Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32. No. 25. October 9, 1969
me radical, you ...?
me radical, you ...?
Sir.—I am forced to reply to the letter from Auckland by Owen Gager in Salient 24. First I must straighten out what he was trying to say. In clear language, it goes something like this:
(1) The Radical Activists Conference was not a conference, but a "political coalition".
(2) The VUW Socialist Club and the Auckland PYM are "partners" in this coalition.
(3) The Socialist Club is "saying" that the Auckland demonstrations were in defence of the Auckland PYM, and were concerned with a general persecution of the left, when in reality they were "for civil liberties" and "against individual instances of excessive use of force by police in making arrests at demonstrations.".
Perhaps it will be best to clear up these details of the first part of Mr. Gager's letter first. The first suggestion—that the conference was a coalition—is sheer nonsense as anyone who was there knows. However Gager insists on this point, in order to try and brand the VUW Socialist Club with the "sins" of the Auckland PYM. Incidentally, those who did go to the Radical Activists Conference from VUW Socialist Club in no way represented the club; it was left to individuals to do what they wanted. As there was no coalition, it is hard to see how anyone could be partners in it. As regards (3) it seems mere quibbling to separate "defence of the left" from "civil liberties". The demonstrations were about all those things, as anyone who reads the pamphlets produced for them can see.
In the second part of his letter Gager gets down to his real business and makes these points:
(4) Members of the Socialist Club have made "what they have claimed to be" attacks on the tactics of the Auckland PYM.
(5) This is just a front for real solidarity with the Auckland PYM.
In other words, we really like what PYM does, but we "attack" them just for show (or something).
This Ingenious and nonsensical theorising on the part of O.G. Gager actually points up what is behind his own sectarianism—of which his letter is a typical example. He simply cannot understand the Marxist notion of critical support: support against attacks by the enemy, which are never defensible. An example of this is the unconditional defence Marxists must give to the workers' states in their confrontations with imperialism. Criticism when it is felt this is justified. This is precisely our attitude to Auckland PYM.
As far as we're concerned they have democratic rights—to exist, to organise demonstrations, to publish their magazine, to not have their homes ransacked on false pretences and their hard-earned equipmnt confiscated—and we will defend these rights unconditionally. This is why we organised the solidarity demonstrations here.
On the other hand we have a perfect right to criticise them when we think they are bound by an ultraleft childishness which can only damage the movement. This is what we did at the Radical Activists Conference.
Gager's suggestion of "attacking" to cover up "real solidarity" reflects his own sorry way of carrying on. He won't give an ounce of support to something he disagrees with only slightly. For instance he left the Committee on Vietnam because of trifling squabbles with others of differing political viewpoints within the COV, who nevertheless were all prepared to unite on the demand for the withdrawal of New Zealand troops.
This latest thicket of cobwebs Gager has constructed is merely another reflection of his sectarianism and childish meanness. It is tragic that he has to be dishonest in his ambition to be ever critical.
G. A. Fyson.