviet “Lunik” probe on the moon proves the correctness of the socialist worldview. (The results of the Lunik mission prove that human knowledge of the universe is absolutely reliable, and that the world is explicable to scientists according to natural material laws.)

The basis for such a discussion is certainly provided in this youth meeting.

Along these lines, we lead the boys and girls to the conclusion that it is not a matter only of properly understanding natural and social events, but more importantly to find ways and means of making nature increasingly useful to humanity, and to build a higher and better social order. (“Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways, but it is more important to change the world!” Marx)

From the previous youth meeting, the children know that the working class is the class that will free humanity. Now we show them the decisive role that the scientific worldview has in this struggle. It is recommended to use J.W. Stalin’s familiar, very clear “compass metaphor” (see appendix below) to explain this idea. It is very important that the youth leave with the firm conviction of the absolute reliability of this compass. Its reliability has been proven in practice a thousand times, and is proved anew every day in the building of socialism. The scientific predictions made by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and W.I. Lenin are being realized everywhere that socialism is being built. We remind the children of Ernst Thälmann’s prediction: He who votes for Hitler votes for war” and J. W. Stalin’s phrase: “Hitlers come and go, but the German people and the German state remain!”

Socialists can look into the future and predict the course of history not through some mysterious forces, but rather from their knowledge of the laws that govern society.

From this sure knowledge of the future and with the awareness that there is nothing more honorable or beautiful than serving human progress comes the proud, upright and brave behavior of socialist fighters.

This finishes our discussion. We have returned to our opening question and answered it.

To conclude the meeting, we might use the moving words of Ostrowski’s novel:

Life is the most valuable thing that a person possesses. It is given to him but once, and he must use it in a way such that he will not be tortured later by the knowledge that he has wasted the years, so that the shame of a little empty past does not weigh on him, so that he can say as he dies: ‘My whole life, my whole strength I gave to the most wonderful thing in the world — the battle for the liberation of humanity.’”

Appendix

The booklet includes two pages of recommended literature and visual material. It then provides a poem and three pages of quotations. I translate only the Stalin quotation mentioned in the text.

From “A Brief Discussion of Differences of Opinion Within the Party”

What is scientific socialism without the workers’ movement?

It is a compass that one cannot use; it only rusts and is thrown overboard.

What is the workers’ movement without socialism? A ship without a compass that will reach the destination, but would reach it much faster and with fewer dangers if it had a compass.

Bring them together and one has a splendid ship that sails directly to its destination and reaches the harbor undamaged.

(J. W. Stalin, Works, Volume 1, 1901-1907, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1950)

 

[Page copyright © 2001 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.


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