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Monday, September 25, 2006

Communist Party, Party, Party, Party.....

I've been asked few times to explain the difference between different strands of Marxism. Below are some very simplified explanations of the three main strands, orthodox communism, Maoism and Trotskyism, together with their relevance to the local scene, today.

Orthodox Communism, began in NZ in 1921 with the foundation of the Communist Party of NZ. For many years this was NZ's only Marxist-Leninist party and it slavishly followed Moscow's policy line, whatever it happened to be.

In the '20s and thirties a major split developed in the international communist movement. When Stalin came to power in the Soviet Union, he concentrated on building "socialism in one country". Trotsky on the other hand wanted to aggressively promote world wide "permanent revolution".

Stalinism was inward focused, emphasising building up socialism in Russia, rather than exporting revolution. Stalin still believed in world revolution, but wanted to build Soviet power and military might in order to force the revolution on his neighbours and eventually the entire globe.

Trotsky, by then living in exile, preached that the revolution was best served by educating and agitating amongst the masses to bring about spontaneous revolutions all over the globe.

Stalinisn was inward looking, paranoid and xenophobic. Trotskyism was outward looking, enthusiastic, naive and wildly unrealistic.

During the '30s and '40s small Trotskyite sects began to appear, mainly in Western countries. Their cadres were ruthlessly hounded and often murdered by the Stalinists, especially in Civil War Spain. Trotsky himself was eventually murdered by a Stalinist agent in 1941, in Mexico.

In China, Mao followed Stalin and developed his theories further by postulating that rural peasants would lead the revolution in backward countries. In the absence of an industrialised proletariat, the peasantry would win communism by conquering the countryside and eventually storming the cities.

This strategy was applied in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, In the Philippines by the New People's Army, in Peru by Shining Path and currently in Nepal and parts of rural India, by their respective Maoist parties.

After Stalin died, orthodox communism took a slightly more moderate line and emphasised conquering the west by semi-peaceful means while simultaneously arming third world revolutionary movements.

In the early '60s, China and the Soviet Union staged a "split". The orthodox communist parties stayed loyal to Moscow, while hundreds of Maoist splinter parties allied themselves to Peking.

Trotskyism also boomed in the '60s, encouraged in part by Castro, who though an orthodox communist appealed more to Trotskyite romanticism than did Kruschev, Honecker and co.

In New Zealand our Communist Party was unique in the West by adopting Maoism and aligning with China. The local orthodox pro Soviet elements founded the Socialist Unity Party in 1966 and promptly set about infiltrating the unions and the Labour Party.

In 1969, some youthful Trotskyite students and some older ex Stalinists formed NZ's first Trotskyite group, the Socialist Action League. The SALers, mostly university graduates followed the dictates of their bosses in the US, Socialist Workers Party and took up menial jobs in factories and meat works. The aim was to get amongst the workers to build their communist consciousness. Some of these old "70s student radicals are still trying to stir up revolution in the local biscuit factory.

During the '70s all three strands worked together on the anti Vietnam War movement. The SUP concentrated on the unions, the SAL worked on building mass rallies and the Maoists worked on youth and students. The Progressive Youth Movement was one of NZ's earliest Maoist fronts.

The Communist Party went on to desert Maoism and re-adopt Stalinism, in the late '70s then in the '90s took up Trotskyism, for God's sake, and morphed into the Socialist Workers Organisation.

Some of the Communist Party's Maoists and some radical students formed the Workers Communist League in 1980. They controlled HART and maintained several fronts including Women Against Pornograhy, the Philippines Solidarity Group and the Campaign Against Nuclear Warships.

Later the WCL dumped Maoism and eventually dissolved into Jim Anderton's New Labour Party and the Greens. Several other Maoist sectlets broke away from the Communist Party in the '80s and '90s including the pro-Chinese, Organisation for Marxist Unity, the pro-Shining Path, Red Flag Group, the Workers Party and the Communist Party of Aotearoa,

The neo-Maoist Radical Society flourished at Auckland Uni in the early '90s and at Victoria later in the decade.

All still exist, except the Red Flag Group and possibly Radical Society. Maoist organisations focus on opposing foreign control (building socialism in one country)so its no surprise that the well known Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa has Maoist roots.

North Korea follows the "Juche Idea" of self reliance, which is essentially, Maoism/Stalinism carried to its extreme. We have a few "Juchites" in NZ, mainly in the NZ/Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea Friendship Society, plus a few at Victoria University.

All communist strands are prone to splits, but the Trots are masters of the art. Every Trotskyite sect is affiliated to some international grouping, the Fourth International, the Committee for a Workers International etc.

Trot groups in NZ in recent times have included the Spartacist League, The Communist Left (now known as the Communist Workers Group), the Permanent Revolution Group, International Socialists, Socialist Alternative, Revolution, and the largest, Socialist Worker. The old Socialist Action League, which spawned the likes of Keith Locke and Matt Robson, has morphed into the Communist League, a tiny Castroite sect. You might see these comrades in Auckland or Christchurch with their little stalls outside supermarkets selling the "Militant".

The orthodox communists of the SUP kept on working on the unions and the Labour Party. They had a huge impact on NZ's anti nuclear policies in the '80s, through their front, the NZ Council for World Peace. Bill Andersen left the SUP in 1990, to form his Socialist Party of Aotearoa, over the SUP's slavish support for Labour.

The SPA is allied with the Russian communists and the traditional communist parties of Australia, USA, South Africa, Canada, Cuba etc. The SUP has dissolved, with some members going into the Labour Party.

Many of these parties are working together these days, Trots with Maoists, Maoists with orthodox communists etc. The Workers Charter Movement for instance unites, the Trots of Socialist Worker, with ex Radical Society Maoists and orthodox communists from SPA. The new Workers Party unites the hard core Maoists of the old Workers Party with the militant Trots of Canterbury Uni based, Revolution. Much of the communist movement is re-uniting, world wide as the old socialist bloc slowly re-forms and the third world Marxist states grow in strength. Many of NZ's communist groups are following this trend.

I hope this helps my readers better understand the character of contemporary Kiwi communism.

Any comments or criticisms from the comrades?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the CP's conversion to trotskyism was the result of a merge with the ISO in 1995, they split two years later and the CP kept the name 'Socialist Workers Organisation'

9:53 PM  
Blogger Libertyscott said...

The CP also was one of the last holdouts to be pro-Albania. It was a firm follower of Enver Hoxha after he broke with post-Maoist China, and then, of course, the Albanians gave it all up in 1991. I believe the CPNZ was down to about 30 people at that point. The Albania Society was one front of the CPNZ, although it was led by a Marxist-Leninist who was no member of the CPNZ at the time - Fred Clements (who has since died).

1:09 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Byron the CPNZ had abandoned Stalinism and were alreadt filling th PV with material from the British SWP well before the merger with the ISO.

Scott you've odviously researched this stuff pretty deeply. Great post on Helen Simpson BTW

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought it was a generally factual good explanation of communist history until you got to the part about the Progressive Youth Movement. They weren't totally Maoist. I was reading an essay on the NZ new left by Toby Boraman, in 'On the Left, essays on socialism in NZ', which said that ideological makeup of the PYM was different in each city. I believe he wrote that in Auckland it was largely anarchist and in Christchurch Maoist.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Cameron. The CPNZ, Maoist as it was then, loosely controlled the PYM in Auckland and Wellington.

In Auckland the PYM was led by Bill, Barry and Anna Lee, plus Brian Gabolinscy-all CPNZ members.

In Wellington, CPNZ member Tom Poata monitored the PYM for the Party and Maoists like Sally Lake, Robert Reid, Therese O'Connell and George Rosenberg all played leading roles.

In my opinion, the Wellington branch was the first to collapse because most of the local CP branch was expelled from the main party in 70/71.

In Chch, as in the other centres there were anarchists and even the odd Trot involved but the core members definitely had a Maoist bent.

Even the name, Progressive Youth Movement echoed the Communist Party's youth wing of the early '50s, Progressive Youth League.

The PYM was a Communist Party/Maoist front.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Political philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote a landmark book entitled: "The True Believer: Thoughts On the Nature of Mass Movements."

Among Hoffer's insights was that mass movements are an outlet for people whose individual significance is miniscule in the eyes of the world and -- more important -- in their own eyes. He pointed out that the both the Nazi and Communist movements were peopled by men and women whose artistic and intellectual aspirations were wholly frustrated.

Hoffer said: "The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are rarely attracted to mass movements: "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding," Hoffer said. "When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."

Hoffer was describing the political busybody, the zealot for a cause -- the "true believer," who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.

Contrary to the prevailing assumptions of his time, Eric Hoffer did not believe that revolutionary movements were based on the sufferings of the downtrodden. "Where people toil from sunrise to sunset for a bare living, they nurse no grievances and dream no dreams," he said. Hoffer had spent years living among such people and being one of them.

Hoffer's insights also help explain something that many of us have found very puzzling -- the offspring of wealthy families spending their lives and inherited money backing radical movements. He said: "Unlimited opportunities can be as potent a cause of frustration as a paucity or lack of opportunities."

What can people with inherited fortunes do that matches their unlimited opportunities, much less what their parents or grandparents did to create the fortune in the first place, starting from far fewer opportunities?

Like the frustrated artists and failed intellectuals who turn to mass movements for fulfillment, rich heirs cannot win the game of comparison of individual achievements. So they must change the game. As zealots for radical movements, they often attack the very things that made their own good fortune possible, as well as undermining the freedom and well-being of other people.

Why does free market capitalism and its underlying Classical Liberal world view so exercise its ideological opponents? One answer might be to look at the kinds of countries these people defend and idolise.

For many years, the Soviet Union was such a country. After too many bitter facts about the Soviet Union came to light over the years to permit its rosy image to continue, many of these low-watt bulbs simply shifted their allegiance or sympathies to other collectivist states, such as China, Cuba, Vietnam or Albania.

As Hoffer said, "Intellectuals are unable to function at room temperature."

It made not a dent on these leftist moonbats that people were fleeing the countries they praised, often at the risk of their lives, to try to reach the countries they were condemning -- especially the USA.

What's wrong with free market capitalism in the eyes of leftist intellectuals? The same things that are right with free market capitalism in the eyes of others.

If one word rings out and echoes around the world when capitalism is mentioned, that word is Freedom. But what does freedom mean?

It means that hundreds of millions of ordinary human beings live their lives as they see fit -- regardless of what their betters think. That's fine, unless you see yourself as one of their betters, which is what leftist intellectuals tend to do.

The more the Classical Liberal vision of individual freedom prevails, the more the vision of the anointed fails. The more ordinary people spend the money their own money as they see fit, the less is available to the state as taxes to spend on "the common good" as determined by the anointed.

The more people raising their children according to their own values, the less room for the collectivist notion that "it takes a village to raise a child" as Hillary Clinton once said. What about those who don't want their children raised by a village?

When capitalism frees ordinary people from the domination of their betters and prevents them for being used as guinea pigs for the vision of the anointed, the more it insults the presumptions that enable the anointed to think of themselves as special, as one-up on the rest of us.

Countries that impose a collectivist vision from the top down will get a free pass on anything, while any country that lets individuals go their own way will not even be forgiven its successes, much less its shortcomings.

We should celebrate every day the freedom that we enjoy. Every day we should also remember that this independence is galling to those who want us to be dependent on them. Make sure we rub their noses in it at every opportunity.

At the end of the day, they're all grubby little socialists.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers for that Trev.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tell us more about the anarchists, they seem to pop up everywhere these days, especially among hte youth left. Do they have an organisation and older leaders like the marxists?
Sandra Brooker

8:39 PM  

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