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Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Volume 38 Number 8. 1975

Column Comment

Column Comment

Dear Sir,

Nz's only communist weekly newspaper the People's Voice used to have the bold legend printed on top of one of its columns — 'If you were there the PV was there'.

Hard times have befallen the revolutionary press and the People's Voice just don't get around much anymore, as the old song goes.

As far as the student demonstrations on bursaries on March 26 were concerned the PV definately wasn't there, as was shown in its issue of April 9.

Buried away on the bottom of page 8 of this particular PV was a 'story' about the demonstrations. It was sent from Christchurch — the only centre that didn't hold a march. Well old 'P' the People's Voice mightn't have been exactly in the vanguard of the action but at least he had his facts straight — more or less.

Beneath comrade P's story was a Footnote 'reporting' action in other places. The following figures may be of interest.

2,000 Dunedin students marched in Dunedin. Well it was actually around 1,500 but we can forgive a small amount of optimism on the PV's part. It was there in spirit at least.

In Auckland, so this revolutionary paper tells us, 1,000 students marched to the Central Post Office. Was the PV there? If it was it didn't count the 1,500 other students who took part.

'Over 1,000 Waikato students marched through the streets of Hamilton', continued the report. In this case the PV was there with a vengence. All other reports estimated this march at only 200 yet the ranks of this small force were swelled by fivefold by the 800 students who strode into the pages of the People's Voice.

Some of these extra students may have come from Palmerston North where the PV turned a demonstration of 1,500 students into a mere 500.

And what about Wellington? In the capital the PV was hardly there at all. 'Over 600' students demonstrated outside Parliament, said its report. This was a classic use of the understatement, as many Salient readers will be aware. Somewhere along the way the PV lost sight of some 2,400 students or fourfifths of those who marched.

Salient estimated that 10,000 students took part in protests around the country on March 26. The People's Voice missed sight of a good 4,000 of these people. It was little better than half there.

If the PV wasn't quite up with the play then Socialist Action was there with a vengence. Its report of the student marches in its April 11 issue had the figures pretty right but fell down on the facts.

If you were to go by the Socialist Action account then you'd be convinced that the Young Socialists were right up in front leading the whole thing.

In Auckland, the report boasted, local student and YS heavy Mike Treen was interviewed on national television news — and what could be wrong with that? In Christchurch, Salient readers will recall, the story was somewhat different.

There was no march in Christchurch and Socialist Action correctly reports that this was due to the rather backward attitude of the 'conservative student leadership'. But didn't these bureaucrats face any opposition? Of course they did. And who initiated this opposition — none other than our old friends the Young Socialists.

The fact that there are only about five of these hardened cadres on the Canterbury campus was overlooked by Socialist Action, as was the fact that a number of other students pushed just as forcefully for a demonstration.

These little oversimplifications of the truth shouldn't worry us too much. Let's read on.

Unfortunately our intrepid Young Socialists didn't get their way at Canterbury and there was no march. But at the protest meeting held instead, 'YS member Arne Ericson asked for a show of hands on whether the student executive should organise a demonstration. Over half of those present responded positively'.

'Between 1,000 and 1,500 students 'took part in this meeting, so Socialist Action reports. So does one conclude that 500 to 750 students were in favour of a march?

Not according to those who were actually at the meeting. Comrade Ericson harangued the masses somewhat late in the piece, after various speakers had raved on for about an hour. The crowd had thinned down a bit but of those who remained 'over hall of those present' did not respond positively to Ericson's call. Perhaps a hundred did but these students constituted a rather small minority. Socialist Action stretched the truth about as far as those 800 non-existent students who found their way into the Hamilton march through the pages of the Peoples Voice.

The student demonstrations on the bursaries issue were a big success. Students do not need the People's Voice and Sacialist Action to tell lies in order to make the demonstrations sound even better that they were.

Yours etc.,

John Cowles.