Fuck, another one down. I guess it’s time to have a little look back over a few things and give a few nods to the things to come. And also prepare for the avalanche of ‘decade in review’ content set to hit us about a year from right now, because god I at least will need a year to prepare for it.
State of the Sects
Anyway, to quickly reflect 2018 has (in my opinion, unsurprisingly) not seen the socialist revival in New Zealand that many were predicting. While Organise Aotearoa has had a good start, and certainly shows no sign of slowing yet, its appearance alone (among a number of smaller projects to appear in 2018) has not yet gone so far as to account for the miserly state the radical left in this country has found itself in for much of the decade. In raw numbers, my guess is that the radical left is sitting somewhere in the 200-250 range for active members of the sects and a periphery of maybe a few thousand people (at most) who might be considered supporters. For comparison, this would mean the radical left is the largest it’s been in maybe 10-15 years but no more – and it remains miles from the strength it was at even in the late-’80s after it had declined somewhat post-’81.
More interesting for anyone invested in the radical left is that the composition in terms of organisations and ideology has changed significantly. OA has decisively knocked the ISO from its perch as the King of the Swamp, and I’d say the numbers bandied around (that I personally think are probably about accurate) would indicate OA is the largest single org in close to 30 years.
ISO has sat atop the greasy pole not only as the largest sect, but one of the last really notable sects to date back before the turn of the millennia, since Socialist Worker began to fall apart toward the end of the ’00s (dissolving in 2012) and the Workers Party began to go into decline after its split in 2011 + reformation into Fightback in 2013. Its replacement by a much larger org is a significant change for the makeup of the radical left at large.
With the seeming collapse and dissolution of Socialist Voice and the retreat of Fightback to a more singularly focused media group, only the ISO and Socialist Aotearoa remain among the roster of major left sects (numbering maybe 30-40 and 10-20 each). In particular, Socialist Aotearoa remains seemingly fairly stagnant and highly isolated from the rest of the Auckland left. They’re now joined by Organise Aotearoa (at maybe 70-80 active members, with 150+ full members) and the Canterbury Socialist Society (top dog in Chch with maybe a dozen+ full members).
As for the anarchists, Wellington remains a near dead zone compared to its heyday around 1998-2003 (though the Freedom Shop is still kicking) while the revival of anarchism in Dunedin & Christchurch around the turn of the decade is now long spent. AWSM seems to have lost most of its membership, and likely sits at ~5 members at best. There is hope with the arrival of the Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists up in Auckland, who’ve been exceptionally active and boasted about 15 active members last I heard. The top of the radical left ecosystem now looks something like Organise Aotearoa, ISO, CSS, Socialist Alternative, Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists, and the Pacific Panthers. I predict of any of these groups CSS and TMA are most likely to grow healthily over the coming year, while OA stands both to continue an explosive growth but also potentially faces internal rupture as its broad ideological spread is tested by the process of developing a program.
Ideologically, the ‘great divide’ of Trotskyism vs anarchism which defined the radical left of the ’90s through to just a few years ago is now fully done & gone. Perhaps the most significant sea-change for the radical left has been the emergence of a significant Marxist-Leninist scene, and a more widespread engagement with a much broader spread of Marxist theorists than has been the case previously. One mildly funny result of which is a belief in the North Island that left communism is highly popular or even the dominant tendency in the South Island (this isn’t remotely true).
To be brief: Otago Socialist Society continues apace and I have a few (relatively small) essay-pamphlet length publications I’ll be working on over the year of which hopefully some will be out by years end. The Leftovers will also have its final update for awhile around the time this piece is published, which I intend to be the last update until at least the end of next year. Also, I’ve picked up a radio show on Otago Access Radio which’ll be running through the first half of 2019. More substantively, the digital archive I’ve been hinting for over a year is now well advanced toward a full launch planned for late January next year. It has a name – The RADAR Project (RADAR being Radical Aotearoa Digital Archive), a completed website, about 60 items have been uploaded thus far with the aim of 100-150 items at launch, and a Facebook page with an attached group for supporters who want to get involved in the project. I’m hoping to garner some media attention throughout the month leading up to the official launch, so expect to hear a lot more about it in a week or two. If you want to help out with the project, just about anything you can do will be greatly appreciated and much needed, simply get in touch with me through the usual means.
Otherwise, holiday salutations ‘n’ all that – you’ll hear from me in the new year!