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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 24, No. 14. 1961.

The Gripes of Wrath

page 8

The Gripes of Wrath

On the sixth day of September, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixty one, there happened in this city one of the most farcical and ridiculous events ever seen at a University. There was a Special General Meeting of the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association. So what, you say? Simply that a combination of circumstances, or rather a group of persons, contrived to render the meeting a travesty. If we survey the debris left in our wake, it is quickly realised that very little was accomplished. Extravagant language, maybe, but judge for yourself; these were the persons and circumstances.

No doubt the main attraction for those brave enough to attend was the motion of no-confidence in the Executive, fostered by the already well-known Mr Dwyer; with equal certainty it can be asserted that, from the moment he rose to speak to this motion, his case was doomed to totter and collapse under the weight of over-coloured, abstruse, and irrelevant material brought forward, allegedly to support it. There were two chief reasons for this; firstly, he used as one of the bastions of his argument the issue of the Quiet Reading Room, which, though a valid point in itself, was, in this context, no more than a red herring. Further, Dwyer's motive in attempting to depose the Executive was, it seemed, entirely anarchistic, his fundamental premise being, in effect: "It's not that I dislike this Executive; I dislike any Executive." It cannot be gainsaid that true anarchistic ideals are, so far as they extend, extremely praiseworthy, and are to be supported, but they are only ideals, and one would have thought that a person of Dwyer's intellect would have realised that it is, at the present time, completely Impracticable to envisage an anarchistic student body at this University, if only because many students are not yet capable of accepting the responsibilities demanded by anarchism. In short, therefore, Dwyer and his colleagues failed to adduce any real evidence whatever to support the motion, and in the event succeeded in showing themselves up in a rather poor light. Indeed, the only person whose reputation was enhanced in any way was the President of Stud. Ass., Armour Mitchell.

It is difficult to tell whether the Anarchists expected that they would succeed in forcing the resignation of the Executive, or even whether they hoped to do so, for not only did they present a disappointingly weak case, but in so doing they simply strengthened the position of Executive. Apart from this, they could have presented a far stronger argument for the prosecution, which, though it might well not have secured a conviction, would nevertheless have avoided alienating the sympathies of the jury, which were lost very early; indeed, the motion would very likely have received more support had Dwyer and his followers kept silent. I believe that Dwyer, at least, is sincere in his convictions, but the impression that he imparted to his audience was that he was using the motion to affiliate the Anarchist Association as an excuse to attack the Executive; surely not a worthy course of action for a person dedicated to his ideals?

It must be admitted that there is one strong argument for the existence and affiliation of an Anarchist movement; namely, that it encourages and stimulates intellectual thought and discussion, a thing that has been lacking in this so-called seat of learning for too long. For this reason alone, the existence of such a group is justifiable, but it is necessary to guard against its becoming a vehicle for other political interests, and particularly it should avoid fanaticism for the sake of fanaticism. Whether other professed Anarchists are as sincere as Dwyer, or whether they are merely trying to accomplish too much in too short a time, I do not know, but it is clear that at the moment it is far too early for Anarchism to become the basis of university government, at least in this country. One of the keynotes of Anarchism is surely passivity, and this is obviously out of accord I with the militant outlook of the present organisation; I feel that Dwyer and the Anarchists will achieve little until they learn to temper their fervour with a little realism.

R. Chapman.

(Footnote: No doubt Mr Dwyer will take exception to the continued repetition of his name; I trust he will pardon my metonymy. If not, I shall be happy to hear from him.)