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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 2. March 27, 1958


On April Fools' Day, 1946, the V.U.C. Socialist Club held its inaugural meeting. Judging by the attendance at the meeting the club at the time boasted fully 70 members. Over a period of about eleven years this dwindled to a mere handful so that the club became the least active in the whole college.

The club first achieved notoriety in 1947 when it organised a deputation of over 300 students to the Dutch Minister in New Zealand to protest against Dutch aggression in Indonesia. Despite police provocation a perfectly orderly, though illegal, procession of students and trade unionists marched from the Cenotaph to the Dutch Legation. For taking part in this little incident seven students and three wharfies had charges laid against them by the police. These charges were subsequently dismissed in the Magistrates' Court in a judgment which referred to the freedom to demonstrate as a "cherished right of the British nation."

Despite the Magistrate's decision, certain groups in the college who were opposed to the Club's aims and objects, and probably to the terms of the judgment (both anti-fascist), attempted to move the Club's disaffiliation. They were decisively defeated.

Later in the same year the Club hit the headlines again. This time the cause of the stir was a statement by Mr. Skinner, the Minister of Rehabilitation, that members of the Communist Party should not be allowed to remain in New Zealand. At the time Mr. Skinner was patron of the Socialist Club. The secretary, Mr. G. Warner, thereupon informed Mr. Skinner that his remark was "detrimental to Socialism and working-class unity" and that the Socialist Club no longer considered him a fit person to hold the position of patron of the Club.

Then in September, 1949, came the sensational demonstration against compulsory military training. A procession consisting largely of students and Communist officials set out from the Public Library to the Cenotaph. Altogether some 60 persons took part and they carried some 20 placards. At the War Memorial the demonstrators deposited a wreath bearing the legend: "We students of Victoria College and people of Wellington, opposed to peacetime conscription, here pledge our determination to do our utmost to defend the peace and liberty which have been so dearly won, and we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain." An indignant citizen then seized the wreath and hurled it into Bowen St.

With the passing of the need for demonstrations the Socialist Club fell into disuse and became virtually defunct. As far as "Salient" can determine (the difficulty being the lack of known members and the non-existence of any records since about 1950) the activities for 1957 consisted of an A.G.M. and the retirement of the chairman, Mr. A. C. Walsh. A Socialist Club notice board beside the cafeteria still contains notices from 1956. Last year no accounts were presented, for auditing and it seems that a certain cheque by way of club grant has been mislaid.