My sixth Socialist Academic Profile is on Auckland University senior sociology lecturer, David Bedggood.
Bedggood is a veteran of the department, having joined it in 1972 after gaining an MA from Canterbury and a DPhil from Waikato. He was educated at Hamilton Tech and part-time at “every NZ university except Otago and Massey, while working as freezing worker, builder’s labourer and carpet spinner”.
In 1976, Bedggood began publishing the “Red Papers on NZ” series. “The purpose of this collection is to bring together Marxist papers . . . the questions they ask and the solutions they put forward are a long way from revolutionary theory, taken together they form a very useful statement of the position of Marxist theory and practice today and point the way for future work.”
Contributors included Bedggood himself, Owen Gager, Murray Horton, the Communist Party, Willis Airey, Hugh Fyson and Keith Locke, the Spartacist League, Bruce Jesson and Rob Campbell. Bedggood’s article was entitled “State Capitalism in NZ: An Introduction.”
In 1980, Bedggood wrote a Marxist critique of NZ society, the classic page turner “Rich and Poor in NZ: A Critique of Class, Politics and Ideology”, .
In 1981 Bedggood was involved with a trotskyite group, the British Revolutionary Communist Party. He went on to form an affiliated sectlet at Auckland University called the “Communist Left”. This group published a “Red Letter” for many years.
On April 26th 1984, Bedggood tutored a seminar at the Auckland WEA, entitled “Open Debate on Communism”.
From 1985 to 1989 Bedggood was an editorial advisor on Class for the late Rob Steven’s journal “Race Gender Class”.
In 1989, Bedggood was active in the Auckland branch of a NZ wide Marxist umbrella group, “Socialist Alliance. In January that year, Bedggood was contact for Socialist Alliance run weekend seminar at Ponsonby Intermediate School.
It was called, “Living Marxism Aotearoa”. Subjects for discussion included “Socialist Alliance. Why we need an alliance of revolutionary socialists today”; “Aotearoa: Causes of the current crisis. The cause is capitalism, not Treasury or Rogernomics. The solution – socialism.”; “History of Marxist struggles. A brief look at revolutionary movements from the pre-Marxist utopian socialists, through the four internationals, to the world situation today.”
Aren’t you just kicking yourself that you missed it?
By the early ’90s, Bedggood was the leader of the Marxist party “Workers Power”. The party expanded fast and at one stage even had a member (Rik Tindall) in Christchurch.
Then, in the early ’90s came a disastrous split. It probably set back the workers revolution by decades, if not centuries.
The League of the Revolutionary Communist Inernational (of which Workers Power was the NZ affiliate) lamented “Nevertheless the loss of our Bolivian section and half the NZ section was a blow. It left the LRCI with only political lessons to draw from nine years of work in Latin America. However, the NZ section survived the desertion of two of its founding members, David and Janet Bedggood.”
Did Bedggood desert socialism? Did he see the light and set up in business running a corner dairy? No, while half of Workers Power buggered off to Melbourne to storm the Crown Casino, Bedggood gathered his 10 or so supporters and founded the “Communist Workers Group”
In 1996, Bedggood represented the CWG at a major overseas meeting of Trotskyite parties, “Revolutionary Regroupment – The Way Forward”. Other speakers included such revolutionary giants as Alberto Rios (Poder Obrero, Peru), Jonathan Joseph (Committee for Revolutionary Regroupment) and even the legendary Richard Price of the Workers International League.
I’ll bet the Calthorpe Arms, 252 Gray’s Inn Road (Corner of Wren Street), London WC1, had never seen such a stellar bunch of revolutionaries.
Bedggood is still involved in the CWG and in the Auckland branch of the Association of University Staff. You’re still paying him to teach sociology to your sons and daughters. He intends to stay where he is and says he has “rejected all other offers, including early retirement..”,
Bedggood’s research interests include “Marxism; class analysis; economic crises and the state; racism and immigration; domestic labour; labour relations; NZ as part of Australasia, and much more.”
Who says communism is dead?