Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 9. 1971
After marching in the Mobilisation I thought I'd go to the discussion about it that was advertised around. The first speaker was a bit critical of the mobe but by and large happy with it. He thought maybe a bit too jovial, maybe a silent march could be good. The next was Owen Gager, poor man, much more critical in a sophisticated way. How do you really really influence Foreign Affairs? or Labour? What Is the effect of a demonstration, really? Does sheer quantity of marchers signify? Maybe other styles of dissent would be less crude, more effective. What are the long term objectives? Was the ostensible success of the mobe due to activists or Nixon?
Gager took maybe forty minutes. There the meeting ended, in my opinion, as far as results go. After that little was said that was relevant, analytical, conscious of the lack of hard facts.
There was no reasoned analysis of the effect or value of the mobe, its aims, the danger of "counter-productivity", its problems of organisation, the possible value of advertising and market research or overseas technique for dissent, the position of the Labour party, what the power structure is in N.Z., the arguments of the opposition and their refutation, the question of why socially acceptable" dissenters tended to be elsewhere at the time of the demonstration.
Those who had been involved in the organisation spoke with the predictable idealism and subjectivity of the ardent youthful dissenters. The political parties were "really scared". For the first time secondary school boys had gained a "political consciousness". The sheer number of marchers was stressed over and over, a great leap forward.
Next came the huge potential of Drivers and Seamen for a from-the-bottom revolution in N.Z. Also the entire secondary school population is going to grow up to be leftist because of a couple of contacts with activists here and there. A very young student advocated violent action because demonstrations haven't worked so far. Another man wanted extremely-worded pamphlets. In the end a character with a loud voice, and no respect for the chairwoman shouted down the bickering and everyone left.
I do not oppose the aims of dissent at all but its primitive state now. Such meetings (I hope they aren't typical) are a thousand miles from effective subversion. They are phenomena more economically described in terms of group psychology, competition for status, identification with Che or someone, role-playing. Anyone can do it, you don't have to read anything. Is the aim really social change? would it be if it involved unspectacular study and planning, quiet intelligent subversion, no status?
I hope a better organisation exists, or evolves, it's high time. Until it does I think dissent is too crude, too likely to backfire and to strengthen opposition to it. It repulses those who would count most; it converts 16 year old instead. So it dooms itself to a viscious page break cycle of ineffectiveness; it must rely on Nixon's mistakes. It has the same problem as capitalism - everyone wants his own way, no-one will submit to the restraints of organisation for the common good.
Roy J. Harvey