Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 5. May 24, 1951
Talk About Tolerance
Talk About Tolerance
What is tolerance? This one question, so long a part of the esprit behind democracy, is now the important question for the democratic world to answer.
In this issue we publish an article on the Martinsville Seven whose execution is an example of that kind of intolerance known as racial discrimination. About the time that our last issue went to press liberal newspaper, La Prensa, became yet another newspaper absorbed into a political machine. Dictators Peron, Stalin and Franco remain. Racial segregation is part of the South African Government's policy. In New Zealand the Emergency Regulations severely limit the freedoms of the citizens of this democracy.
It is easy to say that tolerance and liberty complement one another. It gets us no nearer to deciding how tolerant the state must be. Yet in practical affairs this problem is, of course, solved daily. Society cannot tolerate the man who shoots people, he who steals and those who are dangerously mad. The common good is protected. Once the issue is ideological then tolerance is a perilous concept—a very vague concept—a very uncomfortable concept.
The slow division of the world has emphasised this problem until we are forced to face the issue. Can we permit Communism the political force to have equal rights? is it democracy to allow a system to exist whose purpose is to overthrow the democratic system ?
Under normal conditions this could be answered in the affirmative. Democracy must allow discussion, must defeat communism on democracy's princples or admit that democracy is a failure. Recent Communist activity is persuading the free world that it must think again.
Racial discrimination, Peron and Franco, are not part of this problem. Their aim is not world domination. Neither has a philosophy to impose. Neither has the means to impose it. Racial discrimination will die out as the non-white peoples of the world mature and accept responsibility.
Ideologically Communism is dead. It has been rejected too often to be resurrected, but the political machine created in its image and fired by its original enthusiasm remains. It has no rules, demands unflinching obedience, knows no rule of law, admits of no ethics except that of the good of the party, denies religion and seeks its destruction, and can use any means good or bad for the attainment of its end: world communism.
Now that the philosophy is dead the centre of that system must be Moscow and the Soviet machine.
Much has been written and said at Victoria about the red spectre haunting its halls. Now that that spectre haunts the world thinking men must answer the question: How tolerant must democracy be?
For the West whose record is none too clean, past history often nothing to be proud of, the answer is not easy. The question is Australia's political headache.
The answer is not simple. Any decision to depart from the tradition is fraught with tremendous danger. Nevertheless this time it must be faced. This University which has a proud liberal tradition faces the prospect of guarding that tradition by limiting toleration. What is your answer?
—M. F. Mcl.