The pro-Soviet, Socialist Unity Party dissolved some years ago. Many of its former leaders have since moved into influential positions.
One such individual is Joe Tonner, who is now industrial relations manager for the Christchurch City Council.
In the Auckland PSA office Tonner alongside future Race Relations Conciliator Joris de Bres and SUP members and future West Auckland local body activists, Jo Quatermass and Marney Ainsworth.
An authority on propaganda, Tonner served on the editorial board of the SUP’s theoretical journal, Socialist Politics.
Like most, if not all senior party members, Tonner also spent time studying in the Soviet Union.
In 1988, Tonner was promoted to the SUP Central Committee, the party’s Industrial Commission, the party’s Peace and Solidarity Commission and the post of party Assistant General Secretary, under Marilyn Tucker.
In late 1989, Tonner represented the SUP on a trip to North Korea. He was secretary of the Auckland PSA at the time.
In 1990, most Auckland SUP members left the party over its alliance with Labour and followed Bill Andersen into the newly formed Socialist Party of Aotearoa.
Tonner was originally charged with re-building the SUP in Auckland, but shortly afterwards moved south to become Regional Secretary of the Wellington PSA.
The SUP withered during the ’90s, but was still strong enough to send Tonner to the South African Communist Party conference in 1995.
Through the late ’90s, Tonner pushed the SUP linked Partnership for Quality strategy within the PSA. This still exists and is basically a way of financialy rewarding union members, over non-members and ensuring a steady flow of union money and support to the Labour Party.
Now Joe Tonner manages the workforce of my local city council.
I wonder if he really is a “poacher turned gamekeeper”, or if he still holds the beliefs that took him to Pyongyang and Moscow?