[Marxism] Fusion in NZ

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Jun 10 18:55:55 MDT 2004

On the day after the Anti-Capitalist Alliance's anti-imperialist
conference (People's Resistance-2004), another gathering took place.
Members of the ACA belonging to the Workers Party, the *revolution*
group and some belonging to no group merged to form a new Marxist
current, the Revolutionary Workers League.

The Workers Party and *revolution* initiated the ACA in early 2002 and
have been working more and more closely together ever since.  Last
October, at the previous ACA national gathering, they decided to embark
on a formal fusion process, with the aim of fusing at Queen's Birthday
weekend (in NZ, the first weekend of June).

A number of previously non-aligned ACA activists also took part in the
discussions leading up to the fusion.  In particular, most of the
non-aligned Wellington ACA activists joined in the fusion process, along
with individuals in Auckland and Christchurch.

Discussion of a draft programme for the new RWL took place over several
months leading up the ACA conference and the fusion, and this discussion
was open to all ACA activists, regardless of whether or not they were in
either WP or the *revolution* group.

The draft programme benefited greatly from this discussion and was
adopted at the fusion meeting.

The fusion gathering also adopted a one-page document on the
requirements of membership, governing the level of commitment expected
from members.  We recognise that the revolution is not imminent in NZ,
we are still in a period of downturn, and there is little point in
hyper-activism.  Hyper-activism can only lead to demoralisation and
burn-out in this period.    However, serious commitment is still
required for membership of the RWL, including financing the group,
selling the group's publications (in particular, participating in
regular stalls) and being active in an area of work such as
anti-imperialist campaigning or workplace organising. 

The new organisation has small branches in Auckland, Wellington and
Christchurch, and aims to have a further branch, or branch core, in
Hamilton (NZ's fourth city) by the end of the year.

The fact that WP had a regular paper ('The Spark') and the *revolution*
group had a regularish review ('revolution' magazine) gives the new
organisation an impressive publication set-up.  'The Spark' will
continue to be published every 2-3 weeks, as the basic paper of the RWL,
and 'revolution' will be the new group's review/magazine, coming out
three-four times a year.

The fusion gathering elected a national secretary, a national industrial
organiser, a national treasurer, and editorial boards for 'The Spark'
and 'revolution'.  A long-time Wellington working class activist who is
not a member of the RWL, but works closely with us and the ACA, was also
invited to join the editorial board of 'The Spark' and has agreed.

Interestingly, the RWL has historical links through current members and
supporters with all three major far-left groups in NZ in the 1970s and
1980s - the CPNZ (which was pro-China in the 70s and pro-Albania in the
80s), the Socialist Action League (which was the NZ section of the
Trotskyist Fourth International in the 1970s and for much of the 1980s)
and the Workers Communist League (which was pro-China for much of that

The fusion crosses historical divisions on the left.  The Workers Party,
for instance, was a pro-Mao (but not Maoist) group, while *revolution*
was a pro-Trotsky (but not Trotskyist) group.  The most prominent
founder of the WP came out of the CPNZ while the most prominent founder
of the *revolution* group came out of the SAL.

Differences continue to exist over historical questions such as the
degeneration of the Soviet Union and the Stalin/Trotsky debate and some
aspects of the Chinese revolution.  It was agreed that these are not
sufficient to prevent principled revolutionary unity and can be
discussed at leisure in the future by members of the RWL, including
publicly in the organisation's press.  Differences over current issues,
which cut across the WP/*revolution* divide anyway, can also be aired
publicly in the new RWL's publications.

This is seen as being more in line with the practice of Lenin and the
Bolsheviks than the kind of dogmatic, monolithic 'culture' that pervades
much of the Marxist left, both 'Stalinist' and 'Trotskyist'.

Another striking feature of the new group is its focus on work in the
working class.  The new organisation and its supporters include several
middle-aged worker-militants, with years of rank-and-file organising
among fellow manual workers in the timber industry, metal stores, and
cleaning jobs.    

Most of the new, young members have also been amassing experience as
activists and leading volunteer workplace organisers, most notably in
UNITE!, the new union for the low-paid and beneficiaries.  New activists
also have recently gained experience in the Rail and Maritime union, the
Service and Food Workers union and the teachers' union.  

Most of the new young members are students, but both WP and *revolution*
had a practice of orienting student members to the working class rather
than isolating student members in campus activism.  Turning students
outwards to the class will continue as an important part of the RWL's
overall orientation to the working class.  As well as fitting our idea
that students should put their talents at the service of the working
class, this approach also enables us to attract the best elements from
the campuses.   

The fact that so many students these days work manual jobs, often doing
almost as many hours at such jobs as they spend on their studies, also
makes this approach the right one to take towards students.  

The RWL, at its inception, is still a tiny organisation in the context
of New Zealand.  However it probably has a larger activist core than any
other group on the left now.  This would certainly be the case of the
overall ACA, which the RWL is thoroughly committed to continuing to
build as a broader, militant left current.    

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