Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 11. August 1, 1957
Universities Look Left
Universities Look Left
"Universities and Left Review", c/o R. Prince, Magdalen College, Oxford.
"Left Review", c/o Social Democrat Society, V.U.C.
There is a more vigorous spate of literature and a livelier interest in ideas on the left of the political horizon in Britain than there has been at any time since the Left Book Club's zenith in the 1930s.
The Fabian Society, the Labour Party, the new crop of ex-Communists, the Movement for Colonial Freedom, the Union of Democratic Control, the Campaign for the Limitation of Secret Police Powers, the New Statesman, Tribune . . all are contributing to the flow of well-written, well-documented, stimulating pamphlets and articles which are appearing continually.
Most interesting to university audiences is the new quarterly (first issue. Spring 1957), "Universities and Left Review". The four editors and the manager are all Oxford men—none over 25—and two of them are Rhodes Scholars—one from Canada, one from the West Indies.
They have assembled for their first issue a remarkable galaxy of contributors—Isaac Deutscher, G. D. H. Cole, Joan Robinson. Claude Bourdet and E. P. Thompson.
Some of the choicest contents are: Deutscher on "Russia in Transition" (bringing his already classical work on the subject up to the moment); Cole on "What is Happening to Capitalism?" (a review of socialist—especially Marxist—theory of modem economic developments); Thompson (of Leeds University, author of the monumental work on William Morris, and leader of the "New Reasoner" group of ex-Communists) on "Socialism and the Intellectuals" which includes some profound and pithy comment on Kingsley Amis' recent pamphlet and on other trends which Thompson sees as a "stampede away from humanism"; Claude Bourdet editor of the neutralist "France Observatcur", on "The French Left"; Jelenski—pinkish Polish exile—on "De-Stalinisation and European Security"; David Marquand—Magdalen undergrad—on "Lucky Jim and the Labour Party," and Charles Taylor—Canadian Rhodes Scholar—on "Can Political Philosophy be Neutral?"
There is no single contribution which is not thoroughly well informed and scholarly, and yet almost racily written and exciting to read.
Ageing though some of the contributors are, the whole publication breathes the vigour of youth, and is also imbued with that even more valuable student attribute, scepticism.
At 4/- for 74 pages, it is within the grasp of most students, which is just as well as it promises to be indispensable to their political literacy.
No comparison is intended in combining the review of a large printed English publication with a slight cyclostyled local production: but the echo in the title invites comparison.
The leftward movement in the British universities must have its effect in the New Zealand universities just as it had in the 30s. It is possible to see the appearance of "Left Review" as another early sign of that influence.
Most valuable contribution is John Fernyhaugh's editorial, which makes some thoughtful points about misrepresentation of socialism by its enemies, the influence of capitalist environment on individual morality, and the historical development of political ideas.
H. C. MacNeill's two contributions are in his usual Morrisian polemical style, containing the usual sprinkling of brilliantly original statements. It is no petty fault-finding, however, to say that Mr. MacNeill is in danger of qualifying for Deutscher's classification of "ex-Communists whose new party-line is blind anti-communism".
This tendency leads him into some positions of dubious tenability which would probably not be widely supported by the Society membership. It is a good thing that there is such evident diversity of socialist viewpoint in the Society—for there has been a tendency to father a negative anti-communism on to it which has put off people who do not share this bitter attitude.
It must be observed, however, that Mr. MacNeill's view that the system prevailing in Communist lands "does not measure up even in the remotest degree to any one of the basic principles of socialism" is not shared by the editor, who asserts that a third of humanity is "under some form of socialist organization"; that his assertion that "we of the S.D. Society are . . . only too willing to debate all issues with the Communists" is difficult to line up with Communard's remark about "Those of us who are Communists"; and that his dictum that Communists "have nothing in common with Socialists" contradicts the statement in the editorial that "socialism is the genus and communism is the specie".
As to the articles themselves. Mr. Mac-Neill's first outlines the possible roads to socialism (in which he sees more hope for peaceful transition in the West than in the East); his second is a reply to a pica by A. C. Walsh for organic unity in the V.U.C. Left, and this reply shows the weaknesses of having been written in the breathless heat of rather subjective controversy.
T. J. Kelliher's two articles, one on Banking and one on Catholicism and Worker Ownership, are stuffed with documentation but appear to suffer from the necessary condensation. His case tends to be tightly argued. He contends plausibly that certain Papal Encyclicals support socialist policies, but ignores the fact that the late Father Walsh once argued that they supported Mussolini's "corporate state", and Franco still claims that they are being fulfilled in fascist Spain.
"Left Review" is altogether a promising publication. Not only is it good to see some cyclostyled literature around the place again—conjuring up memories of the old "Socialist Club Newsletter" and "The Varsity Socialist"—but this contains enough variety and enough provocative propositions to keep the college politically alive for a while.