Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 19, No. 2. March 10, 1955
What Does I.U.S. Stand For? — One World Student Community
What Does I.U.S. Stand For?
One World Student Community
That this Congress approves the principle of a single international student organisation in which students of all nations can meet in a world university community; and calls upon NZUSA to enter into the closest practical liaison with the I.U.S."
This resolution was carried by the Student Congress at Curious Cove with an overwhelming majority. Its handful of opponents labelled it as everything from "wisny-washy" to "pernicious," but it apparently expressed as closely as a resolution could the opinion of most Congressmen about the Issue of international student bodies.
The question is a vexed one, and freshers would do well to at least get the initials all straight, because they will be hearing a lot more about them. NZUSA (the New Zealand University Students Association), the national body to which the six college student associations are affiliated, was formerly affiliated to IUS (International Union of Students). But in 1949-50 it severed its connection for several reasons, and has since joined a splinter group called Co-Sec (Co-Ordinating Secretariat) which does not claim to be a full-fledged organisation at all.
IUS arose directly out of the enthusiasm of the Allied victory of 1945. To 1955's freshers, that will be a dim memory of babyhood, but let them be assured that in those days Big Four leaders were all talking the same language about peace, national independence, economic security, and social justice as the war aims of the United Nations.
Many so-called "western" student unions took part in the conference that formed IUS and framed its constitution. The Now Zealand, Australian, and British unions were all there.
When some New Zealand student leaders are complaining about the "too political" stand of IUS, it is interesting to read the list of aims written into the IUS constitution with New Zealand's approval. Supporting youth and students of "colonial and "dependent countries, fighting, for their national Independence," struggling for "the democratisation of education." resisting "Fascism." and "defending peace"—they are all in the constitution as integral alms of the IUS.
Up to a point IUS is political, and it Must be so. Its politics are limited to the interests and needs and aspirations of students; they go as far as those things dictate—no farther, and certainly they do not stop short. But remember that the conception of education As A Right for all human beings, (a conception commonly accepted in New Zealand), involves highly radical political attitudes in parts like South Africa, South East Asia, and too Middle East. And remember, too, that National Independence in essentially tied up with cultural independence (as the East Bengali students have been discovering in their campaign of resistance against the imposition on them of a foreign language by the Karachi Government), quite apart from its being just. Britain achieved and maintained her Independence at the cost of much bloodshed from the days of Philip's armada to those of Hitler's blitzkrieg, and it ill behaves British students to condemn others who do the same.
There is some evidence, indeed, that many opponents of IUS disapprove of political action in itself less than they disapprove of the particular kind of political action into which the aims of IUS inevitably lead it. In Britain, whore the education system is less democratic than here, there is a larger proportion of university students who would be injured or affronted by such things as the extension of education facilities, granting of self-government to colonies, and other IUS aims. And these have Jed the split away from IUS.
The Twain Shall Meet
The impression is often created that IUS. membership is restricted to the geographical "east" and/or the political "left." A brief review of the affiliates will show the fallacy of this impression. AD. South American states, all states of the Middle and Far East, all African areas where there are any educational facilities at all, and nearly alt European states are represented, mostly by representative national unions. Many unions which have also taken part in Co-Sec conferences, retain affiliation in full with IUS.
The chief aim of IUS, of course, is to unite students internationally. Now this very essential aim cannot be fulfilled if some unions secede from it just because they are pipped by some of its democratically-taken decisions. Even if joint action on some things became Impossible (and there is no evidence that it has). IUS would still provide a valuable forum for ideas from both sides of the so-called "curtain." That, at least, was the conclusion of the British National Union of Students in requesting the setting up of a special brand of relationship with IUS called "associate membership."
New Zealand Apart
Last year the Australian national union decided to keep sending delegates to IUS council meetings. The British National union voted in a student referendum to retain affiliate membership. The South African national union has consistently maintained its membership and close ties with IUS in spite of slight differences with certain aspects of policy. Or the Commonwealth countries Only New Zealand has cut itself off completely from this international tie.
If the majority of New Zealand students Knew the facts of the case, they would certainly support a much closer association with IUS. But the majority do not know, and the responsibility for this lies leas upon their own apathy than upon the communicativeness of NZUSA'a national officers, our local executives, and the Inquisitiveness of student newspaper staffs.
The reasons given by NZUSA for disaffiliation from IUS were so feeble as to be scarcely taken seriously. Incidentally, the statement on why we disaffiliated was not made public for over a year after the decision was taken. It includes, among others even more paltry, the chief ones of distance and cost. IUS headquarters in Europe are too far away, and affiliation fees are too high. These excuses are imbecile in view of the advantages in cultural terms of the interchange available through IUS and no other body: through it we could extend travel and exchange to other countries than just the U.S. and Australia, we could participate in world university summer and winter sports. International conferences of specialists such as, the Medical Students chinwag held in Oslo last August, help undenominational relief schemes like the students T.B. sanatorium in South East Asia, and generally improve our contact with the students of the world, and not of just part of it.
What have we got against these activities? What can the splinter Co-Sec offer that compensates in any way for the loss of this?—C.B.