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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 1. March 02, 1950

VUC Students Report on... — Attempt to Split International Union of Students

VUC Students Report on...

Attempt to Split International Union of Students

"The N.Z. University Students' Association also voted to disaffiliate but the students of the college in Wellington are desirous of remaining affiliated." Thus a sentence in the International Union of Students' Executive report to the 1919 Conference.

If you keep back numbers, look up "Salient" of May 4 last. There you will see an account of tile sorry record of the Anzac conference of NZUSA (delegates from each of the College associations, plus a standing Executive). It was at this meeting that the appointment of Rev. Sullivan as 1950 Congress Controller was effected. It was here also, with the sole opposition of Victoria, the national association decided to leave IUS. Reasons? (a) too expensive, (b) too far away, (c) too "political (d), anyway, everybody's doing it (everybody was Australia).

Time passes. N.Z.U.S.A. contacts other "Western" student bodies. Much duck-shoving and back-room diplomacy. It became evident that certain student leaders in Britain were dissatisfied with the militant policy of I.U.S. in fighting for such things as peace, national Independence and more democratic education. Muffled cries of "down with politics."

Then the underground rumblings came to the surface. It was announced that Netherlands and Belgian student bodies were convening a "Conference of International Student Representatives on Practical Activities." The implication were obvious. Only non-IUS bodies were invited. NZUSA sent a Mr. Brosnahan as observer, while refusing to send any representative to the IUS conference in Sofia in September.

At that time NZUSA was still [unclear: offcially] [unclear: affiliates] to IUS, disaffilltion not taking effect for one year.

A second attack was launched on IUS with the calling of another "International Student Conference" by the British National Union of Students, in London In December. NZUSA also agreed to take a hand in this.

Meanwhile Victoria University College, the only NZ college where Issues of student politics are thrashed out in, open forum, contacted its liason officers with IUS in Europe, and asked their advice. From the Kiwi quarters of Paris came the reply—over the names of Jim Hollyman and Stew Scoones. The gist if it was that if NZUSA refused to in clude a delegate or observer representing VUC's minority opinion is the delegation sent to the IUS meeting, then "VUCSA should send an observer accredited on their own account." In the event, as we know, NZUSA refused to send any representative at all. VUC still followed the latter course. Jim Hollyman was accredited. They travelled straight on to Bulgaria after the WFDY Congress in Budapest.

Like WFDY, IUS la no talking shop. Executive report, included in full in the Scoones-Hollyman report home, is a record of achievement. The past year has seen IUS coordinating the national campaigns against increased war expenditure, for greater educational outlay, for more colonial self-government, for relief for needy students, against racial discrimination and the domination of neo-Nazi doctrines. It has won some successes in resisting the onslaught on student liberties in America and Asia. It has cooperated with ISS on World Student Relief, and opposed the use of relief bodies for political purposes. It has sponsored national conferences on student needs in many countries, including England and Australia. It provided nearly a hundred substantial scholarships to colonial students. It cooperated with UN bodies in fighting contravention of human rights. It organised world university summer and winter sports.

The result has been an increase in total membership from two million to four million in one year. This fine record in the interests of students has found its enemies. The accusation that it was "political," raised by British NUS and French UNE delegates, was made vaguely, unsubstantiated by facts. The NUS delegates' report, indeed, accepted the idea of politics to the extent of antiacism. Do they consider the type of activity into which we are lead by campaigning for higher living standards and vital peace, to be the wrong sort of politics? Scoones-Hollyman: "They put forward a curious idea: they accepted politics in student affairs and that national unions should take political action, but condemned 'partisan political' action. . . . This view if applied could lead only to a state of suspended animation. . . . The idea of 'fighting for peace' they claimed to be a contradiction in terms."

From Australia came the answer. Although the Australian union had disaffiliated by top-level decision, rank-and-file pressure caused pro-affiliation Noel Ebbles to be added to the official delegation during the course of the Conference. "Accusation of Marxism or any other political philosophy" he said, "is wholly ir-relevent; IUS 'politics' can be judged only by the criterion of student needs. On that criterion, it stands." Other delegates supported him. In fact critics totalled eight, delegates expressing support for IUS polley, forty-four.

British representative Jenkins assumed the role of leader of the opposition. With him were Australians and French, whose national unions have recently broken with IUS. They attempted to represent these withdrawals as rank-and-file decisions of students; but facts belied them. In Australia, for instance, disaffiliation has been followed by a national movement pro-IUS, and forced appointment of a pro-IUS delegate. In France Hollyman and Scoones say IUS is virtually unknown' to the average student Similarly in USA. where the national union has never' affiliated.

The Hollyman-Scoones comment on the criticisms of this group: "The opinions of student leaders in certain countries where students are not openly drawn into free discussion on IUS or IUS activities. . . . They are afraid of discussion, afraid to send rank-and-file students to an IUS meeting. Their allegations against IUS are to cover this fact.... They dared not attack IUS constitution be-cause they knew they would lose their own support. They dare not withdraw from IUS, because the example of Australia showed them that that means an increase of mass support for IUS.

At the conference, they were exposed in the discussions. Their behaviour outside the meetings branded them as conspirators: they held meetings during the meal-hours, and their voices hushed when any alien element came near. . . . During sessions, they did not stand and applaud the speeches for which the majority of delegates did (including our own speech, and others well "west"). . .

"Since the conference, NUS Council meetings rejected a motion pledging them to implement IUS Conference, resolution on work for student needs and organisation for an international student congress in 1950. Discussion on motions of censure on IUS was severely curtailed and speakers from the floor were refused the right of participation in discussion. This is a striking contrast to the democratic procedure at every session of IUS Conference."

And so on, like the harrowing of Hell.

The calling of the London conference thus falls into line. As NZ delegates remark: "It is in reality a further step in the attempt to disrupt IUS and cause a split in international student unity." To this, gathering were invited the undemocratic Dutch student council (which doesn't accept the IUS constitution) and the Government-run 'All India Student Congress' formed to counter the too-embarassing demands of the mass of Indian Students in the All India Students Federation.

The report of the NUS delegation to the conference ends up 'We submit that what we are at present able, in a minority position alone, to achieve, warrants a continuation of membership." Apparently they doubt whether students in the UK would stand for being cut adrift.

Victoria should make it clear to NZUSA that it was mistaken on the same point. Reaffiliation should be a goal for next month's NZUSA annual meeting.