Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 11. 31 May 1972
the last word ?
[unclear: the] last word ?
Wrath and Opprobrium
Marx and Engels described 'The Executive of the Modern State 'as 'but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie'.
One of the important implications of Marx and Engels' description of the modern state is that the state's reaction to any crisis or disturbance in society will be reflected ideologically in accordance with the interests of the dominant class; in Marx and Engels' terms, the bourgeoisie. Last year when watersides held up giant container vessels they incurred the wrath and opprobium of the government and the daily press, which magically and speedily divined and disseminated public anger at the wharfies' actions. Of course one does not need to study marxist texts to realise how faithfully the daily press reflects the 'conventional wisdom' of our capitalist society.
When the Seamen's Union was deregistered last year, the parliamentarians and the press gloated 'its your own fault'. The Labour Party, to which the seamen were affiliated, joined in the chorus applauding deregistration. When dissenters wrote to express their horror at the party's actions, they were sent statistics about all the industrial hold-ups the seamen had caused and a quote from some F.O.L. statement slating troublemaking minorities.
Dwyer Slams Workers
When the JBL companies crashed the other day, the government and the daily press did not leap into print to denounce JBL for disrupting the economy and throwing a lot of people out of work. The receiver, Mr. Richard Dwyer, went on T.V. last Thursday night and said that JBL construction workers who didn't get jobs with the firm taking over unfinished contracts would 'not be worth employing'. Dwyer caused an uproar because he was blunt and tactless. His statement should not be seen as being very much out of the ordinary; labour, in capitalist society, is just another commodity.
The venom spat at students and others who demonstrated against the Pacific Basin Economic Council must be understood in this context. What was surprising was the Student Association Executive's reaction, at its special meeting on the Sunday night following the protest. The Executive's reaction freezing Labour Club funds, asking Council for an inquiry and the Professorial Board for disciplinary action and passing a no-confidence motion in Lee-oan only be described as vindictive;
It seemed as though the Evening Post's call for political exclusions from the university had found a response from 'sensible' students.
The events of last week, following that meeting, seem even more surprising and confusing. On Monday Council rejected the Executive's 'conflcting' requests. On Wednesday a special forum 'discussed' the demonstrations for about three hours. The speakers who had supported the demonstration initially got a rough hearing, especially Peter Wilson.
Quite plainly a hell of a lot of people at that forum though 'violence' had occurred on the part of the student protesters. Sitting in a comparatively sane part of the hall I couldn't quite work out whether the students who complained about the protesters' 'violence' were pacifists or whether they opposed student 'violence' but supported PBEC delegates' violence. Later in the meeting I got the impression that the majority present were not in favour of the Executive's actions at their Sunday night meeting; although a lot of people thought borer and flour bombs were violent.
Class Values V. Liberalism
Niel Wright's explanation of the reaction at the special forum is that the students' class interests or class position (i.e. their middle-class background) was apparent and conflicted with their liberalism. One student told the meeting that the demonstrations threatened business support for the university; funds from conferences, funds for halls of residence and funds for 'academic disciplines' such as chairs of marketing. Perhaps thoughts of business reaction to the demonstrations affected the Executive's reaction at its Sunday night meeting.
On Thursday last week the Executive itself provided a classic demonstration of the conflict between middle-class values and liberalism. The Labour Club's funds were 'unfrozen' (in fact speedy action had rendered the Executive's Sunday action impotent) and the Club received a public apology.
The motion of no confidence in Lee was rescinded, he is resigning anyway. The Executive is to ask the Professorial Board for an inquiry into incidents at the demonstration. At this stage talk of disciplinary action has been dropped from Executive motions. On Thursday night the Executive's liberalism won.
The Executive will, I think, survive without being thrown out. However the PBEC demonstrations and the resultant Executive actions leave a lot of questions unanswered.
Non-Student Trouble Makers?
One immediate question involves the participation of non-students in the demonstrations. Muldoon's initial reaction was to blame the whole thing on nonstudents. As far as I can make out there were no more than ten non-students involved; and the most prominent like Chris Wheeler took very little active part in the whole thing especially on the Friday. All the talk about nonstudents, which seems to consider them a caste like the 'untouchables', has been exaggerated out of proportion.
Of course there were a lot of non-students actively involved in the incidents on the Friday whom people seem to have forgotten; namely the PBEC delegates!
The question of the 'violence' that occurred is far more important. The important thing here is not so much who started it but the emphasis placed on borer and flour bombs as 'violent' objects. Students who like the media, get particularly upset at borer and flour bombs have, in my opinion, just about lost their sense of proportion completely. As far as I can see, and perhaps I'm callous, the flour bomb that hit George C. Prill, President of Lockheed, can hardly be called 'violent' in relation to the results of the death machines Prill's company produces. For the absolute and honest pacifist this comparison doesn't justify the harassment Prill got. But surely there is a strong element of hypocrisy in those who cry violence when they hear about Prill, but ignore punching on football fields or the bombing of North Vietnam. This hypocrisy is quite prevalent in our society. On Anzac Day, most go along to mourn New Zealand's war dead. The annual commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima on the other hand is ignored by most people as the preserve of a few cranks. Hiroshima has been rationalised away while the German people have had their war guilt advertised and emphasised for years. I'm not saying that Germany can forget the Nazi brutalities but emphasis on German war guilt just makes us more hypocritical for forgetting or rationalising away our own war guilt.
There is another important question about the emphasis on student violence during the PBEC conference. If students shrink in horror from those incidents, how will they react if the Springboks come here next year?
Why the PBEC Protest ?
Finally the most unfortunate thing about the whole business is that the reasons why PBEC received strong opposition have been overshadowed. The media representatives at the PBEC Conference were all given copies of the Labour Club's pamphlet on the PBEC on the Thursday. Nothing was printed.
The Labour Club is going to publish a lengthier document on PBEC fairly soon.
If students read and discuss it fully, the reasons why the demonstration occurred might become more apparent and the demonstration might be seen in its correct perspective.