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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 6. 1969.

Opinion — Politics of marijuana — What gives for 1969?

page 2

Politics of marijuana

What gives for 1969?

The Labour Party Conference previewed by Owen Gager, English honours student.

Owen Gager

Vietnam, South Africa, Rhodesia, marijuana and contraceptives are out. Homosexuality, radical psychiatry, secondary schools associations and 18-year-old voting and drinking are in.

That's the Labour image for the '69 election as it emerges from the Labour Party conference remit paper. Remits, not only on foreign policy matters like Vietnam, and "social" issues, like the legalisation of marijuana, but on the nationalisation of freezing works, the replacement of social security benefits by a guaranteed wage and greater government employment of artists, designers, writers and composers have all been censored out of the remit paper.

At the same time, on on conceivable system, what one would imagine to be equally contentious remits, on homosexuality and psychiatric reform have been left on the agenda, Censorship and stupidity. It is a predictable combination for the present Labour hierarchy.

If last year's Labour conference recalled the Soviet Communist Party under Stalin with its eulogies of Big Norm's sparkling personality, this conference is already so managed and manipulated by its organisers that the comparison may be with the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention.

Not that there will be a performance by the local equivalent of Mayor Daley's cops, but the results of the conference will be predetermined and organised with precision.

Big Norm will again be eulogised.

The Party will unite to throw National trimphantly from the Treasury benches. To facilitate unity, student branches and unions will find it hard to even get the floor.

Could the whole strategy misfire? If anybody wants to talk about Vietnam and the All Black tour, and a lot of people want to, they could do what most of the Labour Youth Conference wanted to do last year and walk out if these matters can't be talked about. (Youth Conference rapporteur Mike Hirschfeld was supposed to tell the Conference this last year; he didn't, and now has 12 nominations for the position of Wellington representative on national executive.) But the only way is coercion, and youth branches, who, have authored most of the few good remits that the hierarchy has allowed on the remit paper may try it. The Two Norms would be wise to send a Man to the Youth Conference; a threat that those who speak out will be directly responsible for a Labour election defeat always shuts Labour party members up.

In fact, the Labour "left", apart from the youth conference has made a deal with the right against a centrist executive—'left-winger' Rowling and extreme right-winger May will combine against the official candidate Douglas for the presidency. This is 'realistic' Labour politics—getting a 'leftist' into power by an alliance with the extreme right. At this level, all the issues can be kept underground, reduced to the usual sleazy personalities which dominate Labour politics.

This conference will be designed to win an election, not to promote rank and file discussion. Unfortunately, this aim has already been made so obvious, the conference could hurt Labour rather than help it. Labour cannot afford a too public exercise in suppression of discussion; but if there is any opposition to the running of conference, the hierachy has now committed itself so much to the ideal of a managed conference that it has no alternative to suppression.

Organisations censor the symbols of their own identity: is Labour's objection to the anisation which functions like a political contraceptive will slowly turn its politics into a marijuana-substitute?