Year seven into this Labour-led government, fees are the highest they have ever been, less students receive allowances than ever before, the Manaaki Tauira for Maori students got cut this year, government funding to institutions has failed to keep pace with the rate of inflation, and generally the people are getting shat on. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, as the Clark government continues the Rogernomics policies the Fourth Labour government implemented in the 1980s.
Young Labour’s reaction to this has been to make sure they have significant control and influence over student organizations like VUWSA, so that student collective strength isn’t used to expose and fight back against their chosen career advancement route, the yuppie capitalist administration machine misnamed the “Labour Party”. On Monday October the 2nd, Labour made serious in-roads to their national strategy of controlling students’ associations by winning the presidency of one of the largest students’ associations in New Zealand, VUWSA.
Just as Labour have done nationally, in this year’s VUWSA elections Vic Labour ran a dirty campaign full of personal attacks, spin, and manipulated issues from the 2006 VUWSA exec to their advantage. They ran a campaign in which they didn’t stand for anything except negativity and running down the work of people in 2006. And with the support of the National and Act party members and other reactionary forces on campus the president of Vic Labour won the VUWSA presidency. It truly does show that when the chips are down the capitalist forces will always pack together, despite whatever phoney posturing they may make in parliament or elsewhere.
When I started as President in January I inherited some very difficult challenges. VUWSA had made a $150,000 deficit in 2005 and, despite the warnings of both last year’s treasurers the 2005 VUWSA president Jeremy Greenbrook denied this would be the case. When at the end of 2005 some of us tried to reduce the cost of Salient, Jeremy scoffed and told us, “Salient will make a surplus for the first time ever”, in fact, its deficit increased drastically in 2005. Constitutional changes made at the 2005 AGM in August weren’t lodged with the Companies Office until I took over, which Jeremy should have done immediately after the AGM. I moved into the President’s office and found over a month’s worth of invoices that had been ignored by Jeremy. The Student Union complex dispute had been stagnant for months and VUWSA and the university were locked into a stalemate. Most of my exec were new to VUWSA and three of those (Maddy, Caroline and Kate) were thoroughly destructive and proved incapable of working in a team, with behaviour such as threatening others, making false allegations to Salient, and elsewhere, not doing their jobs and draining my own and other exec members energy away from the real work by constantly having to fire-fight.
By contrast my successor will receive an association with an adequate income due to the changing of the levy. He’ll receive a decent financial strategy from Horwath Strategy which should have been mostly implemented by the time he takes over, including early budgets and monthly reporting. He’ll inherit a new Student Union agreement and a board where positive progress can be made. VUWSA is now central to the new campus redevelopment plans and it’s likely significant improvements to student services will happen over the next year. He receives a pretty decent VUWSA exec with a number of returning members with good experience and vision for the association. VUWSA has now restarted the stop-lecture meetings, so more students feed into the association and set policies. VUWSA now has an agreement with VUW for Team Victoria so clubs will have access to considerably more money and resources from both VUWSA and VUW. And I’m also hopeful we’ll have a campus radio station back for the first time in 14 years. I hope not too many of these things are lost with yet another bout of Labour-careerism within VUWSA.
Students and workers have had their expectations lowered by this government. The policy to write-off interest for student loans is now seen by many as being as good as it gets. Yet it was only a few years ago when free education and universal allowances were the immediate demands of even pretty conservative student politicians. In the present climate, it’s much easier for bureaucratic games to work with the absence of a mass student movement. As Lee Patton said in his campaign for General exec in 2003: “revolution is the solution”. I am unashamedly a socialist and a member of the Workers Party. We stand to help re-build the revolutionary left in NZ. We currently have a campaign to sign up 500 members so we can stand in the 2008 election on a genuinely socialist platform. This isn’t because we believe change can come through parliament, but so we can build a revolutionary movement.
I intend to spend 2007 and beyond building this socialist movement. If you want to get involved, come down to the bucket fountain on Cuba Street at 10am this Saturday. Let’s build a revolutionary movement that can end student and worker oppression. For more information visit: www.workersparty.org.nz