Report: Summer Conference 2013

January 18, 2013

Our organisation met in Wellington over the weekend of the 12th-13th of January 2013, as one of our two annual national conferences – summer internal conference, and winter public conference. Along with electing national officers, we held discussions on industrial perspectives, and passed resolutions on changing the organisation’s name, and on Stalinism.

Jared Phillips presented an industrial perspectives document which will be adapted into an article for the paper. In short, the neoliberal organisation of work (casualization particularly) is being forcibly extended into core industrial sectors such as meat processing and the maritime industry. We discussed the need to push for more militant fightback than is currently advocated by trade union leadership, and pushing demands such as nationalisation of failing workplaces under workers’ control.

We discussed changing our name to reflect re-assessment of our organisation and approach. In particular, we have discussed whether the name “Workers Party” reflects our perspective of not currently being a mass workers party, but aiming to build a fighting propaganda group, defining our aims this way:

an organisation whose chief concern is propaganda, but which conducts its propaganda while always immersing itself in and responding to the class struggle, and while always seizing every real opening for genuine agitation.

The organisation voted unanimously to change our name from the Workers Party to Fightback, which will also be the name of our newspaper. Our primary slogan will be “struggle, solidarity, and socialism.” Once we have redesigned our logo, newspaper and website, the organisation will roll out this new name and slogan.

Finally, our organisation is re-assessing our socialist history. At summer conference we passed a resolution on Stalinism. Comrades agreed that this resolution was intended neither as an endorsement of Trotskyism, nor a statement on Maoism, but an assessment of the Eastern Bloc bureaucracy and its global historic implications:

We remain partisans of the Bolsheviks and the October 1917 revolution which saw an unprecedented flourishing of human freedom. However, because of Russia’s economic backwardness and, crucially, the failure of revolutionary movements in Western Europe, the infant workers’ state was precarious from its inception. Eventually a Stalinist counter revolution prevailed at immense cost to the working class and peasantry. The Stalinists established a model of “socialism” characterised by a top-down direction of society and the economy by an unaccountable bureaucracy, which gives some social welfare benefits to the working class but which atomises, exploits, oppresses and spies on them in a similar manner to an authoritarian capitalist regime.

Stalinism has wrought immense damage to the international communist movement, due to its misleadership of workers’ struggles, and its effect of repelling large masses of workers from the ideas of revolutionary socialism.

 We remain committed to building an international communist movement in solidarity with struggles in the majority world.

 We believe that socialism will be brought about by workers’ own efforts, our struggles in the workplace and in society, the fight to create a workers’ government, or it will not be socialism. As Karl Marx put it: “The emancipation of the working class is the act of the workers themselves”.

Our public conference will be held at Newtown Community & Cultural Centre in Wellington, over Queens Birthday Weekend 2013. Further details TBA.


120 attend Workers Party national conference in Wellington

June 7, 2012

By writers for The Spark

In early June the Workers Party held its annual national conference – this year called Socialism 2012 - in Newtown, Wellington.

Public event
The event opened with Jared Phillips of the Hamilton branch putting forward a class analysis and economic forecast for the coming period. Guest speaker Sue Bradford from Auckland Action Against Poverty and MANA spoke about reorganising the unemployed and the vulnerable sections of the working class, which was followed by Mike Kay, a WP member in Auckland, looking at the current position of meat-workers and wharfies who have both recently been in significant struggles.

On Saturday Mike Kay presented on the concept of the combat propaganda organisation, examining what type of Marxist organisation it is possible to build in the current period. Kassie Hartendorp of the Wellington branch then spoke about Safer Spaces, touching on some of the problems in Occupy and putting forward strategies to deal with unsafe spaces.

After those sessions a panel was held on ‘Eco-Socialism in Australasia’. Grant Brookes of the Wellington branch spoke about the idea of forming an Eco-socialist network in Aotearoa and Ian Anderson – also of the Wellington branch – then spoke on the connection between socialist policy on immigration and the environment. Guest speaker Ben Petterson of Socialist Alliance spoke about the state of the Eco-socialist movement in Australia.

Continuing with Australian guests, Yarra City Councillor Anthony Main from Socialist Party Australia spoke about the way in which  that organisation participates in elections and the connection between the transitional method and their work in council. This was followed by a panel ‘Against the capitalist education system’ in which Joel Cosgrove of the Wellington branch spoke about new forms of organising being required as student unions are increasingly becoming the tools of the university administration.  Rowan MacArthur of the International Socialist Organisation spoke on student resistance and reasons for increased activity amongst students. University teacher Dick White then spoke about the idea of the university as the critical conscience of society and counterposed that idea to the reality of the role of the university.

On the last day of public conference Byron Clark and Paul Hopkinson presented on imperialism with Paul focussing on the PFLP solidarity campaign and Byron focussing on NZ imperialism. Jared Phillips then outlined the emergence of new analysis within the Workers Party in favour of pro-working class Tino Rangatiratanga. James Froch of the Wellington branch pointed  to a socialist programme for queer  liberation in New Zealand. The final session consisted of a panel with a representative from each of  Socialist Party Australia, Socialist Alliance (Australia), International Socialist Organisation, and Workers Party putting forward perspectives of their organisations.

Internal meetings
The Workers Party convened several internal meetings. There were reports from all those holding elected positions in the organisation. There was agreement that the organisation now has the beginnings of a finance consciousness, that the organisation endorses the internal document now published on the WP website titled ‘The Treaty, the foreshore & seabed, and Tino Rangatiratanga’, and that a debate will continue regarding changing the name of the organisation.

Socialising, bands, fundraising
Over the conference weekend there was plenty of socialising and fundraising. On the first night for example the bands Kittentank, Big Rick, and Man/Woman played a fund-raising gig at Bar Bodega which took $450 at the door. On the following night there was a Greek food theme, and there was also a raffle for art and wine.

Strong attendance
Whilst attendance is not the sole criteria for assessing the strength of a socialist conference, and is not the key criteria, it has to be said that the organisation was pleased with the hugely increased turnout in comparison to previous annual national conferences. Over the last five years attendance had plateued at no more than approximately 75. The increased turnout indicates the increased opportinuties for socialist building and reflects the organisation’s increased invovlement in mass work in areas such as workplace, student movement, queer liberation movement, and MANA movement. The Workers Party is looking towards holding next year’s national conference in Wellington at Queen’s Birthday weekend for the second year in a row.


The Fighting Propaganda Group

January 26, 2012

Continuation of our discussion about communist organisation (On The Party Question and Demoralisation or Disorientation?)

Only he [sic] who can keep his heart strong and his will as sharp as a sword when the general disillusionment is at its worst can be regarded as a fighter for the working class or called a revolutionary.

Gramsci, Avanti, Piedmont edition, 24 September 1920

 At the last Retreat, I raised the concept of the fighting (or “combat”) propaganda group as an appropriate model for the WP in current conditions. Whilst the idea seemed to meet with general approval, I haven’t had the chance to expand on it until now.

The WP now, and for the foreseeable future, needs to be a “fighting propaganda group”: an organisation whose chief concern is propaganda, but which conducts its propaganda while always immersing itself in and responding to the class struggle, and while always seizing every real opening for genuine agitation.

Read the rest of this entry »


Demoralisation or disorientation? Causes of the Split in the WP

January 23, 2012

This is part of an ongoing discussion among Workers Party comrades and doesn’t necessarily reflect an agreed position.

“Of course, even among the workers who had at one time risen to the first ranks, there are not a few tired and disillusioned ones. They will remain, at least for the next period as bystanders. When a program or an organisation wears out, the generation which carried it on its shoulders wears out with it. The movement is revitalised by the youth who are free of responsibility for the past.”

-Trotsky, The Transitional Program

The resignation of four senior WP comrades on the eve of our January 2011 Retreat probably came as a shock to most of the Party. Those comrades announced that they would abandon any claim to the Party in favour of setting up a theoretical and international solidarity focused blog. Ian Anderson’s discussion bulletin “On the Party Question” did a good job of analysing their collective statement of resignation. In this bulletin, I intend to further probe the reasons behind the split.

Read the rest of this entry »


On the party question

January 18, 2012

Goodbye Lenin?

This article was first written for internal circulation. We publish it now in light of public discussions among Socialist Worker comrades, partly regarding the party question (Goodbye Lenin? and Towards Ecosocialism.)

On February the 4th 2011, in the lead-up to our partys’ first internal conference of the year, a cross-section of leading comrades posted a statement resigning from the Workers Party. This statement argued that communist ‘party-building’ is impossible in the present conditions. As this statement raises important questions of political line that confront many communist and radical groups, it is necessary to engage with it; ultimately, to justify the very existence of communist organisations.

As the statement asserts that our comrades’ resignations are driven by “bigger and deeper” problems, we will not go into the sordid details of the lead-up to this development. Rather, we will engage directly with the content of their statement, available here.

In short, our comrades assert that given the lack of a mass workers’ movement in New Zealand today, communist party-building is futile. In particular, this affects recruitment:
“Those conditions meant that recruiting workers and progressives into the organisation has been very difficult.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Video: Annette Sykes speaking at Workers Power 2011

June 14, 2011

Annette Sykes, a prominent lawyer and figure in the new Mana Party, spoke at the Workers Party conference in Hamilton earlier this month.

Read the rest of this entry »


Workers Power 2011: Conference Report

June 14, 2011

Marika Pratley, Wellington branch of Workers Party

Workers Power 2011, the national conference of Workers Party was held over Queen’s Birthday weekend (June 3-6) at Hamilton’s Trade Union Centre. Over 45 people registered for what was the first socialist conference to be held in Hamilton for some decades. The conference featured a wide range of presentations delivered by speakers belonging to the Workers Party, by members of other left organizations, and by others who have participated in substantial struggles against the state and the injustices of capitalism.

Clockwise from top left: Guest speakers Annette Sykes, Bernie Hornfeck, David Neilson, Mike Treen.

Friday
The opening night featured a debate between Jared Phillips (WP) and Sue Moroney (Labour Party MP). Phillips’ case defined Labour as no longer even claiming the centre-left, quoting EPMU and leading LP figure Andrew Little’s reference to Labour and National “managing the centre”. He listed examples of active attacks that Labour has carried out against the working class and progressive forces including Operation 8 and restricting the right to strike. He outlined reasons as to why ‘lesser evilism’ was not a justifiable reason to support Labour. Moroney embraced the term ‘lesser evilism’ and said she would rather have ‘small pragmatic changes’ than a ‘glorious defeat’ by National. In reality, the speakers were clearly talking at cross-purposes.

This was followed by a presentation and lengthy discussion led by Marxist academic David Neilson who has been published in Capital and Class and Journal of Radical Economics. In summary, he outlined the need for a deeper appreciation of the shift of emphasis from the reserve army of labour to the relative population that is surplus to the requirements of capitalism. He related this to the burgeoning slum-dwelling class in under-developed countries as well as to the second tier of peripheral workers which is ever-increasing in proportion to core workers in advanced capitalist countries. In summary, he argued that this led to the current ‘workers of the world compete’ scenario rather than a ‘workers of the world unite’ scenario, and that the left had to take this into account in attempts to redefine a strategy.

Read the rest of this entry »


WP-Labour Party debate, Friday June 3, Trades Hall, Hamilton

May 29, 2011

The office of Labour MP Sue Moroney has confirmed that she will be joining a debate on the moot ‘Should working people support Labour this election year?’ Jared Phillips of the Workers Party will be arguing ‘against’ from a far-left perspective and Sue will be arguing in favour.

The structure of the debate will be that each speaker will have 10 minutes to present, followed by 5 minutes each to respond to one another, followed by questions and contributions from the audience.

Sue Moroney is the 10th-ranked candidate on Labour’s party list for the upcoming election.

The Workers Party requested the debate which will be the opening item of its annual national conference from June 3-5 in Hamilton. The full schedule is viewable at http://workerspartynz.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/full-shedule-leaflet-image1.png


Workers Party visit to Socialist Party Australia national conference – report

May 28, 2011

By Rebecca Broad, National Organiser of the Workers Party

On the weekend of the 6th-8th of May this writer attended the national conference of the Socialist Party Australia (SPA), in Melbourne. This facilitated face to face discussion of experiences around organising and promoting socialist ideas in Australia and New Zealand.

Both similarities and differences exist in terms of the economic, social and political conditions of the two countries. The policy of mandatory detention of refugee and asylum seekers is currently at the forefront of Australian politics (See The Spark May issue). On Friday afternoon a demonstration was organised at the offices of CIRCO, a company contracted to run detention centres. The entries to the building were blocked by lines of protesters for an hour, preventing access in and out. Around 100 people supported the protest, and despite pressure from the heavy police presence there were no arrests and the picket line was not breached. Read the rest of this entry »


Report from Take the power back! , national conference of Resistance

May 28, 2011

The national conference of Resistance was held May 6th – 8th at Redfern Community Centre, Sydney. Heleyni Pratley, a member of the Wellington Branch of the Workers Party, attended on behalf of Unite Union. Her following report will be published in the June issue of The Spark.

Resistance is the youth wing of the Socialist Alliance (Australia). Topics covered during the conference included Palestine, uprisings in the Middle East, refugee detention in Australia, and the environment. The conference began with an acknowledgment that we were on stolen Aboriginal land. Around 100 people attended this conference from all over Australia. Guests included Matthew Cassel from Chicago, former assistant editor of Electronic Intifada; Antony Loewenstein, a Sydney-based independent freelance journalist and author of the book My Israel Question; and Ravindran, a youth leader from the Socialist Party of Malaysia. Overall there was a positive welcoming environment, which is important for young people to be able to debate and ask questions freely. The workshops over the weekend echoed this sentiment. Read the rest of this entry »


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