"Don't think, Alex, that the idea of socialism is bad. […] It is just there are good people and bad people in all systems, and sometimes the good people are overwhelmed by the bad." (1.61)
This is an important part of understanding The Wild Children. Though the book is rightly critical of the Soviet government, it isn't exactly a full-blown critique of socialism. Instead, it portrays the government as a corrupt community in which a select few members get all of the swag, while the rest are stuck scraping the bottom of the barrel.
He had spoken to nobody […] and nobody had spoken to him. They all seemed to have been traveling separately in their own small world of trouble. (2.47)
There is absolutely no sense of community here on the road to Moscow. It makes sense, though: The people of the Soviet Union have been taught that forming a community is a bad thing, since you never know who will rat you out to the government. In this messed up world, friendship is a liability.
In the dim light he could see that all the boys were in piles like bundles of trash […] giving each other the only thing they had—the little warmth of their bodies (4.46)
At first Alex is scared when he sees homeless boys huddled up in the street, but now that he's one of them, he realizes there's a reason why these kids huddle up like they're in the NFL—they're giving each other body warmth, which is a true lifesaver in the brutal Russian winter.
When Alex's eyes adjusted he could see that there were many children grouped around each fire, talking, laughing, joking, quarreling, singing, smoking, playing cards. (4.1)
It's party time, y'all. Although this scene startles Alex a bit (he's a true nerd, after all), it's also somewhat comforting. He's just spent days without seeing a friendly face, days without seeing people having fun, and days without making casual conversations with some bros. This is like a breath of fresh air.
"If I say he gets no soup, he gets no soup," said Peter angrily. "If you are staying here, you must know that what I say is the law." (4.20)
Peter's rule is simple: If you work hard, you'll eat well. We're using the word "well" relatively speaking, of course. Still, you have to give Peter props for running such a tight ship, especially because it would be really easy for him to act like a jerk and hoard all of the food for himself. Nom nom nom.
"Sometimes we had to throw out some who would not live by our rules. I still wanted to be the kind of man, Jacob, the baker, was, and we called it the Baker's Band." (5.67)
See what we mean? While most of the homeless kids in Moscow are getting into serious trouble (trouble that could land them in jail or worse), Peter manages to keep his crew on the straight-and-narrow. That's a big deal. Once again, it's pretty easy to see how important Peter's leadership is to the group.
He was temporarily protected from the loneliness of the dark gray-walled streets in the city by these filthy, ignorant, diseased boys who made him welcome. (6.37)
Community is allabout the feels. It's about feelings of togetherness; it's about feelings of safety; and most importantly, it's about feelings of friendship. Alex has found all of these things (and then some) in the least likely suspects, and boy is he glad that it happened.
Strange how the dank and odorous place radiated welcome when compared with the heavy skies and emptiness of the city streets. (7.31)
Once again, we see how much Alex has grown by being a part of these boys' community. It doesn't matter that they're a bit rough around the edges or that they come from the wrong side of the tracks. All that matters is that they're there for Alex when he really needs them.
"Okay," he said. "You are right. We are free. But what can we do with our freedom?" (10.100)
Finally, Alex takes control of the group's destiny. They've done so much for him, sheltering him when no one else would, so the least he can do is give them a chance at a better future.
Where did Peter's authority come from? Alex wondered. He was not older or even as big as Boris. They were all in rags. And yet [...] there was something different about Peter. (5.22)
Peter is a born leader. He's a strong authority figure, but never allows his power to get to his head. He's dedicated to doing his best to help his friends survive, but is unwilling to do anything immoral along the way. Simply put, Peter puts the needs of the group—his community—above his own. These kids would be in much worse shape without his guidance.