Ron Resnick

- Murray Horton

Ron Resnick was a CAFCA member from 1998 until his sudden death in October 2010; indeed he had only just renewed his membership in August (it has been gifted to one of his close friends and colleagues). He regularly included a donation with his sub, and he was an active and vocal member. Only weeks before his death he sent us a long and detailed Roger Award nomination (unfortunately it was ineligible, as it was for a New Zealand-owned company). It read as vintage cantankerous Resnick and reminded me of his frequent contributions in similar vein to the Taking Control Electronic Discussion List (which he’d eventually quit because of various disagreements over things like the size limit on postings). He was the only person to ever chastise me for the small size of the type in my e-mails, and he did so with great regularity. For many years Ron had been a pledger to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which provides my income. His last payment was made the day before he died. Our last e-mail correspondence was about this, only weeks before he died (he changed banks and made sure that his automatic payment continued).

I only ever met Ron once, last decade, when I was in Nelson accompanying a Filipino human rights leader on a national speaking tour. I knew nothing about him, which is why I invited his close friend and colleague, Ted Howard, to write his obituary (see below). I learned a lot more about him when, unsolicited, I was went the DVD of his funeral (his was the first natural burial in that Nelson cemetery). It consisted of friends telling stories about him whilst standing around his grave. My favourite one was that, for years, he’d travelled free and unchallenged on public transport, using the Gold Card of a friend’s elderly mother (Ron never did make it to pension age). And I, quite literally, saw more of him than I ever had previously because the photos on the DVD cover included several individual or group nudes (I’m none the wiser as to their context or significance). I thank Ron for his generosity in regularly supporting my work for many years and for his more than a decade of CAFCA membership.

Activist Lost

Ron Resnick

25 May 1947- 2 October 2010

- Ted Howard

On October 2nd Nelson lost a vocal visionary that pushed our thinking and our social boundaries. Ron Resnick was one of Nelson’s now many international residents. He began life in the USA, growing up in a Jewish family in New York, gained a degree in Geography, left to dodge the draft and moved to Sydney, Australia. In Ron’s words, he “could see then the similarities between the fall of the Roman empire and the falling USA”. He taught environmental studies at Sydney Teachers’ College, and ran a health shop. This was at the cutting edge in the 1970s. Ron understood the need for alternatives to the gaps in Western medicine. He had a grasp of the organic rather than industrial needs of the body to combine chemicals naturally for good health.

Ron himself needed these medical alternatives as he suffered from the combined health problems of both a blood disorder (Polycythemia Vera) and type 1 diabetes. He had been regularly visiting the intensive care units of hospitals since he was 12 years old. Bear in mind his research was done because his life depended on it and prior to the days of the ease of the Internet. The doctors were pessimistic about his long term prospects. None predicted more than a few years of life for Ron from those days onward. By the time Ron arrived to Nelson, the doctors had given up predicting his demise. A smug grin was one of Ron’s character traits. In Nelson Ron worked as a collection/repo man for a while, until he found out how corrupt the corporate retail stores were, selling on 24 then 36 months interest free to get the hire purchase sales, then claiming insurance on defaulters, who couldn't really afford the purchase in the first place, as a racket. Then he got his teaching certificate renewed and taught part-time at secondary schools and ran a business making and selling badges.

A Child Of The 60s

A background, which could well explain the type of man he was when he adopted Nelson as his home in 1991. By now Ron had had a life time of training as an activist. He had his intelligence trained to university lectureship level, and a life threatening need to both question the status quo, and to literally fight for his life. His acerbic, contrarian views were well honed and about to challenge the sleepier minds in New Zealand. Ron is best remembered by the Nelson public for his many contributions to the Letters to the Editor of the Nelson Mail. However he was also active in the Nelson Peace Group, a member of CAFCA, and active in setting up ASPO NZ (The Association of the Study of Peak Oil). The Green Party will always remember him as a vocal participant, or more recently as a vocal opponent, when they chose to ignore his opinions (former Green MP Mike Ward was one of the speakers at Ron’s graveside and he spoke of Ron as both a vocal participant and vocal opponent. Ed). He challenged Nelson Councillors and joined the Nelson Ratepayers Association. He could be stirring, difficult, blunt, impatient.

His friends valued him for his wit, and ability to challenge every ill-thought-out statement. Ron was a visionary. The Internet fed his desire for information, and he shared this capacity for finding sorting and analysing information on our political future course in life, both real and potential. He was a man from whom you learned. It was hard to keep your head buried in your own delusions around him. Ron knew the freedom and righteous courage that comes from keeping your head above the parapet of life’s war and shared his knowledge freely. Men with his searing intellect occupy only about 3% of the population, and are valuable for this alone.

Ron was a child of the sixties, and his passing is a wake up call to the rest of us that the values of this generation are being lost. With them will go the courage and their particular brand of freethinking, activism and radicalism. My favourite memory will be of him in a Nelson Peace Group street march. He walked along with his two large dogs Bill and Yenta (they were dressed in rainbow tie-dyed T-shirts), while he proudly wore a Palestinian scarf around his neck, and his smug knowing grin. From a book review by Ron in January 2010 http://clareswinney.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/so-why-does-it-matter/: "So I ask again, why does all this matter? It’s summer in Nelson, the sun is shining the shops and cafes are filled with visitors and life seems very good. Well, I guess it’s the difference between being awake and being aware. Awake is fine, life is good, aware can be fraught with worry and concerns. Being aware can’t be switched off, you get stuck with it, and you acquire a need to share and shake others with it".

Jim Delahunty

- Murray Horton

Jim Delahunty was a CAFCA member from 1992 until 2005. He was also a generous donor to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account which provides my income. Throughout those two decades, the final two of his life, Jim was an active member, not to mention a constructive critic. Representing CORPWatch (in which capacity he edited Dig) Jim was one of the judges for the 2000 Roger Award and organised the event to announce the winner (TranzRail). Held in Wellington in April 2001, this was the first time it had been held outside Christchurch and was a wonderful evening of music, song, comedy and politics, attended by up to 150 people. Jim did a magnificent job of organising it and set a very high standard for subsequent organisers to meet. This was the only time that we’ve taken the actual Award to confront the winner – the prickly and downright dangerous monstrosity (this was in the days before we had a proper travel crate built for it) was crammed into the back seat of Jim’s Lada and we took it to the Wellington Railway Station, only to discover that TranzRail had relocated its corporate HQ to the more salubrious surroundings of Takapuna, on Auckland’s North Shore.

Sadly, that ended his involvement with the Award. We invited him to be a judge again for the 01 Roger and he declined, after we rejected his suggestion of the winner being decided by an audience vote on the night, rather than by a panel of judges. He described the latter process, in a 2001 e-mail to me, as “too in house, rather than looking outwards and involving people directly”. Jim had been inspired by the first World Social Forum at Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001, with its model of participatory direct democracy. We then invited him to be the event organiser again but he declined that also, saying: “No, I am not happy to be an organiser under the present way of doing things. I doubt that the result justifies the effort”. We agreed to disagree and the 2001 Roger Award event was held in Auckland. It’s been back in Wellington twice more in the past decade; indeed the last time I saw Jim was at the 2009 event, held in Wellington in March 2010 (he is in the photo accompanying the report of the event in Watchdog 123, May 2010). For years CAFCA got Dig, until he stopped writing and publishing it. In the past decade I had regularly caught up with Jim whenever I was in Wellington, including either being interviewed by him on his community radio programme Behind The News, or accompanying touring Filipino speakers who were interviewed by him. I never knew him personally, nor his life story (he was in his 60s when we first met), which is why I invited his old mate Don Franks and his daughter, Green MP Catherine Delahunty, to write his obituary. I thank Jim for his many decades of dedicated political and union activism, and for his years of CAFCA membership and active support of, and partnership, with us. We disagreed on some tactics but we were both fighting the same battle. People with Jim’s lifelong dedication are rare, and need to be treasured precisely because they are so rare.

Jim Delahunty

- Don Franks

It took almost 85 years before he finally came along quietly. Then, on September 23rd 2010, Jim Delahunty died in his sleep, after a lifetime of relentless radical struggle. Born into a working class Auckland family, Jim experienced the poverty of 1920s’ Freemans Bay. People react to poverty in different ways; Jim’s way was the road of anti-capitalism, a road he never left. As a young man Jim Delahunty joined the Communist Party of New Zealand, but an aversion to Stalinism soon drove him to leave. Unlike some lapsed Communists, Jim didn’t cease from activism, he played an ongoing and often pivotal part in most of the issues of the day. A tireless campaigner against capital punishment, Jim was to see the death penalty finally repealed, on his 36th birthday.

I first met Jim in 1969 when I was a flatmate of his daughter Sarah. One evening our flat all went to tea at her folks' place. It was quite different from other people’s parents’ places. Everyone was loudly talking at once and Sarah’s dad more than anyone. Sarah’s mum was rushing around rather desperately holding everything together. I got to know Jim and his wife June better a couple of years later, when the anti-Vietnam war movement pulled me into Left politics. In the early 70s Wellington had quite a big radical Left, bigger and generally older than it is today. This was partly because of a stronger trade union movement and existing socialist “motherlands” as well as the anti-war and anti-apartheid movements.

A Leftist Who Believed In Having Fun

Jim stood out quite a bit from all the other older Leftists I was becoming aware of. It wasn’t just that he didn’t subscribe to any of the socialist groups; the main point of difference was his perpetual irreverence. Rather shockingly, Jim showed that it was possible to be a staunch Left activist and have fun at the same time. His reliability on a dozen different committees didn’t prevent him taking the mickey out of anyone at all. Jim’s cheeky political exuberance often came out in song, to the accompaniment of his own guitar. This backing didn’t evolve much beyond the three chord trick, but with Jim’s resonant voice and performance skills, three chords sufficed. The quality of the instrument probably helped too. Seeking a cheap guitar to back his political ditties, Jim enquired about a dusty old dunga in a corner of a violin repair shop. “That thing’s only cluttering up the place, just take it!” they said. After thrashing the instrument for some years Jim took it to a mender for minor repairs, to learn that his knockabout guitar was a priceless Spanish antique of which only six had ever been produced.

Raised to the sound of his dad’s Irish rebel songs. Jim was an early stalwart of the New Zealand folk music scene, helping his friend Rona Bailey* collect songs and also writing his own. A few of those, like the anti-Muldoon* anthem “Put A Pig In A Beehive, You Don’t Get Honey”, are on record, but most of Jim’s many topical ditties have unfortunately not been collected. A lot of them were improvised on the spot and not even written down. Like the snatch: “Oh I would like to be inside the Party, Oh I would like to be in the CP...” or "Petone - I'm falling under your smell - and if you could speak you'd have bad breath and BO as well..." In 2005 Jim played his last concert, to a packed house at the Petone Bluegrass Society. Because his hands were past it, I played his guitar parts for him, but that was all I had to do. From the first moment to last, Jim held his audience spellbound for the whole evening. *David Grant’s obituary of Rona Bailey is in Watchdog 110, December 2005, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/10/09.htm and Murray Horton’s obituary of Piggy Muldoon is in Watchdog 71. November 1992, http://historicalwatchdog.blogspot.com/2009/12/foreign-control-watchdog-november-1992.html. Ed.

During the 1970s Jim was an editor of The Paper, a broad Left magazine with a respectable circulation among workers. Like any broad Left enterprise, The Paper teemed with factions. Although he was sometimes uncomfortably quick tempered, Jim could also be diplomatic if he put his mind to it and he was an ideal editor for our disparate assembly. Some of those on The Paper, like myself, had an agenda of using it as a stepping stone towards a new Communist Party. That was not for Jim, but when the split inevitably came it wasn’t too acrimonious.

Subsequent to that Jim served briefly in New Labour, leaving that when it proved to be another form of old Labour. From then on Jim continued independently supporting various causes, producing his own Left publications; a long running magazine Dig and an access radio show Behind The News. These continued full bore after Jim retired from his job as an organiser in the Public Service Association (PSA). Watchdog 65, October 1990 http://historicalwatchdog.blogspot.com/2009/12/foreign-control-watchdog-october-1990.html has a lengthy anonymous article entitled “Spies Amongst Us: How The US Embassy Saw New Zealand 1945-60”, analysing a wealth of US reports on NZ Communists, unionists and politicians. A 1958 report was devoted to the PSA. “One sphere of influence in which Communists and their ilk seem to be consolidating their ground is the Public Service Association…The following Association staff, or executive members, have come to the Embassy’s attention over the past few years in their role of Communist sympathiser: Mr James Delahunty, the Association’s Personnel Counselling officer;…Communists crop up as departmental delegates because they are willing to take on such duties when other members are apathetic; but the employment of Communists in the office of the Association points to a toleration of their politics at the top level of the Association. However, it must be said that the Association’s Journal does not follow any particular political line in its editorial or news columns; and that the Association executive contents itself with advancing and protecting the interests of its members…” CAFCA still has these fascinating historical documents, which record US interest in a large number of named New Zealanders. Ed.

A Lifetime Of Political Consistency

Jim was a personal friend and inspiration to me since I first worked alongside him. We disagreed on some issues, like Lenin and foreign control of New Zealand, but were as one on others, like class collaboration and the Labour Party, which Jim held in lifelong withering contempt. Jim’s pamphlet “Night’s Black Agents” is required reading for anyone wanting a worker’s view of the 4th Labour government. Not long ago Jim told me: “Well, when I look back over my political life I think I can say at least there’s been some consistency.”

A few days before he died, Jim wrote what was to be his last newsletter. An excerpt from it shows the sort of consistency Jim maintained. “Behind the News Notes For 19/9/10. Dr Kevin Woods, our newly appointed Director General of Health, is not a doctor of medicine but a doctor of philosophy and it’s his philosophy that worries me. His fame seems to rest on his ability to fire health staff and pretend he is improving the service to patients. Woods is supposed to have saved $NZ27 billion while in charge in Scotland, and this year he was involved in a further reduction of nursing positions by sacking 1,500 nurses. That was his job in Scotland – now he is to come here to help the National government save money on health by doing the same. Some are alarmed at his appointment. Green MP Kevin Hague, a former health board chief executive, is alarmed and says: ‘He comes from presiding over the decimation of health services in Scotland. The degree of comfort he has with such cuts in pretty problematic’ – a statement far from a forthright criticism, if you can follow it at all. Brenda Pilott of the PSA which has some health service members was even less revolutionary – ‘Come and see the situation here before you decide to cut’, she begs. How genteel a comment and I’m sure the good philosopher will look before he makes his incisions here. Because that is for what he is being appointed. But the PSA nowadays believes in partnership with the forces of reaction - maybe Brenda will hold the patient’s throat to help him get at the jugular. What a mess of numbskulls the once radical PSA has become. So who is going to speak out and call this Sweeney Todd of the health service a paid slasher and try to raise barriers to letting him do his foul job? You know I think we need a Left movement in this country, don’t we?”

Jim is survived by his wife June, who shared his quest for social justice and also carried a huge load, largely behind the scenes. Jim and June had five children who in different ways carry on many of their passions and causes. The day after Jim died I wrote a short obituary, which included some of the sentences in this one. The NZ Council of Trade Unions Wellington e-mail list picked up and circulated my comments. Without informing their readers, they censored my observation about Jim’s attitude to the Labour Party and also Jim’s criticism of the PSA. “Well, what else did you expect from the pricks?” I hear him snort. I am appreciative of CAFCA for electronically circulating my uncut original and giving me the opportunity to write this longer tribute to a kind friend and unfailing political mentor.

Jim Delahunty

- Catherine Delahunty

Born in 1925 my Dad was Irish on both sides being descended from the Delahuntys of Tipperary, Ireland and the O’Connors of County Kerry. The Nelson O’Connor family are our second cousins and share some excellent Leftwing tendencies. The Delahuntys came to Thames in the 1860s and were failed gold miners. My father lived a full and rich life. After hard beginnings he always expressed gratitude for the stable economic conditions he enjoyed in his adult life that gave him greater financial security than his parents and ancestors. He maintained a constant advocacy for revolutionary socialist change and lived a humble material life preferring the $2 shop for as many items as possible. He was always in a secure job as a union official working 9 to 5 and had colourful descriptions of his colleagues which are not all repeatable in print. As a father of five children I think he envied us in the 70s when some of us gave up work and study and lived a more experimental life than he could imagine.

As a 50s and 60s family my parents had conventional gender roles. My Dad was very active in political campaigns and in folksong collection and performance. However he still had time for the tennis club and later the table tennis medals. In earlier life he was a generous father who laughed when I crashed the car, and sang songs to us as well as bribing us with chocolate to fold endless political leaflets. He was never one to suffer fools and had a sharp wit for targets such as the Church, the Government and capitalism in general. In his last few years my father became a devoted caregiver for my mother and gave her all the credit for his children and for his own learning. He made it clear to us in the last months of his life that his children and grandchildren were his treasures and that family was central to his life. He was very grateful to my older sister in particular for her support and care for both my parents which have been utterly consistent.

Living with father was something of a political roller coaster from Soviet-style Communist theory at the dinner table through the Mao Tse Tung years, and eventually the long lectures on South American liberation struggles and especially the social experiments in Porto Alegre, Brazil (the birthplace of the World Social Forum. Ed.). My father always believed “another world was possible” and was working on organising a Wellington Social Forum in the last days of his life. Although always an internationalist he was also very involved in local community politics from public health to water privatisation. It is impossible to name all his roles and causes but he was particularly engaged in the resistance to transnational takeover of our economy and in earlier years against capital punishment, racism and military involvement in Vietnam.

A Political Loner Who Remained True To A Marxist Analysis

He was politically reflective over the years and remained true to a Marxist analysis. His text book Marxism developed into an acknowledgement that each country would need to develop its own socialist solutions. He was in many ways a political loner who believed in collective action but had difficulty with people who didn’t meet his radical standard. As the child who has inherited the political role I admire his unwavering commitment to articulating his beliefs and working in and with the people’s media. He was on line and on air to the end and he never gave up. I am grateful for his legacy of political music and Irish charm, his copy of “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paolo Freire, and his endless critique of capitalism. I am also grateful that he took me to the soccer at the Basin Reserve, bought us chocolate every Saturday and learned to put my mother at the centre of his daily life. The boy from Freemans Bay was alive and kicking until September 23 when at nearly 85 he fell asleep peacefully and quietly, true to say he was lucky Jim. But we, his children, and many, many people who were touched by his life, vision and humanity will always miss him.

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