Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 10. 1965.
Debate Goes On
Debate Goes On
Government Speakers Warn Against, But The
In Reporting the Teach-In we found that some speeches could withstand a reporter's summary, but others could not. The articles we feature here replace the latter. We feel justified in this, for a full transcript of the Teach-In will be published while this issue of Salient is still on sale.—Editors.
Interjections at the Teach-In were featured prominently in our mass media.
Many who deplored this vocal interplay have asserted that 80% of the audience opposed the NZ Government policy. Interjections directed at pro-Government speakers is part of the proof of their hypothesis. Greater applause for the speakers who opposed NZ's stand clinches the equation.
Undoubtedly there was an articulate core present who in Sir Leslie Munro's words "supported the Communist cause in North Vietnam." But to automatically associate the large remainder with anti-Government opinion is a generalisation typical of the anti-intellectual reaction prevalent in NZ.
Those who came to the Teach-In presumably came to be taught. In short, it was designed to inform and not to be an indoctrination session.
Interjections followed a characteristic pattern. They were directed at assertions which were illogical, intended to smear critics, or contradicted facts. Primarily they registered concern at irrationality
To interject on any one of these accounts does not illustrate anti-Government opinion so much as a desire for intellectual integrity and scholarship from the speakers.
One can sympathise with the pro-Government speakers who received an unfavourable hearing. Their job of supporting the decision for NZ involvement in Vietnam, for a student audience, was a difficult one. This is not to say the NZ position is irrational or untenable. Its premises rest on totally dissimilar axioms.
Consequently they did not meet the dissident intellectual speakers on their own ground, Argument against NZ policy remained fairly unscathed. The Government could not share in the humanitarian concern for the Vietnamese peoples at present under USA bomb attacks. Justification for NZ involvement rested on NZ national interests. From the national interest one was inevitably led to such unsatisfactory entities as the "Free World" and "International Communism."
Naturally these loaded concepts were not acceptable to an audience requiring facts. Spoon-fed on the one hand with persuasive intellectual argument and choked on the other with generalisations and hypotheses which could not be substantiated without revealing "classified information," it was not surprising the reception appeared anti-Government.
Critics have bent over backwards in their desire to place sinister political implications on the selection of speakers. They have ignored the fact that each speaker had a specific topic on which to address the audience.
Five were definitely opposed to the NZ Government stand: Sir Walter Nash and Professors Herd, Olliver, Sinclair and Buchanan, Endorsing Government policy were Sir Leslie Munro, Mr. Shand, Dr. Robinson, Mr. Thompson, MP. and Mr. N. Turner (recent Reuter correspondent in Saigon).
The others who spoke on themes divorced from the decision whether or not NZ should send troops were Professor Pocock, Dr. Bassett, and Messrs, Clark, Hall, McGee, Roberts and Franklin. The Rev. Murray spoke from Christian universalist principles which defy political classification.
Of the seven who spoke primarily for the educational benefit of the audience, it was obvious that the majority were personally against NZ intervention. The important point, however, is that they did not express their views on this matter.