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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jan Farr-Wairarapa's Retired Revolutionary Writer

These days Jan Farr writes children's stories and divides her time between her Wellington and Wairarapa Homes.


Her husband Don works for the Council of Trade Unions while her son Gareth is a well known musician.

Writing is her main interest now, but once it was socialist revolution.

In 1980 Jan Farr was involved in the Auckland literary and theatre scene and was secretary of the Writers Guild.

Prime Minister Rob Muldoon released his famous list of 32 members of the Socialist Unity Party involved in the union movement. Jan Farr was the only woman on the list.

When questioned by the press, Farr claimed she was not a paid up member of the SUP, but was a supporter. By 1983 however, Farr had replaced a young Jim Marr as editor of the SUP's "Tribune", a position she was to hold for 10 years.


On the 30th of April 1984, SUP president, the late George Jackson penned a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

"We thank you for the invitatation to send 4 mid level cadres to the USSR to study CPSU leadership at the levels closest to workers"...

Jackson named the four lucky invitees as Jan Farr, Ritchie Gillespie, Lesley Douglas and Doug McCallum. All but Farr were to arrive on the 8th May by SU 558.

"Comrade Farr will leave earlier to attend the Pravda meeting and then to have discussions involving the role and organisation of the press. As she is the editor of our newspaper NZ Tribune, her programmes will need to be need to geared around the role of the press linked with the role of the Party"

This study was probably at the Communist Party's huge "Lenin's Institute for Higher Learning" on Leningradski Prospekt, Moscow, but may have occurred in one the Soviet Union's many other training institutes for foreign communists.

By 1985, Jan Farr was secretary of the Auckland City branch of the SUP. In 1986 she was active in the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji. In 1988 she toured Vietnam as guest of the Vietnam Journalists Association.

That year, Farr was also a member of the SUP's Peace and Solidarity Commission, which oversaw the peace movement and links to foreign communist parties and revolutionary movements.

In December 1988 Farr was interviewed in the Communist Party of Britain's newspaper "Morning Star". She was described as the "communist editor" of "Tribune" and an executive committee member of the NZSUP.

The SUP was working hand in glove with the left of the Labour Party at the time to consolidate the union movement. This was designed to both entrench SUP power and to lock in union support behind the Labour Government-a difficult job in the "Rogernomics" era.

"Last year Mr Lange stated that by 1990 all unions must have at least 1000 members to be legally recognised. He positively pushed the idea of amalgamation to improve bargaining - something we in the SUP see as a necessary step. It was shortly after this that the CTU was formed. . . For years we have been encouraging industry-wide planning but until the recent crisis nobody in the movement really knew what the problem looked like. That's certainly changing now. . . Our basic position is that we are not in a revolutionary siuation yet and what we need now is the ability to intervene at the macro-economic level of production."

Jan Farr was on the Central Committee of the SUP well into the '90s and faithfully propagandised the "party line" while the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe underwent their stage managed "democratic" changes.

In April 1991 penned an interesting article for Tribunes's forum: "The problems facing Eastern Europe (in which I do not believe communism has been defeated) may show that Marx was observing a natural law which no amount of wishful thinking can change. [That law is the forces of production law]..."

In the early '90s, Farr was active in the radical Wellington Palestine Group.

After leaving Tribune in 1993, Jan Farr worked for several years alongside her husband Don, in FINSEC, the Financial Sector union.

Once Jan Farr rubbed shoulders with some of the world's leading revolutionaries. Now she reads stories to primary school kids.

One wonders if she still holds fast to the socialist dream?

3 Comments:

Blogger BEING HAD said...

This question is true of us all...

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Communication Manager is the new age title given to spin doctors who on the most part have back grounds in journalism.
Gone are the days when the Randy Stones of this world would troop the streets all hours of the day and night in pursuit of the scoop.
Today kids do a six month course at polytech and end up with a degree in journalism.
Everybody in the business has a byline these days.No more having to earn the right.
The story is secondary to the cult of the personality.
These days many of the once august fourth estate now aspire to get a cushy job working as some politicians wordsmith. Thats where the bucks are,and the influence.Being able to put words into the mouths and minds of the innocents is a very powerful tool indeed.

Dirk.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Steve Nice Guy Northland said...

What worries me is that the "Fourth Estate" so often, so arrogantly, assumes the role of "the" opinion maker.

It reports events (OK so far) then tell me what I must think about those events (not OK - piss off !)

It's reflex is to talk in terms of perfection and anything/anyone not meeting it is damned. Idiotic, juvenile, to start with and very cheap as well. That doesn't conceal the reality that most of its "personalities" are second rate big-noters.

Take that quacking hack Barry Soper for example. Face perpetually set against Winston Peters as foreign minister and he's not gonna let anyone forget it. So what does he do ? Beats the "Soper" drum in the office of Senator McCain. Result: him, not Peters, looking like the big wanker.

Bad call Barry, bet you wish you'd done it differently. That slick old Winston really stuck it up you on that occasion and I know you haven't forgotten it. You'll get him someday !

Soper, stroking his own idiot ego, grown large in the this very small pond. Pleasing to see he got chopped down for his uncouthness, even from people, like me, who have no particular love for Peters.

"Nappies" Espiner is another one. That "sage" - this is how you must think - final line. Again, piss off !

8:00 PM  

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