Protest of workers, students and anti-Vietnam War activists at parliament, Wellington, June 26, 1968
The article below first appeared in 1969 in the very first issue of the journal Red Spark, publication of the Victoria University of Wellington’s Socialist Club. The VUWSC was one of the first organisations that emerged as part of the youth radicalisation in New Zealand that began in the late 1960s and continued into the early 1970s. VUWSC activists were particularly influenced by the Cuban revolution, the May-June 1968 worker-student upsurge in France and the 1968 Prague Spring, but the issue that most moved them was the struggle of the Vietnamese masses against US imperialism and its allies (including NZ imperialism). (And 1968 was also the year of the Tet Offensive.)
A core of young VUWSC activists, including the author of this article, went on later in 1969 to found the Socialist Action League with a layer of activists who left the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) in Christchurch. The author was a member of the SAL’s original central leadership and for a while the editor of its fortnightly paper; he dropped out of politics in the late 1970s.
The article gives a flavour of the youth radicalisation – and the general optimism – of that period. Its author would have been in his very early 20s, which also gives an indication of the relatively high political level of the young radicals of that era. It’s also interesting to compare trends between then and now in NZ (and, indeed, global) capitalism. Hugh rightly critiques the sociological notion that the new layers of white collar workers were part of the middle class and, instead, suggests that whatever their consciousness might be at that particular point in time – ie not seeing themselves as workers – they were indeed part of an ongoing process of proletarianisation. That analysis has long since been borne out – indeed, as we show elsewhere on Redline, these same layers today, far from being privileged, are often in precarious employment with poor pay and conditions. (See, for instance, here and here.)
by M.H. Fyson
The momentous events in France last year sent out a fresh ripple of revolutionary enthusiasm that spread across the world; it even contributed to the spirit of the demonstration we had here in Parliament Grounds, June 26.1 And not only some students, but even the bourgeois press – the Evening Post and the Dominion – began to speculate on the possibility of there being “another Paris” here. But as soon as it was all over, the students’ premature optimism and the papers’ premature fears melted away, and ‘normality’ returned.
We have already included two articles on the French events in this magazine, for not merely academic interest. But because of their significance for left-wing activists here in New Zealand. The basic lesson for us is this: that under capitalism, no matter how much the government intervenes in the economy, whether or not it makes an attempt to appease or ‘buy off’ the workers, the (more…)