Two victories for sanity


By Sean Healy

Two events in May have dealt a blow to forces in the student movement who want to substitute the actions of a hyper-militant minority for the actions of the mass of students.

The first occurred at Sydney University on May 5. One Nation MP David Oldfield had been invited by the University of Sydney Union and the Debating Society to speak during "Celebrating Diversity Week". More than 200 students attended to grill Oldfield on his party's racist policies; a protest was also held at the door of the venue.

Members of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), however, attempted to close down the meeting and prevent Oldfield from speaking at all. They even called students attending "racists". They were unsuccessful — because the vast majority decided they would rather challenge Oldfield politically than provide him with a chance to play the martyr whose free speech was being infringed. The ISO retreated with their tails between their legs, howled down by the students themselves.

The second occurred at a demonstration at Melbourne University on May 19 immediately preceding the all-campus rally against voluntary student unionism. For the week prior, various ultra-left student groups had been sabotaging Melbourne University students' participation in the all-campus rally by seeking to organise an occupation of the university administration instead.

At the rally, the chair gave students a chance to speak in favour of an occupation at Melbourne University. After a few minutes' embarrassed silence, Alison Hose, a member of Socialist Alternative, tried to defend such a course of action. The overwhelming majority of students decided to participate in the all-campus rally instead.

Both instances were a clear sign that students are prepared to mobilise and organise — and that they're not prepared to rely on self-appointed hyper-militants to act for them.