World Socialist Party (New Zealand)
HISTORY OF THE WSPNZ
The voice of Socialism has been heard in New Zealand for over 70 years, and a Socialist Party has existed since 1930.
Socialist ideas (as we know them) came to New Zealand from Britain, Australia, and Canada around 1900. But those who endorsed the Marxist theory of the class struggle always were in a minority. Most politically-minded workers favoured instead the idea of a "Labour Party", a non-theoretical reform party supported by the trade unions. Would-be labour leaders did exist before, but it was only in 1916 that they united to form the New Zealand Labour Party.
One of its forerunners was the New Zealand Socialist Party, set up in 1901. This did have the merit of introducing the works of Marx, Engels, and Kautsky to the workers of Aotearoa, somewhat illogically alongside its reformist ideas.
As early as 1911 there were individual socialists: readers of the Socialist Standard from Britain, the Western Clarion (the then-journal of the Socialist Party of Canada), and the International Socialist Review from America, which urged workers to write "Socialism" across their ballot paper rather than vote for any pro-capitalist candidate. In 1912 some of these came together in the Petone Marxian Club, based on the principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which met regularly for over a year. The war, however, placed severe restrictions on socialist activity.
Conscientious objectors were hounded, and overseas socialist journals barred. It was not until 1918 that things got started again when in Christchurch the New Zealand Marxian Association, with the same principles as the Petone Club, was set up. Its members pledged themselves to "render political support to none other than a Marxian Revolutionist, endorsed by the New Zealand Marxian Association, at all elections of candidates for public office in New Zealand", a clear declaration of opposition to all other parties including Labour.
The Marxian Association, in which former members of the Socialist Party of Canada were active, made an impact in 1920
when Moses Baritz, whom they had invited to New Zealand, and who had (among other things) clashed with the Labour leader Harry Holland, was deported by the government.
It is a sad proof of the socialist contention that the Russian revolution put the clock back as far as the growth of the socialist movement is concerned that the Association ceased in 1922, and that it was not for another eight years that socialists in New Zealand organised themselves again. In 1930, former members of the Petone Club and the Association, with the help of seamen members of the Socialist Party of Australia, set up the Socialist Party of New Zealand, which has remained in existence ever since, now called World Socialist Party (New Zealand).
In 1935, the Labour Party won the election and was to rule for the next fourteen years. Needless to say, Labour administration of capitalism was no different from that of other parties. When the war broke out, the SPNZ issued a socialist anti-war statement which said there was "no cause at stake justifying the shedding of one drop of working class blood". As a result of this, there were police raids (under a Labour government which included several who had suffered for opposing the First World War!) on the homes of the Party's General Secretary and Overseas Secretary. They were warned that "holding these opinions is one thing, but expounding them could land you in jail." This did not prevent the SPNZ issuing a leaflet
for the 1943 election. The following year, the Party was again to have a journal, the Socialist Comment & Review, printed in Australia (the first printed edition of which appeared in December 1944, the government having with-held newsprint supplies till then.) This appeared until May 1948, and provided a useful vehicle for socialist propaganda.
Once again, the main opponents were the Labour and Communist parties. During this period, both Australia and New Zealand had Labour governments and the anti-working-class actions of both of them are documented in the columns of the Socialist Comment & Review. The Communists were easy meat as at that time, they were ultra-patriotic and advocates of increased production, at least until 1947 when it was decreed that "American imperialism" was the main threat to the British Empire, which seemed to upset them.
The only party in New Zealand to stand for Socialism is the WSPNZ, which, with the help of socialist literature from Britain and North America, carries on the struggle for world Socialism.
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Socialist Party (Auckland
branch), a part
of the World
P. O. Box 1929, Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand.