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281 Karangahape Rd Auckland

Cybèle Locke

Comrade: Bill Andersen


Bill Andersen was one of the most significant figures in New Zealand's trade union movement in the later twentieth century. Cybèle Locke's biography recovers the relationships between communism and working-­class trade unionism during World War Two and the following decades. Starting with Bill's experiences as a merchant seaman during World War Two, Locke draws on over forty oral interviews, as well as Bill's unpublished autobiography, to explore what it meant to be a working­class, communist trade unionist through those years.

As a history centred on biography, Comrade tells a riveting story of labour activism and social change. The post-war splintering of the world communist movement fractured New Zealand communists; in the 1970s, the Northern Drivers' Union emerged as a powerful social movement; and Māori land rights and sovereignty activism reframed radicalism through the last decades of the century. The impact of neo-liberalism on trade unions in the late 1980s and 1990s is starkly shown.

The histories of working people, of organised labour, and of left-wing movements are too little told in Aotearoa New Zealand. Writing with insight and empathy, Cybèle Locke has provided a highly readable account of a communist union leader navigating the social and political turmoil of the twentieth century.