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Letter from Elsewhere: Joe McCarthy Lives

POSTSCRIPT: Retraction and apology from New Zealand Herald To Kay Goodger

This statement is in relation to an article by Sandra Paterson entitled "Feminist Agenda Reaches Fruition", which ran in the 14 May 2005 edition of the Herald.

The Herald accepts that Kay Goodger was not the author of the words attributed to her in the article which came from a Socialist Action League submission to a select committee on women's rights in the 1970s published in a booklet along with an introduction by Ms Goodger.

The Herald also accepts that Kay Goodger is employed as a Senior Analyst in the research section of the Ministry of Social Development, and that her position was misdescribed in the article as a senior adviser in the Ministry.

The Herald accepts that the description of Ms Goodger as a senior adviser carries with it an implication that she has been able to influence government social policy through her employment. The Herald regrets any implication in the article that Ms Goodger has been able to use, or has used, her position in the public service to pursue the goals attributed to her in the article.

The Herald unreservedly apologises to Kay Goodger and her family for any distress caused by the inaccuracies in the article.

Letter from Elsewhere with Anne Else

Joe McCarthy Lives – Right Here in New Zealand

John Tamihere’s “trash-talk laddism” (as the Listener editor labelled it) was repulsive, but I didn’t take it seriously enough to respond in public. This is different.

Last week Ian Wishart, Tamihere’s interviewer, and Sandra Paterson, who gets published in the New Zealand Herald, both wrote articles about how a woman called Kay Goodger and a pamphlet published in 1974, was, they claimed, linked to women in the Labour government. "In short,” wrote Wishart, “an agenda written by an offshoot of the Communist Party in 1973 has been met in full by the women it infiltrated the Labour Party and public service with all those years ago.”

How did they come up with this story? It’s quite easy if you know how.


1. Reveal the existence of “documents” or “papers” from the distant past containing a secret and sinister agenda.

Thiry-one years ago, the Socialist Action League published a pamphlet called “A Strategy for Women’s Liberation”. It contained three pieces: an introduction by Kay Goodger; a national executive resolution adopted by the League at its 1973 conference; and the League’s submission to the 1973/4 Parliamentary Select Committee on Women’s Rights.


2. State that these documents/papers reached you in a roundabout way, thanks to an ordinary member of the public – in this case a “little old lady” who had kept them for years, then, prompted by concern, recently gave them to a “friend” who then gave them to Wishart and Paterson.

I don’t know who the little old lady was. But in 1998, one Barbara Faithful gave an interview on Access Radio (online at www.menz.org.nz/MENZ%20Issues/1999/May%2099/may99.htm#Barbara ). By a remarkable coincidence, she told an approving John Potter of Menz all about the 1974 publication of what she called a “landmark submission” by the “Trotskyist (Cuba-aligned) Socialist Action League (SAL, now Communist League)”, using some of the same quotes as last week’s articles. Then she went through a long list of people, from Felix Donnelly and “ex-member of the NZ Communist party” Gordon Dryden to Sandra Coney and Judith Aitken, and linked them with the pamphlet to explain how they had all worked away for years to push a radical feminist communist-inspired anti-male agenda by doing evil things like setting up women’s refuges and rape crisis centres. The media, she said, was “not really bringing out these things; it is protecting certain forces from their views being challenged.”


3. Claim that the existence of these documents/papers shows that the country’s current leaders have covertly set out to “accomplish” the radical etc etc “agenda” set out in them. Indeed, they have “devoted their careers to seeing these goals achieved”. It is only thanks to your informant – in this case, that little old lady – that all this has been revealed. The proof: your informant remembers that those leaders attended or addressed events in the 1970s where the same issues were being discussed. And some of what was talked about in that very pamphlet has come to pass!

Yes, times have changed, thank goodness. The family has changed too. Most women no longer get married and have children when they are barely out of their teens. They now become mothers at similar ages to the women of the 1930s. Most have paid work as well as unpaid work. Partners get half the matrimonial property each if their relationship breaks up. Deaths from backstreet abortions are rare (though some women do still give birth in terrified secrecy). More children than ever before are born because their parents want them. The label of “illegitimate” has gone. A small percentage of women hold down senior positions. And most gay New Zealanders no longer live in fear. A radical feminist communist plot?


4. Imply that the person you are targeting, who (a) was the sole author of this agenda and (b) once belonged to an organisation you describe as “an offshoot of the Communist Party”, is now in a position of power from which she can exert influence on government policy – in this case, as a “senior Government adviser”. For good measure, imply that she is still linked with communist parties overseas, by saying that she “is mentioned in dispatches on the website of the Portuguese Communist Party as recently as three years ago".

For anyone who knows anything about the McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s or the current witch-hunts under Bush, this is where it gets truly frightening. Goodger wrote the introduction to the pamphlet when she was, for a short time, a member of the Socialist Action League. She was also a member of the Labour Party. She was thrown out of the party in 1974 for standing against John Kirk in the Sydenham by-election. In 1975, she left the SAL - to have a family.

Thirty-one years later, she is a longstanding senior analyst – of statistics, not policy – with the Ministry of Social Development.

In 2002, Goodger responded to an internet appeal to support 17 women who were being tried in Portugal on charges of the illegal practice of abortion. At that time abortion was a crime in Portugal, punishable by up to three years in jail. She sent an email to a Europarliament address. Over 1,200 people and 68 organisations from 43 countries did the same. This international outcry was effective, as only one of the 17 women was sentenced. Goodger received this information, as did all the other signatories, in an email from a Portuguese Communist Party address. All the names can be found on HERE [http://www.pcp.pt/actpol/temas/mulheres/solidariedade/assinaturas-final.html].
A Guardian article about the case can be found HERE - [http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,635433,00.html]
This appears to be the basis for the claim that she is “mentioned in dispatches on the website of the Portuguese Communist Party”.

Joe Stalin and Joe McCarthy both used very similar tactics. But I didn’t expect to see them being used in New Zealand in 2005.

**********

- Anne Else is a Wellington writer and social commentator. Her occasional column will typically appear on a Monday. You can subscribe to receive Letter From Elsewhere by email when it appears via the Free My Scoop News-By-Email Service

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