Socialist Unity Party

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The Socialist Unity Party was founded in 1966 as a splinter group of the Communist Party of New Zealand. The CPNZ had been bitterly divided by the Sino-Soviet Split. The party eventually decided to take China's side. Shortly afterwards, a number of the more prominent supporters of the Soviet position, such as Ken Douglas, George Jackson and Bill Andersen, established the Socialist Unity Party. The Socialist Unity Party retained ideological and political links to the Soviet Union for most of its existence.

The Socialist Unity Party dissolved round 1998, although the Socialist Party of Aotearoa (now also defunct), which split from the Socialist Unity Party in 1990, continued for a number of years afterwards into the early 2010s.

Last SUP Central Committee meeting before split

Wellington March 1990.


Back Joe Tepania, Dave Arthur, Alan Ware, Ken Douglas, Graeme Whimp, Richie Gillespie, Doug McCallum, Jan Farr, Joe Tonner.

Front row Frank McNulty, Jack Marston, Marilyn Tucker, Robin Tate, Bruce Skilton, Bill Andersen.

Socialist Bookshops Auckland Limited

Socialist Bookshops Auckland Limited was owned by the Socialist Unity Party, then the Socialist Party of Aotearoa. Incorporation Date 18 February 1990 Dissolution Date 18 November 1996.

Registered Address 159 Great North Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland

Directors / Officers:

Soviet gold

The Socialist Unity Party's association with the Soviet government drew considerable criticism from mainstream politicians. In 1980, the Soviet ambassador to New Zealand, Vsevolod Sofinsky, was expelled after giving $10,000 to a member of the Socialist Unity Party. In 1987, another Soviet diplomat, Sergei Budnik, was ordered to leave the country by Prime Minister David Lange for his alleged involvement with the party.

Soviet influence

Oleg Gordievsky, a former high-ranking officer of the Soviet security service, the KGB,--who, from 1974, worked as a long-serving undercover agent for the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) until his formal defection in 1985--recalled:

"KGB activity in Australasia was ... increased as the result of the election of David Lange's Labour government in New Zealand on an antinuclear programme in 1984.... The [KGB] Centre ... was jubilant at Lange's election...."

Gordievsky visited New Zealand on four occasions from 1986 onwards to brief that country's Security Intelligence Service on Soviet clandestine activities in the region. For years, he said, New Zealand:

"... had been under massive propaganda and ideological attack from the KGB and the [Soviet] Central Committee, and the ruling Labour Party had seemed unaware of the extent to which the fabric of their society was being damaged by subversion....
"In its attempts to draw New Zealand into nuclear-free activities, the Soviet authorities had made tremendous efforts to penetrate and strengthen the Labour Party, partly through the local Party of Socialist Unity (in effect the Communist Party of New Zealand) and partly through the Trades Union Congress."

Gordievsky alleged that New Zealand and Australian communists were being run by International Department of the CPSU. He said:

"I know the situation in New Zealand very well; only 500 members of the Socialist Unity Party, but they are invaluable because each was ready to do something. It was like the KGB had 500 agents in the country."

He added: "Plus some of them penetrated the trade unions, and then they penetrated the left wing of the NZ Labour Party".

Influence in the Maori community

The Socialist Unity Party regarded the FOL’s “Maori and Pacific Islands Advisory Committee.” (MPIAC) as an avenue for influencing the “Maori Community“

Formed in 1981, under the leadership of Jackson Smith, MPIAC (now the CTU’s Te Runanga O Kamahi Maori O Aoteoroa) served as a meeting place and coordinating body for some of the countries most well known Maori activists. Several SUP members served on the committee, as did Syd Jackson, his second wife Deidre Nehua, Atareta Poananga, Bill Hamilton (later a leader of Mana Motuhake and the Alliance Party) and Niko Tangaroa, later a leader of the 1995 Moutua Gardens occupation.

Often working with MPIAC, SUP members and supporters worked to influence the Maori community towards “progressive” action at every opportunity. Some examples include;

  • Henry Te Karu Originally with the Wairarapa Meatworkers Union, Te Karu visited the Soviet Union in 1981. Te Karu told the SUP’s Tribune of the 2nd of October 1989 that he was organising a new venture to open up channels between the Wairarapa CTU Runanga and the Marae committees of the area, adding “I think we’ll see the similarity of trade union and Maori struggles.”

In 1990 he was working working from the Masterton office of the Iwi Transition Agency for Ngati Kahungunu (New Zealand’s third largest Maori tribe).

  • Pat Shepherd From the SUP controlled Auckland Unemployed Workers Union, Shepherd worked with Auckland Maori on anti pollution campaigns in the Manakau Harbour. In 1986 he joined several Maori comrades on a trip to the Soviet Union to “witness the Leninist nationalities policy in practice“

Of Maori/Irish descent, Meihana had been jailed by the British in Northern Ireland in 1978 for taking photos of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Back in New Zealand, before joining the SUP, she was involved in the Waitangi Action Committee and in 1982 was arrested at Bastion Point.

In the mid ’80s she worked on Maori self-determination issues with Unemployed workers organisation, Te Roopu Rawakore.

Involved in the pro Irish Republican group, Information on Ireland, Meihana told the Dominion Sunday Times of 11th of February 1988, “The Irish cause is the Maori cause. The Maori fight in New Zealand is basically the same, only it is yet to reach a military stage like Ireland.”

  • John Price A European (married to a Maori) PSA official and SUP supporter in Rotorua, Price was involved in a dispute at the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Whakarewarewa in 1988.

In the same year he wrote in the SUP’s theoretical journal, “Socialist Politics” “In my extensive activities on Rotorua Marae, I never stop being a Trade Unionist. On the Marae I discuss working class issues and discuss them in their class context.”

Price worked closely with Mana Motuhake activists, the Iwi Transition Agency and the local Polytech, promoting Maori “Business Studies“.