He often wondered how life could be so perilous for the people, even though his father had told him that the new government was a "people's government." (1.7)
We have the same question, Alex old buddy. There's no debating that the Soviet government abuses its power in some pretty horrible ways—like straight-up kidnapping entire families, for example. Does that sound like good leadership to you? Oh man, we hope not.
Alex understood that the Czar had been selfish and cruel and that was why there had been a revolution and civil war, but then why wasn't it better now? (1.7)
For the Russian people, this was like going from the frying pan into the fire. Although the Czar (the Russian king) certainly abused his power over his citizens, the Soviet government isn't much better. In fact, we could easily argue that these new bosses are even worse, if you believe it.
"If you live your life in an orderly and honest way, be obedient, do your work well, and mind your own business, you will prosper." (1.8)
This is what the Soviet government wants its citizens to think, but it's simply not true. After all, look at Alex's family: They were decent, hard-working people, but they got snatched up in the middle of the night just the same. That doesn't sound like "prospering" to us.
"It is just there are good people and bad people in all systems, and sometimes the good people are overwhelmed but the bad. It is power that is the evil." (1.61)
Katriana gets it. The moral of The Wild Children isn't that socialism is bad or that capitalism is good—it's that power is bad. You could be the nicest dude on the planet, but if you let power get to your head, you're going to end up doing some seriously messed up stuff at some point.
Since the civil war, Alex has had a deep fear of soldiers, men who could shoot each other, who came in the night and carried off friends. (3.11)
We can't blame you for this one, Alex. After all, every soldier we meet in The Wild Children seems more than willing to push people around to get their way. Isn't that messed up? Shouldn't Russian citizens feel like Russian soldiers are there to protect them?
In the cellar, no GPU, no soldiers, no hard-faced officials tried to catch them and detain them in children's homes no better than a jail. (6.95)
This nasty old cellar provides a sanctuary for boys whose lives have been ruined by the abuse of power. Some of their families have been kidnapped; some of them grew up in barbaric children's homes; some of them were abused by the people who were supposed to protect them. Regardless, they're safe now.
"Here, at least, if we are hungry, cold, and filthy, we are those things while we are free," Peter had said. "We are alive and we are free." (6.96)
Hey, that's more than you could say about most Russian citizens. Peter has spent his entire life being abused by people who are more powerful than him, which makes him even more appreciative of what little freedom he's able to carve out for himself and his friends.
"And while you're at it," Peter shouted, "tell him that if he sends me to the police, I will tell the commissars a thing or two that he has done now and in the past." (10.40)
Although the book never says it directly, we're pretty sure Peter is implying that the director abuses the boys at his orphanage. We don't need to delve into the details of this potential abuse, but we think it's worth mentioning as yet another example of how power can be used for evil. This one is especially heartbreaking, though.
A sound like rotted wood breaking, and Miska fell. Without another word, the director turned and walked out, slamming the door. (10.14)
This is power in a nutshell. The director didn't feel threatened by Miska. He didn't feel intimidated, and he didn't feel frightened. He simply realized that he needed to show Miska—and all of the other boys—that he's the boss around here. What a turd.
"If I were head of a government," he said," I would not allow thousands of children to run around in rags and starve, having to steal and even kill to stay alive." (10.92)
It's not until the end of the novel that Alex realizes that the government could use its power for good, but chooses not to. So why don't they? We could come up with a million hypothetical reasons for this, but that's not the point: The point is that it's up to kids like Alex to change their country for the better.