Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 5. 3rd April 1974
October Club: spreading socialism on campus
October Club: spreading socialism on campus
People went along to the inaugural AGM of the October Club last Wednesday with a variety of expectations. After all, the discussion and promotion of socialism is a rather general and broad-ranging heading. Ideas ranged from one person's insistence that the club should have a definite coherent political line on all issues, to the suggestion by another person that perhaps the club should have no political line on anything in case it put people off. Some people had come along to the meeting of an organisation which they thought was going to promote Marxist study groups for them to discuss and learn about the theory and practice of socialism. There were others who through last year had been bemoaning the lack of any political group on campus which they could adhere to.
But what emerged from the discussion was a rather different shape for the October Club to that which had been generally anticipated. However, despite criticisms which have been levelled at the group as having not fulfilled the objectives which these critics have determined for it, the structure and programme of the club are those that the majority of interested students want, and which will probably be the most useful too them in their attempt to reach the desired goals.
So what is the October Club going to do? It was agreed that the primary orientation of a student club should be with the university. In the past, most of the political activity on campus has been directed at activities taking place not only outside the university, but usually outside New Zealand as well. The big issues of the last five years have been those of apartheid and the Indo-China war, but nowadays neither of these attracts the massive attention that they once did.
There is an attitude of political apathy around the campus, which the Socialist Action League attributes to the detente between the United States and the "Stalinist Bureaucracies" (i.e. in their understanding, China, the Soviet Union and the Soviet Empire), but which most people attribute to the internal assessment system. As a wise old man once said, most students are "heads down, bums up" in the library. But the obvious approach is to look at the problem that students face, and the role of the university. Maybe at that point you can relate these problems to other problems in the wider society.
Some of the activities that were suggested for the October Club included some moves towards an examination of the role of students within the university. There was a discussion of a possible sit-in in the library but nothing definite emerged. What did emerge, however, was a determination that university courses should be examined, subject by subject, to see why they were taught, what value they had for whom, and to examine some of the social and political preconceptions underlying them People also wanted to see further encouragement for students within various departments to unite to combat all their problems of workloads course content, etc. The whole programme is one of encouraging students to look at their surroundings, analysing them, and to attempt solutions to their problems.
All this seems rather remote from the supposed aim of the October Club—the discussion and promotion of socialism. And thus various other activities were discussed, getting Ben Matthews, the dismissed union delegate from the Gear Meat Company to come and speak. There are some films available in Wellington which would make interesting discussion material—a film of a strike in New Mexico called "Salt of the Earth" and some of Felix Greene's films on China.
And so now there is somewhere for the energies of left-wingers and potential left-wingers to be directed. Instead of a rather nebulous clique of self-styled "heavies" there is something more definite. The first actual activity as a specific part of the October Club's programme will be on Tuesday April 9—a discussion of the orientation programme adopted this year. The approach that was adopted was largely conciliatory, supporting the role of the university as an elitist institution. But was this the best course of action? Should these people have instead attacked the role of the university?