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Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Assn. Volume 40 Number 2. Feb 7 1977

Trots Hit Back

Trots Hit Back

Dear Editor,

In last week's Salient, the article 'Hot Debate on "Oppressed" contained a full-blooded attack on the Young Socialists and the Socialists Action League, for our role past and present, in the anti-apartheid movement.

The article is a long and confusing one. In the short time available it is not possible to write a full reply. A further article for Salient will give the facts of the Sharpeville actions in 1973, in reply to the well-worn lies that Robinson has dusted off and put on display. Certainly, it is time that the record was put straight. It will also explain why we support, along with the Wellington Anti Apartheid Plenary (WAAP), the demand "Black Majority Rule".

But for the moment, we will deal with the recent events in the meetings of the Wellington Anti-Apartheid Plenary.

The slogan of the Sharpeville demonstration was first discussed before Christmas. A Solidarity Weekend, made up of a march and seminar to commemmorate Sharpeville Day, was suggested and agreed on by a WAAP plenary (open meeting) before Christmas last year. At that meeting it was proposed that the demands of the march would be:
  • Black Majority/South Africa, Let the Blacks Decide.
  • End the Repression — Free All Political. Prisoners.
  • End NZ Complicity with Apartheid.

This was passed by that plenary.

Robinson glosses over the fact that the slogan "Black Majority Rule" wasn't invented by the Young Socialists, but was voted in by a full WAAP plenary.

He refers to "the trotskyites desire to use the overseas students reps to strengthen support for their slogan." And he says that we "posed a counter slogan Black majority rule/South Africa, let the blacks decide ". But if anything was a counter slogan it was the one, with "Black" deleted. That demand — 'Majority Rule,/South Africa Let the oppressed decide was the counter to the slogan originally adopted by WAAP — ' Black Majority Rule/South Africa Let the Blacks decide! (emphasis added).

So it is clear that Black Majority Rule/South Africa, Let the Blacks Decide is not an invention of the "trotskyites". It is WAAP policy.

We can illustrate this: Of the five plenaries that have had this slogan before them, four have accepted the inclusion of the word "Black".

So the question arises — why doesn't Robinson attack WAAP for its "rotten policies", as he calls them. Why doesn't he expend his venom on the plenary. Why aren't the people who make up the plenary "splitters and reactionaries in a left colouring'?

Robinson's racist charge that "While a group calling itself 'Polynesians Against Racism' carried out most of the attack on WAAP's policies they were under the leadership of the Trolskyites and received instructions from them throughout the meeting" will no doubt he answered by members of that group.

I would like to point out that it is the very opposite of Young Socialist policy to give "instructions" to any such group. The fact that we support wholeheartedly the involvement of such groups in the anti-apartheid movement apparently means to Robinson that we give them instructions.

Robinson is only applying his own conceptions, in which such a group would have to flow instructions in order to earn support.

And again, on this point, Robinson distorts the true picture. He says that the "Polynesians Against Racism" carried out an 'attack on WAAP's policies". But we have already pointed out that the slogan of Black Majority Rule/South Africa, Let the Blacks Decide" was originally a WAAP policy. Furthermore, the other demands of the group did not attach any policy of the plenary, they were, merely proposals for enlarging participation in the March 18 actions.

But Robinson's distortions do not stop there. He says that a motion for two representatives of overseas students to join the WAAP Sharpeville Committee was "also forced through". He fails to point out that there was considerable discussion on this motion, and like the others it was passed on the vote! Apparently if Robinson's position is lost through democratic means, then a decision has been "forced through".

He then calls this representation "tokenism". Tokenism in this situation could only mean a concession by the plenary to mollify the overseas students and Maoris present, and shut them up. But this representation has already meant a stepped-up involvement of overseas students and Maori people in the Wellington anti-apartheid movement. In other words, this representation has achieved the opposite of what "tokenism" seeks to achieve. Robinson apparently does not welcome this participation.

But that aside, this is a case of a total lapse of memory by Robinson. He says "but why was this tokenism not applied to many other groups such as Matakite or the Pacific Islander Community. Does he not remember that the very plenary that he applauds as "democractic" (the one on February 23rd) decided to do just that — it included a representative from Te Matakite O Aoteoroa and the Polynesian people. In trying to construct a case for the Young Socialists being "splitters", Robinson has to let the facts go by the board.

It is in this light that we have to look at Robinson's attack. He claims that we — the Young Socialists and the Socialist Action League — are the "splitters". Yet he devotes a full page of Salient to an article that is inconsistent in facts, in arguement, in everything except his desire to slander "the Trot-skyites" The "trotskyites" are a not insignificant part of the anti-apartheid movement, and certainly among its keenest activists. Robinson is trying to — let's be frank — turn the rest of the anti-apartheid movement against us. And he calls us the "splitters"!

The crime of Robinson's article is not just that it could have its desired effect turning students off one part of the anti-apartheid movement — it could turn them off the whole anti apartheid movement.

In reply to Robinson's full house of fabrications, the Young Socialists emphasize our committment to building the anti-apartheid movement, and our support for it. We would hold this position even if the Wellington Anti-Apartheid Plenary deleted "Black" from the march slogan. This has in fact occurred in Auckland, and Trotskyists in that city are working no less hard to make the demonstration a success.

To those students who may have been put off the anti-apartheid movement by reading Robinson's attack, we say that his article is not representative of the movement. And we ask them to get involved in building the Sharpeville actions — though we fear that such an appeal is what Bruce Robinson calls "splitting".

Patrick Mulrennan

Figure on hands and knees