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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 22. 1973

Why I am pissed off with the P.V

page 3

Why I am pissed off with the P.V.

If, on a Friday night, you have elbowed your way roughly past Don Franks peddling Hart News, callously kicked a youthful pusher of Socialist Action, perhaps even flogged the tambourine of a Hare Krishna singer, and fought your way to Stewart Dawson's corner you have probably run into a curiously dressed figure hawking the People's Voice. You may, if you are exceptionally committed or kind hearted, have purchased a copy for eight cents, donated the change from ten cents to the cause and dashed to the Duke to swap your new possession for a copy of War Cry. If you are an ego-tripper you have possibly bought another copy of three weeks later to read "Fred 2 cents" in the donations list, along with "Digger — 50 cents" and "His Mate — 32 cents". You are by now a well-wisher, reader and supporter of the People's Voice, organ of the Communist Part of New Zealand, Indeed you would have been eligible to attend a criticism session on the P.V. held Last Sunday.

Ten people turned up, which no doubt reflects the distribution of the paper among the masses. Most New Zealanders would not be surprised at such a lack of response, but there are those in the world who would be shocked indeed the Communist Party is perhaps New Zealand's widest known political party, and the P.V. is standard fare for Chinese learning English, and keeping up on world affairs. To these people it comes as a shock to learn that there is not armed struggle in New Zealand, indeed it comes as a shock equal to that which the local communists would experience if it ever came. They are victims in a minor way of the deluded world view of the People's Voice.

Drawing of a man holding a newspaper

The session on the People's Voice, was however of value in illuminating clearly what is needed, by way of negative example in the building of a left-wing press in New Zealand. A catalogue of mistakes of the P.V. is essential to this task as most of the classical works of Marxism. Consider the main points of criticsm that emerged in discussion.

First, the question of stodgy, predictable appearance of graphics and layouts. This fault is largely due to the — in a sense — outdated process of production of the P.V. using modern off-set printing, such as that used by Salient, it is possible to provide a lively, constantly changing layout corresponding to changing demands of style and content. Of course, such printing equipment lies solely in the hands of commercial printers — a problem which a recent Alternative Newspaper Conference bemoaned. Most of the Alternatives people however, were worried about their inability to print tit, bum, and libel. A paper with the outlook of Marxist politics is not likely to need to indulge in any of these activities and the fact is that at present there is virtually none of the copy of the P.V. (which libels only other leftists) or indeed most of the 'political' papers, which commercial printers won't handle. The problem lies far more in the nature of the party which produces the P.V. — that is one which fosters the in —bred, beseiged outlook of conspirators without a conspiracy. No one denies that a progressive, outward-looking political movement will eventually run into censorship troubles from presses which are in the hands of those threatened by such a movement. We still have, however, room to move within these structures.

Second, and again this reduces itself to a criticism of the party itself, the P.V. has developed a totally remote and anti-realistic view of New Zealand. Its front page article, in a week in which ordinary New Zealanders were worried about the impact of the Budget, was an attack on a group of people in Wellington whose names and whose politics are only slightly less remote from the day to day interests of workers, than those of Vic Wilcox. A newspaper which fails concretely to relate its political perspective to the concrete concerns of the people, is nothing more than a farce. A political paper must play a role along with a political movement, existing and fighting as part of that movement, helping to build disparate elements into a whole. The P.V. and many other papers of the kind, all too often ignores or skips over the disparate elements in a frantic effort to impose order on a chaos which it fails to understand. It is not the paper which creates the movement from outside.

The other element of this is the problem of personality attacks which riddle the P.V., ressurrecting years-old disputes between people involved in the left-wing. There have been elements of this fault in this year's Salient, particularly in the controversy centring around the Socialist Action League. These attacks, which are to be differentiated from in-depth theoretical discussions which build upon one another and the world around us, are counterproductive from two aspects. One, they divide people working within the left from one another, and divert them from the main tasks. Second, to people outside they project an image of petty bickering and insularity which can hardly be appealing. Nor does it develop understanding. In short, at present we do not have a left-wing paper which is a realistic development from and addition to the wide-range of radical political activity occurring in this country.

The fact that this is the case in no way denies the dedication and loyalty of rank and file New Zealand communist party members — although, for a communist loyalty by itself is insufficient.

It is rather a reflection on the un-Marxist character of the Party leaders and feature writers of the P.V. More analysis of concrete conditions and regard for the level of consciousness of the people is needed.

Scientific analysis and plain simple honesty is the mark of a true Marxist—Leninist periodical. Phrase-mongering, spite fullness and distortion are trends indicating a dangerous decline in a communist party. It is possible to correct such trends, but the time is now and the method will need to he drastic.

—Rob Campbell