Monday, August 27, 2007

Beat the rates with the red wedge

From last week's Craccum:

It's a funny old business, doing the news. All sorts of different organisations send media releases to Craccum, hoping that we will give them some publicity. But sometimes, when we take an interest in one of these organisations, they go all cagey on us.

Take, for example, the Residents Action Movement. They are the people who brought George Galloway all the way from England to talk about "Islamophobia." They were previously known only as a leftist group which had won a seat on Auckland Regional Council in 2004.

We received a media release from RAM (as they like to call themselves) called "RAM stands in council elections." It went on for quite some length but it didn't say much about the elections. Although it said "RAM is fielding a united team of strong candidates," it didn't say who are these candidates or where they are standing.

We needed to know more if we were to run this as a news story. So I contacted Grant Morgan, the Organiser of RAM, and asked him:
How many candidates will RAM be fielding, for which elections?
Is RAM a front for the Socialist Workers' Organisation?
The second question is not strictly related to the first but it is relevant, since Grant Morgan is General Secretary of the SWO; it is widely held by opponents of RAM that they are a front organisation.

I received this reply:
In order to reply, I need to know:

1.   Are you a front for the Labour Party?
2.   When will you get the name of Socialist Worker right?
Well, we didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition. The first question was a little puzzling. Craccum of course is part of a vast conspiracy to take over the world, but don't tell anyone we told you.

Mr Morgan's sensitivity about the name of the organisation is understandable; the party's current name is Socialist Worker (Aotearoa/New Zealand). Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, everyone calls his party the Socialist Workers Organisation, the name it had back in the dark days of its past.

The SWO was founded by the merger in 1994 of the Communist Party of New Zealand and the International Socialist Organisation. Mr Morgan was the last General Secretary of the CPNZ. The merger was the end of the CPNZ, which had been founded in 1921, only a few years after the Russian Revolution. Like all other Communist parties, it was obedient to the Soviet Union and worshipped Josef Stalin.

However, the CPNZ did not take a liking to Stalin's successor, Khrushchev; they thought he was a "revisionist," which is the worst insult in Communist circles. So, when the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China fell out in 1961, the CPNZ backed China, unlike every other Communist Party in the world. This was yet another first for New Zealand.

The CPNZ later showed itself to be even more eccentric when China split with Albania. Enver Hoxha, the nondescript little dictator of that nondescript little dictatorship, had condemned China, for being revisionist. The CPNZ agreed. In the opinion of New Zealand's Communists, the only country that was truly Communist was one most people could not find on a map.

Then, in 1993, things became stranger still. The CPNZ, under Mr Morgan's General Secretaryship, then decided that none of the dictatorships that had been the shining future were either shining or the future. They were not even Communist, but State Capitalist. This was an important distinction. The Stalinist CPNZ became Trotskyist: its doctrine was that Socialism had not happened in any of the dictatorships, but was still to come.

The remaining Stalinists left the Party, muttering that it had become a "hidden, fifth-column agent for the class enemy in its massive international campaign to convince the working class that socialism does not work." The next year, the Party gave up altogether and merged with the International Socialist Organisation.

The International Socialist Organisation is international more in theory than in practice. It is based in Dunedin. It also has a branch in Wellington. It was aligned to the Socialist Workers Party, a British organisation which developed the State Capitalism theory. The SWP was not happy having two franchises in New Zealand, so it brought the CPNZ and the ISO together in a shotgun marriage, after which they were known as the SWO.

The marriage did not last. The ISO realised that their new-found colleagues from the CPNZ were not International Socialists at all, but were still Stalinists. So the ISO left and went back to Dunedin. They are still very hurt by the experience. To say the least, they have not moved on.

So, the SWO, which used to be the CPNZ until it joined with the ISO and which used to align itself with Russia, then China, then Albania and which used to be Stalinist but now is Trotskyist, then decided to call itself Socialist Worker (Aotearoa / New Zealand), a snappy title it keeps to this day. In the interests of brevity, we shall call them the Socialist Workers.

Our Socialist Workers are part of the SWP's International Socialist Tendency (IST) which has local organisations in many countries, including Botswana and Norway. They are also crazy about Chavez, believing that the unfolding Venezuelan revolution, if it continues to move in the direction it's currently going, will reshape the socialist and labour movements in every country on every continent, just as the unfolding Bolshevik revolution did from 1917-24. Therefore, rather than looking inwards, the IST needs to be focused outwards towards the most advanced revolutionary upsurge in 90 years and the global socialist regroupments it will inevitably set into motion.

With all these global socialist regroupments going on, you might wonder how Grant Morgan finds time to deal with the Residents Action Movement. You might also be wondering why he has an interest in local government. Traditionally, International Socialists have disdained elections, thinking they are just a means of maintaining the hegemony of the bourgeoisie. But in recent years the SWP has discovered that elections can be quite handy.

This is where George Galloway comes into the story. After Galloway was kicked out of the Labour Party, he won a seat in Parliament for Respect, a political coalition which is dominated by the Socialist Workers Party. Members of the SWP have won seats on local councils as part of Respect. All of a sudden, the International Socialists have discovered the usefulness of democracy.

It is no wonder that the Residents Action Movement was keen to have Galloway come to New Zealand, because they are so similar to Respect. The Socialist Workers in New Zealand, like their equivalents in Britain, have discovered that they can get involved in elections and win them. It is quite a change for these people, who firmly believe in the inevitability of the coming workers' revolution, to be campaigning in local body elections. But they seem to be quite good at it.

It will be interesting to see how RAM prospers in the local body elections. Will they be able to find some candidates? Will they hold on to their seat? Will they win more? Will Grant Morgan become the Hugo Chavez of the Auckland Regional Council? Will the inevitable workers' revolution be brought about by elected councillors on Auckland local bodies? Will cowards flinch and traitors sneer, when the the red flag flies in Aotea Square? We shall see.


Anonymous said...

Your question was out of order, Paul, and their response understandable. No matter what you think of their ideas and history, they have a right to have their platform considered along with all other candidates in the local body elections. That you took advantage of your job with Craccum to slag them off so extensively (in the political equivalent of an ad hominem attack, with not a single mention of the policies of RAM) perhaps says something about YOUR attitude to democracy. The last time I saw such a column was when the Maoist editorial staff of Salient attacked the Socialist Action League. I don’t know anything about the SW, nor do I care, but I do care about student newspapers giving election candidates fair treatment.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Paul perhaps you could have asked Grant exactly how the RMA are going to defend Aucklanders from racist attacks. I mean it all these neo nazi skinheads that have been tking over Auckland recently, they must be stopped!

Psycho Milt said...

Yeah Paul, it's none of the damn voters' business to know whether they're voting for Socialist Worker or not. How dare you!

A. J. Chesswas said...

So do you still believe all their BS about "Mosques and Miracles"?

Paul said...

AJ: I never did, never will. It was all cynical manipulation, an attempt to frighten liberals and grab the Muslim vote.

Jake said...

Judean People's Front? Or People's Front of Judea?

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous #2. You should have asked Grant Morgan how the Resource Management Act is going to stop the skinheads currently taking over Auckland.

More seriously, comments on Ryan Sproull's piece at his blog about George Galloway revealed that, in true far-left style, RAM has been a-fussin' and a-feudin' with Students for Justice in Palestine and the Workers' Party. Interesting.

Apathy Jack said...

I remember the SWO. My favourite meeting of the (now long defunct) Education Action Group was the one where we were planning some long-term protesting tactics/strategies, and we were told by members of the SWO that our long term, goal had to involve no more than fighting a holding battle because when the revolution came, as it would in no more than five years, most of the world's ills would be solved.

(And just to stop people asking: this was around ten years ago, so if they had that revolution, I must have missed it. Maybe it wasn't televised...?)

Oh, and although I try not to get into arguments with "Anonymouses", the guy who's saying it's inappropriate to use Craccum as a platform to launch one-sided, ad hominem attacks on people you don't like, has clearly never actually read even a single issue of Craccum. Back when I was hanging around, that's ALL the magazine was ever used for.

Paul said...

You can read the stoush on Ryan's blog, to which GVN D H$TL refers, here. I will post something about these and other events soon.

Anonymous said...

Waitaminute. One can perfectly well disagree with the RAM and Socialist Whatevers without accepting the Christian fundamentalist conspiracism that seemed to underlie "Mosques and Miracles."

Which, when all was said and done, was this: (i) Muslims TM are a generic category of anti-western
'terrorists' -regardless of the Sunni-Shia divide, or the existence of political diversity within the Muslim community; (ii) They seek to 'take over' Western European/anglophone societies, so it is permissible to discriminate against Muslims within one's
immigration laws - which is known as the "Eurabia" hypothesis; (iii)Needless to say, if one is already a credulous, gullible and conspiracist community, it is quite
possible for the likes of the BNP
and League of Rights to get their hooks in, using the above sleight of hand.
I do accept the need for solidarity with progressive elements within Muslim societies and with victims of right-wing Muslim oppression. However, let's not be blind when it comes to the faults on the other, equally dodgy
side of the Islamophobia/Eurabia debate...
Craig Y

Anonymous said...

"right-wing Muslim oppression"

What? Free market capitalist Muslims are oppressing their altruistic socials Muslim brethren? Blimey!

Anonymous said...

Actually, Iran is rather a free market economy, and just before the first Gulf War, the Washington Papers ran an obseqious article about Iraq, commending Saddam because he'd just engaged in some privatisation.

But I digress. Actually, right wing comes in two flavours. One is the free market capitalist variety,
the other is the protectionist rural-dominated and social conservative nationalist variety.

And yes, there is heterogeneity within Islam. Go back to the Iranian Revolution, do some reading about the various groups involved, and find out...

Craig Y

Anonymous said...

"Actually, right wing comes in two flavours. One is the free market capitalist variety,
the other is the protectionist rural-dominated and social conservative nationalist variety."

I see, so 'right-wing' is basically what ever you decide you don't like then?
Given that protectionist-nationalist is nearly the opposite of free market capitalism, hardly different flavours as two completely different things.

Sam Finnemore said...

I bring you the RAM election song, with words and music by Roger Fowler:

"I’m the old guy at the bus stop from the family next door,
I’m the sparkie up the ladder, and I work down at the store,
And I’m your friendly postie, and I just fixed your car,
That’s my workmates in the lunchroom and the others in the yard;
- Now’s the time to listen, for we are everywhere,
We’re the people of this city and we’re gonna get our share.

We’re the girls down in the warehouse stacking up the load,
We’re the riggers on the scaffold, and the gang that digs the road,
We clean the toilets in your building, and then we scrub the floors,
We’re the invisible army who often gets ignored;
- So have a look around, you can see us everyday,
We’re the heartbeat of this town, and we’re gonna have our say:

We want our city run by those who really care
For folks like you and me, and not those fat-cat millionaires.
So if you want to join us, and tell that lot to scram;
Let’s all get together and give your vote to RAM!"

Anonymous said...

So unemployed people aren't good enough to be included in RAM's little camp-fire ditty? Fascists!

Anonymous said...

"I’m the old guy at the bus stop from the family next door" - is this the guy in the photo illustrating the story below?

He doesn't look too keen about fulfilling his destiny by voting RAM.