Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

N.Z. International Socialists fuse with Stalinist C.P.N.Z.

First Published: Red, Publication of the Communist Left, Australia, No. 34, 1994 or 1995.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The Communist Party of New Zealand, the former section of the Third International, has since the twenties been the most visible and largest organisation in that country proclaiming the traditions of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Of course, like the whole of the Third International, it became thoroughly Stalinised. During the sixties and seventies it raised the banner of Mao Tse Tung and Albanian leader, Enver Hoxha. When Mao broke with the Kremlin, the CPNZ (alone amongst western communist parties) supported Mao. Elsewhere, except in the third world, Maoist parties were formed as breakaways. In New Zealand, the pro Moscow stalinists broke from the main Communist Party. They formed the Socialist Unity Party. When Hoxha broke from Mao, the CPNZ supported Hoxha and the Maoists split away. The Hoxhaite Albanian liners supported a one stage as opposed to a two stage theory of revolution. Nevertheless the remained committed stalinists and therefore opponents of Trotsky. They were also virulently anti-soviet.

It says something in their favour that, when Albania was exposed so blatantly as a brutal repressive regime that the CPNZ reviewed it’s politics – and made some important changes. Trotsky was once again recognised as a revolutionary hero of the Russian revolution. Stalin was denounced. All this was a promising beginning.

Of course, merely recognising Trotsky does not make one a Trotskyist. Trotsky not only opposed Stalin but did so on the basis of supporting proletarian dictatorship. He recognised that whilst the peasantry had a material interest at the expense of workers, they had to be won over to accepting proletarian leadership, not by bureaucratic administrative measures but by a political programme. The alternatives posed were destructive to the revolution. These alternatives being either pandering to their privilege or bureaucratic repression. The Right opposition of Bukharin did the former. The Stalin faction did both – with devastating consequence. Millions were killed both by the brutality of his repression and because of starvation and other horrible consequences of his bureaucratic mismanagement. Mass murder by the stalinist bureaucratic clique was by no means accidental. Nor was it a product of Stalin’s personality or megalomania. Stalin had to kill off the living tradition of Bolshevism for the survival of his reactionary clique, living at the expense of the Soviet proletariat, committed to itself at the expense of revolution. It was also a product of right errors concerning the pleasantry. Having promoted this privileged petty bourgeois layer whose interests threatened the revolution, Stalin’s response to the potentially restorationist threat was bloody physical repression as he had abandoned the Marxist programme to win over the peasantry in a principled way. Trotsky saw the Stalin clique as a bureaucracy with distinct social roots. It represented those from the old bureaucracy from the Tsarist regime who had latched on to the new Soviet power. The misnomer to describe Stalin’s Soviet Union “state capitalist” is not merely a terminological inaccuracy leading to the reactionary practical conclusion–the refusal to defend the USSR against imperialism. It is an attack on Trotsky’s analysis of bureaucracy.

The Stalinists learnt nothing from the murder of Communists and workers by the Kuo Min Tang. In fact it has been codified in the form of the “National Liberation Front”–militant armed struggle under the banned of the national bourgeoisie. Unfortunately this form of Stalinism has been endorsed or even hailed by some “Trotskyists” (notably the United Secretariat).

Since the Thirties, Stalinist parties vacillated in their tactics from the ultraleft socialfascist line which equated social democracy with fascism to the ultra respectable popular front. All these tactics reflected the interests of a bureaucracy which put its parasitic interest before the world revolution. Thanks to Stalin, Communists permitted Hitter to rise to power and crush the German working class. “After Hitler –us!” was their rallying slogan which permitted the crushing of both communists and the working class by fascism. Thanks to Stalin, “Communists” were loyal to imperialism during the Second World War and played an active role in smashing strikes. The CPNZ were no exception.

The CPNZ may argue that despite being part of a rotten movement, their heart was in the right place. This is certainly true for some of their better militants. But, irrespective of intent, the whole political education of cadre and methods of organisation was permeated by this method.

A stalinist party can only be considered to have broken from Stalinism if, and only if, it has been confronted with such an analysis and has drawn the appropriate political conclusions, correcting the political, organisational and class errors. Internationally, the rise of this bureaucracy had massive political and social consequences. The revolutionary Third International (Comintern) degenerated. It was converted from an international for proletarian revolution to an international for apologetics for the bureaucratic degeneration internationally. As the bureaucracy feared revolution, therefore “Communist ” parties became agencies for reconciling potentially revolutionary workers with “their own” bourgeoisie, nationalist or imperialist. In China it meant that the Communist Party of China, with a membership of millions, became liquidated behind the banner of the Kuo Min Tang, the national bourgeois, anti working class party who are now in power on the island of Taiwan.

It is to the credit of CPNZ that it now wants to associate with Trotsky. The International Socialists did not seek to win over CPNZ. The CPNZ fell into its hands. Internationally, the International Socialists leadership opposed the proposed fusion. SWP Britain leader Alex Callinicos wrote to his NZ comrades:

Thank you for your very prompt reply to my letter. Plainly we disagree about whether it is a good thing for your two organisations to merge: there is no question of what the ISO calls a ’central directive’ forbidding the fusion. In the circumstances the most sensible course of action seems to be that we should agree to differ, and put our conflicting judgments to the test of practice. We will be happy to be proved wrong. Perhaps it is worth stating, in response to the ISO’s charge of ’fatalistic pessimism’, that we are not afraid of seeking to win organizations with different histories and traditions to our Tendency. What we do know, however, from our experience of these attempts is that breaking from Stalinism is a long and protracted process; however sincere the ex-Stalinist comrades desire to put their past behind them, it still continues to influence them in ways of which they are unaware. You seem determined to press ahead with the merger. Let events take their course. We have no intention of ’cutting you off’. We shall continue to supply you with publications, Should your representative attend Marxism 94 we will be happy to review our differences in the light of experience
Yours fraternally
(signed] Alex Callinicos

This letter shows the irresponsibility of the International Socialist Tendency internationally. The Communist Party of New Zealand has fallen into its lap. They have the responsibility of confronting CPNZ with their past politics and the consequences for class struggle in New Zealand. Callinicos has his right to an opinion whether “optimistic” or “pessimistic”. But it is grossly irresponsible for the 1ST not to intervene. The New Zealand ISO section was small, inexperienced and based in Dunedin. They were limited in their capacity to deal with the CPNZ who had real roots in the working class. Therefore the international leadership must take responsibility.

The International Socialists, of course correctly demand that CPNZ (which became SWO) side with Trotsky in his dispute over Stalin. Of course, without this any fusion would be inconceivable. CPNZ reply by pointing out that they had a faction fight, precisely on this issue. The overt Stalinists resigned. CPNZ also committed themselves to an investigation of Trotsky’s writings and theory. CPNZ members were given SWP material on the positive and negative features of Trotsky’s work. What is revealing is how ISO posed the question of Trotskyism to the CPNZ.

CPNZ leader Barry Lee describes the ISO attitude to Trotsky as follows:

The ISO sum up Trotsky’s positive contribution as:
– He kept Marxist-Leninist tradition alive during the 1930’s (after the stalinist betrayal). Regardless of weaknesses, Trotsky stands out as the only internationally renown Bolshevik leader who fought for Marxism and against Stalinism.
– His analysis of fascism.
– His writings on the united front tactic.
– His analysis of reformism.
– The value of his historical writings, particularly his history of the Russian Revolution. Report on Discussions with ISO in Dunedin 15-17 October 1994

What is omitted from this list is revealing. For a start it is no surprise that ISO do not mention his analysis of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union. The International Socialist were established as a betrayal of Trotskyism. On this vital issue – the defense of the conquests of the October Revolution – the stand for selling out to imperialism. Recently they supported the Yeltsin counter-revolution.

The other major omission is Trotsky’s analysis of permanent revolution including critique of the Chinese Revolution. His Marxist approach to national liberation and the peasantry. His understanding that only the working class, fighting for proletarian dictatorship can complete the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution. Trotsky, contrary to Stalinist critics did not undervalue the peasantry. But he saw the as having an interest at the expense of the working class. He saw that they could be won over to proletarian leadership – but in no way should they be adapted to. He saw liquidating the working class behind the banner of the peasantry to be potentially suicidal for the proletariat and a recipe for degeneration.

This is a vital question in New Zealand. The CPNZ was became Maoist, after Mao’s break with Kruschev and then pro Albanian. In other words it is had a thorough education in the Maoist method of adapting to peasant privilege. Without an understanding of Trotskyism on this issue they remain Stalinist.

But the important question is one of political method. To what extent do the ex-CPNZ relate to issues in a Marxist way? CPNZ argue that they always acted subjectively in the interests of the working class. They cite their “united front of Labour” strategy. But is this consistent with the Trotskyist concept of a united front or some variant of the Stalinist popular front? ISO relates in its usual student vanguard way. It argues that this is necessary due to the downturn in class struggle and the isolation of revolutionaries. But the CPNZ has not been merely a propaganda group. They have educated a whole layer of militants within the New Zealand working class. These militants, party members, ex members and should be re-educated and corrected. Or at least shown where the old CPNZ went wrong. What about the CPNZ method of international solidarity? For example in the peace movement, the protest movements against the Vietnam and Gulf wars? The old CPNZ had a stalinist concept on internationalism and not a Marxist one. During the Gulf war the CPNZ had a militant social-patriotic opposition to the war not a revolutionary Marxist opposition. These issues have not been confronted in the fusion. In reality the totality of CPNZ practice was a mixture of militant popular frontism combined economism and third period formal leftism, It was totally permiated with Stalinism. Its internal regime was thoroughly bureaucratic. It is of vital importance that they understand such concepts as leading role of the party and democratic centralism from a Marxists point of view as opposed to a Stalinist bureaucratic one. In the broad housing front SHAC the CPNZ bureaucratically excluded Workers Power for daring to differ. CPNZ bureaucratically imposed its tactics on SHAC. Workers Power have been excluded for daring to differ. Recently one militant Peter Lusk was excluded from the Auckland Socialist Centre for daring to challenge their state capitalist analysis and suggesting that CPNZ investigate other groupings as well as ISO. It is this that they have to be confronted with. It is not enough for CPNZ now SWO to put out a paper with the usual ISO trivia (such as commercialism of rugby league through Super league and the ARL), or denouncing Winston Peters racism (without giving a Marxist analysis).

The ISO demand CPNZ accept their school of party building involving the recruitment on anyone who buys Socialist Worker. This isn’t Leninism. Very much to the Contrary! Either it means a serious dilution of politics as the paper buyers with their uninformed, divergent ideologies participate in the party. Or alternatively only an elite control the political line with the new “members” recruited through the paper denied any input. Liberal menshivism or bureaucratism is what it leads to. The CPNZ have been to the left of the ISO on the party building as they have correctly insisted on members only being recruited after they have established fundamental agreement with the party line.

It also must be point that the CPNZ have been opportunist in the way at they have latched onto the ISO. They have not made a thorough investigation into the degeneration of Trotskyism and the Trotskyist movement internationally. Nor even the ostensibly Trotskyist New Zealand left. Their examination of the International Socialist Tendency has been impressionistic. Their agreement on “state capitalism” comes from their Maoist Stalinist background. For the CPNZ yesterdays great revolutionaries become today’s blackest counter-revolutionaries. CPNZ applied this “method” initially to the Kremlin Stalinists, then to those in Beijing, then they realised that Albania was rotten. So that there was no one left. Hence yesterday’s great socialist paradises became state capitalist. This is crude impressionism. From this “method” CPNZ discovered they had the same method of counterrevolutionary despair as the International Socialist Tendency. So CPNZ took up the banner of Trotsky to give themselves the fig leaf of continuity with the October Revolution. This method of counter-revolutionary despair is not Trotskyism.

Both the International Socialist Tendency leadership in their sectarian aloofness and their opportunist NZ comrades are in error. The International Socialist Tendency has an obligation to confront CPNZ with a Marxist analysis of Stalinism including its role internationally and its role in New Zealand. Any fusion can only be made on the basis of a total break from Stalinist theory and practice. No political concessions are permissible. From our knowledge of CPNZ, we are cynical about their ability to do this. But some comrades might learn the lessons. More important, sections of the working class could learn how Stalinism has destroyed the revolutionary movement in New Zealand and internationally. And that would be a very important lesson for them to draw indeed!