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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 9. 9 May 1972

Radical Synthesis

Radical Synthesis

The time should be past when crapped out liberals like the editor of Salient should imagine students can be persuaded to support a politician without being told a single word about his policy, his views, his past record or that of his party. The paid Labour Party advertisement on page 14 of the same Salient at any rate provides more (though hardly indispensable) information about Dave Shand by printing his photo and describing him as a senior lecturer. The article Is The Dream Over? is simply third-rate party propaganda. (Why is it that both the article and the Party advertisement, if the two really are separate, don't tell you Shand lectures in that progressive subject, accountancy?) But then the electioneering part of the article was written at a time when Pat Dobbie was around the Salient office. The rest of the article does raise some interesting questions.

The history of the modern student-based radical left is a record of unconscious borrowing from older radical traditions not student-based at all. The origins of most existing forms of radical protest are to be found in the past of the New Zealand labour and communist movements. Proclamations of a 'New Left' simply prove that student radicalism is based on the illusions of youth that history is irrelevant. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. And the repetition of history is the past and future of the 'New Left'. The nineteen-thirties Auckland unemployed confrontations with the police remain unrivalled by recent PYM confrontations. New Zealand's most radical sit-in happened at Parihaka in the nineteenth century, not in the American consulate at Auckland in 1969. More people were arrested in the 1914-18 anti-war movement than in the last four years' anti-war activity. At the same time those who graduate from the New Left to public service positions, profitable radical publishing or accountancy lectureships move to the right even faster than the Labour leader jailed for opposing conscription in 1917. The Labour Party proved in the nineteen-tens that getting arrested doesn't automatically turn you on as a revolutionary. The 'New Left' has still to learn the lesson.

Students who use means of political action devised to express the political and industrial militancy of people very different from students must find their actions abortive, especially when the people who originated the now standard forms of protest are not now radical and have to be persuaded to turn radical again. But if protest is to be revitalised these people must participate. The alternative is to move toward yippie-type demonstrations, the only form of protest originated spontaneously and entirely by students.

It is possible for students to revive the other social groups lost militancy and draw them into revolutionary action. The classic example is the students' sparking off of the May 1968 French revolution. However this was only possible in a country with a working-class revolutionary tradition, congealed in a conservative Communist Party, but unfreezable when political heat is applied. Similar New Zealand traditions are far less strong. Here actions which the student left can take to re-establish contact with labour radicalism are much more directly political. If the Anti-War Movement were to support Vietnamese workers' control of their own factories when the NLF forces hit Saigon, No matter what the official line is from Hanoi, it will win New Zealand workers. If ecology action, instead of campaigning for property owners frightened of property values falling, worried about the environments in which factory workers earn their living, it would be talking about some of the worst environments in New Zealand. If the Polynesian movements ceased to represent almost exclusively the tiny section of Maori people who get to university and organised, instead, the majority who dig ditches or work on assembly lines it would grow fast. For a new beginning to be made a political movement must be built which amalgamates all the existing single issue radical movements programmes into what they really mean a revolutionary programme for the overthrow of New Zealand capitalism, which embodies, though without being imprisoned or restricted by, the entire history of the New Zealand left.