My seventh Socialist Academic Profile, looks at Canterbury University tutor, Philip Ferguson. I just had to ‘do” Philip after I saw him in sole charge of the “Young Workers Party” stand at the recent Canterbury University Clubs Day.
Philip Ferguson began his political career in the very early ’70s while still at high school in the eastern suburbs of Christchuch. His first recorded activity was in 1972 as a leader of the Socialist Action League front group “High School Students Against the War”.
As a representative of that anti Vietnam War group, Ferguson was attending meetings of the Canterbury Mobilisation Committee, with the “big” activists.
While closely linked to the Trotskyite, Socialist Action League, the teenage Ferguson was, in common with many SALers at the time, also active in the Labour party, specifically, the New Brighton branch of the party.
In 1973, Ferguson was studying Arts at Canterbury University. He was convenor of the “Student Anti War Movement” and was an unsuccessful “Young Socialist” candidate for the students association executive (missing by 35 votes).
In 1974 and ’75 he was elected to the Student Representation Committee, one of three successful YS candidates.
In 1975, according to student paper Canta, Ferguson was “studying history and socialism“.
After University he was very active in the Socialist Action League. He wrote regularly for “Socialist Action”, including one 1979 article where he stated he was “sympathetic to the Iranian revolution“.
In February 1980 he described his “recent” 12 day visit to Nicaragua with CORSO workers Trevor and Lyn Jackson.
By April 1980 Ferguson was living in the real “Brighton” in the UK, where according to Socialist Action he was busy attacking “Thatcherism“.
Ferguson was heavily involved in the local Trotskyite politics But in Britain I was briefly a member of the International Marxist Group and, within it, The Faction, the pro-US SWP group that eventually became the Communist League.
From 1986 to 1994, Ferguson expressed his Irish heritage by working in Eire as a full time organizer for Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.
By 1994, Ferguson was back in NZ at Canterbury University. He was soon involved with the “Canterbury University Marxist Group”, which at the time supported the strongly pro Irish Republican, British Revolutionary Communist Party.
In 2002, Ferguson stood in Christchurch East as a candidate for the “Anti-Capitalist Alliance”. Unfortunately the good people of Ferguson’s native suburbs elected Labour’s Liane Dalziel instead.
According to an article in “The Spark”, journal of a tiny Maoist sect, called the “Workers Party “Philip Ferguson…returned to NZ in 1994, was a founder of ‘Revolution’ magazine in 1997 and of the MidEast Collective in 2001. Ferguson is currently finishing off a PhD on the ‘White New Zealand’ policy and runs courses in Marxism, Irish republican history, and women and revolution.”
By 2004, Ferguson was involved in bigger things. According to The Spark of June 15 “On the day after the Anti-Capitalist Alliance’s anti-imperialist conference another gathering took place. Members of the ACA belonging to the Workers Party, the Revolution group and some belonging to no group merged to form a new Marxist current, the Revolutionary Workers League.
The fusion gathering elected Daphna Whitmore as national secretary and Mark Muller as national industrial organiser. Also elected were editorial boards for our publications; for Revolution Philip Ferguson, Paul Hopkinson, and Daphna Whitmore; and for The Spark, Daphna Whitmore, Philip Ferguson, Sam Kingi, Jared Phillips and Don Franks.
Philip Ferguson is now a leader of the Revolutionary Workers League and the wider, Workers Party. He teaches 20th century global history and NZ studies in Canterbury University’s bridging programmes and has taught a wide variety of community courses for UC Opportunity since 1996.
Not bad for a young lad from the oppressed eastern suburbs of Christchurch!