The Ice Bloc

Musing about utopia on a stop towards the end of the Earth.

Leftovers: Socialist Sect-Spotting Guide to NZ

Compiling all the commo organisations still kicking around in Aotearoa, along with some notes from yours truly on each one. I may expand the list to include now deceased parties & projects at some point, tentatively titled The Graveyard. Although it might seem there are a large number of projects here, to take that this indicates more than perhaps 200 people would be mistaken. With few exceptions most projects number at ten or fewer involved, with some down to one or a couple individuals, and several being borderline dormant or even only rumored to exist. The criteria for entry is a claim to formal existence, so while some groups may well have folded – their claim to still be active (and at least some sign of activity) will see them included. At least until there’s been no sight of them for long enough that I’m satisfied the group has shuffled off the mortal coil.

With regards to the finicky distinction between ‘the left’ in general, and ‘left sects’ as seen here – this section of the blog is simply a hobby of mine to track the fortunes of socialism in New Zealand. Since the last update, some fairly incisive criticism of the Leftovers has convinced me that an ‘activist yellow pages’, a directory of the activist left at large, would be a welcome and useful project. So I’ll start work on reviving that old project from awhile back in the near future, watch this space etc – and if you’d like to help out flick a FB message or an email, yeah?

 

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement

Well dispersed but rather thinly spread because of it, AWSM holds the title of sole nationally organised anarcho-communist outfit in EnZed. Numbering at the single digits last I heard, they nevertheless sit on the larger end of the spectrum membership wise. At least when it comes to the sects, and especially the older ones. Asides a website, they print the irregular newssheet Solidarity. Though currently essentially one of several propaganda groups, they are supposedly going through a rebuild at present.

 

Black Star Books

An anarchist social center away down in Ōtepoti/Dunedin, BSB maintains an archive of Dunedin art zines inherited from Glue Gallery and a library of leftist literature (including some rarities). Asides the archive BSB serves as a social space having hosted movie screenings, a community kitchen, talks and lectures, meetings for local orgs, and at some point a DnD group. Fairly standard infoshop fare.

Canterbury Socialist Society

Newest kid on the bloc at present and seemingly the only game in town in Christchurch, CSS are an education outfit with a relatively broad outlook. Their primary activity thus far has been regular talks on socialist theory, film screenings, and monthly drinks. Not in any way large, but it would seem they’re patiently building to be one of the larger groups around the country.

Communist League

Originally the Socialist Action League when founded in 1969, the CL renamed when it sided with the Socialist Workers Party (US) in a split from the Fourth International in the late ’80s. Now the New Zealand branch of the informally known Pathfinder tendency which sprung up around the SWP(US), an average encounter with a member would likely consist of being sold a copy of (SWP(US) rag) The Militant while being extolled the virtues of the Cuban Revolution on the streets of Auckland. Given my not being in Auckland, and their refusal to maintain any kind of website or social media page beyond sporadic press releases on Scoop, it’s rather hard to gauge their presence.

The CL continue to valiantly contest every general and mayoral election regardless of results. They’ve stood in every general election since 1990, being rewarded with 210 votes (0.01% all up), on their first and thus far most fruitful attempt. More successfully they’ve tilted at every Auckland mayoral election since 2004 with a more substantive 1,817 votes (0.46% all up) in 2016, taking 11th place. CL stood their first ever candidate in Mt Albert for the 2017 by-election, in which they drew 15 votes (0.12%) to the cause of Pathfinder brand socialism. Felicity Coggan in Māngere and Michael Tucker in Maungakiekie stood for them in the 2017 election, achieving 109 votes between them.

Communist Workers Group

A 1994 split from Workers Power, itself a distant descendant of the original New Zealand wing of the Spartacist League, CWG are a small outfit in Auckland who until 2010  represented the International Trotskyist Faction in New Zealand. Active in protests and unions, the main activity of the group is writing for their regular publication Class War and on their blog Redrave. Internationally they align themselves with CWG (USA) and Revolutionary Workers’ Group (Zimbabwe).

Fightback

Formed from the ashes of the Workers Party of New Zealand in 2013, Fightback deemed itself a ‘fighting propaganda group’ but is now denoted as a more straightforward ‘socialist media group’. Now largely confined online, Fightback are among the more prominent socialist sects in terms of public awareness. Though a presence in the activism scene, their main activity is the regular publication of pamphlets and aptly named magazine Fightback.

Fightback have also been one of the driving forces behind the Migrant & Refugee Rights Campaign (MARRC) throughout most of 2017, supporting the candidacy of Gayaal Iddamalgoda in Wellington Central. For this effort they were rewarded with 161 votes, the largest of the minor players and hilariously well ahead of the ACT candidate. Asides this, Fightback’s main distinguishing feature among the local radical left is the ‘conservative leftism’ thesis developed by member (and veteran of Socialist Worker away back when) Daphne Lawless. It hasn’t exactly been a popular thesis, but can’t be faulted for a growing number of pieces detailing and refining the idea.

As of 2018 Fightback has migrated online after a fundraiser to save the magazine successfully crossed the mark to remain in publication as an e-publication, but fell short of the price listed for remaining a physical publication. This coincided with the group transitioning to being a trans-Tasman outlet with more coverage of Australian politics after some members jumped the Ditch, though this shouldn’t be mistaken for a growth in membership as it stands.

The Freedom Shop

Tucked into a corner of the Newton Opportunity for Animals Co-op Shop, The Freedom Shop are sellers of anarchist literature & knick knacks in Wellington as well as maintaining a small library. One of only two anarchist infoshops still around, The Freedom Shop one-ups BSB with the semi-regular publication of the Aotearoa Anarchist Review (or as it’s better known, AARGH!).

International Bolshevik Tendency

Mercifully the IBT don’t claim to have a New Zealand branch, merely some supporters here, which is more humility than the left is usually capable of. Notably formed around Bill Logan, a well known communist activist within the movement for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the ’80s, they number perhaps ~5 people. To my understanding, the only activity that could be attributed to the IBTNZ (insofar as it exists) is contributing articles to the IBT’s international publication 1917.

International Socialist Organisation

The biggest band in the land, the ISO are by most measures the largest sect in NZ with around 50 members primarily concentrated in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland. Initially founded in the early ’90s, they reformed after splitting from an ill-fated merger with the Communist Party of New Zealand in 1996. The ISO were one of several socialist groups to throw their lot in with MANA in 2011, officially ending their support in early 2015 after Internet MANA imploded post-election. Internationally I’m unsure exactly what their affiliation status is, although they at least gravitate the International Socialist Tendency and have close relations to Socialist Alternative (Australia) and ISO (USA).

You’ll find members on various campuses or at demos bearing ISO label placards and selling the orgs long-running paper Socialist Review. Their most recent foray into marching through the institutions was an unsuccessful (but entertaining) run by two members for the Otago University Student Association executive in 2017 as part of the feminist socialist Justice through Solidarity ticket.

Rumor has it the ISO is about to finally meet its long-held ambition of opening a Christchurch branch. Doing so would make the ISO the first organisation in at least a decade to have a branch in four major cities, the Workers Party having three branches and a small almost-branch in Dunedin around 2008. As far as I can tell it would push the organisation as high as 60-70 members, significantly making the ISO the largest socialist grouping in decades. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this, to say the least.

Organise Aotearoa

A fairly difficult group to parse from away down south, OA has had a somewhat fits-and-starts launch thus far. Seemingly this is what has come of the rumors which have floated around since Sue Bradford proposed a new communist party back in 2014, and while it was being talked about there had been no official launch. However, when a sign-up sheet for those already involved in the project leaked it was extremely unclear why OA existed and who was driving it.

To my knowledge, as it stands OA boasts 80 signed up members and is primarily active in Auckland with a core of perhaps a couple dozen people. There is still definitely interest in the project elsewhere but although people in the South Island have signed up, as far as can be told none have heard word of what comes next.

For now it seems unfair to make much more comment as it appears there will be a more formal launch at some later point, so I would say to wait and see what comes of this project before making much of a judgement.

Otago Socialist Society

Full disclosure, I’m a founding member of this smaller sibling to the Canterbury Socialist Society. Established in late 2017, OSS numbers at about half a dozen core folk and hosts a monthly educational event along with a monthly social drinks.

Rebel Press

Still going a decade in, Rebel Press are one of the only (perhaps the only?) anarchist publishing groups in the South Pacific. Largely operating out of Wellington to my knowledge, the folk at Rebel Press are responsible for various titles on anarchist history, the animal rights/ecological movement and the security state. They also publish Imminent Rebellion, the only (irregular) anarchist journal in the South Pacific.

Redline

Formed as a split of high profile figures from the Workers Party in 2011 (including the former National Secretary, National Organiser, and Spark Editor), Redline is basically a blog. Likely one of the widest read socialist blogs in the country (despite any specific social media presence beyond the members own profiles), they list an editorial board of seven individuals of whom there consists a core of maybe 4-5 are regular writers. I’d say they’re most well known for their extensive material critically analyzing the Labour Party, both past and present. Offline they supposedly run a reading group on imperialism, advertised on the blogs’ front page.

RevCom (A/NZ)

Maintaining a twitter account and a blog that mostly reposts articles from organisations it’s affiliated to, RevCom lay claim to being the NZ section of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) – themselves a recent addition to the ecosystem of trot internationals. Little to say beyond seemingly being North Island based and in a state of undeath as an organisation.

Socialist Aotearoa

A 2008 split from Socialist Worker, which arguably makes them the last remnant of the original Communist Party, and the NZ affiliate of the International Socialist Tendency, SAot are primarily a personality cult around Unite organiser Joe Carolan. A central feature of activism in Auckland, their Anticapitalist branded merch (and overabundant demo gear) are perhaps a more ubiquitous feature of that scene than the newssheet it’s named for. They also boast the largest social media following of any org on this list, for whatever that’s worth. SA have notably been embroiled in cover-up allegations since the publication in 2011 of an open letter regarding misogyny and abuse on the part of then member Omar Hamed.

One of several sects to join MANA, eternal leader Joe stood as their candidate in Mt Albert for the 2014 general election and pulled 290 votes/0.79%, placing 6th of 8, for his efforts. He’s having had another crack at it in the Mt Albert by-election under the banner “Socialist – People Before Profit” for which he staked his position as King Crank at 5th place with 171 votes (or 1.32%). It would appear the lack of any of the main right wing parties didn’t have much effect on the various leftist and crank sects who threw their hat in.

Socialist Appeal

Supposedly the “Marxist Voice of Labour and Youth” – their words, not mine – SApp are another tiny groupuscule I can find little about beyond their online presence. The NZ section of the International Marxist Tendency, they’re seemingly based in (of all places) Kaikohe which probably makes them the only socialist org to ever be based in Kaikohe. They apparently have a magazine, though I can’t find any traces of it (after an admittedly brief search of their website and asking a couple friends from Northland). Judging by the number of NZ writers credited on their website, I’d guess about ~4 members.

Socialist Equality Group

A small org based primarily in Auckland and Wellington, SEG are the local preachers of the eternally correct line of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), primarily via the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). Their activity mostly consists of reporting on political events and demos, by which I mean accusing literally every other socialist sect who turn up as ‘pseudo-leftists’. Won’t lie, it’s pretty unintentionally hilarious, but I somehow don’t see a mass organisation of Nuh Zelund workers sprouting out of it anytime soon.

Socialist Voice

Perhaps one of the more notable orgs around, Socialist Voice are active in Wellington and Auckland (also Christchurch according to Facebook, Hamilton according to Wikipedia, and neither according to people I know from both). Formerly the NZ affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International, they split indefinitely after an alleged abuse cover-up within the Australian section (simply, the Socialist Party).

Aligning themselves with a splinter faction, The Socialist, which resigned in protest taking several prominent members with it, it does not appear that Socialist Voice has rescinded this position (there’s a statement on their website from May 2016). Asides the usual activist circuit, union organising, and a reading group in Wellington, they ran a conference (Socialism 2017 – Mana Pāpori) with a few international guests across March 24th-25th 2017. Their Australian comrades have since formed an electoral coalition  under the banner Victorian Socialists, drawing together the ever warring Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance for a serious attempt at state parliament.

Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists

A spiritual successor of sorts to the Auckland Anarchist Network, the newest org on the anarchist block boasts 15 members and at present relatively frequent talks at Auckland University. An official launch of sorts is set to occur soon for the group, and with it a steady shift away from campuses. A number of projects and initiatives are bubbling away among the membership for the future, so for all I know TMA may well be watch-this-space for interesting developments over the coming year or so.

World Socialist Party

A phantasmal myth, leaving behind an archaic website as the only evidence they were ever alive. The only indication the World Socialist Party of New Zealand still exists and is not an elaborate hoax is that they’re still listed as the local sibling to the Socialist Party of Great Britain and there’re flickers of activity deep in the bowels of the SPGB forums. If they do still exist, then they’re by miles the oldest continuously lived sect in New Zealand having been originally founded in 1930(!). I have heard from other folk in the socialist scene that some bloke is wandering around still claiming to be a World Socialist Party member, though as far as I’m concerned the man may as well be a folk legend.

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