Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 2. 1962.
N.Z.U.S.A. Congress — Report from Curious Cove
Report from Curious Cove
Study week, holiday, lecture series, debating session—Congress is all these. For not without reason. Congress is well established as the University of Curious Cove. Indeed, if a university is an assembly of scholars, associating together in the pursuit of knowledge, and not merely a degree mill it may be claimed with justice that this one is more truly entitled to the name than the other four. Unbelievably relaxed, professors and students mingled with one another on terms of full equality, exchanging views, learning from one another.
For those ablaze with ideas, what an opportunity to unburden the spirit! Picture an angry young man of today. Con O'Leary, seizing on Professor Musgrove and telling him the defects in his department and how it should be organised—it could only happen here!
Eleven addresses were delivered, all followed by animated discussion. Evidence of the excellence of both speakers and subjects was borne out by the full utilisation of the two-hour period which followed each address with questions and opinions. To hold the attention of two hundred students and colleagues, reclining on upturned benches and sleeping bags was a task Demosthenes might have palled at.
Leading off was Auckland's Professor Musgrove who spoke on trends in contemporary drama. Later on the same day Vic's Mr P. Downey spoke on the cinema. Salient readers may note that one of the three best ever listed by the speaker was "Hiroshima Mon Amour," remembering this paper's controversial article on it.
Man the Unknown
"Let's go and and debunk this psychiatry bunk" typified the sceptical attitude of many prior to Dr. H. Bourne's (Otago) discourse—"Belief, Morals, and Man's Inner World." The talk, well documented with case histories, was so impressive that no one left the hall unconvinced but that here was a science which man was only beginning to probe, and which had vast potential for a better understanding of the human animal.
If man is to be understood then it is essential that the exterior world around him (environment) be studied in relation to his inner world (the mind). Attempts to separate these in reaching a conclusion must end in failure. Man was guided by two main forces—to live and survive firstly, to propagate his species secondly. Every other aspect of life must rank thereafter.
Dr. Bourne then went on to show that man's beliefs and morals must be related to this picture. One questioner who asked "Is God a creation of the human mind?" received a direct answer "Yes". Whatever the individual listener's reaction none could dispute hut that here was food for thought. Of course, the multiplicity of faiths and superstitions subscribed to by mankind is in itself testimony to this.
Of vital interest to the industrially-minded New Zealander was Dr. W. B. Sutch's comprehensive analysis of our industrial position and its potential for growth. Too many of our products are being exported in an undeveloped condition, that is to say. raw products could be processed here before export, thereby saving overseas funds and developing local industry.
Dr. Sutch pointed out that development of New Zealand at once is imperative. There is little more scope for saving anything by way of increased import restrictions. The position of our trading balance is now so critical that the solution—industrial progress—must be applied without delay.
Representing the under-privileged section of the community, Mr. Eddie Isbey, Auckland trade unionist, made an eloquent appeal for a belter understanding of the workers' position in the community and the need for continued improvement in his 'lot.
Mr. Isbey sympathetically treated of the history of trade unionism in New Zealand—a revelation to most of those present. That New Zealand workers should have petitioned the Government of Australia, and even of that of the United States, to enable them to emigrate thither may well amaze us today. The murder of Timothy Evans at Waihi in 1911 indicated the tremendous struggle trade unionists have had in the past. Nineteen hundred and fiftyone points to a past far from distant.
Our well-beloved Professor Munz stands strongly suspected of having perpetrated an audacious and brilliant hoax in his lecture—"Metaphysics, Ethics and Mythology." The challenge thrown down by Bertrand Russell that religion no longer meets the demands (spiritual and psychological) of society today is taken up by the Professor.
The close link between myths and the facts of nature was demonstrated with great erudition—for example, primitive fertility rites were something very real to the participants.
Despite the great interest which the audience obviously showed, the impression that the theories advanced could have the effect of placing humanity in a strait-jacket was an opinion advanced by some.
It could have been that the Professor was "baffling his audience with science".
"International Affairs—the American Response" was the theme chosen by U.S. Ambassador Akers. Earnest sincere, and dedicated, he was a missionary from the American way of life.
Congress was particularly impressed by the sacrifice the Ambassador made in attending, as he was not yet over a heavy cold and his voice was still hoarse.
The fact that there was not a single Communist in the camp, however, did not preclude hostile criticism even if the general reaction was favourable.
Pungently logical Trotskyist Owen Gager noted that the word "freedom" occurred thirty-two times in the halfhour address and then proceeded to challenge the Ambassador to define it. Dissident Gager proceeded to point out the exclusive immigration laws of the United States whereby anyone even remotely "pink" was denied a visa. Internally the position was no better—many minor parties were denied the right to even appear on the ballot papers.
But Ambassador Akers was quite content with the two-party system and gave a naive example of his own love for the hurly-burly of his country's politics.
Back in the U.S. he had taken part in elections. In one election he deliberately founded a new party in order to draw votes away from his opponent, thereby enabling himself (on his real ticket) to win. Some Curious Cove admirers were somewhat disillusioned by this frank expose—most damning indictment was that the Ambassador saw nothing wrong in his actions.
Mr. Wolfgang Rosenberg (Canterbury) has the most happy talent of being able to expound with such clarity and verve on a subject usually regarded as lifeless that his contribution must be counted amongst the best made at Congress.
If economics is a straightforward science in itself, its interpretation is certainly not. Herein lies the danger for the economist. His philosophy of life will influence his construction of the facts before him.
The problem essentially is to resolve in whose interests should the economy be used. Since today's society comprises different classes conflict is inevitable.
Mr. Rosenberg pointed out that because profits arc necesssary for industrialisation the question was how to finance it.
- Business Profits.
- Surplus from Taxes.
- High-income Savings.
But the equilibrium of this society requires wage restraint. And those with power will make the decisions. In a monied society it is obvious that the monied class must make the decisions. Naturally its decisions will be made largely in its own interests. Thus arises the resentment of the working class who compare their own bare rewards with the luxury yachts and Jaguars of the few.
Mr. Rosenberg obviously believes in the greatest good for the many. But he is also a realist who believes in steady progress to a good society.
The "danger of being an economist" was sharply brought home to the lecturer himself in the questions that followed. A certain anarchist (name at foot of article) asked:
"If full production were achieved, problems of distribution being solved, would there be any reason for a continued existence of the means of exchange, that is, could money be abolished?"
Mr. Rosenberg replied that he saw no reason if there was a sufficiency in some commodity why it could not be distributed free. One problem he envisaged was the education of people to avoid waste. In any case he cautioned this was unlikely to be achieved in the foreseeable future.
The left wing having spoken, it now was the turn of Vic economist and mathematics student Colin Gillion to rise up and question Mr. Rosenberg's answer. The former was somewhat mollified when he was assured by the reiteration that an unmonied society was a long, long" way off.
One of the mysteries of Congress, never satisfactorily answered, was—when did we sleep? Look at the schedule—breakfast at 8, lecture and discussion from 9.30 to 1 followed by dinner and an afternoon of swimming, tramping, fishing etc. Tea at six with another lecture-discussion from 7.30 to 10.30. Then a film or dance followed by night-long parties where some of the most vigorous arguments occurred.
Perhaps it was the excellent cuisine that kept us going. Was it any wonder that some heads nodded during the lecture sessions?
On the last day students really came into their own. Some thirty remits were presented to the day-long forum. Vic's World Affairs Council president, Graham Butterworth, had the satisfaction of seeing the Anzus and Seato pacts condemned.
Showing awareness in our own national deficiencies a remit condemning the racial discrimination implicit in New Zealand's immigration policies was passed with only five dissentients. Salient readers will remember the article from Australia in the last issue—there they call it the "White Australia Policy"—we are more diplomatic but less honest.
Then came the most controversial and bitterly contested remit of the Forum—"that worker participation in the control of industry be a step in our social development", moved by the anarchist above mentioned and seconded by Lyndon Craig-Smith of Canterbury. This motion was carried narrowly before the lunchtime recess. On resumption, the forces of the right had gathered strength, and, on having the motion recommitted, had it defeated, despite the famous "Catharsis" speech of Elliot Henderson, who stunned us by announcing his impending departure for Cuba.
Report from William Dwyer— Exclusive to Salient.