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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 2. March 20, 1957

Students and Politics

page 2

Students and Politics

While we were in the middle of exams last year, or just recovering from them, the big world was reverberating with the sound of British and French tanks rolling into Port Said, and Russian tanks rolling into Budapest. Mankind was, in fact, teetering on the brink of catastrophe.

A few of us signed a couple of petitions circulated by the College's left-wing clubs. Most of us just shrugged our shoulders and went on with our petty business.

When the history of our times comes to be written in a longer perspective, it is very likely that it will seem to have been dominated by two great movements which in fact form (as, say, the Renaissance and the Reformation did) two aspects of a single sweeping current: the movement of colonial and nearly-colonial nations in the capitalist world towards full dignity and self-government, and the movement inside the Communist world which has been dubbed "destalinization"—the struggle to throw off the horrible machinery of political dictatorship while retaining and extending the positive economic and social gains of the socialist system.

Viewed together, these movements represent a powerful new "hurling time" unparalleled in any earlier era of history. And it was easy to view them together in late October and early November when the tanks of Bulganin and Eden were rolling in unison to crush them both.

Those few of us who registered our protest—however feeble—were dimly aware that we were acting in line with some sort of student tradition. After all, the radical drive among the Egyptian populace for a more adequate living standard and an end to having the fruits of their labour used for the benefit of fat foreign powers, was sparked off by the university students of Cairo and Alexandria; and it was that drive which (regardless of the power-game being played by Nasser) brought about the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company. Similarly, the Petofi Group of Gomulka-type Communists whose demonstrations triggered the events in Hungary, was centred on the University of Budapest.

Repercussions in other parts of the world also highlighted the politically active student as a force in arousing the slumbering conscience of nations, in Oxford, London, Colombo, Bagdad, Peking, Mexico City—in all the places' where protesting placards appeared before the British and French Embassies—students were at the forefront.

And perhaps more significantly, the protesting voices raised within the ranks of international Communism against Muscovite policy in Hungary, have also come from intellectuals. In France, Picasso and JeanPaul Sartre; in Italy, Carlo Levi; in Britain, Edward Thompson. Hyman Levy, and VUC's post-grad, scholar Ronald L. Meek; in New Zealand, not just the well known Communists associated with the Here And Now group, but almost the entire strength of Wellington's once notorious University Branch.

Questioning orthodox beliefs and challenging authority when it oversteps the bounds of its legitimate domain (as it always does), are the age-old prerogative of students and thinkers.

V.U.C. has in the past acquired a certain notoriety for exercising this prerogative. From the Debating Society's motion questioning New Zealand participation in the Boer War (1900), through the investigation of the staff and syllabus by a Parliamentary committee following the conviction of a girl graduate for selling leftist literature (1921), to the Students' Association's "red manifesto" (1941). and the demonstration outside the Netherlands legation against aggression in Indonesia (1947), the tradition has been kept alive in this college.

From time to time, with the selfconscious intention of burying the tradition and shaking off the notoriety, it has been suggested that politics should be kept out of our student journal. The first issue of Salient last year, for example, contained a statement that editorial policy was to be just that. The Socialist Club vehemently expressed an opposite viewpoint. But it was not alone.

The Attorney-General. Hon. J. R. Marshall, said at Grad. Supper in May: "It is good that students should be critical, even if they are critical of the Government."

He was merely echoing an utterance of Rt. Hon. S. G. Holland himself who, in a special message to Salient in March 1953 said: "It is a necessary part of a university education that the student should be encouraged to examine commonly held opinions and to criticize the statements of his fellows."

What better forum is thers for students to do that examining and criticising than the columns of the student press?

Our College Debating Society is the oldest club in the College, and has had a colourful history. Its policy appears to be still its traditional one of arranging the topics so that religion, politics, and sex rotate. It was recently described in the "Evening Post" as "belonging to the dogmatist school—one has to be careful not to be trodden on by a hobby-horse a speaker is riding. Participants have a go at any subjects. Here also the interjector seems to reach his subtlest. P.P.'s from the present Prime Minister down (or up?) have felt the deflationary effect of the interjector's barb when speaking at the annual visitors' debate."

This is just a warning for those newcomers who attend 1957's first debate, which is likely to be held this coming week. It will be (as per tradition) on a Friday night in the Little theatre (long wooden building behind the half-finished Science Block).

There once was a student of Weir,
Who had a great weakness for beer,
And each year re-assailed
The same subjects he'd failed
At the end of the previous year.

In spite of our faultless system of check-upping information, a number of errors seem to have crept into our first issue.

Mr. John Martin, 3rd-year Arts student, has now been appointed "Salient" Sports subeditor and Gabrielle Jackson is editor of material concerning non-sporting clubs. Club secretaries should notify these two of all forthcoming events and interesting results.

Student will note with approval the newly painted approaches to the Caf. and inside. The Caf. managers are to be congratulated on the new attractive cloths.

Down with Everything Cartoon