Communist Party of New Zealand

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Communist Party of New Zealand
Dissolved1994;25 years ago (1994)
Succeeded by Socialist Unity Party (1966)
Organisation for Marxist Unity (1975)
Socialist Workers Organization (1994)
Ideology Communism
Maoism (1964–1976)
Hoxhaism (1976–1994)
Political position Far-left
Colours     Red

The Communist Party of New Zealand (CPNZ) was a Communist political party in New Zealand which existed from March 1921 until the early 1990s. Although spurred to life by events in Soviet Russia in the aftermath of World War I, the party had roots in pre-existing revolutionary socialist and syndicalist organisations, including in particular the independent Wellington Socialist Party, supporters of the Industrial Workers of the World in the Auckland region, and a network of impossiblist study groups of miners on the west coast of the South Island.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as, "the war to end all wars," it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Revolutionary socialism is the socialist doctrine that social revolution is necessary in order to bring about structural changes to society. More specifically, it is the view that revolution is a necessary precondition for a transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolution is not necessarily defined as a violent insurrection; it is defined as seizure of political power by mass movements of the working class so that the state is directly controlled or abolished by the working class as opposed to the capitalist class and its interests. Revolutionary socialists believe such a state of affairs is a precondition for establishing socialism and orthodox Marxists believe that it is inevitable but not predetermined.

Syndicalism proposed type of economic system, considered a replacement for capitalism

Syndicalism is a radical current in the labor movement and was most active in the early 20th century. Its main idea is worker-based local organization and advancement through strikes. According to the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, it predominated in the revolutionary left in the decade preceding World War I as Marxism was mostly reformist at that time. Major syndicalist organizations included the General Confederation of Labor in France, the National Confederation of Labor in Spain, the Italian Syndicalist Union, the Free Workers' Union of Germany, and the Argentine Regional Workers' Federation. The Industrial Workers of the World, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union and the Canadian One Big Union, though they did not regard themselves as syndicalists, are considered by most historians to belong to this current. A number of syndicalist organizations were and still are to this day linked in the International Workers' Association, but some of its member organizations left for the International Confederation of Labor, formed in 2018.


Never high on the list of priorities of the Communist International, the CPNZ was considered an appendage of the Communist Party of Australia until 1928, when it began to function as a fully independent national party. Party membership remained small, only briefly topping the 1,000 mark, with its members subjected to government repression and isolated by expulsions from the mainstream labour movement concentrated in the New Zealand Labour Party.

Communist International International political organization

The Communist International (Comintern), known also as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international organization that advocated world communism. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "struggle by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the state". The Comintern had been preceded by the 1916 dissolution of the Second International.

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) was founded in 1920 and dissolved in 1991. The CPA achieved its greatest political strength in the 1940s and faced an attempted ban in 1951. Though it never presented a major challenge to the established order in Australia, it did have significant influence on the trade unions, social movements, and the national culture.

The New Zealand Labour Party, or simply Labour, is a centre-left political party in New Zealand. The party's platform programme describes its founding principle as democratic socialism; observers describe Labour as social-democratic and pragmatic in practice. The party participates in the international Progressive Alliance.

During the period of the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s, the CPNZ sided with the Chinese government headed by Mao Tse-tung. The party splintered into a multiplicity of tiny political parties after 1966 and no longer exists as an independent group.

Sino-Soviet split Cold War schism between communist states

The Sino-Soviet split (1956–1966) was the breaking of political relations between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), caused by doctrinal divergences that arose from their different interpretations and practical applications of Marxism–Leninism during the Cold War (1945–1991). In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, Sino-Soviet debates about the interpretation of Orthodox Marxism became specific disputes about the Soviet Union's policies of national de-Stalinization and international peaceful coexistence with the Western world. Against that political background, the international relations of the PRC featured official belligerence towards the West, and an initial, public rejection of the Soviet policy of peaceful coexistence between the Eastern bloc and the Western bloc, which Mao Zedong said was Marxist revisionism by the Russian communists.



As the 20th Century dawned, New Zealand was recognised by adherents of International Socialism around the globe as a sort of laboratory test case of social democratic government in practice. One June 1901 pamphlet put to print by J.A. Wayland, proprietor of the mass circulation socialist weekly Appeal to Reason, detailed the ways in which the island nation of 720,000 had already passed extensive legislation for the benefit of wage workers, backed by 200 agents of the "Labour Intelligence Department." [1] While the country was declared "no Utopia," New Zealand nevertheless was said to have "no real want" and "no unemployment problem to solve." [1] Instead trade unions were not merely formally recognised but were pervasive and had managed to mitigate the class struggle through arbitration laws sanctioned by law, with disputes decided by three member courts of arbitration, each including representatives of capital, labour, and the courts as provided in the 1894 Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act. [2]

Social democracy is a political, social and economic philosophy that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity and a mixed economy, be the goal a social revolution moving away from capitalism to a post-capitalist economy such as socialism, a peaceful revolution as in evolutionary socialism, or the simple establishment of a welfare state. The protocols and norms used to accomplish this involve a commitment to representative and participatory democracy, measures for income redistribution, regulation of the economy in the general interest and social welfare provisions. In this way, social democracy aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater democratic, egalitarian and solidaristic outcomes. Due to longstanding governance by social democratic parties during the post-war consensus and their influence on socioeconomic policy in the Nordic countries, European socialism has become associated with social democracy and social democracy with the Nordic model within policy circles in the late 20th century.

Julius Wayland American newspaper publisher

Julius Augustus Wayland (1854–1912) was a Midwestern US socialist during the Progressive Era. He is most noted for publishing Appeal to Reason, a socialist publication often deemed to be the most important socialist periodical of the time.

<i>Appeal to Reason</i> (newspaper) newspaper in Kansas City, Kansas

The Appeal to Reason was a weekly left-wing political newspaper published in the American Midwest from 1895 until 1922. The paper was known for its politics, lending support over the years to the Farmers' Alliance and People's Party before becoming a mainstay of the Socialist Party of America, following that organization's establishment in 1901. Making use of a network of highly motivated volunteers known as the "Appeal Army" to spur subscription sales, paid circulation of the Appeal climbed to more than a quarter-million copies by 1906 and half a million by 1910, making it the largest-circulation socialist newspaper in American history.

An extensive system of public works were in existence, governed by the principle of "fair work and fair pay." [3] More than 200 employment bureaus dotted the country, connecting every willing worker with a job. [4] Sweatshops were banned, as was systematic home manufacturing, with mandatory labelling of all products made outside of factories. [4] Wages were generally high and the 48-hour week said to be a local maximum. [5] The presence of "tramps" had been eliminated through town allotments of small homesteads to poor workers, granted through easily affordable perpetual leases. [6] The power of eminent domain had been assumed by the New Zealand parliament in 1896, allowing the state to assume ownership of large estates at their assessed price for division into small farms. [7]

Sweatshop Workplace that has socially unacceptable working conditions

Sweatshop is a pejorative term for a workplace that has very poor, socially unacceptable working conditions. The work may be difficult, dangerous, climatically challenged or underpaid. Workers in sweatshops may work long hours with low pay, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wage; child labor laws may also be violated. The Fair Labor Association's "2006 Annual Public Report" inspected factories for FLA compliance in 18 countries including Bangladesh, El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Malaysia, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, China, India, Vietnam, Honduras, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and the US. The U.S. Department of Labor's "2015 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor" found that "18 countries did not meet the International Labour Organization's recommendation for an adequate number of inspectors."

Eminent domain, land acquisition, compulsory purchase, resumption, resumption/compulsory acquisition (Australia), or expropriation is the power of a state, provincial, or national government to take private property for public use. However, this power can be legislatively delegated by the state to municipalities, government subdivisions, or even to private persons or corporations, when they are authorized by the legislature to exercise the functions of public character.

State finance had been accomplished by a tax on land values and the establishment of a progressive income tax. [8] The national government itself owned and operated the railways, telegraph and telephone systems, schools, and postal savings banks throughout the country even before the landmark election of 1891. [9] Workers' compensation insurance to protect against injury was required by law, and low cost life insurance had been provided by the state since 1869. Old age pensions were provided to all New Zealanders 65 years of age or older who had been resident in the country for at least 25 years. [10]

A property tax or millage rate is an ad valorem tax on the value of a property, usually levied on real estate. The tax is levied by the governing authority of the jurisdiction in which the property is located. This can be a national government, a federated state, a county or geographical region or a municipality. Multiple jurisdictions may tax the same property. This tax can be contrasted to a rent tax which is based on rental income or imputed rent, and a land value tax, which is a levy on the value of land, excluding the value of buildings and other improvements.

An income tax is a tax imposed on individuals or entities (taxpayers) that varies with respective income or profits. Income tax generally is computed as the product of a tax rate times taxable income. Taxation rates may vary by type or characteristics of the taxpayer.

Life insurance is a contract between an insurance policy holder and an insurer or assurer, where the insurer promises to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money in exchange for a premium, upon the death of an insured person. Depending on the contract, other events such as terminal illness or critical illness can also trigger payment. The policy holder typically pays a premium, either regularly or as one lump sum. Other expenses, such as funeral expenses, can also be included in the benefits.

"The New Zealanders are collectivists, although they adhere to the old party names of liberals and tories," the American examiners enthused, with the New Zealand Liberal Party reckoned as equivalent to the Fabian socialists of Great Britain. [10] Richard Seddon (1845–1906), Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1893 until his death in 1906, oversaw implementation of an array of social welfare programs as leader of the Liberal Government

This idyllic vision – which incidentally paid no attention to the treatment of or conditions endured by the indigenous Polynesian population – proved to be short-lived. With the eruption of World War I in 1914, New Zealand sent soldiers to Allied campaigns in Turkey, Palestine, and France and Flanders. Over 120,000 New Zealanders were enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, with about 100,000 men and women eventually serving as soldiers and nurses in Europe, out of a population of 1.14 million. [11] Of these, about 18,000 were killed in battle and another 41,000 felled by wounds or disease – a casualty rate approaching 60%. [11] Conscription was introduced in 1916, with the stream of volunteer enthusiasts exhausted. [12] As casualties continued to mount into 1917, public war-weariness set in, fuelling political discontent. [12] A revolutionary socialist movement began to emerge.


West Coast American edition of Lenin's The Soviets at Work (1919), an influential political tract among NZ revolutionary socialist activists. Soviets-At-Worl.jpg
West Coast American edition of Lenin's The Soviets at Work (1919), an influential political tract among NZ revolutionary socialist activists.

There were isolated reflections of international radical tendencies present in New Zealand from shortly after the turn of the 20th Century. The New Zealand Socialist Party (NZSP), founded in 1901, included in its ranks a left wing which eschewed political action, arguing that socialism could only be won by the direct efforts of the organised working class acting through their unions. [13]

Others adhered to the theories of Daniel DeLeon, which advocated the use of the ballot box for a revolutionary transformation of society leading to a socialist state governed by revolutionary industrial unions. [14] From 1911 the ideas of syndicalism began to gain a foothold in the Auckland area under the banner of the Industrial Workers of the World, while the anti-political impossibilist ideas of the Socialist Party of Great Britain made their mark upon others. [14] All of these tendencies would contribute adherents to the pioneer New Zealand communist movement.

Particularly worthy of note were a small network of Marxist study circles were formed during the wartime years, concentrated mainly in the small mining communities of the South Island. [15] Wartime violence and the October 1917 Revolution in Russia proved a stimulant to revolutionary ideas, drawing members to these groups, leading to their formal affiliation during the summer Christmas holiday of 1918 as the New Zealand Marxist Association (NZMA). [15] This group electing T. W. Feary as secretary of the organisation and in 1919 dispatched him and two others to North America to gain additional information on the revolutionary movement through the American and Canadian prism. [15]

Visiting the Pacific Coast cities of San Francisco and Vancouver, Feary and his co-thinkers obtained copies of a number of influential publications, including Ten Days That Shook the World, a participant's account of the October Revolution by John Reed, and The Soviets at Work, a widely reprinted pamphlet by Lenin. [15] These were successfully smuggled back to New Zealand, with the Lenin tract immediately put into print in yet another new edition. [15]

Adding to the complexity of the fragmented radical movement was the Wellington Socialist Party, formerly a branch of the NZSP which had split with the national organisation in 1913 over the issue of electoral politics. While the main body of the NZSP had gone on to found the New Zealand Labour Party in 1916, the Wellington Socialist Party believed in direct action and use of the general strike for the intended overthrow of capitalism and had forced a split. [16] Suffering attenuation but surviving the war, this Wellington organisation would constitute the main component of the new Communist Party of New Zealand. [16]

By 1921 sentiment had begun to build for the establishment of a communist political party along those lines advocated by the fledgling Communist International. A preparatory conference was called for Easter weekend, 26–27 March 1921, in Wellington. [15] This preliminary gathering was followed with a formal organisational conference held on Saturday, 9 April, at Wellington Socialist Hall – headquarters of the Wellington Socialist Party – at which time the Communist Party of New Zealand (CPNZ) was formally established. [17]

Of the origins of the Communist Party, historian Kerry Taylor writes:

"The foundation of the CPNZ will always remain shrouded in a degree of mystery. No direct record of the event survives — the minutes have long since been lost and no reports appeared in the media at the time.... The precise nature of the discussion and debate is obscure but the delegates had before them the constitution of the Communist Party of Australia and a draft manifesto and constitution drawn up over the previous few months by members of the Wellington Socialist Party." [17]

E. J. Dyer of the capital city was elected as the first secretary of the new organisation. [15]

Early years

West Coast Communist Party members in 1922. West Coast Communist Party members, 1922.png
West Coast Communist Party members in 1922.

In contrast to demographic findings made of the early Communist Party of America, for example, the Communist movement in New Zealand was never dominated by Slavic, Scandinavian, and Jewish emigrants from the former Russian empire, with one academic study showing that a big majority of the movement's participants during the decade of the 1920s were either native New Zealanders by birth or first generation immigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland, or Wales. [18]

The CPNZ participated in elections for the first time in 1923, with its inaugural candidate drawing an impressive 2,128 votes in a race for election to the Dunedin city council. [15]

Unable to take over the newspaper of the Federation of Labour, the Maoriland Worker, in 1924 the CPNZ established its own official publication, The Communist, published in Auckland. [19] Despite the establishment of this new central organ, the organisation remained highly decentralised in its formative years, with branches operating in virtual isolation and the small movement failing to achieve critical mass. [20] A conference was consequently held during the 1924 Christmas break, attended by delegates of the Communist Party of Australia (Hetty and Hector Ross), at which it was decided to make the CPNZ a subordinate section of the larger Australian party. [20] Harry Quaife from Australia also visited in 1925, and had "some success in putting Auckland communists on a more unified footing." [21]

This situation continued through all of 1925, only ending the year after following a six-month organising tour by Australian activist Norman Jeffrey, [20] a bow-tie wearing former "Wobbly" (IWW member). [21] In April 1926 a new monthly magazine was launched for the New Zealand communist movement, The Workers' Vanguard, published in the isolated inland mining town of Blackball, located on the rainy West Coast side of the South Island. [20] A return to independence of the New Zealand party shortly followed and by the end of 1926 headquarters of the CPNZ were moved from Wellington to Blackball. [20] They would remain there until returned to the North Island and the capital city in 1928.

Total membership of the party remained tiny in this period, with the CPNZ counting fewer than 100 members. [20] Despite its small size, the party nevertheless managed to exert a degree of influence within the national Miners' and Seamen's Unions. [20]

The party did not operate in a vacuum but was rather the object of official scrutiny from the start with the New Zealand Police and New Zealand Army both engaged in the systematic monitoring of radical activists, including those suspected of "using their influence to establish Bolshevism." [22]

Third Period (1928–1935)

Map of New Zealand showing towns and cities of importance to the history of the early CPNZ. NZCP-map.jpg
Map of New Zealand showing towns and cities of importance to the history of the early CPNZ.

Previously considered an insignificant adjunct of the Communist Party of Australia in the eyes of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI), early in 1928 the CPNZ received a cable from Moscow requesting that the party dispatch a delegate to the forthcoming 6th World Congress of the Comintern. [23] Twenty-eight-year-old Wellington activist Dick Griffin, a member of the Seamen's Union, was chosen as the party's first ever delegate to a Comintern gathering in Moscow. [23] Griffin travelled circuitously to the Soviet Union, with his ocean voyage going first to Australia before heading to Great Britain via the Suez Canal. [23] British authorities were aware of his presence by the time he arrived, detaining him for questioning and seizing documents, but Griffin was allowed to depart in time to reach Moscow prior to 17 July opening of the World Congress. [23]

The 6th Congress of the Comintern is remembered for its launch of the ultra-radical analysis and tactics of the so-called Third Period, which posited the rapid decay of capitalism and the acceleration of the class struggle and coming of potential revolutionary situations. While in many countries this meant directives to immediately shatter joint work with social democratic political and trade union leaders, the Comintern's "Resolution on the Tasks of the Communist Party of New Zealand," brought back to Wellington by Griffin, maintained that New Zealand was still marked by "the steady upward swing of capitalist development, combined with relatively good conditions for the workers," thereby serving to "prevent the possibility of a general revolutionary situation in New Zealand." [24] Instead of consolidating itself for an envisioned revolutionary uprising, the CPNZ was directed to concentrate its attention on continued agitation and propaganda. [24]

Dick Griffin became the first full-time organiser of the CPNZ in May 1929. [25] In August of that same year he assumed the role of General Secretary of the organisation. [25]

It was only in March 1930 that the CPNZ received a communication from ECCI directing it to take on ultra-radical policies in accord the Third Period analysis. [26] The party's previous policies were deemed incorrect and the CPNZ was instructed to attempt to assume leadership of the New Zealand workers movement by working to "expose and destroy all the Labourite, pacifist, social democratic illusions about the possibility of solving social problems...under the existing political and economic regime." [27] This marked the actual beginning of sectarian Third Period tactics in New Zealand.

The CPNZ was beset by rapid membership turnover throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, with general secretary Griffin accused of operating a personal dictatorship, spurring rank-and-file discontent. [28] The CPNZ was also subjected to unrelenting police operations by the national government, including a July 1929 raid which seized the internal records and literature of the Wellington branch and the subsequent successful prosecution of five members of the governing Central Executive Committee for possession and sale of allegedly seditious literature. [28] Party leaders were particularly targeted, with three more members of the Central Executive Committee arrested in 1930, four more in 1931 and 1932, and all seven members in 1933. [29]

The party was further disorganised by the churn of its rank-and-file members in and out of the party, exemplified by the count of Wellington members booming from 51 in March to 80 by May 1931 before plummeting to just 25 in January 1932. [28] Things grew so bad that by October 1932 only one member of the Central Executive Committee had been a member of the party for longer than a year, with some members for as little as two months. [28] The party was impoverished, its coffers drained both by the cost of producing the Red Worker (rival publication to the mainstream trade unionist Maoriland Worker), and by courtroom losses in several libel cases brought against that publication. [28] Party publications were carefully scrutinised, with two issues of the Red Worker and a pamphlet found to be seditious in 1932 and those responsible for their publication jailed for more than a year. [29]

The CPNZ also lost its influence in the country's trade unions during the late 1920s and early 1930s owing to its rigid support for unpopular secondary strikes in solidarity with workers in other countries. This was epitomised by a 1929 call for a miners' strike in sympathy with mine and timber workers in Australia, which annihilated party influence among the miners of the South Island's West Coast and 1931 efforts to blackball a Japanese ship, which led to discord and alienation from the party in the Seamen's Union. [30]


By the middle of 1933, the Communist Party of New Zealand was in crisis, with its entire Central Committee jailed for publication of the pamphlet Karl Marx and the Struggle of the Masses. [31] The New Zealand-born Fred Freeman was returned to the country to assume the position of general secretary following four years in Moscow at the service of the Comintern. [31] More politically astute and organisationally adroit than Griffin, Freeman promoted university graduates Clement Gordon Watson and his future wife, Elsie Farrelly, to positions of party leadership, where they were joined by party veteran Ernie Brooks. [31] This group of four would dominate CPNZ politics through the end of 1935. [31]

The operations of the CPNZ came to resemble those of larger and more efficient communist parties in other countries, with official directives and circulars issued systematically for the first time by the Central Committee to local party committees. [31] Representatives of the Central Committee also began to travel regularly to visit local party organisations. [31] Dues collecting and record keeping of branches was made more regular and increased attention was paid to the problem of internal security in an effort to stave the crippling series of arrests that had swept the party. [32]

Comintern policy began to change in 1933 following the victory of the Nazi Party in Germany, leading to eventual advocacy of a so-called Popular Front against fascism by 1935. Under the Freeman leadership the CPNZ took the first tentative steps in this direction late in 1933 when the CPNZ approached the National Executive Committee of the New Zealand Labour Party with a proposal for a joint campaign against fascism. [33] No answer was given. Parallel appeals were made to several key trade unions, including the Miners, Seamen, and Dockworkers, with only the Miners providing a response. [34]

The CPNZ responded to the tacit rejection of their appeal by accelerating their efforts to drive a wedge between the rank and file and leadership of each of these organisations, a tactic euphemistically called the "United Front from Below." [35] The distrust and alienation between the Communist Party and the Labour Party leadership carried over through the November 1935 general election, during which the CPNZ made use of the slogan "Neither Reaction nor Labour" in the campaign. [20] The 1935 election ultimately resulted in a massive victory for the Labour Party, bringing it to power for the first time, and a grave failure for the CPNZ in its electoral efforts, with all four of the party's candidates faring so poorly at the polls that they failed to recover their electoral deposits. [36]

The Communist Party of New Zealand had shown growth over the years of the Third Period, with the party's delegate to the 7th World Congress of the Comintern in Moscow, Leo Sim (pseudonym: Andrews), reporting there that party membership had increased by 600% from 1928 to 1935. [20] The reality was modest, with the party failing to achieve a membership of 400 — results which only were promising when compared to the nadir of the late 1920s. [37]

Dissatisfaction with Freeman's commanding leadership style grew in 1935 and 1936 and he landed on the wrong side of the Popular Front-driven Comintern decision that the CPNZ should seek formal affiliation with the Labour Party sooner rather than later. [38] Freeman came to be politically isolated, with the Auckland district of the party, backed by Lance Sharkey of the Communist Party of Australia, leading the charge for his removal as an alleged impediment to the new international line. [39] Freeman was removed from the party leadership late in 1936, suspended from the party soon thereafter for failing to accept this decision, and ultimately expelled late in 1937. [40]

In 1938 CPNZ headquarters were moved from the capital city of Wellington to the booming northern port city of Auckland and a new weekly was launched there in July 1939, People's Voice. [20] This headquarter city and official organ would remain constant for the rest of the party's institutional life.

In the summer of 1939 the CPNZ came into conflict with the government in the aftermath of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, to which the party responded with anti-war rhetoric while the governments of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union carved up spheres of influence in Europe. Tensions worsened in 1940, when the Great Britain came under attack – a country to which New Zealanders felt a particular national affinity. Although membership in the CPNZ remained legal, People's Voice was suppressed by the government. [41]

The tide turned in June 1941 following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. At that time, in accord with Soviet foreign policy, the CPNZ became vocal supporters of the war effort, which combined with the country's new status of military allies with the Soviet Union paved the way for the New Zealand party's growth in membership and influence. [42] By 1945 party membership reached its all-time high of approximately 2,000, while circulation of People's Voice topped 14,000 copies per week. [42] This level of membership and support would continue through 1946, when new international circumstances would arise leading to the CPNZ's inexorable attrition. [42]

A Communist Party candidate stood in the Auckland West 1940 by-election held after Savage's death, although after the low number of votes received in the 1935 election, no Communist Party candidates stood in the 1938 election or the 1943 election.

Post-war era

The Communist Party stood candidates in general elections from the 1946 election to the 1969 election; particularly in the 1949 election, the 1960 election and the 1963 election; and in 3 by-elections; Brooklyn 1951 by-election, Grey Lynn 1963 by-election, and Otahuhu 1963 by-election. Candidates stood frequently in the Christchurch Central electorate (7 elections) and the Island Bay electorate (8 elections; often Ronald Smith). The highest vote was 534 for Vic Wilcox in the Arch Hill electorate in the 1946 election. [43]

Sino-Soviet split

Later evolution


After the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was crushed by Soviet forces, most of the intellectuals the CPNZ had attracted left the party while some erstwhile supporters founded new journals such as New Zealand Monthly Review , Comment, Socialist Forum and Here & Now.

Next, in the early 1960s, the party experienced more internal strife due to the Sino-Soviet split. The party was divided between supporters of the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev and those who claimed Khrushchev was a "revisionist" and chose instead to follow China under Mao Zedong. Subsequently, the CPNZ became the first official communist party in the First World to side with Mao. The majority of the party and its newspaper The People's Voice adopted Maoism, while supporters of Khrushchev's Soviet Union (mainly Auckland trade unionists) split off to form the Socialist Unity Party.

Later, when Mao died and Deng Xiaoping began to reform the Chinese system, the Communist Party of New Zealand began to follow the lead of Enver Hoxha's Albania, which they considered to be the last truly Communist country in the world. Members of the CPNZ national leadership who continued to uphold the line of the post-Mao Chinese Communist Party, including Vic Wilcox, Alec Ostler and Don Ross were expelled, and formed the Preparatory Committee for the Formation of the Communist Party of New Zealand (Marxist–Leninist).

Meanwhile, other former members of the CPNZ in Wellington, where the party branch had been expelled en masse in 1970, founded the Wellington Marxist Leninist Organisation, which in 1980 merged with the Northern Communist Organisation to form the Workers Communist League (WCL).

After the collapse of Communism in Albania, the Communist Party of New Zealand gradually changed its views, renouncing its former support of Stalinism, Maoism, and Hoxhaism. Instead, under the leadership of its last general secretary, Grant Morgan, it developed a State Capitalist analysis of the Stalinist states. The party now believed that the Soviet Union had never been socialist at all, not even in Stalin's time. Opponents of this change departed, and established the Communist Party of Aotearoa (a Maoist group) and the Marxist–Leninist Collective (a pro-Hoxha group). The Communist Party of New Zealand eventually merged with the neo-Trotskyist International Socialist Organization in 1994. The resultant party, known as the Socialist Workers Organization, evolved into the small but highly active Socialist Worker (Aotearoa). However, most of the ISO members split off again, and resumed their own organisation. SW voted to dissolve itself at its conference in January 2012. A number of SW members split from the organisation in 2008 to form Socialist Aotearoa .

The CPNZ never had mass influence or real political power, but it did politically influence several generations of radicals and stimulated several important social movements, including the unemployed workers' movement in the 1930s depression, Halt All Racist Tours (HART) and the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM).


1926120Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
1927105Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
192879Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
1929Decline due to loss of West Coast miners.
193062"All-time low." Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
193181Actually a Jan. 1932 count. Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
1932129Year end figure. Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
1934246Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
1935280June count. Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
1936353Actually a Dec. 1935 count. Per Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.

Electoral results (1935 and 1946–1969)

The party contested a number of elections with the following results: [43]

Electioncandidatesseats wonvotespercentage
1935 406000.07
1946 301,1810.11
1949 1603,4990.33
1951 405280.05
1954 801,1340.05
1957 507060.06
1960 1902,4230.21
1963 2303,1670.26
1966 901,2070.10
1969 404180.03

Notable members


  1. 1 2 New Zealand in a Nutshell. Wayland's Monthly No. 14. Girard, KS: J.A. Wayland, June 1901; pp. 5–6.
  2. New Zealand in a Nutshell, pp. 7, 21.
  3. New Zealand in a Nutshell, pg. 7.
  4. 1 2 New Zealand in a Nutshell, pg. 8.
  5. New Zealand in a Nutshell, pg. 9.
  6. New Zealand in a Nutshell, pp. 10–11.
  7. New Zealand in a Nutshell, pg. 11.
  8. New Zealand in a Nutshell, pp. 12–13.
  9. New Zealand in a Nutshell, pp. 15–17, 34.
  10. 1 2 New Zealand in a Nutshell, pg. 19.
  11. 1 2 "First World War – Overview," History Group of the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage, pg. 1.
  12. 1 2 "First World War – Overview," pg. 5.
  13. Kerry Taylor, "'Our Motto, No Compromise': The Ideological Origins and Foundation of the Communist Party of New Zealand," New Zealand Journal of History, vol. 28, no. 2 (October 1994), pg. 162.
  14. 1 2 Taylor, "'Our Motto, No Compromise,'" pp. 162–163.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Bert Roth, "New Zealand," in Witold S. Sworakowski (ed.), World Communism: A Handbook, 1918–1965. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1973; pg. 337.
  16. 1 2 Taylor, "'Our Motto, No Compromise,'" pg. 168.
  17. 1 2 Taylor, "'Our Motto, No Compromise,'" pp. 170–171.
  18. Kerry Taylor, "Kiwi Comrades: The Social Basis of New Zealand Communism, 1921–1948." in Kevin Morgan et al. (eds.), Agents of Revolution: New Biographical Approaches to the History of Communism. Bern: Peter Lang, 2005; pg. 281.
  19. Roth, "New Zealand," pp. 337–338.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Roth, "New Zealand," pg. 338.
  21. 1 2 Bennett 2004, p. 84.
  22. Taylor, "'Our Motto, No Compromise,'" pg. 172.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Kerry Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period, 1928–35," in Matthew Worley (ed.), In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the Third Period. London: I.B. Tauris, 2004; pg. 270.
  24. 1 2 "Resolution on the Tasks of the Communist Party of New Zealand," RGASPI fond 495, opis 20, delo 430; quoted in Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 274.
  25. 1 2 Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 277.
  26. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 274.
  27. Letter from the Political Secretariat of ECCI to CPNZ, 4 March 1930, RGASPI f. 495, op. 20 d. 430; quoted in Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 274.
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 278.
  29. 1 2 Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 279.
  30. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 282.
  31. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 288.
  32. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pp. 288–289.
  33. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 289.
  34. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pp. 289–290.
  35. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 290.
  36. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 292.
  37. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 284.
  38. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 293.
  39. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pp. 293–294.
  40. Taylor, "The Communist Party of New Zealand and the Third Period," pg. 294.
  41. Roth, "New Zealand," pp. 338–339.
  42. 1 2 3 Roth, "New Zealand," pg. 339.
  43. 1 2 Norton, Clifford (1988). New Zealand Parliamentary Election Results 1946–1987: Occasional Publications No 1, Department of Political Science. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington. ISBN   0-475-11200-8.

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