1. Social Conditions and Foreign Influence
Firstly was the major strategic importance placed on New Zealand by the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. It appears that the Soviets long regarded New Zealand as a weak link in the Western Alliance. Our distance from the world’s trouble spots and a casual attitude to security meant a comparatively easy working environment for the Soviets, and their allies.
Our long history of welfare statism and trade unionism provided a large pool of socialist leaning people who were easily led into more militant activities.
Social ostracism of Marxist-Leninists was also not as great as in the United States or Australia for example. New Zealand also lacked (with one or two exceptions, such as the late Tony Neary)) the strong, conservative Catholic trade union movement that did much to thwart the the Communist Party of Australia in the ’40s and ’50s.
New Zealand was also been an attractive target for Communist leaders for similar reasons that some Scandinavian countries were targeted. We are regarded around the world as a “progressive” social laboratory, with a good record on early franchise for women, social welfare and human rights policies. Because of our small size and low regard for security, comparatively strong communist/socialist movement and progressive international image, New Zealand has long been used as a “respectable front” for Communist policies.
Foremost among these were the “Peace” and Anti-Apartheid” campaigns, that were conducted by local communists since the 1940s. Both have had a major influence on New Zealanders thinking and both have had international impact.
From my research it is clear that New Zealand was chosen to play a leading role in the Anti-Apartheid struggle because of our Rugby playing links with South Africa. This campaign contributed significantly to the psychological pressure on the South African public and government and the eventual accession to power of the ANC and South African Communist Party.
The “Peace” campaign, which culminated in New Zealand’s 1984 ban on nuclear warships also was a major victory for the Soviets and has contributed significantly to the rise of Anti-Nuclearism/Americanism throughout the Asia/Pacific region and Europe.
According to one former Communist Party of New Zealand member, the Chinese government began funding the New Zealand Peace Council in 1956, when then Communist Party member Bruce Skilton and the Party’s accountant Ron Howell, visited Peking on a “business” trip.
The Soviets likewise funded communist activity for many years and trained numerous New Zealanders at Lenin’s Institute for Higher Learning in Moscow.
One former Socialist Unity Party member who trained at the Institute in 1983/4 claimed that the Soviets categorised target countries in order of priority. This grading system assessed target nations on their strategic significance to long term Soviet plans. The country’s ranking determined the intensity and length of training given to that nation’s communists at the Institute.
Category One: Britain, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
Category Two: Included India and New Zealand
New Zealand was never a target for Soviet invasion. This country was far more valuable to the Soviets as a propaganda outlet.
New Zealand was regarded as a tool, a springboard by which policies advantageous to the Soviets could projected onto the world stage. New Zealand was regarded as both sufficiently malleable and internationally respectable to be a high priority “active measures” target.
The Soviet’s used New Zealand as a ventriloquist uses his dummy.