Twenty five years on, Shaw is unapologetic for the role he played in the anti Tour protests. As he told the latest issue of Victoria University’s “Salient” magazine “My position on the issue has not changed one jot,”
Shaw also disputes the contention that Marxist-Leninists controlled the anti-Tour movement. From Salient
“While he says, for example the student involvement was “huge”, this was no example of Communist shenanigans as many people, including Muldoon attempted to pass it off as (Shaw was included on Muldoon’s notorious “Red List”). Shaw mentions how prominent businessman like Sir Ron Trotter and senior civil servants took part. “And so that doesn’t look like a civil war to me. What it does look like is a citizen’s movement on a particular issue.”
I emphatically dispute Shaw’s view on the communist nature or otherwise of the anti Tour movement. I have already profiled two leading Workers Communist League members in leadership positions in Shaw’s organisation, Citizen’s opposed to the Springbok Tour (COST), but that is only the tip of the iceberg.
Alick Shaw became involved in socialist politics in his teens. As he told Canta, No 8, 1975
I first became involved in political action when I was in the 6th form. A group of us who are presently involved in left-wing activities in Wellington were at school together. We decided that we wished to be members of the Labour Party so we formed a youth branch in Lower Hutt. By the time we reached the 7th form we had two thirds of our class of 70 enrolled in this branch. It was the biggest youth branch in the country at that stage. This, of course, led to fairly heavy involvement in the anti-war movement and an interest in educational policies.
Then when I went to university I became involved in the Labour Club which was increasingly becoming less of a mouth piece of the Labour Party and more of an organisation controlled by people who had a political position, demonstrably to the left of the Labour Party. We took advantage of Labour Party conferences as sounding boards for our policies and it was form that time onwards that I became involved in more organised left wing political work.
These people to the “left of the Labour Party” were of course the Maoist activists who were to dominate student politics for nearly twenty years.
In February 1972 Shaw was fined the then huge sum of $270 for damaging the car of William Westmoreland during a demo against the US General’s visit to Parliament.
In May the same year Shaw attended a 100-strong “victory to the NLF (vietcong)” demo in Wellington. He was at the time Victoria Students Association’s International Affairs officer.
In 1973/74 Shaw was International Affairs officer for the NZ University Students Association and in 1975 became the association’s president.
Shaw was involved locally at this time with the Wellington based Maoist group that produced “The Paper (Incorporating HART News) and internationally, helped to forge closer ties between NZUSA and the Maoist leaning Asian Students Association. A link that I believe still exists today.
In March 1975 Shaw was sent to Asia by the NZUSA executive. He attended a travel conference in Manila, then spent a week in China. He then travelled to Malaysia and Singapore. He was in Singapore for 45 minutes, before being refused entry and sent back to Thailand.
In 1978 Shaw was chairman of the Organisation Against the SIS (OASIS), a Maoist front group which mounted a huge demo in Wellington against PM Muldoon’s proposal to grant increased powers to the Security Intelligence Service.
In 1979/80 Maoist students and some old time ex Communist Party members, coalesced to form an new organisation, the Workers Communist League. It is believed that Shaw was involved from day one.
The WCL’s first major campaign was against the proposed 1981 Sprinbok Tour of NZ. WCL members were already prominent in Halt All Racist Tours, but also initiated or helped form seperate anti Tour groups in all the main centres.
The WCL was strongest in Wellington, so COST was completely under League control.
As a leading WCL member, Shaw was co-opted to COST’s committee, the primary executive of the organisation and was also head of the Marshall’s Committee. This was a very important post as it involved on the ground control of marches and demonstrations. Shaw was effectively the “General” of the Wellington anti Tour movement.
Shaw commanded a considerable army. At one demo just before the Springbok Manawatu match, he led an estimated 4,000 protestors into police lines in Cuba Street.
The Tour was Shaw’s finest hour in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Although he remained active for several years in the union movement, the Wellington Palestine Group and various other WCL causes, his enthusiasm eventually waned.
As Shaw once told me, he got “sick of banging my head against a brick wall” and in the late 80’s left the WCL.
Shaw went into the restaurant business, returned to the Labour Party, tried to win Wellington Central against Richard Prebble and then stood for Council.
Shaw is respectable now, but he he still ain’t sorry for what he “done in ’81“.