Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 4. April 18, 1957
Salient. Thursday 18th April, 1957 [editorial]
It has become a truism to say that Vic. is no longer a "hot-bed of communism." Indeed, Stud. Ass. President John Marchant asserts that it never was. The general trend away from the Left, Communist or not, was strikingly shown in a recent debate: "That this house condemns the recent Anglo-French action in the Middle East." The Debating Society has long had the tradition of being the most lively and radical club at Vic. But on this occasion speakers showed an unexpected and overwhelming conservative bias. We do not necessarily believe that the Right is always wrong, but it does seem that the new students are not only conservative, but generally uninterested and very uninformed on issues which burned in past years.
This is not peculiar to the University: it is apparent in all walks of life. Yet surely it deserves more concern and more study than is at present the case. For those of doubtfully democratic views. Communism has long been held out as the worst enemy of of the modern democratic state, but it is time that we steered clear of this red herring and realised what in fact we should be fighting. This is particularly so in New Zealand where it is ludicrous to talk of the Red danger. The Communists were rocked to the core by Kruschev's denunciation and the later Russian military support of the Hungarian Government. Its numbers have dropped enormously, and if it were possible, it is even more discredited by the internal bickerings and expulsion of some of its oldest and best known members.
At the moment it would appear that the religious clubs are flourishing in the university—but religion is not incompatible with politics, and indeed, we believe, if constructively followed must lead on to political discussion. It must be realised that unless democracy is intelligently followed, unless, above all the students take an interest, and a lively interest, democracy might as well pack up and go home.
Part of the trouble is the present comfort of the Welfare state. Unfortunately it seems to require hardship and poverty to keep politics alive. But the trouble lies deeper than that. There is the problem of compulsory trade unionism that contributes to labour apathy and autocratic control. But above all our difficulty is that one party is satisfied with the present achievements; the other is reconciled to them. Where, one might well ask, lies the difference? While the political field is dominated by two parties and neither of those parties has anything to offer, enthusiasts have nothing to support.
Is there an answer, or must we either hope for things to right themselves or watch the form of society and its values, which most of us believe in, drift helplessly through apathy to fascism or its equivalent? "Salient" at least, has the dubious advantage of a staff of idealists. We believe that if the students took an intelligent interest in their fate, if society realised that it was subject to this insidious disease, if the religious groups with their large backing took a lead, if the labour movement was freed from the shackles of compulsory unionism, above all, if the political parties threw off senile leaders and took a bold stand on even one issue, we might yet see a democracy that worked. Above all there should be a conscious attempt by influential public men to encourage democracy at the grass roots, in community centres, small wards for local elections, and education, then we might still show that not only can we stop going backwards but even perhaps turn about and go forward.—G.A.W.