Those of you who studied at Otago in the late’90s or Victoria in the early “noughties” might remember the subjects of my latest “Where Are You Now, Campus Radical?” profiles, Dougall McNeill and Shomi Yoon.
Both were active in Brian Roper’s Trotskyite sect, the International Socialists at Otago Uni.
In Aug 1999, McNeill addressed a rally of 500 students outside the Dunedin IRD offices protesting student debt. In March 2001, he addressed rally on the Emergency Unemployment Benefit in Dunedin’s Octagon. In May that year, 19 year old Mcneill flew to Melbourne to take part in May Day protests there.
By 2003, McNeill and Yoon were leading the tiny IS faction at Victoria, but both travelled down to Dunedin to address the “Red Sunday, Left Activist Forum” at Mojo’s in Leith Street to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the NZ IS
McNeill was studying “Bertolt Brecht’s The Life of Galileo and the history of its translation and reception in England. Other aspects of his research include the dramatists Howard Brenton and David Hare, the history of theatre under the Thatcher regime, and Marxism.”
The same year, McNeill was spokesman for Peace Action Wellington during its protests against the US led war in Iraq. McNeill got himself arrested that year when he burnt the Australian flag in an anti Iraq war demo during a visit by Australiam PM, john Howard to Wellington.
By 2005, McNeill was studying English in..you guessed it, Australia, specifically, the English Department at Melbourne University.
I’m originally from New Zealand where I studied for a BA and MA from Otago University and Victoria University of Wellington. When I’m not working on my PhD I’m an activist in the campaign against the Liberal’s Voluntary Student Unionism legislation, as well as being a member of Socialist Alternative, who sometimes publish book reviews by me.
Shomi Yoon, is studying translation and interpretation down the road at Monash University.
“My other main activity is being involved in a socialist organization called Socialist Alternative. Last year I participated in Australia’s biggest workers demonstration in history. The class antagonism, normally simmering below the surface, was at boiling point with more than 500 000 angry workers against the Howard Government”.
Over the last Christmas break our intrepid young Marxists travelled to Japan where they visited several trade unions and peace activists.
It has been three years since I last visited Japan and it was the first time for my partner, Dougal McNeill, to come to Japan…I contacted Manrico from Australia Asia Worker Links who lead me to Mr. Takahei from Asia Pacifc Workers Solidarity Link in the hope that I could find out and learn more about these struggles from below.
On 17 December we visited the Kanagawa City Union (KCU), a suburb of Tokyo.I had never been to Kanagawa before.Prior the visit, Mr. Takahei had explained that Kangawa was a workers town. The union office atmosphere was so heated that not even lighting would have distracted the intense discussion that was taking place.It was a meeting on report backs from various unionists. Their passion and activity immediately came through to me.The thing that surprised me upon hearing their self-introductions was their different nationalities: Korean, Japanese-Brazilians, Japanese-Peruvians and of course, Japanese.I found out for the first time the extent that the Japanese government was using migrant labour to solve their economic crises.
On the 7 January we visited the Nagasaki Peace Memorial. Professor Takazane was generous enough to guide us through.As I listened to his horrific explanations of what the Japanese military had done during WWII to the Koreans and Chinese, I felt a strange sense of rage combined with a desire to vomit.”
New Zeal Funny, I’m feeling a bit the same way.