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Bill Andersen Mourned By Old Comrades

20 January 2005

Bill Andersen Mourned By Old Comrades

With great sadness the Socialist Party of Aotearoa announces the death of our Party leader, SPA General Secretary Comrade G H (Bill) Andersen.

Comrade Andersen suffered a major heart attack last Friday and died yesterday in Auckland Hospital. He was 80 years old.

A lifelong working class activist, Bill held many responsible positions in the communist and union movements. He was a founding member and long time leader of the former Socialist Unity Party. He has led the Socialist Party of Aotearoa since its founding in 1991. He was a respected elder of the international communist movement. Bill's Marxism was marked by his enduring concern for unity in the working class movement and his commitment to a scientific and objective approach to social reality.

Bill was a merchant seaman during World War II, and later worked as a freezing worker and watersider. He was locked out in the 1951 waterfront dispute and "stayed loyal right through". Afterwards Bill worked as a driver and then headed the progressive leadership of the Northern Drivers Union. He was secretary of the Auckland Trades Council and a member of the Federation of Labour executive and later held the corresponding positions in the Council of Trade Unions. At the time of his death Bill was President of the National Distribution Union. Bill never stopped working as a union organiser and could always be seen at pickets and wherever workers were struggling for their rights.

Bill was passionately committed to equality and opposed to racism. He took people exactly as he found them and loved to strike up conversations with people and discuss their lives and problems and was always willing to help. His personal kindness and generosity were legendary. He always sided with Maori and Pacific island workers fighting for their rights. Bill played a prominent role in mobilising working class support for the successful effort of the Ngati Whatua people to recover their unjustly confiscated land at Takaparawha (Bastion Point).

Bill's lifelong struggle for socialism and workers' rights and against racism, imperialism and war earned him many enemies among wealthy corporations and their politicians. He was the prime target of the anti-union, anti-communist hate campaign during the Muldoon regime. In 1974 Bill was briefly jailed for refusing to order union members to cross a picket line, a stand of which he was immensely proud. The massive support he received from the working people of Auckland forced the government to back down.

In the course of his long and productive life, Bill fought untiringly for the interests of working people. Thousands of people in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and around the world will remember Bill for his outstanding political and union work, for his active and scientific approach to Marxism and for his kindness and humour. He will be sorely missed by his comrades, friends and family.

There will be a private cremation, and arrangements are underway for a public memorial gathering where the many people who loved Bill will be able to pay their respects.


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