Knowledge And Intelligence Paper Draft 220609
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This is a draft of the written version of my paper "Knowledge and intelligence: why ASIO thought university knowledge would kill democracy, 1968-1973"

This is a draft of the written version of my paper "Knowledge and intelligence: why ASIO thought university knowledge would kill democracy, 1968-1973"

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Knowledge And Intelligence Paper Draft 220609 Document Transcript

  • 1. Knowledge and intelligence: why ASIO thought university knowledge would undermine parliamentary democracy, 1968-1973 Hannah Forsyth Draft 8 July 2009 In 1969 the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation claimed four stages to the total collapse of parliamentary democracy in Australia. The first stage was disaffection of intellectuals – especially students and academics – and the fourth was guerrilla war. At the time of the report, its ASIO authors implied that Australia was already at stage two – the alienation of intellectuals and the transfer of their allegiance away from government. With sociological inevitability, ASIO warned that this left only two stages until the collapse of government, which inevitably would lead to unconstrained violence. This theory appeared repeatedly in ASIO reports on student protests 1968 – 1973, suggesting that ASIO considered university-based knowledge to be central to the success of parliamentary democracy. This paper considers student protest and perceptions of the power of university-based knowledge in democracy and capitalism during the period of student unrest. It considers why, for both students and ASIO, knowledge was worth fighting to control. In 1968, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation told the Commonwealth government that student protest could result in the collapse of parliamentary democracy and the outbreak of guerrilla war. Two decades of Cold War surveillance had not prepared ASIO for the emerging student protest movement, which was having alarming consequences overseas, like the Paris barricade uprising of May 1968. 1 Lack of preparedness for the changes that confronted the organization with the emergence of the New Left, however, does not fully explain the role that ASIO analysts assigned university-based knowledge. A four-stage theory describing a collapse into guerrilla war found its way into several analytical reports between 1968 and 1973, which all positioned intellectuals and the knowledge they wielded at the centre of violent revolution. This paper uses these reports to explore the way that student protest movements and their opposition was a battle for the control of university-based knowledge. University-based knowledge is a very specific type of knowledge and the fact that ASIO considered it to be a threat to national security suggests an interesting interpretation of its role. ASIO is, of course, also a special type of organization and I will consider the relationships between ASIO’s four-stage theory and traditional and emerging ideas of the university. The position of the university in modern liberal democracy is connected to the roles assigned to intellectuals, variously described as 1 David McKnight, Australia's Spies and Their Secrets (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1994), 228. 1
  • 2. critical or conservative, challenging or legitimising social and political systems.2 Their role, too, in the formation of images and values of Australia, observed by historians in the 1980s 3, was seen by ASIO as propaganda, feeding ASIO’s sense of foreboding. There was also in the 1970s a growing suggestion that intellectualism did not just function in this top-down way.4 Gramsci’s organic intellectual, a type seen as not a product of education’s self-replicating pattern5, was also relevant to the ideas espoused by the New Left and informed the student protest movements’ experiments with university governance, pedagogy and curriculum.6 What I am describing as student protest movements extended beyond students to include many junior staff of the universities and participants from the community and political organisations. 7 The existence of a student protest movement was partly the result of the massive expansion of the higher education system in the 1960s after the Menzies government in 1957 accepted the Murray report on Australian universities.8 Similar expansions were visible internationally.9 It was this growth in participation in higher education that led to what has been interpreted as a “new class” of intellectuals, positioned between ruling and working classes and whose labour was required to fulfil the needs of the knowledge economy.10 But in the period I am investigating, the height of student protest, this influx of junior staff and students to the universities were enabling rapid change within the system itself. The revolutionary character of this change led participants on both sides of the battle to think that its consequences might extend to the rest of society. For students, this was a hope that a shift in the control of university-based knowledge would contribute to 2 Jeffrey C Goldfarb, Civility and Subversion: The Intellectual in Democratic Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).Ch. 1 Edward Shills, "The Modern University and Liberal Democracy," in The Academic Ethic and Other Essays on Higher Education, ed. Steven Grosby (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997). Noam Chomsky, Intellectuals and the State (Baarn: Wereldvenster, 1978). Brian Head, "Introduction: Intellectuals in Australian Society," in Intellectuals Movements and Australian Society, ed. Brian Head and James Walter (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1988), 6-8. 3 Head, "Introduction: Intellectuals in Australian Society," 11. 4 Dan O'Neill, "Abstract and Real Worlds: Intellectuals and Radical Social Change," in The Australian New Left, ed. Richard Gordon (Melbourne: William Heinemann, 1970), 264-68. 5 Antonio Gramsci, "Intellectuals and Education," in A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings 1916-1935, ed. David Forgacs (London: Lawrence and Eishart, 1988), 300-06. Head, "Introduction: Intellectuals in Australian Society," 3. 6 Dennis Altman, "Students in the Electric Age," in The Australian New Left, ed. Richard Gordon and Warren Osmond (Melbourne: William Heinemann, 1970), 145. Head, "Introduction: Intellectuals in Australian Society." John Docker, "'Those Halcyon Days': The Moment of the New Left," in Intellectual Movements and Australian Society, ed. Brian Head and James Walter (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1988). David Boud, "Aren't We All Learner Centred Now? The Bittersweet Flavour of Success," in Changing Higher Education: The Development of Learning and Teaching, ed. P Ashwin (London: Routledge, 2006). 7 Megan Jones, "Remembering Academic Feminism" (University of Sydney, 2002), 19. 8 Barbara Caine, "The Department in the 1970s," in History at Sydney, 1891- 1991: Centenary Reflections, ed. Barbara Caine, et al. (Sydney: Sydney Studies in History, 1992). 9 Michael Gibbons et al., The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies (London: Sage, 1994). page 10 Head, "Introduction: Intellectuals in Australian Society." 2
  • 3. change in society. 11 For ASIO analysts, it was a fear that new knowledge would spread through society like a disease and lead to violent insurrection. Four stages to revolution A 1969 ASIO report to government quoted student radicals from four Australian states to demonstrate widespread feeling: In a country like Australia, an insurrection…would be a strategic alternative to guerrilla warfare as practised in regions like Latin America and South-East Asia…It might be the culminating event in the revolutionary process, or alternatively one phase on the process aimed at the overthrow of the government. In its classic form, insurrection is promoted by three interlocking 12 tactics… These three tactics were (1) Provocation via demonstrations, (2) Barricade Uprising (Paris’ May ’68 student uprising was the example) and (3) Revolutionary Strike. With the certainty attached to an archetypical process, ASIO claimed that the conditions leading to insurrectionary warfare “will proceed, in Australia as elsewhere, over a period of time through a series of stages”.13 The report repeats the words “classic form” to convey the inevitability of the process, creating an imperative to Commonwealth action. The four-stages to revolution theory outlined a process from disaffection with government to the end of parliamentary democracy and the outbreak of geurilla war. Stage One was where individuals in a “society under stress” grow “restless and dissatisfied with the status quo” and disaffection grows amongst “students, academics, teachers, the press, etc.” who are in a position to spread discontent. A few demagogic type leaders might emerge, probably out of “elite aspirant groups like the CPA”. 14 This all seems benign. Stage One suggests that Government is a little inefficient and cannot satisfy the demands of every individual. Some haphazard protesting goes on every now and then.15 A few academics and journalists speak out about a few social issues and several people will agree with them. The Communist 11 Don (ed.) Beer, A Serious Attempt to Change Society: The Socialist Action Movement and Student Radicalism at the University of New England, 1969-75. Transcripts of Interviews. (Armidale: Kardoorair Press, 1998). Mick Armstrong, 1,2,3 What Are We Fighting For? The Australian Student Movement from Its Origins to the 1970s (Melbourne: Socialist Alternative, 2001). Barry York, Student Revolt! La Trobe University 1967-1973 (Canberra: Nicholas Press, 1989). 12 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation A12389 A30 PART 7 (Canberra: National Archives of Australia, 1969).A12389 A30 Part 7 pp.2-3 13 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 7. 14 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 9. 15 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 7-9. 3
  • 4. Party will talk about revolution.16 It sounds normal. Except that, unless something is done, according to ASIO reports, it will slip into Stage Two. In Stage Two this disorganised mass of individuals becomes collectively restless, the reports claimed. The warnings to government about this stage were explicit: People only enter this stage if the establishment has failed to deal with the causes of unrest 17 and discontent. If government fails to deal with the causes, the unrest will be “popularised” – probably the report is obliquely referring to the development of a counter-culture. Especially dangerous for government in this stage, was the loss of support from “university-based intellectuals”: There is a transfer of allegiance of the intellectuals (or part thereof). This occurs when the intellectuals in question consider the social system to be repressive and its leaders bad. These leaders are seen also to represent certain social groups or classes the activities of which are said to be detrimental to the welfare of the people at large. A propaganda campaign is built and directed against these groups or classes, in the process of which the ‘repressed’ groups are afflicted with an “oppression psychosis”, while the leaders of establishment tend to lose faith in 18 themselves and the ‘status quo’. The language of contagion is telling. The ASIO analysts were keen for their readers to see the spread of this “affliction” as inevitable. Government was described as the only way to prevent the epidemic. Politicians must not listen to students, they must not “lose faith in themselves” or the status quo. They must intervene before popularisation of protest is unstoppable. The apparent wrongness of the New Left’s position was crudely emphasised by the words “propaganda”, “myth”, “Illusion”, stopping barely short, one feels, of words like “lies” and “heresy”. Intellectuals spreading propaganda would result in the widespread adoption of new (heretical) ideas: The disaffected intellectuals then help to create and disseminate a new social myth containing new collective illusions, new doctrines, new objects of loyalty, economic incentives to 19 revolutionary action, and new values. The primary danger of university-based intellectuals was in their control over knowledge and thus, the report assumed, their control over ideology: The purpose is to provide ideological grounds for a new consensus in support of revolutionary 20 action through the replacement of existing patterns of cultural and social cohesion. 16 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 7-9. 17 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 9. 18 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: An Appreciation of Significant Strategical and Tactical Concepts," in Australian Security INtelligence Organisation (Canberra: National Archives of Australia, 1969), 57. 19 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 9. 4
  • 5. The problem was not war, governments, violence, oppression, inequality, poverty or racism, according to ASIO. The problem was not even students, the New Left, the Old Left or the Communist Party. The problem was knowledge. It was knowledge that formed ideology and knowledge that could re-form it. It would be this that would underpin revolution: In fact, the new social myth provides the dynamic for the entire revolutionary process and 21 movement. Hence the importance of the intellectuals in that process and movement. The role of intellectuals in society – as educators, protectors of knowledge and, with the emergence of the New Left’s political consciousness on everyday life, as ideology-creators – positioned them as holders of power. The predictions attached to Stage Two reflected the current state of student unrest and the role of academic staff that were also aligned to the movements for change: This second stage is particularly noted for the ‘alienation of the intellectuals’ and the transfer of their allegiance from the accepted values of society to other values, eg. Marxism, non- parliamentary methods of government, anti-capitalism, anti-individualism etc. This transfer of allegiance is necessary since the intellectuals, eg. Academics, teachers, students, writers, journalists etc., are the means whereby the new values and philosophy are propagandised and 22 spread throughout the community. With student activism and the emergence of academic staff who supported it starting to influence a widespread counter-culture, the fact that Stage Three was “the actual period of revolutionary action and takeover”, should have been cause for panic. That the period would be violent, characterised by a type of internal or guerrilla war was certain.23 Revolution and the collapse of parliamentary democracy would result in the instatement of small, community-based participatory democracies.24 Just in case the reader did not immediately recognise that this was a bad thing, the ASIO authors pointed out that these small communities would be likely to start competing for resources and guerrilla war would be inevitable.25 Stage Two was clearly seen as the tipping point and, despite ASIO assurances that Australia was in fact in Stage One, Stage Two contained sufficiently familiar elements to signal a need for action. The real risk of Stage Two, claimed ASIO, was that the disparate groups would be coordinated by the Communist Party of Australia. 20 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 10. 21 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 10. 22 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: An Appreciation of Significant Strategical and Tactical Concepts," 6-7. 23 ASIO, "Politically Motivated Incidents of Violence 1961-71 A12389/A30/Part 12," in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Canberra: National Archives of Australia, 1971), 10. 24 ASIO, "Trends and Developments in Australia of Counter-Subversion: Security Interest and Significance," in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Canberra: National Archives of Australia, 1968), 8. 25 ASIO, "Trends and Developments in Australia of Counter-Subversion: Security Interest and Significance," 8. 5
  • 6. ASIO communicated that they had evidence of a conspiracy that the Communist Party and other revolutionary groups were deliberately infiltrating Australian universities with “large-scale, organised violence” as their goal: It is now certain that such a policy and such groups are building a hard core of activists within the universities…The process of ‘alienation of the intellectuals’ is well under way and the 26 established revolutionary bodies are now competing for their allegiance. ASIO’s belief in the fragility of parliamentary democracy seems astounding, even given the dramatic character of student polemic and the genuine feeling for change at the time. David McKnight described ASIO as having “swallowed overseas models of revolution just as slavishly as the numerous left-wing groups”, suspecting the four- stage model was based on Uruguay, Brazil or Chile as seen by the CIA.27 McKnight points out that the conditions of economic exploitation and politics in those countries bore no resemblance to Australia, where “capitalism and parliamentary democracy were resilient and deeply rooted”.28 Furthermore, McKnight says, ASIO took the “wilder fantasies” of the Left at face value, leading them to mistakenly advise the government that Australia was headed towards guerrilla war.29 The ASIO reports contain many pages of quotations and copies of student-written material, sourced from hundreds of roneoed pamphlets, student newspapers and other types of publication. There was a consistent emphasis on the more extreme comments, often pulling them out of context for maximum impact. Despite McKnight’s claim to their error, it seems hard to believe that ASIO analysts would have interpreted all of these youthful “wilder fantasies” as intention. The tone and examples used in the reports also suggest that the ASIO analysts, just as well as the students they observed, were prone to a bit of melodrama and exaggeration. For example, the report “Student Revolutionary Activism: its implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia” gives a long preamble, in which quotes from student activists are placed alongside definitions of revolution, escalating the sense of confrontation students verbalised. The report achieved this through a smooth progression from the words students used themselves – revolution and insurrection – to “equivalents” that included guerrilla warfare, mutiny, coup d’etat and terrorism. It described student tactics in terms that emphasised things that governments fear: student provocation, barricades and strikes aimed at the 26 ASIO, "Trends and Developments in Australia of Counter-Subversion: Security Interest and Significance," 8. 27 McKnight, Australia's Spies and Their Secrets, 217-18. McKnight is referring to an ASIO report in his possession entitled “Violence, Political Extremism and the Revolutionary Process – Basic Elements”. I have no doubt it refers to the same theory. 28 McKnight, Australia's Spies and Their Secrets, 218. 29 McKnight, Australia's Spies and Their Secrets, 232. 6
  • 7. “apparatus of the state” and the “effective functioning of government”. One 1969 report gives a table showing the relationship between four levels of violence in which the second level is the overthrow of parliament by riot action, making revolution sound imminent, in their ostensibly expert opinion.30 A clue to this apparent tendency to exaggeration may lie in a report describing the way the New Left and student protest movements changed the character of ASIO’s work. In the 1968 report “Trends and Developments in Australia of Counter- subversion: Security Interest and Significance”, ASIO described their pre-Vietnam activity as largely following around the Communist Party.31 It was opposition to the war, they claimed, that complicated their job, meaning they now needed to watch churches and “academics, students and other intellectuals via the teach-in movement”. This paper, like all the others, ends in “the disillusionment of Australians with parliamentary democracy”, inevitably leading to violence. 32 In this report, ASIO’s unlikely belief in the imminent collapse of parliamentary democracy starts to look like an application for substantial funding increases to the organization. A vastly increased workload associated with the government’s foreign policy and revolution just around the corner would certainly have been compelling reasons to allocate more resources. Frank Cain says that the period resulted in an increase in staff, a move to bigger and better premises and the attachment of special branches of State police to ASIO to assist with surveillance.33 Hierarchical Knowledge Perhaps ASIO is too easy a target. Laughing at ASIO is a tradition we inherit from the students of the period, based on a widespread belief amongst former student radicals that ASIO agents were in general unconvincing spies: 34 You can tell an ASIO from a mile away. Nevertheless, other and perhaps more credible figures also saw knowledge as foundational to the establishment, as civil democracy. Indeed, this was the tradition on which the idea of the university was based. Knowledge, according to the university tradition, is what underpins an idea of civilisation. Perceived as a type of “truth” knowledge, in this paradigm, enables and protects a society and its political 30 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 3-5. 31 ASIO, "Trends and Developments in Australia of Counter-Subversion: Security Interest and Significance." 32 ASIO, "Trends and Developments in Australia of Counter-Subversion: Security Interest and Significance." 33 Frank Cain, The Australian Security Intelligence Organization: An Unofficial History (Essex: Frank Cass & Co., 1994), 200. 34 Don Beer, "Interview with Alan Oshlack," in A Serious Attempt to Change Society, ed. Don Beer (Armidale: Kardoorair Press, 1998), 178. 7
  • 8. and social systems. That relentlessly influential definer of the idea of the university, Cardinal Newman, said: A University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspiration, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, 35 and refining the intercourse of private life. For knowledge to fulfil this duty to society, according to tradition, it requires a group of people to protect, extend and promote it36, for new knowledge also underlies “progress”. 37 The 1957 Murray Report on Australian Universities – arguably the biggest influence, next to the 1987 Dawkins reforms, on the character of universities in Australia in the latter half of the 20th Century – said of academics: Such men [sic] … are necessary to keep the march of human knowledge on the move … without them human discovery would grind to a standstill and the teaching of the able young 38 would become stale and unprofitable. The protection of democracy and progress, according to the tradition of the liberal university, requires a community devoted to what is known as “academic freedom” – the autonomy and security to pursue knowledge for its own sake, uninfluenced by the state, church or financial gain.39 Sir Keith Murray, who chaired this first review of universities in Australia, asserted academic freedom as central to the good of any nation: The public, and even statesmen, are human enough to be restive or angry from time to time, when perhaps at inconvenient moments the scientist or scholar uses the licence which the academic freedom of universities allows him, and brings us all back to a consideration of the true evidence … No nation in its senses wishes to make itself prone to self-delusion … and a good university is the best guarantee that mankind [sic] can have, that somebody, whatever 40 the circumstances, will continue to seek the truth and to make it known. The “purity” of this knowledge and the liberal education that arose from it was constructed as the safeguard to civil society. The ways that ASIO positioned knowledge in the theories presented to government suggest that this is how ASIO saw it too – though undoubtedly less eloquently than Murray. The problem, as we will see, is that the traditional construction of knowledge 35 John Henry Cardinal Newman, The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated in Nine Discourses Delivered to the Catholics of Dublin in Occassional :Lectures and Essays Addressed to the Members of the Catholic University, ed. Martin J Svaglic (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1852 (1966 Edition)), 134.I, vii, 10 36 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Idea of the University: A Reexamination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 76. 37 Abraham Flexner, Universities: American English German (London: Oxford University Press, 1930), 18-20. 38 Keith A.H. Murray et al., "Report of the Committee on Australian Universities," (1957), 10. 39 Conrad Russell, Academic Freedom (London: Routledge, 1993), 15-24. 40 Murray et al., "Report of the Committee on Australian Universities," 11. 8
  • 9. necessitated an elite. Among students in the late 1960s, this elite came to be known as “god-professors”. While this title was intended to bring their role into the open and thus undermine it, elite scholars were indeed traditionally seen to be different from ordinary people. These academic “masters” were tasked with the responsibility and privilege of protecting knowledge – so that University Professors in Australia long felt that their highest responsibility was the maintenance of “standards”.41 Ian Clunies Ross, highly respected head of the CSIRO and member of the Murray review committee, saw the importance of intellectual leaders (including scientists like himself) as “contemplating…the problems of national or international society”.42 He was not alone in this. The idea that civil society depended on knowledge and therefore on university-trained intellectuals was especially prevalent after the Second World War, a war that had been fought and won with knowledge, and in which Nazi atrocities were known to have been committed in the name of science.43 The Murray report said: Finally, in addition to the two aims of education and research, universities have a third function. They are, or they should be, the guardians of intellectual standards, and intellectual integrity in the community. Scholars and scientists who spend their lives in the search for knowledge should, at least in their on spheres of inquiry, be proof against the waves of emotion and prejudice which makes the ordinary man, and public opinion, subject from time to time to 44 illusion and self-deceit. The distinction between the scholar and the “ordinary man” [sic] is important, since scholars were entrusted with the responsibility of knowledge with integrity. Such anxieties around intellectual inquiry further embedded the idea of knowledge as a type of truth, the truthfulness of which would be a sound foundation to society: The preservation of human integrity in facing truth and the demands of justice is the most 45 exacting task which a nation can impose upon itself. On this basis, the Commonwealth invested heavily in universities after the acceptance into parliament of the Murray review of universities in 1957. It was expected that intellectual leaders would start to consider some of the ethical, economic and social problems the Second World War had presented. Around ten years later the students and academics who were the objects of ASIO surveillance were questioning the values of society, though almost certainly in unanticipated ways. The idea that traditional university-based knowledge underpinned the nature of 41 James B Conant, "Confidential Report to the Carnegie Corporation on the University Situation in Australia in the Year 1951," in CCNY Records (New York: Butler Library, Columbia University, 1951). 42 I Clunies Ross, "Letter to Eric Ashby (4 May 1956)," in Ian Clunies Ross Collection: Eric Ashby (Personal Correspondence) (Canberra: National Archives of Australia, 1956). 43 Kim Beazley (Senior) in House of Representatives Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, "Universities Committee Report 28 November 1957," (1957). 44 Murray et al., "Report of the Committee on Australian Universities," 11. 45 Murray et al., "Report of the Committee on Australian Universities," 11. 9
  • 10. society was something student radicals would have agreed with – only they were of the opinion that universities’ tacit support for capitalist systems promoted inequalities they opposed.46 ASIO’s priority was the protection of their parliamentary benefactors causing them to interpret students’ preoccupation with ‘god-professors’ as a veiled threat to parliamentary democracy. They did not understand that the professorial authority to decide what knowledge is (and who may have it) was what students found to be inherently unacceptable. Just as the student movements critiqued wealth controlled by a few, so did they consider knowledge in universities to be controlled by professors, who hoarded it for the benefit of an elite. God-professors and the governing bodies they controlled, thus prevented the emergence of new knowledge through more democratic means, which students believed might lead to social change. 47 ASIO was notoriously opposed to social change and certainly suspicious of any questioning of capitalism, governance structures and government policy.48 Also, their lack of cultural affinity with long-haired student “ratbags” made ASIO less inclined to view students sympathetically.49 Eric Ashby – popular British educational leader who wrote sympathetically of studentsʼ roles in universities 50 – shows the centrality of a sound concept of expertise to the idea of liberal universities: [According to students]…universities have to be ‘restructured’ through non-stop seminars…about what the university is for, run by students on the unexamined assumption that the participants will always remain students. The one positive article of faith which students in this group seem to share is that now, in an age of plenty, utopias need to longer be dreams in books: they can become realities; though how this will be done if expertise in the universities is 51 liquidated, they do not presume to know. Utopias may be achieved, said Ashby, but not without the “expertise in the university”, understood as mastery in a hierarchical, but (in his case) generous, framework. 52 ASIO was in general more outlandish in their theories and less gentle and generous than Eric Ashby. But they too held that the “expertise” in the university underpinned 46 Docker, "'Those Halcyon Days': The Moment of the New Left," 295. 47 Rowan Cahill et al., "The Lost Ideal: Position Paper of the Committee for a Free University," Honi Soit 3 Oct 1967 40, no. 22 (1967). 48 Cain, The Australian Security Intelligence Organization: An Unofficial History, 201. 49 McKnight, Australia's Spies and Their Secrets, 228. 50 In 1970 Ashby wrote two books on students in universities: Eric Ashby, Masters and Scholars: Reflections of the Rights and Responsibilities of Students, The Whidden Lectures for 1970 (London: Oxford University Press, 1970). Eric Ashby and Mary Anderson, The Rise of the Student Estate in Britain (London: Macmillan, 1970). 51 Ashby and Anderson, The Rise of the Student Estate in Britain, 124. 52 Ashby, Masters and Scholars: Reflections of the Rights and Responsibilities of Students, 13-18. 10
  • 11. society’s ideals, which they felt were firmly directed to parliamentary democracy. Positioned as foundational to civil democratic society, intellectuals and the knowledge they held were now, from an ASIO perspective, not to be trusted – a risk to national security. To ASIO, as to students, knowledge was power. But ASIO could not understand the student preoccupation with university governance as anything other than a political concern (and it was that, too). This was because they saw knowledge as inherently hierarchical – there could be no expertise without an elite, and no safeguard for knowledge as truth. For student movements, the elite were preventing the emergence of knowledge by containing legitimacy to the ranks of the professoriate. Knowledge was power and its hierarchical structure was unacceptable. This led to demands for changes to university governance, towards increased student participation in identifying and creating knowledge. Students and knowledge in democracy ASIO file A12389/A30/Part 7 contains a press clipping from The Australian newspaper entitled “Reform in the Ivory Towers”. ASIO staff have marked parts of the clipping, with especial emphasis on the following passage: Self-management of universities goes hand in hand with a general movement to extend the 53 principle of self-management throughout society. ASIO analysts reported that reform of universities was intended to precipitate reform of society.54 ASIO too felt that reform of universities towards participatory democracy could spread. Another marked section of the article read: The special problems of universities in achieving re-orientation towards a fully human education cannot be solved by the governing bodies of the universities. The people most qualified to tackle these questions, as well as to make everyday decisions, are the staff and 55 students themselves. ASIO was as concerned as students about the internal organisation of universities. The fact that a shift towards participatory democracy was observable within universities suggested, according to ASIO reports, that such a shift was possible on a much wider scale. 56 ASIO analysts oddly asserted that a student takeover of university governance would be one easy step away from a similar takeover of the Australian democratic system.57 In a 1968 precursor to the four-stages theory, an 53 Reform in the Ivory Towers, clipping in ASIO file A12389/A30/Part 7 marked by hand as originating in The Australian 23/7/69 54 ASIO, "Recent Trends in the Radical Student Protest Movement in Australia," in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation A12389 A30 PART 7 (Canberra: National Archives of Australia, 1969), 7. 55 Reform in the Ivory Towers, clipping in ASIO file A30 Part 7 marked by hand as originating in The Australian 23/7/69 56 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 15. 57 ASIO, "Recent Trends in the Radical Student Protest Movement in Australia," 7-8. 11
  • 12. ASIO report on the nature of student protest in Australia suggested that if government allowed universities to become too large (like the American universities) large-scale protest and violence might result: Still, if the Australian universities develop into impersonal, mass, authoritarian-type institutions on the American and Western European models, then student-staff administration relations could become so strained as the result of student and staff frustrations, that aggressive 58 'student power' action might result. The author connected “attacks” on the university with attacks on government as inevitable: The resulting attacks on university administrations would lead automatically to political campaigns directed at government … The campus would become a forcing-house for every brand of ‘protest politics … the entire student protest and power movements, operating on common ground, and using student frustrations, resentments and fears to generate radical action of a destructive nature, would take its part in a general revolutionary political 59 campaign. The four-stage theory saw universities as future ‘counter-states’: The universities, run by students with outside support via ‘student-worker co-operation’, would form the base for the ‘counter-state’, and a model for the establishment of guerrilla bases 60 elsewhere in the community. So it was that whenever students spoke of violence on campus, ASIO took careful note. 61 The problem was, some of students’ discussion of violence was metaphoric. Much of the student protest movement understood the control of knowledge to represent a type of power, even a type of violence by an intellectual elite over the population. In Mark Gibson’s recent analysis of power, he suggests that for Foucault, the1950s and 1960s had shown that oppression was not just state power, but a “sort of abiding oppression in everyday life”.62 Inspired by the student protest movement in Paris, Foucault claimed that knowledge asserted domination and power over that which was to be known and was therefore a forceful act of violation.63 Few students would have developed theories as sophisticated as Foucault’s – and indeed Foucault’s ideas were barely introduced into Australian intellectual life until the late 1970s – but the sense of the (sometimes violent) power of knowledge was a 58 ASIO, "Student Protest in Australia: Its Nature and Significance," in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation A12389 A30 PART 7 (Canberra: National Archives of Australia, 1968), 3. 59 ASIO, "Student Protest in Australia: Its Nature and Significance," 3. 60 ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 15. 61 “Whenever students spoke” is no exaggeration. ASIO appears to have literally taken note of every mention of violence. 62 Michel Foucault, from Interview in JD Faubion (ed) Power: Essential Works of Foucault. Cited in Mark Gibson, Culture and Power: A History of Cultural Studies (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2007), 22. 63 Gibson, Culture and Power, 27. 12
  • 13. characteristic of the period.64 As John Docker put it, “the makers of mainstream knowledge had allowed themselves to become contemptible clients of State power”. 65 Of course, for some this quite readily slipped into a justification for physical violence, especially when it attracted media coverage.66 More commonly, students saw the imposition of knowledge by the professorial experts as a type of repression of the “socially relevant” knowledge that could come about by more active participation by students in the “community of scholars”. And when professors actively denied the validity of, for example, feminist inquiry as a valid intellectual pursuit we can see the ways that the elite professoriate did use knowledge as power in the autocratic fashion that earned student ire. In 1973, PhD students Jean Curthoys and Liz Jacka proposed to teach “Philosophical aspects of Feminist thought”. The proposal was hotly debated in the then deeply divided Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney. Despite some fierce opposition, both Department and Faculty approved it – all the authorisation officially needed for an optional unit offered to senior undergraduates. But one professor in the department made a phone call to another professor: the Deputy Vice Chancellor, who held the purse strings. The Deputy Vice Chancellor declared there to be no funding for the course. Outraged members of the Philosophy department descended on his office in protest, leading the Deputy Vice Chancellor to refer the issue to more professors – the University Professorial Board. This was exactly the type of behaviour that was making students suspicious of professorial power and hierarchical knowledge. Professors were using whatever power `was available to them – in this case funding-power – to control knowledge. The Professorial Board voted against the course, leading to the highly publicised Philosophy Strike. In this, many staff and students from several departments went on strike. The Builders Labourers Federation weighed in with their support and media contacts and a Women’s Tent Embassy was constructed in the Main Quad.67 A University Senate Inquiry resulted in approval for the course.68 Leonie Kramer, then Professor of Australian Literature, felt the published Inquiry report failed to give an 64 Tania Lewis, "International Exchange and Located Transnationalism: Meaghan Morris and the Formation of Australian Cultural Studies," Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 17, no. 2 (2003). 65 Docker, "'Those Halcyon Days': The Moment of the New Left," 295. 66 Albert Langer, The Socialist Imperative - a May Day Manifesto. Cited in ASIO, "Student Revolutionary Activism: Its Implications for the Promotion of Insurrectionary Warfare in Australia," 2. See also ASIO, "Politically Motivated Incidents of Violence 1961-71 A12389/A30/Part 12," 10. 67 Alison Bashford, "The Return of the Repressed: Feminism in the Quad," Australian Feminist Studies 13, no. 27 (1998). 68 University of Sydney, "Minutes of the Special Meeting of Senate 20 July 1973," in Senate (Sydney: University of Sydney Archives, 1973). 13
  • 14. adequate picture of the Philosophy Strike and insisted that her own analysis be published alongside it.69 She insisted on this because there was something new about the Philosophy Department that she thought should be highlighted: they were experimenting with participatory democracy.70 Universities were changing and, at all levels, moves to include student opinion in curriculum design and student representation in university governance were progressing. Experiments were underway, exploring the best ways of including students and junior staff in decisions. Sydney’s Philosophy Department was, at that point, allowing all students to vote at Departmental meetings. This certainly seems radical, but the staff vote was recorded separately and could be used as a veto. A majority of staff had supported the Feminist course. For Leonie Kramer, the majority of staff were not to be trusted either, however. She wanted it known that the majority of professors in the department had opposed the course – she did not mention that there were only two or three.71 It is clear that she thought the public would support professors over anyone else, in their assessment of the intellectual validity of feminism in Philosophy. Conclusions The Sydney Philosophy Strike was just one of a series of significant events at that university alone, which sought a redistribution of the control of knowledge from the professoriate to a more participatory model. As well other similar disputes within the Philosophy department, there was a struggle over the teaching of political economy, an experiment with a Free University and a reconfiguration of governance to include student representation at every level.72 The tension between hierarchical traditions of the university and emerging participatory models of knowledge were at this point at their most taut. It is possible that ASIO analysts deliberately exaggerated the imminence of their assessed risk of revolution in order to ensure adequate resources to fund their vastly expanded surveillance activities. It may be that they did not actually believe Australia was a couple of short steps away from guerrilla war. Or it could be that they thought 69 Sydney, "Minutes of the Special Meeting of Senate 20 July 1973." 70 David Malet Armstrong, "To All Philosophy Students at Sydney University," in David Armstrong Papers: Philosophy Strike (Canberra: National Archive of Australia, 1973). 71 Leonie Kramer, "Notes on the Committee's Report on the Philosophy Dispute (Check Title)," Sydney University News 5, no. 11 (1973). 72 See Gavan Butler, Evan Jones, and Frank Stilwell., Political Economy Now! : The Struggle for Alternative Economics at the University of Sydney (Sydney: University of Sydney Press, 2009). Terry Irving, "The Mass University and the Free University as Utopia," in Counterpoints: Critical Writings on Australian Education, ed. S D'Urso (Sydney: John Wiley & Sons Australasia, 1971). Anonymous, "Proposals for Reorganisation in University Government," University of Sydney News 5, no. 7 (1973). 14
  • 15. worst-case scenarios were warranted, given events in Paris and elsewhere, where perhaps other governments had underestimated the power of the student population. 73 Regardless, the ASIO reports were able to give such an elevated status to the level of risk presented by student protest movements because of the way they saw the relationship between knowledge and democracy. ASIO constructed knowledge as foundational to a civil, democratic society, which was consistent with traditions of liberal universities. The task of the traditional university to promote progress, uphold intellectual integrity and, where needed, point out falsehood and wrongdoing implied that it would always function in support of the establishment, keeping society on its chosen path. To members of student protest movements, this was unacceptable. Knowledge, they thought, should show ways that the establishment was repressive, undermine it, promote revolution and change. One former student protestor from the University of New England, when asked whether ASIO took students more seriously than they took themselves, said: I think we were serious. From that point of view, they were correct. We wanted to change 74 society. It may seem ridiculous, as David McKnight found it, that ASIO deemed it possible for university knowledge to destroy parliamentary democracy. However, if ASIO analysts genuinely positioned knowledge as foundational to that democracy, it is less surprising that they were so alarmed. Professors, put in the position by long tradition of being responsible for the guardianship of this knowledge can also be seen as having a felt mandate to protect both knowledge and their own position. But the professoriate, in abusing the power they had, sometimes behaved badly and, like ASIO, earned their downfall. However, the liberal conception of the university is not an uncomplicated idea, nor was it the sole possession of professors, ASIO operatives and other agents of state power. While student activists opposed ways that university-based knowledge was being deployed and the types of power it granted, they did not necessarily wish to disrupt the knowledge traditions universities upheld. In fact, quite the opposite. Mostly, students just wanted to be considered to be a valid contributing part of the university’s knowledge and governance systems, often invoking a monastic-like tradition of “community of scholars” to claim it.75 The problem was that despite the 73 See for example ASIO, "Politically Motivated Incidents of Violence 1961-71 A12389/A30/Part 12," 10. 74 Don Beer, "Interview with Rod Noble," in A Serious Attempt to Change Society, ed. Don Beer (Armidale: Kardoorair Press, 1998). 75 Bob Connell, "Inside the Free U," Honi Soit 19 April 1968 41, no. 7 (1968). 15
  • 16. tradition that included students as members of the university76, the same tradition was inherently hierarchical – based on mastery and expertise. The community of scholars was not, in this tradition, the same thing as participatory democracy and it could not easily be made so simply through conceptual slippage. By challenging the existing order, students did not add themselves to the professoriate as a new community. Instead, they tore the professoriate down. While it may not seem like a great loss, the legitimacy of the university’s claim over truth in civil society rested in this hierarchical order. This battle over the control of knowledge was not a productive dialectic between conservativism and change via the power of knowledge. These two positions – represented in this paper as those held by ASIO and student protest movements – could not easily coexist. With the decline in the hierarchical elitism of the professoriate went the truth-claims of the university and thus much of its power. The consequence, perhaps, is that this largely un-mourned loss is also connected to a loss in the perceived social value of university-based knowledge itself. 76 Ashby and Anderson, The Rise of the Student Estate in Britain, x. 16
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