Final issue of ‘The Spark’

red-starThe Spark February 2013 (PDF)

The Spark has been the magazine of the Workers Party for a number of years. The Workers Party has decided to change its name to Fightback and as of next month The Spark will be replaced by a new paper which will share the new name of the organisation. On page 18 we report more fully on these changes.

This issue of The Spark puts some focus on the struggles confronting teachers. Teachers in Christchurch are set to take a firm stand against the government’s plans for schools in that city. The teachers can win that fight. They are also fighting against the introduction of charter schools. We also give a perspective on that in this issue.The issues of growing unemployment are examined as is the KiwiBuild policy.

Socialists are internationalists and the magazine overviews the formation of a new trade-union based party being formed in Fiji, and then points to two international examples in which double oppression is being challenged. First is an interview with Puerto Rican activist Carlos Rivera, he has led a campaign against homophobic TV programming.  Then there is an article on a new movement for indigenous rights in Canada which is being echoed around the world.

A further international article touches on the New Zealand government’s hypocritical economic policies in regard to smaller poorer countries in the pacific region. Then we look at the connection between the Australian bush fires and climate change.

After the report on the internal conference of the former Workers Party, now Fightback, we publish a letter from former Socialist Worker members to other ex-members, including very experienced militants and activists, inviting them to join Fightback.

The final issue of The Spark includes some analysis of the recent turmoil within a British Socialist organisation. Fightback is not connected to that organisation but we publish the article to show that socialist organisations, while fighting sexism, must also be prepared to maintain a healthy non-sexist culture within their own structures to become successful organisations.

We thank all who have been involved in purchasing, donating, or making guest contributions to The Spark and look forward to producing our new monthly magazine Fightback.


  1. Given that Fightback 2013 has the politics of Socialist Worker 2003, I guess it logical that you are appealing to people involved in the now-dissolved SW to join Fightback.

    Whether many former Socialist Worker members will be keen to relive ‘the SW experience’ remains to be seen. . .

    However, it’s doesn’t augur well when the letter doing so includes some rewriting of history. For instance, Daphne Lawless and Grant Brookes write, “Socialist Worker rightly criticised the
    former leadership of the Workers Party for a negative, passive, sectarian attitude to politics.”

    I’m happy to agree to disagree about whether we were sectarian – as Trotsky noted, in non-revolutionary times revolutionary politics necessarily *appear* as sectarian anyway. (Our criticism of SW was, of course, that their politics abandoned marxism for opportunism and populism.)

    However, the claim that we had a “passive” approach to politics is simply rewriting history. During the period involved, the only successful fusion on the NZ left was carried out by us; the organisation was involved in a welter of campaigns from literally one end of the country to the other, including workplace and union organising work, anti-imperialist solidarity around Palestine, Nepal, the Philippines and elsewhere – including a speaking tour on Nepal jointly organised by SW and WP; work around open borders and immigration; a mass of anti-imperialist work around the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; the partial resuscitation of International Women’s Day activities; discussions with Matt McCarten around the idea of running a substantial slate of workers’ struggle candidates in the 2005 elections (and it was Matt, not us, who pulled back from that; and, of course, WP becoming a registered political party through the signing up of hundreds of members to our minimal programme.

    In the 2008 elections, running on a basic class programme, we polled a minuscule number of votes but it was still almost twice as many votes as SW’s typically much-hyped but politically dumbed-down RAM electoral front.

    We also attempted to unite the far left in the Anti-Capitalist Alliance.

    It’s interesting, however, that the new organisation needs such a fiction about the “passive” and “sectarian” politics of WP during our tenure as that contained in the letter by Brookes and Lawless.

    With such (apparently) necessary fictions, Fightback looks well-set to repeat the SW experience.

    Nothing has been learned, let alone remembered. Every day is Groundhog Day.

    Philip Ferguson

  2. “Nothing has been learned, let alone remembered. Every day is Groundhog Day.”

    I guess we think the same about each other. As Zhou Enlai is said to have said “time will tell”.
    I do think it is rather simplistic and historically unspecific to pull out your 2003 insults and re-appropriate them for 2013, unchanged. But each to their own.

    • You don’t quite seem to understand what “historically specific” means Joel. The mode of production hasn’t changed since 2003. The political conditions haven’t qualitatively changed; in fact, they’re pretty much the same in this country. So the criticisms of 2003 apply very well in 2013.

      If SW politics were essentially wrong in 2003, they’re essentially wrong in 2013.
      If WP politics were essentially right in 2003, they’re essentially right in 2013.

      As Daphne notes below, her and Grant B have the same politics now as then. They have been thoroughly consistent. But now you folks have their politics too. That’s why they can comfortably join Fightback and feel at home politically in it.

      Dialectics is a funny old business. The form (SW) changes but the content (their particular politics) is reborn in a new form/shell (FB). As so the descent continues.


      • It’s also funny that you were quite happy for Daphne and Grant to join WP when you were in charge, but now you’ve left, it’s a swamp left crime.
        See a lot has happened in ten years, things have changed. We actually need to update our analysis to include the experiences and lessons of the last ten years. not just go back to the form we knew and were comfortable with then i.e. Revolution Group.
        You’re back to posting articles under pseudonyms to make it appear that there’s more than 4-5 people posting anything at all, Let alone primarily you and Don, and you’re mainly cross-posting articles on Redline, something you used to rail at SW for when you were in WP.
        Your SW baiting is old and tired, no one takes it seriously, it carries little weight and just makes you out to be an angry, embittered dude ranting on the Internet. I love how you take Daphne’s joke as some sort of serious statement about her religious observance towards 2003 SW politics.
        Marxsplain all you want, it doesn’t make you right. Your stunning analysis is that everything is the same or maybe at best worse.

  3. Phil wrote: “…discussions with Matt McCarten around the idea of running a substantial slate of workers’ struggle candidates in the 2005 elections (and it was Matt, not us, who pulled back from that…”

    Interesting. What was the motivation for running a slate with McCarten in 2005? What would have been the platform/programme of this proposed slate?

  4. Alec Morgan says:

    That the the “great leap forward” does not take place at a convenient time for many a younger revolutionary is a pain, not to mention for wider society also.

    In the 1930s comrades such as Alec Galbraith and Johnny Mitchelll parked their butts on ships for months at a time to get a glimpse of then socialist countries. In NZ the tendency has often been to split, rebrand and resplit ever diluting the skilled marxist leaderships and collectives. Never mind the the ‘Shining Path’ for example, internationalism is part of it but the primary focus for a marxist party must be the post colonial Aotearoa situation taking into account but not subordinate to international experience.

    If there are lulls in activity retreat below into study and propaganda groups. The faithful two or three hundred as got out by certain unions and one cliffite party are not going to cut it in the long run, a deeper analysis is required.

  5. “Fightback 2013 has the politics of Socialist Worker 2003,”

    Excellent! At least Grant and I have the virtue of consistency. :D

  6. Absolutely, Daphne. I think you and Grant are totally consistent. You have a particular set of politics and you have kept to them.


    • It says something that you want to believe your own hype so badly that you take what is clearly a joke by Daphne at face value.
      Phil in 2003 is the same as Phil 2012, a sectarian who just lashes out at anyone near by calling them names and generally being insufferable.
      If I give Grant and Daphne any kudos, it is the ability to grow and learn from the past as opposed to just repeating it endlessly. That’s where the embarrassing 03 leading to 13 “analysis” moves from the tragedy to the farce. As it’s actually you Phil who is the one who is the same.
      Reminds me of what people have said about working with EP Thompson, except Thompson actually meant something.
      You have useful things to say Phil, yet you cloth them in such horrible personal politics that it makes it hard to get through. It’s a sad waste of talent.

      *feelings expunged: time to go on and do something useful, rather than hanging out in the swamp that is any conversation with Phil*

      • Joel, I had no particularly strong opinion about Grant or Daphne joining WP when I was there. They didn’t join then because the politics of WP at the time was hard Marxist; they can comfortably join now because the politics are more SW-ish. I have nothing at all against Grant and Daphne for being consistent.

        My criticisms are entirely political; they are that Fightback has moved to the right and has basically similar politics to SW of a decade ago. You don’t like the *political* criticism so you get all huffy and lash out with ad hominem attacks on Redline and on myself. For instance, in the posts above there is not one single personal attack by me on anyone; you’re the only one making personalised attacks here.

        Fightback represents a political approach that WP was opposed to and that has failed again and again. You want to do it all over again – go for it.


  7. Oops, I was logged into Redline at the time I wrote the above, so it posts here as Admin. WordPress should have a way of not doing this without someone having to log out. Sorry,

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