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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 14. 1969.

[Review of Red Spark]

Nevil Gibson

Red Spark, edited by George Fyson, published by VUW Socialist Club. No. 1 and 2. 25c.

The first thing one notices about Red Spark is its new-found professionalism. And in a magazine of its nature—by process of occasional birth and inevitable death it is now New Zealand's only revolutionary paper—this professionalism is welcome indeed. Although Red Spark is a product of the Victoria University Socialist Club, a club which in many forms has produced various radical papers at various times, it marks something which is not restricted to Victoria alone.

Its unashamedly student revolution oriented, and though New Zealand has had some share in this international phenomenon, it has not opted for the easy way by reprinting from overseas sources in the hope that the revolution will happen here through some process of metamorphosis. Mind you, local content in the first two issues of Red Spark have by no means taken the greater share. But it is there and I hope will grow as its writers, who are mainly students, increase their sophistication—something that cannot grow overnight. Another immediate observation is the amount of absorption the Victoria writers have achieved of current developments and their expression of it. To those looking from the outside socialist debate may at times appear a strange, bewildering thing. But to someone like myself who has been involved in it for many yars I can assure that its orientation is one which marks a new and more fruitful avenue of marxist discussion than has hitherto concerned most student radicals.

The difference in appearance of the second issue of Red Spark compared with the first marks not only a great development in design and appearance, but a significant increase in editorial confidence. While the first issue was largely a "line" issue where the student revolt, France, May 1968, prospects for revolution in New Zealand etc, were all there, the second issue contains more of topic interest and creates the impression that Red Spark will not be bogged down down by the dogma that has stricken so many marxist groups and revolutionaries.

Where Red Spark is freshest is its local articles. In No. 2 the best article is Chris Wainwright's, which concisely and comprehensively gives the case for workers control and self-management. This is a central issue on any struggle for socialist economy. But at its worst Red Spark falls to the old orthodoxy: facts are paraded out as sort of defence witnesses rather than being used to explain what is really happening—and here only the most docile, old and used ones are picked. Red Spark has opted for the Fourth International, a body with a doubtful and sticky past which, I feel, would be best to steer clear of without, of course, completely losing touch with their material and views.

Where the Fourth International makes its biggest mark on Red Spark is where it treats capitalism in the time-worn sense. Revolution is a too important and imperative thing today for it to be held back by explanations and justifications that are no longer relevant. Reworking and constant investigation into modern capitalism will need, I fear, more than the approach suggested by Ernest Mandel, the main theoretician of the Fourth International.

But such a criticism is alleviated by the relevance of the articles in Red Spark 2: the three books reviews cover topics of interest (Negro militancy, philosophy, and the Revolution) while Tariq Ali writes of the situation in his homeland, and Owen Hughes contributes further to the discussion on Pakistan and the attitude of Maoist China. Included in this is a revealing correspondence between Red Spark and the Communist People's Voice. Finally, the issue is rounded off by the first part of a new article on the Vieteong by Wilfred Burchett, an Australian who has more practical knowledge about the subject than any other English-speaking person.

Derek Melser