Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

A Middle-Class Diversion from Working-Class Struggle? The New Zealand New Left from the Mid-1950s to the Mid-1970s

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2012), 103, (1), 203–226.

Abstract

Internationally, the New Left is frequently regarded as an archetypal middle-class movement that had little concern with the working class. Yet in New Zealand, the New Left’s most prominent organisations were working-class youth groups or joint worker-student groups. Furthermore, when a major upturn in workplace antagonism occurred during the late 1960s and the 1970s, many New Leftists attempted to form links with these recalcitrant workers. New Leftists not only supported workplace disputes, but also organised in working-class inner-city suburbs. Significantly, some New Leftists attempted to come to grips with the changing class composition of the time. They usefully broadened class analysis to include many white-collar workers, although much of their analysis was inconclusive. However, other New Leftists dismissed the working class, narrowly defined as manual workers, as backward and reactionary. Moreover, the New Left tended to perceive workers’ struggles as peripheral in importance, as it primarily focussed on protesting against the Vietnam War, the nuclear threat, US military installations and apartheid. Overall, the New Left had an ambiguous and complex relationship with class-struggle.

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Endnotes

1.See for exampleDavid Caute, Sixty-Eight: The Year of the Barricades,Hamish Hamilton,, 1988, p.21;Barbara Ehrenreich andJohn Ehrenreich, ‘The Professional-Managerial Class’, inPat Walker(ed.), Between Labor and Capital,South End Press,, 1979, p.6;Irving Howe, ‘Introduction’, inIrving Howe(ed.), Beyond the New Left,McCall,, 1970, p.4;Philip Mendes, The New Left, the Jews and the Vietnam War 1965-1972,Lazare Press,, 1993, p.40;Jack Newfield, A Prophetic Minority: The American New Left,Anthony Blond,, 1967, p.18;Peter O’Brien, ‘Some Overseas Comparisons’, inRichard Gordon(ed.), The Australian New Left: Critical Essays and Strategy,William Heinemann,, 1970, p.225;Irwin Unger, The Movement: A History of the American New Left 1959-1972,Doad, Mead & Company,, 1974, pp.31-34. Google Scholar

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Boraman, Toby