Communists and socialists in New Zealand

In the 1970s and 1980s socialism in New Zealand was much more prominent than it is now, especially through links to unions and unionists.

Have socialist ideals fizzled out? Not entirely, some activists promote something similar – somehow getting rid of capitalism and replacing our financial and political systems with something like socialism. But with previously communist countries USSR and China now embracing a lot of capitalism the socialist ideals are more low key and fringe.

Someone at Reddit was Wanting to know about communism in NZ

Does anyone have any links or info for any current communist or socialist parties in NZ ? I’ve done a bit of a search online but keep just finding info about defunct parties and terrible NZ herald articles. Anything specific to the Otago area would be amazing.

One unappreciated response:

I’ll tell you for $15

Another probably wasn’t very helpful:

Both of our major parties have been infiltrated by the Communist Party of China and we are in the process of becoming their puppet state.

Why not start by joining one of those parties?

It was pointed out that the Communist Party of China (if there is such a thing) mustn’t be very socialist these days.

There were some more helpful suggestions:

The International Socialists in Dunedin are pretty active right? Give them a yell. They like protesting.

Also:

Organise Aotearoa aren’t a parliamentary party but are probably one of the more active groups having only just kicked off last year. They do have a Dunedin branch too. Active on social media with their links at the bottom of the page, their twitter follows a lot of their members who are mostly very chatty.

The New Communist Party of Aotearoa is also a thing that exists as of last year but I’m not so familiar with them.

Organise Aotearoa (modern socialist groups seem to avoid using socialist names) explains their aims:

Organise Aotearoa is a new movement for liberation and socialism. We believe that the current political and economic system is rotten to the core. This system is killing our planet, creating massive inequalities, and undermining the tino rangatiratanga of Māori.

I don’t think the tino rangatiratanga of Māori is particularly socialist. Rangatira relates to chieftainship.

If we want to live in a truly just, fair, and democratic world, we need to do things differently. We need a system that puts people and the environment before corporations and their profits. We are fighting for socialism because we need a system that shares wealth and prosperity among all people.

We cannot simply rely on politicians in Parliament to do what’s best for us. Time after time, politicians have made promises and failed to deliver. Even worse, most politicians don’t even try.

It’s hard to see how any meaningful changes will be made to our political system without doing it through Parliament. This is no sign of any popular inclination for revolution in Aotearoa.

And it would probably have major difficulties dealing with the Treaty of Waitangi.

History has shown us that people in power only make the changes we actually need when everyday people get organised and demand them.

That’s why Organise Aotearoa wants to do politics differently. We’re committed to doing politics in a way that enables all of us to transform our living conditions together. We want to build the power of ordinary working people so that our collective needs, desires, dreams, and aspirations can’t be ignored. Together, we can make Aotearoa a more equal and democratic place, where everyone can thrive.

“Ordinary working people” is far from everyone, and it is claimed that socialism tends to discourage people from being working people.

Also r/kiwisocialists “has a list of groups around the country”:

A place for socialists, communists and anarchists to discuss current events and organise within Aotearoa.

But it’s not exactly reaching the masses:

157 Comrades

Communism hasn’t been able to prove it is a workable alternative – it has largely been a big failure – so socialist activism is a fringe idealist activity.

Socialist groups had some connections with the Mana Party (also called the Mana Movement) but that flopped when joining forces with a big capitalist Kim Dotcom and fizzling.

People of NZ

From

Auckland alive as 20,000 empty investment properties while 40,000 don’t have homes. People go hungry while supermarkets lock the dumpsters full of unsold food.

Production of the things we need to survive is already done by workers – so workers should control their distribution and consumption. It’s that simple.

There is already enough of everything for everyone. Let’s let everyone have what they need.

No explanation of how it might work, except through the goodness of everyone and their willingness to share equally.

There’s nothing to stop Emmy (except perhaps for property and money) starting up a commune and putting their ideals into practice, proving them on a small scale before risking the whole country.

:

New Zealand’s  account, with a new curator each week. This week, say hi to Emmy ().

Smashing capitalism and the failure of communism

Danyl several interesting posts at Dim-Post on the failure of communism in practice, and the stupidity of far left calls to ‘smash capitalism’.

Labour day thoughts about Marxism and the radical left

The Standard has one of those ‘Maybe Marx was right‘ posts you see a lot on the left nowadays, linking to a column in the Guardian suggesting the same thing. Reading the Trotsky biography I’ve mentioned on here before has lead me to a lot of secondary reading about Marx and Marxism, and my half-informed take is that Marx was right about some things but very wrong about other, very major things, and his total wrongness on those major things hasn’t yet sunk in for the radical left, which is a source of a lot of their failure and irrelevance.

If you interested in this topic it’s worth reading the whole post and there’s also some good comments. Danyl concluded:

The big lesson there is that a large groups of brilliant people all trying to do the right thing can all be completely wrong, for many decades, and cause incredible suffering and harm, while basically wasting their lives. It seems to me that something similar has happened to left-wing intellectual theory, especially the radical left.

That it’s taken a very wrong turn somewhere, and a lot of very brilliant people have been studying, teaching and writing nonsense, for a long time now and that they’re in a deep state of epistemic closure about this, because no one likes to think they’ve been wrong about almost everything. Especially people who fetishise intelligence, like surgeons, or left-wing intellectuals.

It is very meaningful, I think, that Piketty’s critique of capitalism didn’t come from the radical Marxist tradition. He’s read Marx but he trained as an economist and describes himself as a ‘believer in capitalism, private property and the market’ and he discovered a deep and powerful truth about capitalism that none of the tens of thousands of Marxists and Critical Theorists ever uncovered over the last hundred years.

There’s still a lot of serious work to be done critiquing capitalism and solving its problems, but right now the radical left aren’t doing any of it. At best they’re wasting their time, running around telling everyone ‘The problem is capitalism, sheeple!’, at worst they’re trying to impose their nonsense on mainstream left-wing politics and preventing actual progressive change.

Of course, it’s not only the radical left who want to burn it all down: Trump’s campaign manager is a guy called Steve Bannon who describes himself as a Leninist who wants to destroy society and rebuild from the ashes. There’s also a growing ‘neoreactionary’ movement advocating the abandonment of both capitalism and democracy, and a return to the ‘western tradition’ of monarchical feudalism and ‘traditional gender roles’. Smash modernity, and it’ll all come out in the wash. It worries me that there’s so much of this about.

He followed up with What bought that on? Some of his points:

  • About a year ago, just before the Paris conference I went on the Climate march to Parliament. It was a good crowd. Various speeches were given, and everyone cheered. And then someone (I don’t recall their name) got up and gave a speech explaining that climate change wasn’t the real problem. Capitalism was the real problem. Some people cheered, but lots of people didn’t, and as he went on in that vein, telling us all that we needed to smash capitalism because colonialism and cultural hegemony were the true enemy, people drifted away. ‘I’m not here for that,’ one of my friends – not very political but worried about climate change – said as he headed over the road to the pub.
  • It’s a conviction that’s gained a lot of ground on the left over the last eighteen months, metastasising from climate change to social justice and economic issues. I don’t know why. Corbyn and Sanders? Historical materialism? Whatever the policy problem, getting rid of capitalism is the increasingly popular solution.
  • What actually went wrong in Russia though? Lenin and Trotsky were smart guys. Geniuses, even. They lived and breathed Marxist theory their entire lives. Yet they had no plan of how to run their country after they seized power, and they spent years improvising various doomed solutions while their country starved. War communism. ‘Electrification + socialism = communism!’ State capitalism. Eventually it was back to capitalism on the assumption that they could then progress through capitalism to socialism to communism, just like Marx said. It didn’t work.
  • The left is very prone to intellectual fads and I guess this one too will pass, to be replaced by something hopefully less silly. And less frightening, because ‘Smash capitalism’ really means, ‘Let’s destroy society and see what happens.’ I don’t think the activist left has the slightest chance of actually doing this. But they can scare away non-crazy people who want to join left wing parties and causes to find real solutions to problems, like all the people who walked away from the climate march.

There were a lot of comments on that too.

And then some Further reading

When I wrote my screed about Marxism one of my fears was that Scott Hamilton would show up and tear it to pieces. Happily he has not done this, instead he directed me to this post he wrote a few months ago also critiquing the base-superstructure model.

Giovanni Tiso has written a post about Why he is a Marxist.

I read that and it didn’t come close to convincing me there was much value in Marxism in modern New Zealand.

Someone in the comments linked to this, a post by a US based blogger.

He also wrote an excellent review about Francis Spufford’s novel Red Plenty. I read this a few years ago (and I thought I wrote about it too but cannot find the post).

This really was a key book for me, especially on the issue of capitalism and climate change. It’s axiomatic on a lot of the left that capitalism causes climate change (because of the drive for endless economic growth), and Red Plenty showed that you can get rid of capitalism and have a planned economy and have it work pretty well, actually, thanks, and still have your public and leaders demand continued high economic growth, because that’s a great solution to many political and economic problems, regardless of whether you’re a capitalist economy or not – and then dig up and burn huge amounts of coal and oil to fuel it.

It’s refreshingly unusual to see someone sort of from the left giving such a wide ranging consideration of political theories and realities.

One thing that seems to escape those promoting a revolution – how they expect a utopian socialist society to magically emerge after a smashing of capitalism.

The person surviving may be equal I guess.