MOST RECENT UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 2019
Keeping up with the Kiwi comrades, or: how I stopped worrying and learned to love the sect swamp. This list contains all the arguably active socialist groups in New Zealand (including some other anarchist and radical left orgs), it isn’t a definitive list of every single organisation on the left – that’d be a much bigger project. But if you’re window shopping for a new org to join and get a taste of socialist politics in EnZed, maybe this’ll help.
In terms of size, we’re not looking at a mass movement here – but it is growing from a largely cultural scene into something that could almost be described as a ‘movement’. Of the 24 orgs listed here, only 6 definitely have at least ~20 members and only a single group has 100+. Several have less than five members, and on top of that duel carding and other forms of membership crossover have to be considered. A conservative count gives me a core minimum of roughly 270 people, so it’s safe to say that overall we’re talking about about a bottom-line number or 250-300. This, I must note, is trying to determine an actual and honest number of active members of these various socialist groups. I’m deliberately trying to be conservative in my guess here to give a grounded assessment of where NZ socialism is at, and the reality is that the number is probably a bit higher.
A quick honourable mention goes to the Pacific Panther Network, not included in the list because they aren’t a self-described socialist organisation. But they are a very interesting Pacifica radical organisation and the direct descendant (founded in 2016) of the legendary Polynesian Panthers of the ’70s & ’80s. Their scope being far beyond that of a single-issue campaign or sectional activist group, and as such inclusion on the list is warranted. While you’re at it, why not check out this 2010 documentary on the Polynesian Panthers and this interview with current Pacific Panther Teanau Tuiono.
Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement
Status: alive, maybe
AWSM possibly holds the title of sole nationally organised anarcho-communist outfit in EnZed. Numbering at the single digits – two people running the website/social media – they’re now greatly diminished from their already not huge beginnings. Asides a website, they print the irregular newssheet Solidarity. Though currently essentially one of several propaganda groups, they originally formed in 2008 as a means to rectify the mistakes of the much larger but less organised anarchist scene that’d existed five years to a decade earlier.
Black Star Books
Status: still kickin’ after 15 years
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. There are about a dozen people involved to varying degrees in the project, and if you’re visiting Dunedin the ‘shop is open 2-5 Wednesday & Friday in addition to the various events held there.
Canterbury Socialist Society
Status: alive and in good health
From a new kid on the block to an established and notable segment of the NZ swamp, CSS are an education & social outfit with a relatively broad outlook. Their primary activities are regular talks on socialist theory, film screenings, and monthly drinks. Playing the patience game has paid off in allowing CSS to establish itself as a center of socialist politics in Christchurch, they’ve steadily increased their activity and built up to a core of about 20.
That increased activity includes the addition of an annual State of the Unions panel + Fred Evans Memorial Lecture to their regular event roster, along with plans to start a quarterly bulletin The Commonweal (this history nerd approves). One last note, CSS along with the Christchurch Progressive Network (an initiative started in 2015 under John Minto’s stewardship) were pivotal in some of the initial local responses to the March 15th massacre – and conducted themselves admirably according to all accounts.
A small Bookchinite org that cropped up relatively recently. No one seems to know who exactly it is, but you can read what they have to say on their website.
Status: alive and seemingly well, though greatly diminished from the good ol’ days
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). These days outside of bumping into one of ’em at one of the usual protests or pickets, your average encounter with the Communist League is via their frequent electoral runs in Auckland. They did have a youth section, the Young Socialists, at least as recently as the late ’90s or early ’00s but it’s essentially moribund these days. In spite of a reputation for being rather difficult to find, given their refusal to maintain any kind of online presence outside occasional press releases, they do still host their ‘Militant Labour Forums’ fairly frequently.
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. In 2019, the banner is being flown by Annalucia Vermunt (for mayor) and Patrick Brown (for council, Manukau ward).
Communist Workers Group
Status: alive, if quite small
CWG are a small outfit primarily (as far as I can tell) in Auckland, who’re one of the founders (in 2010) of a small Spartacist-descended international seemingly called the Liaison Committee of Communists along with orgs in the US and Zimbabwe. Asides the usual fare the main activity of the group is the regular publication of their magazine Class War, which can be found on their blog Redrave. The LCC also have an international journal called Class Warrior which can be found on the CWG (USA) website. I bring that up for the name alone.
They have a bit of a convoluted backstory, so bear with me on this. The CWG trace back to a split in the original NZ Spartacist League which played out from 1972-1974 and eventually led to the founding of the Communist Left of NZ in 1981. In 1992 the CLNZ joined the (Workers Power UK-led) Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International (which eventually became the League for the Fifth International or L5I) and became Workers Power (NZ). This didn’t last long though, and Workers Power (NZ) became the CWG through 1994-1995 when they split from L5I over its position on the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia. Along with some Peruvian and Bolivian groups they formed the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International (CEMICOR) in 1995, which has since dissolved. For a time in the 2000s it was a member of the International Trotskyist Fraction along with a number of South American orgs, and arrived at its final form as a member of the LCC in 2010.
I’ll admit, I’m scraping that^ from the very convoluted Wikipedia stub on the CWG and what bits & pieces I can scrape from the websites of all the CWGs ex-sibling groups around the world. One day I’ll ask ’em to sort out exactly what the lineage is.
Co-operative Party of New Zealand
Status: alive and quite young
One of two super NEW! orgs as of this update, the Co-operative Party is also super young without a single member over 20. A mutualist party, the Co-ops are new enough that as yet they don’t extend beyond a 5-person executive and a small group of paper members. The main inspiration for this lot is the ‘anti-capitalist, free market’ tradition associated with the Center for a Stateless Society in the US, though unlike C4SS their main activity as yet is electoral – they’re aiming at cracking the 500 paper member mark in time for the 2020 election.
Status: small, but with a lotta fight left in ’em
Formed from the ashes of the Workers Party of New Zealand in 2013 (they’ve published a short history here), 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. Their main activity these days is the regular publication of pamphlets and aptly named magazine Fightback. As such the ‘core’ of the group, as it were, is its six-person editorial board.
Fightback were 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.
Of recent(ish) note is the org re-branding as a trans-Tasman outfit to coincide with going near fully online. Oh, and apparently they’re considering affiliating with the 4th International.
The Freedom Shop
Status: among the living
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
Status: tiny, but very much alive
The IBT are perhaps the only international to be more or less formed in New Zealand. They like the CWG also trace back to the Sparts, but with a mercifully less convoluted lineage, the start point being the expulsion of Bill Logan and Adaire Hannah in 1979. This little expulsion eventuated in the founding of the Permanent Revolution Group which trucked along for a decade until it linked with other dissident ex-Spart groups in Germany (Gruppe IV Internationale) and the US/Canada (Bolshevik Tendency) to form the IBT in 1990. You’ll mostly find the IBT in Wellington on the usual far left circuit, and thumping what I’m pretty sure is the longest running periodical on the radical left in this country – 1917 (in print since 1986 and impressively available in full on their website).
Recently the American section did the splits over whether or not Russia are imperialist (IBT thought not) – which means the BT in IBT may no longer really be applicable. You can read about the split from the source itself on the IBT website here. And the newly formed Bolshevik Tendency account is here.
International Socialist Organisation
Status: waning, but still one of the major players
biggest second biggest maybe second biggest band in the land? The ISO are by most measures one of the largest sect in NZ with around 30-40 members primarily concentrated in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland (of which there’s a core of about 25-30). Initially founded in 1993 (meaning it’s their 25th b-day as of 2018), 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). As of April 2019, RIP 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 – which turned 20 in 2017. As of sometime around late 2018-early 2019, the ISO has been knocked from its perch as the biggest org in the country by the rapid growth of Organise Aotearoa – a position it held for much of the decade with the split and final demise of Socialist Worker in 2008 and 2012 respectively + the split (2011) and slow decline of the Workers Party since it became Fightback in 2013. They do remain one of the main players among the radical left though, a position held for almost two decades now.
New Communist Party of Aotearoa
Status: alive and unfortunately growing
Probably the only self-identified, overt Marxist-Leninist group active in New Zealand, NCPA has grown to one of the more notable orgs around these days. Fuck if I know why. At any rate, this lot are primarily based in Wellington with a smaller Auckland branch and a smaller still Dunedin group – numbering at 30 nationwide according to them with over half based in their hometown. At the very least, they do have a pretty visible and lively branch at home so if it ain’t fully 30 it still probably ain’t tiny.
There’s a big ol’ founding conference planned for the end of the year, and in keeping with the spirit of the old CP they’re working on a close relationship with the diplomatic missions of China, Vietnam, and Cuba. In much more direct terms, the NCPA are fairly close to the Communist Party of Australia. I hazard to ask what their opinion of the recent splits that party has recently gone through is.
New Zealand Communist Party
Status: likely nonexistent
No not that one, no not the other ones either. I am 90% sure this might just be some kid’s Facebook page.
Status: thicc and healthy
The biggest band in the land after a period of meteoric growth, Organise Aotearoa are unquestionably the largest socialist organisation in at least 20 years. On paper they number an impressive 250+, and with an ear to the ground a core of at least 100 is perfectly reasonable. The membership is still largely concentrated in Auckland and to a slightly lesser degree Wellington, but since the last update have opened up stable branches in Dunedin and Hamilton with eyes on future branches in Christchurch and Rotorua. They trace themselves back to the intellectual political circles which began to orbit Sue Bradford and co. during the early days of the launch of Counterfutures journal, the Social Movements conferences, and the leftist think-tank Economic and Social Research Aotearoa. Although that scene goes back to Bradford’s doctoral thesis A Major Left Wing Think Tank in Aotearoa: An Impossible Dream or a Call to Action? and the resulting speaking tour in 2014, OA itself coalesced in 2016 before its public launch in 2018.
Politically, OA are a mixed bag beyond a general firm dedication to revolutionary socialism and a fairly standard body of core principles. Part of the stunning expansion has been the fact OA includes (or has included) among its ranks any number of Maoists, Marxist-Leninists, Trotskyists, Dengists, varying strains of anarchism, eco-Marxists, and democratic socialists. Just about every tendency around in NZ can count current or ex-OA members, and duel carding or ex-members of other socialist orgs (deceased + among the living) aren’t uncommon. This has led to some fierce internal debates, which sometimes spill into the public, and at least a few membership rumbles. On a personal note, it is good to hear internal political life is lively and open enough that these debates can happen given it’s an org large enough for those debates to have real weight.
Activity wise, OA have been notable in a number of campaigns and are a presence in the protest/picket circuit wherever there are members. They’re yet to start a party paper or any other media operations, which is actually somewhat surprising considering the resources which must be available with nearly 300 dues-paying members. I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes over the coming year, as OA settles itself and overcomes the teething pains of growing so fast in such a short time.
Status: possibly moribund
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. They’ve been exceptionally quiet over the last year or so though, so the dream may finally be over.
Status: alive, small, and at war with the entire left
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), there aren’t really members beyond their 7-person editorial collective.
Once upon a time they were most well known for their quite adversarial attitude toward much of the rest of the socialist scene, and maybe to a lesser extent their not exactly favorable position on the Labour Party. However as of the last year or so Redline has decided it needed to be even more alienated from the rest of the left and has thrown its hat in with the TERF scene. It’s been quite the schism, and although the readership is apparently up (possibly due to the heavy involvement of the UK TERF movement in the local movement) it’s come at the cost of near total isolation from just about the entirety of left-wing politics in NZ.
Status: alive, stagnant
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, Socialist Aotearoa are largely a personality not-quite-cult around Unite organiser and Joe Carolan. A central feature of activism in Auckland, their Anticapitalist branded merch were for the better part of a decade a near ubiquitous feature of that scene (moreso than the newsletter it was all branded for). SA were notably embroiled in long running cover-up allegations after the publication in 2011 of an open letter regarding misogyny and abuse on the part of then member Omar Hamed. Though the uproar is now more a piece of sect-history than a living problem, it seemingly never really recovered. At one point SA were being poached by both the ISO and the Workers Party for a merger. The former actually reached merger talks supposedly but it fell through and the 2011 allegations put the final nail in the coffin on that, while the overtures from the Workers Party were seemingly never returned.
For a time within the last year or two there was something of a surge in young membership and an attempt to wrestle leadership for a new generation, but by all accounts the stagnation of the org set in and SA halved in size back to the 20-odd core it has always maintained. Of final note is their electoral efforts. 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 2017 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.
Status: small, obscure, but alive!
Before I write anything else, I have to apologise for previously thinking this org dead and condemning it to The Graveyard. Many thanks to Miles for getting in touch!
Socialist Appeal are the local franchise of the International Marxist Tendency, and have been around since about 2007. Originally based in Kaikohe (probably the only org to ever do so), this lot are scattered to the wind and count a half dozen members around NZ and another couple in Sydney. They apparently have a seasonal magazine of the same name, though it doesn’t seem to be advertised on their website or the website of the IMT.
Socialist Equality Group
Status: small, unlikely to grow, but very feisty
Based primarily in Wellington with a seemingly smaller section in Auckland, 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) which hosts pretty much all of the ICFI’s media. 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.
They do have a youth wing, the International Youth and Students for Social Equality at Victoria Uni campus, and they do host events (mostly in Wellington but more occasionally in Auckland). One final pretty funny note, they aren’t listed as a national section of the ICFI on the WSWS.
South Pacific Christian Anarchists
A relatively loose network of sympathisers with the Christian Anarchist tradition active primarily in New Zealand and Australia with a few affiliates at large scattered through the South Pacific. Formed in 2006, SPCA (heh) have held an annual hui most years since around New Zealand (twice in Australia) ever since. There ain’t that many of ’em these days, but they’re still kicking and occasionally putting out an irregular zine Co-Opted/Kia Ngātahi. If you’re interested, the best resource on the group is probably this hour-long interview two members did with the Which Side podcast in 2016. SPCA members also have some affiliations with the Catholic Worker Movement.
Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists
Status: alive & well
A spiritual successor of sorts to the Auckland Anarchist Network, TMA have solidified themselves as a core puzzle-piece in the Auckland left and boast around 20 members. The official launch of TMA was postponed by the March 15th massacre until May, but seem to have really hit the ground running after the launch party. Beyond the meeting/picket/protest routine TMA host a monthly drop-in infoshop called (A)Space, are one of the core member-groups in Tamaki Anti-Fascist Action, and are building a worker/tenant mutual aid group – Tamaki Solidarity Network – modeled on the Seattle Solidarity Network. They’ve also got a newsletter called the Auckland Activist Fortnightly which gives a super thorough rundown of upcoming leftist events in Auckland, I’d recommend if you’re up there because it must be one of the most complete lefty calendars around.
UC Socialist Society
The University of Canterbury Socialist Society (or UC SocSoc for short) are a very much NEW student socialist group in Christchurch. I can’t find much about them, and I’m not sure (don’t think?) they’re directly tied to CSS in any way – or have anything to do with the old UC Marxist Society that some CSS people were involved in back in the day. The one thing I do know is that they seem to host relatively regular coffee sessions on campus, which is definitely in the same vein of cafe/pub socialism CSS is known for.
Status: alive and educating the workers of the
Wellington Socialists is primarily an education project that hosts events with the Wellington Workers Education Association – kudos to that. Not really being as much of an activist project, it seems to act more as a clearing house for education events and has a fair amount of membership crossover with other orgs. With the launch of OA in particular it seems some members have moved more of their energy toward that, but the group as a whole remains alive & well.
World Socialist Party
Status: fuck if I know, moribund maybe?
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 living sect in New Zealand having been originally founded in 1930(!). I have heard from other folk in the socialist scene that they’ve met World Socialist Party members within the last few years, though as far as I’m concerned they may as well be a folk legend. You can find a couple articles from them in the Socialist Standard archive from the UK.
Lifetime: may never have existed but about 2016-2018
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. They never did more than maintain a (now dead) website and a twitter account that’s been silent for awhile now.
Otago Socialist Society
Status: dead, could be revived or have a spiritual successor in the future
A smaller sibling to the Canterbury Socialist Society, with a similar orientation towards education and social events, OSS existed for about a year and a half before dissolving earlier this year. There is still an interest in the pub communism of the CSS, and some desire for educational and social initiatives in Dunedin – but whether anything comes of it is another matter entirely.
Once one of the more notable orgs around, Socialist Voice were a kinda-split from Fightback 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.
As of late 2018 their website is down and social media dormant, at least some ex-members have moved onto Organise Aotearoa.
A fairly short lived activist org in Christchurch that was in some way loosely affiliated to or had the backing of the ISO. It would seem fair to guess the membership largely folded into CSS, the Canterbury Progressive Network, UC SocSoc, and/or Unions Canterbury.
Viva Party of Aotearoa NZ aka Revolutionary Utopian Montagne aka 5th International aka Killuminati Seven Day Theory Party – Takeover Aotearoa New Zealand aka Youth Dialectic Party aka Democratic Communist Party of Aotearoa aka Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Aotearoa aka Revolutionary Democratic Socialist Party of Aotearoa
This one’s a real trip. Viva Party has had at least eight (8!) names over the years, not counting dozens of Facebook pages and groups either set up for sections within the org (whatever its name may be) or fictional international branches. All of it comes largely down to this one guy James Jordan-Bradley from Kaitaia and his followers, who initially claimed to be in Socialist Appeal but was quickly either expelled or just disabused of ever being a member.
James has a rather wild background. If you can parse the wall of text, James lays out the party’s history on its website. He claims to have started lecturing his friends and family on Marxism sometime in 2010 after predicting in 2008 (at age 18, mind) that a world revolution would break out and being inspired by the 2009 Iranian protests. He shortly thereafter joined Socialist Appeal and then split over disagreements regarding metaphysics. The ‘party’ changed name nearly ten times over the following 2-3 years, and James claims to have developed an unreleased body of theoretical work initially titled 2pac’s Prophecy: The Seven Day Theory: The Four Philosophical Pillars for the Modern Enlightenment Revolution. He does appear to have written quite extensively, a number of documents including a full draft manuscript for a book called The Four Pillars of Synthesized Materialism can be found uploaded to the various Facebook pages associated with his “5th International”. At some point, I’m gonna track down all these documents and release them as a single text
He claims he was arrested attempting to start a revolution in the local Pak ‘n’ Save, which may check out because he says it was somehow connected to the very real 2011 Foreshore & Seabed hikoi to parliament, which did pass through Kaitaia. More concretely, he got investigated by the cops for distributing leaflets saying the CIA planned to bomb the 2011 World Cup to … overthrow Gaddafi? There’s also his really odd art project. Yeah. Interesting guy.