Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 25. 3rd October 1973
No Easy Answers at Forum on Protest
No Easy Answers at Forum on Protest
Members of the cooperative which puis out the monthly journal " I he Paper" launched another new venture last week with a public forum on the future of the New Zealand protest movement.
Opening the forum, Economics lecturer Rob Campbell said that in the past radical groups had concentrated too much on overseas issues and had failed to relate to the needs of the majority of working people in New Zealand. He pointed to the work of people like community volunteers as an example of what is being done to meet the needs of ordinary New Zealanders, but added that such groups were not getting the benefits of their work because they are, at present, apolitical.
Campbell criticised Salient and the People's Voice for being too purist in their politics and stressed Mao Tsetung's point that radicals' political work should be based on the actual needs of the people and the wishes of the people.
Several other speakers echoed Campbell's comments. Ken Stanton of Porirua said that the Communist Party and other left-wing groups had failed to build a movement towards socialism in New Zealand because they had failed to analyse social and economic conditions properly, although he stressed he was not calling for "all theory and no action". Gerard Hill, an activist in the secondary school students movement, said that from his experience in industry, workers were far more likely to take political action on issues that affected their immediate needs than on international and ideological questions.
Socialist Action League member Peter Rotherham was one of the few people to disagree with the view that protestors had concentrated too much on overseas problems. "International politics should permeate our outlook and be at the centre of it," he said and claimed that mobilisations against the Vietnam war had radicalised thousands of New Zealanders.
"The best way to assist revolutionary movements overseas is to work for socialism in New Zealand," replied student president Peter Wilson. He argued that protest movements could not unite by agreeing on the "lowest common denominator" between them, but by uniting towards a higher goal — the struggle for a socialist society, lie stressed that the only way radicals could understand New Zealand society was by changing it.
Some time was spent discussing the present orientation of the women's movement. Sandra McCallum raised the question to whether the movement was "a national women's liberation movement or a women's movement for national liberation." Amanda Russell and Anne Gilbert criticised the movement's concentration on the demand to repeal all the anti-abortion laws, claiming it was alienating working class women.
Anne said sexism was a problem caused by the present social relations under capitalism, not men, and argued that the best way to organise working class women was around around issues like rising prices and the cost of living. Brigid Mulrennan and Jacqueline McCluggage said the abortion movement would be of immense benefit to women of all classes, and that the issue had politicised many women.
Noticeably there were hardly any members of Maori groups or trade unions present. Race Relations Council President Jim Delahunty (one of the editors of "The Paper") mentioned the council was a typical organisation formed by white liberals and leftists who wanted a "nice" relationship with Maori people. But when the Maori people "really started talking many of these liberals and leftists had backed away. Very lew Maoris, he said, saw the basis for unity with the sort of people present at the forum.
Too much time was wasted at this meeting on arguments about how to get to the workers and how radicals couldn't relate to each other. And while a lot of sound socialist theory was talked, most of it was not based on the experience of social practice in New Zealand. As Roger C'ruick-shank noted at the beginning of the forum, only six of the people present had bothered to turn up at the TPA's annual general meeting the night before.
However 70 activists from a number of different left-wing groups in Wellington did manage to discuss common problems in an unusually non-sectarian manner. The next "Paper" forum will concentrate on the performance to date of the labour Government, and possibly strategies for next year's local body elections and the 1975 General Elections.