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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 7. June 25, 1951

First New Zealand Peace Congress

page 3

First New Zealand Peace Congress

The first N.Z. Peace Congress of the N.Z. Peace Council was successfully held between May 8 and 12 in Auckland. A wide section of opinion was represented and there was no attempt to stifle discussion or screen delegates. All eighty M.P.s were invited but none replied. Hundreds of organisations received invitations, organisations that claim to be concerned with peace, yet many of them did not reply. If they were sincere about peace there is no excuse for them not sending observers at least. Several observers and delegates said from the platform later in the congress how they had come filled with suspicion that the whole thing was a Communist front and were now satisfied that the peace council was a sincere effort to forward Peace.

It is easy for some people to sneer and accuse the leaders of the movement as being "woolly minded" and worse. As Dean Chandler said it was indicative of the strength of the peace movement that the Press should be hostile and abusive. Others pointed out that there is only two issues, War and Peace, and since a large part of the world was Communist inclined a true peace movement must be represented by them, as well as by Christians, atheists, trade unions and businessmen (not armament makers unless they are prepared to switch to something else?). Some Christians moan that the peace movement should have been sponsored by the churches, and remain aloof. Dean Chandler said it was an indictment of the churches that they had done 60 little for peace. While the churches might look at peace as only part of their philosophy it need not prevent them from co-operating with non-Church people on the common issue of peace. Surely they must realise, unless they are the pessimistic Armageddon types that differing ideas can and must live together in peace.

Several speakers pointed out how today, what were thought to be eternal conflicts have been settled. Protestants and Catholics no longer fight bloody wars, Chile and Argentine now live in peace. Jews and Arabs are learning to live harmoniously.

The peace movement has been accused of being a propaganda effort of the Soviet Union to undermine the Western democracies. If that is so why don't the politicians and civic heads who prattle so much about peace take the Soviet Union's word so as to test her sincerity. Mr. Crowther, who has been to both Soviet peace congresses, gave his observations of the peaceful construction being carried out in the USSR. He also spoke on the character and calibre of the Soviet delegates in the World Peace Council. He said how he was no longer able to enter America to speak or peace and how difficult it was for anyone in the U.S.A. advocating peace.

The different sessions of the congress dealt with topics such as "Reduction of Armaments," in which it was shown that preparing for war never preserved peace. The years before the last two would was being clear examples of this.

Non-interference in the affairs of other nations, was another session. Details were given of economic and political interference of various kinds and the danger to peace. A few speakers who thought the Soviet Union had been interfering could not bring to light evidence that others had on American interference in many parts.

A session on self-government for colonial peoples expressed the meeting's disapproval of the methods used by colonial powers in Malaya, Viet Nam, etc., on peoples who were promised self-government during the war.

The attitude of the press was dealt with in one meeting. The Auckland papers and others gave very little space to the Congress. Various speakers accused the Press of having a vested interest in war and war scares. Five commissions were held in the evenings. One on the Trade Unions showed how war preparations were affecting living [unclear: stands] and civil liberties.

A women's commission dealt with the ways in which women who are often out of [unclear: Couch] with political issues could be drawn into activity. One speaker who suggested that a "Broad women's peace" movement was necessary brought the house down, before correcting herself.

A youth commission outlined the issues affecting youth: 18 year conscription, lack of hostels, recreation facilities, etc. As ones most vitally affected by war they saw in the WFDY festival in Berlin this August a way whereby youth could create friendship and understanding irrespective of the other's beliefs.

The Arts and Professions Commission was addressed by Mr. Crowther, the chairman of the British Peace Council, and a well-known scientist.

He said how science developed better under conditions of peace. He pointed to the development of commercial aircraft in peace time. Secrecy and spying had crept into British research. About 80 to 90 per cent, of scientific research in Britain was military science. He refuted false ideas such as Vogt's in "Road to Survival" by referring to China, which was feeding herself for the first time. He spoke on the ideological preparations for the war and the duty of intellectuals in refuting those ideas. Others spoke on the responsibility of writers and artists in producing work for peace. It was pointed out how pessimism found in so much of Western literature was so different from the spirit of confidence and optimism of Soviet writing.

The Church commissions was addressed by Dean Chandler, several Methodists and a Unitarian. They pointed out how the Amsterdam Conference had supported peace. Rev. Morris read statements of Czech and Hungarian churchmen urging Churchmen in every country to work for peace. He felt that different systems could live together in peace and that the best system would ultimately win. The peace movement was not against the United Nations but was trying to make that body work for the peoples of the world. He deplored the suspicion of many churchmen toward the peace movement and thought their mistrust was unwarranted. Mr. Barrington, Christian Pacifist, referred to racial discrimination in South Africa and elsewhere. He said how it exited to some extent in New Zealand, where no non-European has come here permanently through our immigration policy, since 1920, except for a few relatives of Chinese residents and refugees.

At the final meeting Tom Robertson, a typical Australian worker, spoke on the difficulties met with in Australia, for peace fighters, and the dangers of re-arming Japan and the ties with the Pacific Pact. He pointed out how while the congress had passed many good resolutions it was up to each body to implement them, and to broaden the peace movement.

The congress represented about 42,000 people with 205 delegates, 44 observers, 22 visitors from trade unions, peace councils, students, women's groups, church bodies. The congress showed that the N.Z. Peace Council is firmly established; it is the only body of its type in the country and is open to all sincere people working for peace.

Every sane person must be for peace, not to do anything is allowing war preparations to continue and is tantamount to supporting war. What person can disagree with the petition of the World Peace Council calling for a five-power peace pact which was launched in New Zealand during the congress? We may disagree on tactics and in our philosophies but there is nothing to lose and everything to gain by fighting for peace.