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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 7. 1971

Red Tape Strangles Trotsky

Red Tape Strangles Trotsky

Photo of Owen Gager speaking to a crowd

I walked into the Annual General Meeting of the Socialist Club. 50 ardent revolutionaries sat in compIete silence, collectively glaring at the floor. In the Chair sat President Niel Wright, resplendent in dark glasses. Shortly after 7.30 the Chairman muttered that the meeting should begin, and introduced his Presidential report. Everyone was told that they'd read it, so there was no need to read it out again. George Rosenberg entered with a hideous metal-stemmed pipe clenched between his jaws. The level of consciousness threatened to remain at zero until 7.43, when Owen Gager entered and began interjecting during Russell Johnson's report as acting secretary. As you later mentioned, Owen, your manners are slipping, socialists don't interject each other. Dave Cuthbert was mentioned by Johnson, "He's a good Trotskyist, isn't he," remarked Gager. After punching the air in a vain effort to inspire enthusiasm Johnson's report ended. Former Secretary, Roger Cruickshank was asked to comment. "The meeting can eat shit." The meeting proceeded to heed this piece of valuable advice.

George Fyson then gave a report on "Red Spark". 1970's one issue was "a little more attractive" and "we sold more copies". Mr. Fyson then proposed abandonment of "Red Spark". George's wife Kay as Business Manager, gave a report on "Red Spark's" Finances. The first walk-out occurred at 8.03, no doubt a silent protest at the turgid bureaucratic bog the meeting had by then become. Niel Wright should be congratulated for managing to drag the meeting out to 2½ hours. Whenever Gager tried to ask a question he was told that it would come up under the next item on the agenda. As a friend of mine remarked Niel was trying to emulate Sir Roy Jack; but not successfully. May Niel Wright never be appointed Professor of English, the whole study of literature at this university would grind to a halt and die of strangulation. Prior to the main business, the election of officers, there was some discussion about the composition of the Club's executive committee. Dave Butcher moved an amendment to Johnson's resolution about setting up a 10 man executive committee; that all members be free to attend and vote at all committee meetings. The Pabloite Socialist Action League members opposed the amendment because the meetings could be "stacked". Owen Gager expounded democratic political theory: if you have 50 people you can have participatory democracy, if you have two million people you need representative democracy. This fine academic point was lost on the Socialist Action League whose bureaucratic just precluded any consideration of basic political theory. "You think democracy is too much effort, so does Muldoon", Gager told Johnson. The amendment was won and then Rosenberg suggested another amendment for a 3 man committee President, Secretary and Treasurer, for the administration of the Club, buying and licking stamps, etc. Rosenberg's amendment was also passed. At this point the political consciousness of the meeting was raised to its highest level by sociologist Keith Locke's comment that "even buying stamps may be a political decision." Never mind Keith, it made everyone laugh, demonstrating that socialists may even have a sense of humour.

The excitement of electing officers followed. For the position of President (from which Super-Bureaucrat Wright was retiring), Guy Salmon was immediately nominated I didn't know he was a Trotskyist, neither did the Chairman who in his finest decision refused to accept the nomination. George Rosenberg was nominated - declined. Dave Butcher (ultra-Maoist?) was nominated - declined. Finally lady law student Wendy Proffitt was elected unopposed. From this point on, the chairing of the meeting degenerated from confusion into nothing. Obviously the position of Secretary would be hotly contested, after all he licks the stamps. Russell Johnson was nominated. Therese O'Connell was nominated. Niel Wright told us that Therese was seeking peace in the club, suddenly so was Russell, according to Hugh Fyson. But Therese was elected. Two positions filled, two liberated women elected. Next the election of Treasurer. Russell Johnson nominated again. Alison Gray nominated. Revolutionary Wright asked if there was any accountancy student to act as Treasurer. Unhappily there was none. Therese said that Alison had had experience with money but everyone became all nice and concilatory and elected Russell Johnson to buy the stamps.

A resolution was suggested by Johnson supporting the demands of the April 30th Mobilisation. Gager pointed out the sell-out nature of the Anti-War Conference's demands, not for the immediate withdrawal of all troops from S.E. Asia, but just from Indochina. Johnson became confused so George Fyson rushed up to whisper the correct Pabloite line. Finally a compromise motion was adopted; support for the mobilisation, support for a student co-ordinating committee on campus around the slogan of immediate withdrawal, of all troops from S.E. Asia. Shortly afterwards the meeting broke up, perhaps the greatest excitement came afterwards, when a rubbish tin caught fire.

Peter Franks.