Written by the founding Central Committee for the First National Congress of the New Communist Party of Aotearoa.
Central Committee Executive:
Chair of the Central Committee
Secretary of the Central Committee
Deputy Secretary of the Central Committee
General Members: SB, JS, KL
This is a very exciting and historic report to be delivering as it summarises the beginning of our Party’s work since our launch on International Workers’ Day this year. Our Party’s work can largely be divided into two categories – behind the scenes work needed to be a functioning Party, and the beginning of normal Party work amongst the masses. To start with, naturally the first was dominant. Around July a juncture was reached where mass work began to dominate, while naturally administrative work still remains as we perfect and fully finish the founding of our Party.
The turning point came after the Central Committee developed the principle of ‘one class, two unions’ as practical application of Marxism-Leninism in the 21st Century. Recognising the need for a mass, class-oriented movement of the proletariat, something currently lacking in entirety in New Zealand, the New Communist Party strives to build and strengthen two types of unions: labour unions and a new type of union – the revolutionary community union.
Party Internal Functioning
Before we could start taking our Party to the masses, the nucleus of the Party had to first be built. The New Communist Party had a relatively unorthodox start compared to most other Communist and Workers’ Parties. This is to be expected since we founded the Party a century after most established Parties.
Work to found the New Communist Party began in March of this year with the collaboration of various other groups, the Auckland Marxist Study Group, the Communist Refoundation group and a group with the same name that was essentially just a reading group and Facebook page. It is worth noting that these groups were already in contact with the leadership of the Communist Party of Australia and the Academy of Marxism, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and we would like to extend our thanks as the successor Party for the friendship and advice extended at this stage. A committee was formed, and the Party was ready to launch publicly by 1 May – International Workers’ Day. Elections in July reaffirmed this foundational leadership and established the first Central Committee proper.
For several Central Committee members, this was the first time they had been involved in the leadership of a political organisation, and for all members it was the first time leading a Marxist-Leninist Party of the New Type. It was because of the firm Marxist-Leninist principles of all Party cadre involved and desire to develop both in theory and practice that allowed the Central Committee to quickly solidify into a genuine revolutionary body and lead the Party into successful starting months of mass work.
Section establishment has been more mixed than at the Central Committee level, which while unfortunate, suggests that the Central Committee is correctly composed of the best cadre. The Wellington Section (currently composed of two branches/PPOs) has definitely been the most successful, and where all mass work the Party has undergone so far is located. The Auckland Section (currently a sole foundational branch) has recently begun to organise itself in preparation for beginning mass work, which hopefully should occur after the First National Congress. The Dunedin Section has collapsed entirely, and Palmerston North has failed to grow so far despite being in touch with central Party organs.
What has caused such drastic difference in Section activity and success? At a basic level, it is due to the people in them. Wellington was almost exclusively where the Marxist-Leninist theoretical weight and practical experience with any kind of activism lay, and only so much could be done from afar to support the other Sections. Other mistakes were made, such as over-centralising central Party leadership in Wellington groups. Participation of other Sections in this Congress should hopefully alleviate most of this as all Party members in attendance will be as equally aware of and equipped for future Party work as possible.
The initial challenge faced by the New Communist Party in relation to labour union work was simply our small presence within the union movement. This was largely because the small size of both our party and the labour unions. Just over half the Party belong to a trade union simply because a union does not presently exist for the rest of our members’ professions.
Based on a Party-wide effort guided by Marxism-Leninism, we set on a course of strengthening unions where they do exist, and creating new, class-oriented unions where they do not. The scale on which this is done will naturally expand as the Party does.
The project with the most significance and potential for Party work is the support of a creation of a union for hospitality workers led by hospitality workers themselves. Following the Marxist-Leninist principle of “from the masses to the Party, from the Party to the masses” we realised that hospitality workers were in significant need of a class-oriented, dedicated union. New Communist Party members took the lead on this union, organising in their workplaces and community networks to build the base membership required to establish the union. We now have this largely completed and are working on officially establishing the union in order to start its work. The Hospo Workers Union has two sites in mind for the start of its proud work to organise some of the most exploited workers in New Zealand into a collective agreement and further political power in and out of the workplace.
The New Communist Party is fully aware that a union that covers hospitality workers is already present. However, this union is so bureaucratised and out of touch with the masses, let alone one that crosses the picket lines of unions within the same CTU. The masses have recognised that this scab union does not represent them, which is why the demand from hospo workers for a new union arose. It is entirely possible that a similar process may be necessary in other areas where a conglomerated union has become a bureaucratic behemoth. Genuine independent and class-oriented unions in areas which the pre-existing union already covers can be an important tool in building a class-oriented, independent union movement.
This is not to suggest that we have an antagonistic relationship with the pre-existing union movement. We have had friendly meetings with several union leaders and are working with FIRST Union to unionise a supermarket in the Hutt where a member works. In the NZ Nurses Organisation as well, we have a Party committee that is beginning to push what is one of the more exclusively-economic unions towards political struggle. If it was not for the unionists that kept the workers’ torch burning the last thirty-five years, the workers’ movement in New Zealand would be in even more a dire situation.
At the moment the labour union strategy of the New Communist Party is largely a mix of various different, small-scale, interventions with the exception of the Hospo Workers Union. As we grow and forge more links with the masses, these will increase in number and in coordination.
Aotearoa Community Union
The Aotearoa Community Union, a new mass organisation of the working class founding by Communist Party members with the support of several trade unionists, is the second-half of our ‘One Class, Two Unions’ strategy and possibly the most innovative and exciting aspect of Party work in the founding period.
The ACU is inspired by tenants’ unions that exist in the United States and the United Kingdom, such as ACORN UK, where a lot of the early organisational and practical guidance for the ACU came from. Tenants unionism has a significant difference here however, as to a large extent there are not the mega-landlords that exist in the USA or the UK, but a significant number of petty landlords. It is only through on-the-ground work that the big landlords have really been made apparent. The significant impact of this difference is that techniques such as rent strikes are not as easily available to a tenants’ union as in these other countries. The ACU will have to work to build ties with the masses and make itself a genuine mass organisation for these significant tactics against landlord capitalists to be worth the risk of any political action of this sort.
Just as a difference exists between revolutionary, class-oriented trade unions and reactionary scab unions, we can differentiate between reformist and revolutionary housing unionism. As this is not normally a key point of Marxist-Leninist practice, what revolutionary housing unionism looks like has largely been independently synthesised by New Communist Party cadre. The result has been the elevation of tenant unionism to community unionism.
This distinction has been made because we do not want the Aotearoa Community Union to have a narrow focus on tenancy issues just as some unions can get caught up in collective bargaining and forget the broader workers’ struggle. The Community Union, as a mass organisation of working communities, should have the capacity to focus on broader issues such as public works, amenities and community life. In this way, the Community Union should have the ability to develop into essentially proto-Soviet power channelled into the form and name of a union. As it grows, Community Union branches will increasingly function as democratic and popular organs.
Of course, at the current stage the Aotearoa Community Union plays a humble role and is largely limited to a few Wellington suburbs. At the moment work has largely been initial door knocking, introducing ourselves to working communities and gaining a membership base outside of the initial activist base of New Communist Party and unionist core. This has been done quite successfully, and now the Aotearoa Community Union is beginning its first campaigns. We provide a free mould removal service to Wellington residents and are organising Wellington City Council Housing tenants to fight for better conditions against WCC neglect. As time goes on and the mass power which the Aotearoa Community Union directs increases, we expect that it will become an important and novel part of working-class power in New Zealand.
True to the adage of Marx, “workers of the world, unite!” internationalism and global solidarity is one of the most important, and actually most successful aspects of our Party work. Our internationalism even started before the Party proper was founded, with my visit to the Communist Party of Australia’s Sydney Central Branch and our reception of the Academy of Marxism, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences delegation led by then-President Comrade Deng Chundong last year under the auspices of the Auckland Marxist Group, which merged into the New Communist Party upon its founding. It was with this Chinese delegation that our friendship with the Embassy of Cuba, and former Ambassador Mario Alzugaray Rodríguez was forged.
This year, and the founding of the New Communist Party proper, have seen these three international relationships become even stronger as our main three international friendships. We have had frequent and high-level contact with the Communist Party of Australia. As Deputy Secretary of the Central Committee we visited Australia last month and spoke at their 99th anniversary celebrations, alongside a meeting with their Central Committee. The joint statement issued between our two Central Committees on October 30 is a written record of our strong trans-Tasman relationship. We welcome a delegation of the Communist Party of Australia led by their Assistant Secretary of the Central Committee, Comrade Matters, to this First National Congress.
We also had an official Party visit to Cuba earlier in the month, where we attended the “Anti-Imperialist Conference of Solidarity for Democracy and against Neoliberalism” on behalf of the Party. This was a significant conference with over one thousand delegates attending from eighty countries. Alongside the official proceedings, it was an opportunity for informal meetings and introduction of the Party to many different international Communist and Workers’ Parties, which will be important for future international relations of the Party.
This meeting also saw the deepening of our official ties with the Communist Party of Cuba and the Young Communist League of Cuba. We had a meeting with the Deputy Head of the International Department of the Communist Party of Cuba, who expressed the Party’s interest in our work, given our status as such a young Party in a small county. The Cuban Party will also sponsor our application into the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, which will be of significant use to deepening our international fraternal ties. We also had a meeting with several members of the National Committee of the Young Communist League of Cuba, including the Head of their International Relations Department. As a young Party in both senses, the Party proper essentially fulfils the joint function of a YCL or Komsomol group, and therefore we place importance on exchanges with these groups as well as their Parties. Our relationship with Cuban Communists is in a strong position and will likely be a good complement to our Latin American solidarity work at home. Despite the setbacks faced by the International Communist Movement during the special period, the Cubans have never abandoned the principles of Marti and Lenin.
Our ties with the People’s Republic of China have also been strengthened. We established fraternal relations with the Communist Party of China and have continued cooperation with the Academy of Marxism, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. A NCPA delegation was invited to Beijing this month for the 10th World Socialism Forum which we sadly could not attend due to scheduling issues, and we welcome what is now the second Chinese delegation to this Congress. Our ties with Chinese communists are important as the Chinese People’s Republic is the largest socialist country in the Asia-Pacific, and a major regional power generally. China is the locus of modern Marxist research, and therefore can be very supportive to the NCPA through theoretical/academic exchange, especially given the relatively green nature of many members of our Party.
The potential problem with Chinese ties comes with the fact that China engages in the capitalist world economy to a significant extent in New Zealand. All socialist countries do this in the modern era after the collapse of the CMEA and we do not have a problem with this in itself, but no socialist countries have ties to the New Zealand capitalist class to the extent of China. Significant differences in opinion have the potential to arise therefore between our two Parties based around China-New Zealand trade agreements and Chinese involvement in the New Zealand economy. We must not be forced to choose between proletarian internationalist ties between our two countries which go back to the times of James Bentham, Rewi Alley and Victor Wilcox, and our position as a party of working-class interests here in New Zealand. We encourage our Chinese counterparts to reprioritise proletarian internationalism and bring world socialism back into China’s main foreign policy strategy. Of course, strong work by our Party as well as other Western Communist and Workers’ Parties domestically is what will create the conditions for that to take place. We welcome all cooperation between our two Parties.
Initial contact has also been established with several European Communist and Workers’ Parties, such as the Workers’ Party of Belgium, Communist Party of the Workers of Spain, and Swiss Communist Party. These are excellent models of what a modern Communist Party can look like and are worth deepening cooperation and exchange with. It is worth noting however that a substantial relationship with these Parties faces the significant problem of distance. Practical ties are a lot more difficult than with Communist and Workers’ Parties of the Asia-Pacific.
As the above paragraphs make largely evident, all relations so far except for the conference in Cuba have been bilateral. The reality is that the International Communist Movement’s multilateral relations are very limited in the present day. The procedure for entry into the International Meetings of Communist and Workers’ Parties (IMCWP), the only international body, is very formalistic and long. The New Communist Party has the backing of the fraternal Communist Parties of Australia and Cuba for entry into the IMCWP, yet as this process must be approved by an IMCWP (the steering group has no actual power) we will not get admitted into the IMCWP until October 2021 at the earliest!
The IMCWP has many other problems. One, while the Communist Party of China is officially a member, it did not participate in the 21st IMCWP this year, and neither did the IMCWP issue any form of solidarity statement with China in either the trade war or against the colour revolution in Hong Kong in the appeal. It is no secret that the Communist Party of China is openly opposed by some of the dominant Parties in the IMCWP, and we wonder if essentially a soft split is at play here.
There have been other occasions this year as well of joint statements of many prominent Communist Parties which went around official IMCWP Solidarity Network channels, perhaps to avoid these domineering parties. Many other organs of the International Communist Movement, such as theoretical journals, are controlled by groups of Parties, rather than full international democratic bodies. As many Parties ponder further integration of the International Communist Movement, and even the reformation of the Communist International, equality between Parties should be re-emphasised and further formalised.
We have also been active with international solidarity domestically, participating in several rallies in solidarity with the Chilean community dealing with the fascist legacy left by Pinochet, and the anti-popular nature of the current Pinera government. These are a nice way of showing support with important struggles that extend beyond class struggle in the New Zealand context and expand our support amongst New Zealand communities at the same time.
The Central Committee has mixed opinion of these sort of rallies, as while it is good to go along and show support to the relevant communities as they organise them, they do not materially affect imperialism and can weaken the Party by making it appear as just a random bunch of flag wavers. A DPRK solidarity protest, for example, would have good intentions but if done in a commandist way, would isolate the Party from the masses. It is only when the Party has links to the masses that we can genuinely challenge imperialist propaganda and build mass friendship with the socialist countries. Hence anti-imperialism and friendship work is conducted alongside other mass work with the main aim of creating ties to the masses and strengthening their own ideological stand and anti-imperialism.
From a holistic standpoint, building a proletarian environmental movement should be a priority for all Communists. This should be made clear by the recent tragic coup in Bolivia, seemingly done for US control over its lithium reserves, and the fact that the international propaganda done to legitimise the coup and pacify potential opposition to the coup was done through the bourgeois environmental movement and its spokespeople such as Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. The lithium in Bolivia is required to fund the ‘Green New Deal’, public investment in green tech enterprises marketed by the capitalists as saving the environment.
The New Communist Party has done some work on this already. We attended the Climate “Strike” in September as a Party and did a good job advocating some demands of a proletarian environmentalist movement. Our pamphlet produced for this, ‘Eco-socialism or Eco-imperialism?’ serves as a good introduction into the difference between the bourgeois and proletarian environmental movements.
In spite of this, the New Communist Party is not really in a position to take the lead on the proletarian environmental movement’s creation at the moment. We are already pushing our internal resources and manpower to the limit creating and helping lead two separate unions, and all members involve deserve credit for this. Another major commitment would be too much until our Party gains more members.
It is important that we do not forget about this however, as it is something that is desperately needed. Despite the fact that the Climate “Strike” in September was the biggest NZ protest in recent decades, the Government has still been able to avoid dealing with the climate crisis without any public backlash. The bourgeois environmental movement, for obvious reasons, has no interested in building a genuine mass movement to combat climate change. Only the Communist Party and class-oriented unions can take up this task.
The New Communist Party is setting off on a good path thanks to the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary principles behind it and all its members. This First National Congress is being held at a very fortunate time for the Party, as it is really only in the last month that many of the finer details of Party theory and one class, two unions, such as the role of the Aotearoa Community Union, or the idea of the Hospo Workers Union entirely, have been expounded.
Therefore, the task of the Party as seen by this Central Committee as its term of office is expiring is to continue on the current path and fully realise what the Party has begun to implement. Building mass organisations of the working class, such as the Aotearoa Community Union and class-oriented labour unions are indispensable to Party work. As Lenin said, “trade unions are a school of communism”. It is only through class-oriented mass work can genuine proletarian fighters, true Communists, arise from the masses and join Party ranks. Building mass organisations builds the Party.
At the same time, the Communists’ friendship and solidarity with international fraternal Parties and the socialist countries should be expanded and as possible, passed to the masses.
Congratulations to all Party members on such a successful first year of the New Communist Party of Aotearoa!