Vale Dick Scott

Obituaries for Dick Scott, who died on New Year’s Day, have emphasized his importance as a figure changing how New Zealand history was written about, taught, and imagined, especially by Pākehā. He deserves those accolades, but we should remember too that his early, pioneering histories were written as part of a project to change the world, not just to understand it differently. Scott’s radicalism was forged in the clashes and struggles around the Depression and its legacy, the Second World War and, most importantly, the post-war labour battles that came to a climax in the 1951 Watersiders’ Lockout and supporting strikes. He left the Communist Party in his late 20s, but his early formation in class struggle politics helped shape his attention to injustices done to Māori, the bloody history of colonialism in New Zealand and the Pacific, and his determination to write popular, accessible history.


Scott’s two classics, 151 Days and Ask That Mountain, are essential reading for every socialist. The former told the story, in detail and for the first time, of the heroic Waterfront Workers’ Lockout in 1951, their battle against both a National Government determined to offer up the destruction of their militant, democratic union as a warning to other workers in Cold War New Zealand and the class-collaborationist politics of the trade union movement leadership. Scott was active in the Lockout as a journalist, reporter, inventor of solidarity schemes, and Communist activist. The watersiders recognized him as one of their own, and his account buzzes with the reality of the battle. The latter, a development of his 1950s work The Parihaka Story, told the story of the Crown’s attacks in Taranaki and the visionary resistance leadership of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. Scott’s early interest on Parihaka grew out of anti-racist reporting he had done for the Communist Party, and appeared at a time when few Pākehā, even on the socialist left, were familiar with the details of this history.

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Keeping the Faith – RIP Fidel

Fidel Castro in 1957

Fidel Castro in 1957

Fidel Castro has died. We mourn him from the depth of our hearts; for his victories and for his failings, for the achievements of the Cuban revolution and for its weaknesses but most of all for the achievements of his generation, for our own parents and our grandparents.

Fidel Castro “invaded” Cuba, his homeland, in 1956. At the time, the country was under the control of a US-backed dictator – Batista. Castro’s strategy was flawed: to get peasant support in the back country and then invade the cities. Socialism is about working people taking power themselves, not armed guerillas freeing them. However, the Batista regime was so rotten and corrupt that Castro’s rebellion, combined with general strikes in the cities were enough to overthrow it. [Read more…]

Mourn for the dead, fight for the living!

161014-helen-kelly_jpgby Jen Wilson

At this time we remember and honour long time union leader Helen Kelly, a brave and compassionate person who mourned with and comforted the families of workers killed at work; Forestry workers, the Pike River miners, Charanpreet Dhaliwal, aged only 22, beaten to death on his first night on the job as a security guard. So many dead because their lives and safety were not valued by their employers. Standing beside the grieving families Helen Kelly demanded justice, the prosecution of their employers who put profits above the lives of workers. She shined a light onto failed business practices which made these deaths inevitable and demanded and worked for change. Her death is a great loss. [Read more…]

A tribute to Jill Brassell

Jill Brassell

by Shomi Yoon and Dougal McNeill

Jill Brassell, who died on November 30, was a stalwart of the Wellington left for many decades, a fine musician, a militant, a Woman’s Liberationist, an understated wit and a friend. We’re going to miss her and we’re so sad to learn of her death. On behalf of the International Socialist Organisation we send condolences to Jill’s partner, Don, her family and all her friends and comrades. Our side has lost a fighter and an inspiration.

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