Gazette editorial: 30 June 1970

Ian Rathbone’s valedictory editorial for Guild Gazette today, summing up and assessing the events of the past year:

After one of the most troubled years in the University’s history, the summer term is ending with a whimper.

During this year the Deputy President resigned and left Liverpool with only half her term of office complete. The President had to fight desperately for re-election before Easter, and no Guild Council was complete between November and May.

More importantly, this year Liverpool has set the lead in handing out severe sentences to students who question university policies. One student has been expelled with only a few days to go before he sat his finals, and nine others have been suspended. One hundred and seventy-four students were kept waiting until a week before the exams when they were told that the University had decided not to press disciplinary charges.

When he arrived, in January, the new Vice-Chancellor, Trevor Thomas, was asked why there had been no student unrest at Liverpool. That question no longer is relevant.

Within Guild Sandy Macmillan has shown himself to be a bad President. By Christmas he had used his casting vote in Guild Council to save himself from a vote of no confidence. Later the following term there could be no doubt that Council had no confidence in him or his executive.

Yet, following his re-election, he still ignored a further call from Council to resign, and later Council was forced to pass a measure making votes of “no confidence” in officers of Guild binding.

During the period when there was no President, Sandy Macmillan told a mass meeting that we should conduct our own affairs and not let the University interfere. Yet, a week later, he was meekly accepting that the University had ignored the Committee elected by the students and had selected their own.

During the occupation, it was Sandy Macmillan who sat on the Advisory Board of Discipline which began the proceedings against the ten. He has done nothing to benefit Liverpool students during his year of office, and the most surprising thing is that twelve hundred people were sufficiently naive as to elect him- TWICE!

Relationships with the University, too, have reached an all-time low. It was the Vice Chancellor’s continual ignoring of communications from students which resulted in his being called over to a mass meeting on March 9th, and his pathetic performance their which led to the occupation.

Once they realised that they could not ignore students, the University resorted to the big fist.

The University has shown itself completely unable to understand its students.

A quiet summer term does not mean that there are no longer any problems, and that next year things will return to their old peaceful selves.  Michael Dodgson does not offer any prospects of being a better President than Sandy Macmillan. He is rarely ever seen in the Union. As Vice-President for Financial Affairs he was a disaster. The “B” Societies fund ran out by Christmas and it is perhaps fortunate for Guild that he decided to accept the vote of no confidence, and left Gavin Graham to sort out the mess he had created.

Jackie Munton,  the new Deputy President, offers scarcely better prospects. The main feature of her election manifesto was a promise to redecorate the Liver Bar and to extend the Sphinx – something which has been in hand for the past two years. She may well fulfil her promises – but it will be little thanks to her efforts!

As far as the University is concerned, there seems no prospect of them adapting their attitude to students. The men in Senate House have shown no inclination to reconsider and to establish better rather than worse relationships with the students. The election of a Tory Government, with promises of stiffer penalties on demonstrators, can only have served to harden their attitude.

Next year promises to be even more wrought with troubles than this. Students just cannot accept that that for all their efforts and protests this year little has been achieved. Presidents and the University alike have shown that they have a remarkable capacity to resist all movements for change. Yet this does not mean that students should sit back and accept that  for the most part their efforts will be in vain.


Now is the reckoning

This is the editorial, written by Ian Rathbone, in the issue of Guild Gazette which appeared today, the second day of the Senate House occupation, though it had been written several days earlier (the last paragraph, though, looks like a stop-press addition):

The collapse of’ Guild Government and the extnction of the system which has been ailing for some years has apparently been resolved by the university authorities stepping in. Not only stepping however, but stamping as well, on the wishes of students and their attempts to deal with a situation which concerns mem, and them alone.

The facts are quite disconcerting – a Committee of Six responsible people, elected by a general meeting of 1,500 students and then ratified by a second meeting of 900 students, has been totally ignored by the university who have simply said “well, you nave been naughty boys, you’ve had your fun, now get back to what you were doing before”. We are being forced to elect an Executive to continue to prop up a structure which has shown itself incapable of functioning efficiently as a means of students running their own affairs or even representing their opinion. Even those in prominent positions last year recognised this and tried to institute an alternative, viable structure but Guild Council obstinately refused to see reason.

There are other issues which have been obscured by the resignation of the previous Executive, which not only precipitated their downfall but have also been ignored by the University. The invitation of Lord Salisbury to Guild Ball by that Executive caused not only that Executive’s resignation but a sit-in in protest, a petition of 1,000 signatories and a picket of Senate House, yet the University has failed to make any public comment on the position of Lord Salisbury until more direct action has been threatened.

In connection with the issue of racialism, we are still left in the dark as to what investments this University and Union hold in South Africa and Rhodesia, thus maintaining these apartheid regimes. The University has ridden rough shod over student demands to be informed of the situation, and it is hoped that the Vice Chancellor will give satisfactory answers to these issues and prevent direct action on the part of students which which only further serve to show the chasm between the students and the administration (this is written before Monday).

There are genuine worries amongst students over the question of secret files being kept by Universities on students’ political and religious activities.  There is the moral aspect of whether there should be files, bringing the ‘Big Brother’ of Orwell’s 1984 considerably closer, but also the nastier aspect of whether this information is being given to ‘Big Business’. Connected with this is the whole question of the extent of the influence of Big Business in the University, the evidence of which seems considerable.

Of course, the national politicians have been making much ‘fodder’ of these issues recently, particularly the last two, and cashing in on the general dislike of students to create for themselves an audience. Vice Chancellors have been accused of ‘cringing before student anarchy’ and law and order, an old meaningless vote catcher, invoked to beat both students and University authorities. Yet the authorities have far from allowed students to get their own way and the last thing any of us want is anarchy.

A plain and simple answer to the issues outlined is required and it is to be hoped that this is what will be given. This is democracy, not dictatorship.  We have a right to know what is happening in this University and in the end, a right to play an essential role in its government as a participant.

The Vice Chancellor has failed to satisfy student demands on all counts and must now accept the occupation as a failure to communicate with his students. For the first time in years students at this University have shaken out of their apathy and stood up for what they believe is right.

City students accept V-C’s terms for meeting

This morning the Liverpool Daily Post carries a detailed report of yesterday’s tense meetings and negotiations, which came close to an occupation of Senate House. The Post reporter concludes with a quote from a speaker at yesterday’s mass meeting which crisply draws together the various strands of protest that have merged to produce the current highly charged political atmosphere:

Students at Liverpool University who demanded a showdown meeting with Mr Trevor Thomas, the new Vice-Chancellor, were outvoted at a mass meeting at the Students Union yesterday.

By a majority of 114, it was decided Mr Thomas should attend a meeting on his own terms on Monday to answer questions on what some students have called ‘a policy of secrecy’ by university authorities.

Earlier yesterday, students threw out a proposal to stage a protest sit-in at the Senate House over alleged secret files being kept on them by the University authorities.  A delegation of three members of the Guild of Undergraduates committee went to Senate House, where a meeting was arranged with Mr Thomas and other officials.

They asked for an open meeting with the Vice-Chancellor within the next two days to discuss the question of secrecy.  Otherwise, they said, they would go ahead with their proposed sit-in.

But Mr Thomas refused a meeting before Monday, and later the matter was put to the vote.

At first, 204 students voted for an extension of time and 209 against. A second vote was demanded and it resulted in 226 for and 221 against –  a reversal of the majority of 5.

Then a third vote revealed 334 in favour and 220 against Mr Thomas’ terms for a meeting on Monday.

One of the speakers from the floor at the meeting claimed that the administration had:

“Ignored a plea to disclose what Chemical and Biological Warfare contracts are undertaken at the university; refused to reconsider the position of Lord Salisbury as our Chancellor, despite petitions, pickets and representations from mass meetings; refused even to dissociate itself – either as a body or as individuals – from Salisbury’s views; refused last week, with no reasons given, to reveal where the university’s investments lie, thus leading to a sneaking suspicion that they are investing in firms which bolster up Apartheid; and has seriously infringed the autonomy of the Guild in its reaction to last month’s officer resignations”.

The speaker said that he wanted the University to disclose the contents of all files such as those on investments, the Senate, the Council, Court minutes and research grants.

Last night MR Thomas could not be contacted for comment.

Proposals to SocSoc meeting 27 February 1970

This paper was presented at the SocSoc meeting today.



It would seem that Soc Soc once again has been overwhelmed by the course of events rather than vice versa: as fast as we have analysed, categorised, and rationalised one development another has come along and rendered it all so much time wasted.

We must regain the initiative and with it the ability to plan in advance a coherent campaign of action. Examine the following demands

  1. Lord Salisbury’s resignation.
  2. Public dissociation from his views.
  3. Information on investments.
  4. Recognition of Committee of 6.
  5. Alteration of ordinances etc. (and possibly by the time this is discussed):
  6. Student representation on ‘joint committee’.
  7. Some claim concerning Warwick files.
  8. Let the V-C come and speak to the students.

Now where is this constant pestering of the University getting us, and how do these demands fit into the general plan of SocSoc? Obviously they don’t fit at all for two reasons:

a) The demands are not contingent one upon the other.

b) There is no general plan.

However, whether we like it or not these demands and their references have become issues and to a large extent we are behoven to work within them.
It would appear unsatisfactory to drop some demands and to work with just a few.
It would be a complicated and clumsy campaign that attempted to carryall these demands whilst seeking to keep their limits clearly defined (eg, Monday – Senate picket – Racism; Tuesday – Senate picket – Warwick files-etc, etc.)
The obvious need is some way to synthesize these demands into one campaign. Now it is not difficult to see that their common denominator is the University administration.  However, if we are just interested in presenting demands to Senate then we may just as well write then all down on a card and pop them in the post  (which is effectively what we have been doing to date).  And yet if our demands are to be a means to something else then there is a neatness and flexibility about an open-ended campaign in that it could absorb any further developments without unbalancing the whole effort.

The visit of Salisbury saw the initial development of a planned campaign which was totally disrupted by the Guild collapse –  consequent chaos – Warwick files, etc.  The time has cone for a reappraisal and the formulation of a new plan.


  1. That the stated short term aim of SocSoc be the setting up of a student inquiry/commission/tribunal/investigation into the power structure of the university and its manifestations within and without the campus. Put differently, that it examines exactly how a university works.
  2. (as an absolute prerequisite for 1.) We demand that the university disclose all information at its disposal, including Senate/Council/Court minutes; all files whatsoever; University accounts, investments. (see note*) The University administration makes its position viz approval/disapproval/neutrality absolutely clear on the following: Salisbury, Racism,  Committee of 6, etc.
  3. That demands 1. and 2. are replied to in writing not less than seven days after receipt.
  4. Plans for some form of direct action at the end of the seven days and for a full scale mobilisation of all possible support during the week for the confrontation at the end of it.

Also that in the event of a failure of full scale mobilisation, contingency plans for anonymous direct action be made  (in the hope that this would be contributory to later mass action).

It has been suggested that a ‘charter of demands and critique of the University structure’ be formulated and presented. However:

  1. The problem with a critique and concluding demands is that the administration’s reaction is likely to be: ‘You say that the situation is A,B,C, but in fact it is X,Y,Z and therefore your demands are not applicable’.  Now whilst we may be fairly sure that the situation is not X,Y, Z, unless we have had previous access to the information we won’t be able to show up the lie.
  2. The idea has been floating around since the beginning of term and yet nothing has been done and the present situation does not seen to be one in which running on the spot while someone prepares a charter is going to be beneficial to the cause.

*Whilst this demand would appear fantastic, it nay be argued that in many ways it is perfectly negotiable and contains a viable means of leaving Senate House, if we ever got in.  Its very open-endedness allows the probability that if the Admin. are prepared to concede anything then it will be covered under this demand (we can surely agree upon some concession of information which, if we are in need  of an excuse to leave, will suffice). If they are not prepared to concede anything at all we can leave because we have just set fire to the building.

Engels: Socialism, Utopian and Scientific

A seminar on the relevance of  this Marxist text today
led by Mike Smith
7.30 March 4  McAusland Lounge
the text can be obtained from the Soc-Soc bookstall in the foyer

E Mandel on American capitalism today

A seminar on Mandel’s analysis of capitalism, based on article in New Left Review 54
7.30 Wednesday March 11   McAusland  Lounge
N.L.R  available from the Arts Library or from Soc-Soc bookstall

Lenin’s ‘Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder

A seminar on the text’s relevance today
led by Dave Robertson
7.30 Wednesday  March 18   McAusland Lounge
text available from Soc-Soc bookstall

Report of Socialist Society Meeting 24 February 1970

This report provides an account of the proceedings at today’s meeting of Socialist Society, which was largely concerned with organisational issues.

The meeting was called in order to discuss and take decisions upon Discussion Document l (pink sheet with proposals for restructuring). It had been asked at the last meeting that reports be made concerning the financial and material assets of S0cSoc  and the possibility of obtaining a room in the Union for S0cSoc use.

  • We were assured that S0cSoc’s finances were nil,if not negative.
  • There is a duplicator on permanent loan from Ellam’s,but we have only been able to use it one week out of the year due to breakdowns and it is currently going back for repairs. There is an operating silkscreen at 3 Sunnyside , Liverpool 8, which S0cSoc has access to but does not own. There is miscellaneous poster-making material in B53.
  • There appeared to be no possibility of gaining a permanent site for S0cSoc in the Union. After discussion it was agreed to establish a permanent geographical site at 66 Canning Street, in the basement, and that S0cSoc should pay the residents for electricity & heating.

The following groups with fairly specific functions as a first attempt at formal organisation were agreed to:

  • CONVENORS: responsible for calling meetings  & drawing up agendas – not chairmen – Andy Black, Sue Rossinger, Danny Fishman.                         ~
  • TREASURER: responsible for finances as per section vii) of the pink sheet – Nev Bann.
  • SECRETARIAL & NEWSLETTER GROUP: responsible for gathering information for the news-sheet & publishing it – out of which will hopefully grow a S0cSoc journal – Gerry Cordon, James Rees, Tricia Brown, Andy Black, Rob Evans, Dave Jenkins
  • COMMUNICATIONS & PROPAGANDA: poster-making and to some extent leaflets – all will have to help in these tasks but this group should ensure that everybody is able to gain skills to perform the various tasks – Mo O’ Sullivan, Frank Milner, Mike Smith, Mike Keating
  • BOOKSTALL: responsible for maintaining S0cSoc bookstall in the foyer, to stock any book on request from members – Nuala Ballinger, Dave Harvey, Penny Wilde
  • PERMANENT INFORMATION FILES: setting up & maintaining – the residents of 66 Canning Street (Tricia and Allan) and James Rees
  • Delegate to MSSF: Nigel Varley
  • Industrial liaison: Martin Yarnit
  • C.A.R.D (Campaign Against Racial Discrimination)  liaison – Nigel Varley

Theory seminars will be held Wednesdays at 7.30 pm in the McAusland Lounge. The texts for the first three meetings will be:

  • Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by F Engels for March 4th ( opening paper by Mike Smith- the pamphlet
    should be available from the S0cSoc bookstall).
  • Article by E. Mandel on the USA in New Left Review 54 (copy in the Arts library, should be available
    off the bookstall -any offers for an opening paper? contact one of the convenors) for March 11th.
  • Left-Wing Communism an Infantile Disorder by Lenin (again undoubtedly in the library and off the bookstall) for March 18th (paper from Dave Robertson)

The other weekly meeting of S0cSoc will be held on Fridays at 12.30 in the McAusland lounge This meeting will usually be dealing with S0cSoc campaigns both inside (racism, the Guild, files) and outside the university.
The functional groups established should begin to meet and work as groups as soon as possible.  It should be emphasised that the groups are never exclusive and will probably all need help.


Students’ new move should ease university crisis

The Daily Post this morning carries a new report on further developments in the Guild resignations crisis:

There were signs of a breakthrough last night in the constitutional crisis which has hit Liverpool University Guild of Undergraduates.

By an overwhelming majority, a mass meeting of 600 students in the Mountford hall passed a composite motion electing a new ‘caretaker government’.

Meanwhile the University authorities have issued a letter to all staff explaining that there has been a complete breakdown of constitutional government in the Guild.

Officially the Guild cannot exercise its normal functions; it has no officers and as a result funds cannot be drawn.  Staff are being paid by the university but student societies have been hard hit.

The new ‘caretaker government’ will meet university officials to ask that the Guild’s constitution be modified to allow the situation to return to normal.

Mr Gavin Graham, chairman of the new body which was elected last night, said: “there is a very strong chance that we will get funds flowing again within a week”. […]

Mass meeting elects six-man committee to run Union

Following the mass resignation of the Guild Council Executive last week, Guild Gazette has today rushed out a special issue with details of the dramatic events that have followed:

Mass meeting elects six-man committee to run Union

At a mass meeting last Tuesday [10 February], called after the mass-resignation of the Executive of Guild Council the previous Monday evening [9 February], it was decided by the Guild of Undergraduates to set up a “caretaker committee” of six people, who were eIected at the meeting.

So many students attended the meeting that the Lounge Hall and the Mountford Hall balcony had to be opened and when the meeting began at 5.00, there were an estimated 1,500 students present.

Mr John Aspinall, chairman of the meeting, opened it by asking Mr Richard Davies, last year’s President, to address the students by outlining the events which had taken place at Guild Council the previous evening.

Mr. Davies spoke lucidly, explaining why Executive had resigned, and went on to explain the situation which existed at that time. He emphasised the autonomous nature of the Guild Council, and said that the only influence held by the University over the Guild was in a committee which annually inspected its accounts.

He added that it was now necessary to elect some governing body, as Guild Council had been rendered inquorate by the resignation of Executive, and the Guild had no governing body.

Mr Aspinall then opened the discussion to the floor, asking for suggestions as to how the Union should be governed, on a short-term basis, and asked for a “peaceful and unemotional debate”.

Peter Cresswell

At this point Mr P Cresswell proposedthat the meeting elect a committee of six to perform two functions:

  1. To keep the Union running, with the aid of Mr James E. Brown, the Permanent Secretary and Bursar.
  2. To negotiate with the Joint Union Management Committee (JUM).

He proposed that this committee should be responsible to a Mass Meeting which would be held in one weeks time, Tuesday, 17th February.

lt was pointed out by the chairman that he had received notice from the University assuring students that all wages, etc, would be paid during the period of instability .

Mr Peter Brown then spoke, indicating a petition which he claimed had already received some two thousand signatures, which requested the appointment of a President, Deputy President and Executive officers, the immediate organisation of elections and the desire for a representative University, reaffirming the result of last term’s referendum which had showed the desire for Guild Council [not mass meetings] to be sovereign body in the University.

He went on to point out that some legal body must be elected immediately to preserve the financial autonomy of the Guild, and he emphasised that any member of a committee of six would not have the legal power to sign a cheque.

At this Mr Sandy Macmillan, ex-President of Guild, leapt to his feet and, addressing the meeting, said, looking at Mr. Brown, “now I know why the vote of no confidence applies to Executive”. He went on to emphasise the financial autonomy of the Guild, and added that somebody must be elected to prevent interference by the University in Guild affairs.  He finished his speech saying,  “I’ve never taken part in a revolution before in my life, this is quite fun!”

A plea was then made to make Mr Cresswell’s suggestion a motion, and that a vote should be taken upon it. There then followed a short period of  haggling, when Mr D Christie proposed that an interim Executive should be elected. Opposition to his proposal centred around the fact that the committee would be responsible to the Mass Meeting to be held on Tuesday 17 February.

Another speaker, in favour of  Mr Christie’s proposal suggested that several people were trying to “twist the referendum result”. He pointed out that the referendum plainly showed the feelings of the student body as a whole, and suggested that the old system be restored immediately.

The chairman then decided to vote on the two amendments on the motion which embodied Mr Cresswell’s suggestion of the committee of six responsible to the Mass Meeting. The first amendment, which proposed that a committee be elected which would have power only to release cheques and would immediately negotiate with JUM to organise Presidential Elections, was unanimously defeated.

The second, Mr Christie’s amendment proposing that the meeting should elect a new executive was marginally carried.

After complex discussion over quorum figures, during the course of which it transpired that a Mass Meeting quorum was 300, Mr Spruce, last year’s VPGA, spoke, emphasising the “boring nature of Mass Meetings”. He went on to suggest that a time limit should be fixed on the committee, and that the Guild should get back to the old system as soon as possible.

In reply to Mr Spruce, Mr Richard Davies pointed out “the crucial nature of this meeting”, adding that he could no longer go on saying “yes” and that he could not tolerate a return to the situation where Council ruled the Guild alone.

This was greeted by cheers and clapping from the students. It was then decided to move to a vote on the motion that a committee of six people should be elected, including a chairman, a Treasurer, a Vice President for Internal Affairs and a Vice President for Guild Affairs. The motion was clearly carried, and the elections began.

There were three nominations for Chairman: Sandy Macmillan, Gavin Graham and  Tim Shuttleworth.

Voting was by show of hands and after the first vote had been taken, marginally favouring Mr Macmillan, a recount was demanded and Mr Shuttleworth stood down.

On the second vote Mr Macmillan was elected Chairman of the committee by four votes only over Mr Graham. There was no recount.

The rest of the elections were then carried out, Mr Graham being elected Treasurer; Mr D Christie, Vice-President for Internal affairs; Mr P Cresswell, Vice-President for Guild Affairs; and Messrs R Davies and O Swingler, Ordinary Committee Members.

Authorities refuse to recognise committee

The Committee of Six announced last Thursday at an Open Meeting to discuss policy that Mr. P Kemp, the Returning Officer, and the Bank holding the Guild account, refused to accept their legality, despite being elected by a Mass Meeting of one thousand people, the previous Tuesday.

Mr R Davies said that Mr Kemp was only prepared to accept the letter of the constitution and not its spirit. Mr Macmillan stated that there was a dilemma over what to do next, concerning the government of this university. He added that if the only way to get out of this situation was to approach the university for advice, then we may have to do this. Mr Davies replied that this was unacceptable and that Mr Macmillan and Mr Graham should go and find out what the position of the bank is going to be.

It was also announced that on Wednesday night there was a meeting between the Permanent Secretary and Bursar, Mr James E Brown and the secretaries of the standing committees which was convened solely to discuss financial matters. It was also stated that the university will pay the staff in the union and account for any over the counter deals.

Mr Robertson suggested that perhaps we could keep the takings of the union, which amount to around £1,000 a day and pay the staff out of this.  However, Mr Davies said this was impracticable because the students do not have enough people available to administer this, and Mr Macmillan added that the difficulty came when the bills come in at the end of the month. Mr Davies then put forward a proposal calling for Mr Graham and Mr Macmillan to put their names to a poster announcing the forthcoming mass meeting and to inform the  bank   of what is happening. He added that there was no need for fear of what the bank may say because the bank needs the union as  much   as  the  union needs the bank.

The meeting ended when there was agreement  on   the   proposal that the Chairman and Treasurer and Mr James E Brown, call an official mass meeting for Tuesday and this meeting to be concerned with  electing  a  chairman and  treasurer   authorised   to sign cheques and hand out cash, along with four others to form a commission. The second part of this proposal called for a mass franchise of the Guild of Undergraduates to elect a body to   run   the Guild until July 31st.

The sequence of events


At Guild Council in the Abercromby Room, the President and Executive resign after a vote of No Confidence is passed. An informal meeting of one hundred people gathers in the President’s office to discuss the situation, and it is decided that the Guild of Undergraduates must be consulted.


The news is announced in Gazette and it is announced that a Mass Meeting is to be held at 530 p.m. that evening. At the Mass Meeting a six-man committee is elected to run the Union until the following Tuesday when a “caretaker” government can be elected and the whole situation can be given a fuller analysis.


In an interview with the “Daily Post”, Mr. Macmillan says that the six-man committee will not be recognised and no cheques can be signed Senate is picketed in protest over Lord Salisbury’s failure to resign as Chancellor after accusations of racialism.

Standing Committee Secretaries are called together by Mr J E Brown, the Union’s Permanent Bursar, to discuss the financial situation. A compromise is reached after consultation with the committee of six.


The Union is still continuing to run as normal as far as catering and the bar are concerned. The committee of six visit Mr Kemp to discuss his making the following Tuesday’s Mass Meeting legal by calling one to coincide with it. Mr Kemp refuses to do this.

The committee of six meets in the Abercromby Room and the meeting is made open to anyone who wants to attend, whilst an agenda for the next Mass Meeting is formulated.