Since the death of GH (Bill) Andersen earlier this year, NZ’s leading communist organisation, the Socialist Party of Aotearoa, has undergone leadership changes.
The Party’s new Chairman and one of the party’s younger faces is Brendan Tuohy of Wellington.
Brendan Tuohy completed a BA degree in computer science from Massey University in 1982. By 1985 he was active in the Young Workers Alliance in Wellington. The YWA was the youth wing of the pro-Soviet NZ Socialist Unity Party. Tuohy represented the group at the 20th congress of the Young Communist league in Moscow, the same year. In 1987 he was back in the Soviet Union to attend that year’s Komsomol Congress.
In the mid ’80s the Labour government set up the Trade Union Education Authority, probably as payoff for SUP/trade union support at election time. Tuohy was one of several SUP supporters who quickly took control of the taxpayer funded organisation. He was appointed temporarily as a part time computer consultant in 1987, but stayed until 1990 when TUEA was abolished by the new National government. He then worked part time for the CTU until 1994.
By the late’80s Tuohy was a full SUP member and in 1988 he was proposed for membership of the SUP’s Commission on the “National Question”. This body was mainly maori and was charged with promoting maori “sovereignty”, laising with maori activists and promoting revolution through racial means.
In 1990/91 Tuohy was on the Wellington branch executive of the SUP and served some time as chairman. He was also involved with the SUP’s Gordon Watson Branch, comprising of younger activists and named after a leading NZ communist killed in Italy in WW2.
At the time NZ communism was in turmoil after events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Bill Andersen and several comrades left the party in 1990, partly over the SUP’s slavish support of the Labour government. They went on to establish the rival Socialist Party of Aotearoa. Tuohy and his friends stayed loyal to the SUP for a while, but eventually the Gordon Watson Branch became part of Andersen’s SPA.
In 1987, Tuohy had founded a computer company “Reddfish” with Harry Nowell, also of the YWA and SUP. The company contracted out to the CTU, various unions, peace groups, maori groups, government departments etc and is still Tuohy’s livelihood today. He has employed several SUP/SPA members over the years and his current partners are his live in partner, Sam Murray, a SPA member and anthropologist and Boris Goray, an electrical engineer, formerly with the Ukraine Academy of Science.
While a small party, SPA is still highly influential. It controls one of NZ’s biggest unions, the National Distribution Union and has links with a wide range of community groups, beneficiary groups, maori groups and political parties such as the Greens and the Socialist Workers Organisation.
SPA has links with mainstream communist party’s all over the world. Tuohy represented SPA at the Communist Party USA’s conference in Milwaukee in 2001. He is also on the editorial board of the “The Spark”, journal of the Trans Tasman Socialist Secretariat which comprises of SPA and the Australian, Maritime Unions Socialist Activities Association. MUSAA is very influential in Australian industrial politics and is allied to the Communist Party of Australia
Tuohy has been the Vice President of SPA for some time and the editor of their journal “Red Flag” since 2004. His accession to the chairmanship was obviously designed to bring some youth, vigour and fresh ideas to the NZ communist movement.