Democratic Labour Party (New Zealand)

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Democratic Labour Party
Abbreviation DLP
Founded 1940
Dissolved 1949;69 years ago (1949)
Split from Labour Party
Ideology Democratic socialism
Social credit
Political position Left-wing

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was a left-wing political party in New Zealand in the 1940s. It was a splinter from the larger Labour Party, and was led by the prominent socialist John A. Lee.

Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy. It typically involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others (prioritarianism) as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished. The term left-wing can also refer to "the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system".

The New Zealand Labour Party, or simply Labour, is a centre-left political party in New Zealand. The party's platform programme describes its founding principle as democratic socialism, while observers describe Labour as social-democratic and pragmatic in practice. It is a participant of the international Progressive Alliance.

John A. Lee New Zealand politician

John Alfred Alexander Lee was a New Zealand politician and writer. He is one of the more prominent avowed socialists in New Zealand's political history.


Party history

The Democratic Labour Party originated in the internal disputes within the first Labour Party government, which lasted from 1935 to 1949. The division was primarily between moderates, such as Michael Joseph Savage, Peter Fraser, and Walter Nash, and radicals like Lee.

Michael Joseph Savage first Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand

Michael Joseph Savage was a New Zealand politician who served as the 23rd Prime Minister of New Zealand, heading the First Labour Government from 6 December 1935 until his death.

Walter Nash New Zealand politician

Sir Walter Nash was a New Zealand politician who served as the 27th Prime Minister of New Zealand in the Second Labour Government from 1957 to 1960. He is noted for his long period of political service, having been associated with the New Zealand Labour Party since its creation.

John A. Lee John A. Lee.jpg
John A. Lee

Lee and his allies criticised the "cautious" approach taken by the party's leadership, and advocated a considerably stronger policy line. Lee's views were a mixture of conventional socialist theory and the social credit theory of monetary reform. He was also strongly critical of the Labour Party's internal structures, calling its leadership unaccountable and autocratic. MPs sympathetic to Lee’s credit ideas were Arnold Nordmeyer, Bill Barnard, Clyde Carr, Gervan McMillan and also Bill Anderton, Dan Sullivan, Gordon Hultquist and William John Lyon (Hultquist and Lyon both died while serving in World War II). [1]

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

Social credit is an interdisciplinary and distributive philosophy developed by C. H. Douglas (1879–1952), a British engineer who published a book by that name in 1924. It encompasses economics, political science, history, and accounting. Its policies are designed, according to Douglas, to disperse economic and political power to individuals. Douglas wrote, "Systems were made for men, and not men for systems, and the interest of man which is self-development, is above all systems, whether theological, political or economic." Douglas said that Social Crediters want to build a new civilization based upon "absolute economic security" for the individual, where "they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid." In his words, "what we really demand of existence is not that we shall be put into somebody else's Utopia, but we shall be put in a position to construct a Utopia of our own."

Monetary reform

Monetary reform is any movement or theory that proposes a system of supplying money and financing the economy that is different from the current system.

In 1940, after a long period of rebellion against the Labour Party leadership, Lee was finally expelled from the party. He quickly moved to establish the Democratic Labour Party. One other MP, Bill Barnard, joined him [2] as well as former Labour MP Horace Herring and at least one other, Rex Mason, gave serious consideration to joining. Former MP John Payne was also sympathetic.

Bill Barnard New Zealand politician

William Edward Barnard was a New Zealand lawyer, politician and parliamentary speaker. He was a member of Parliament from 1928 until 1943, and was its Speaker from 1936 till 1943. He was known for his association with John A. Lee, a prominent left-wing politician.

Horace Herring New Zealand Member of Parliament

Horace Edgar Herring (1884–1962) was a New Zealand Member of Parliament for Mid-Canterbury. Born in England and a mechanical engineer and draughtsman, he came to New Zealand in 1909.

Rex Mason New Zealand politician

Henry Greathead Rex Mason was a New Zealand politician. He served as Attorney General, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education, and Minister of Native Affairs, and had a significant influence on the direction of the Labour Party. He was one of New Zealand's longest-serving MPs, sitting for over 40 years.

When Savage died, Fraser was tipped to succeed him as Prime Minister. During the ensuing leadership election, two of his dissident opponents, Gervan McMillan and Clyde Carr were Lee sympathizers. Even those openly loyal to the party were divided. [3] However, Fraser did win and Labour stayed on its moderate platform for his decade long spell as party leader. [4]

Before long, however, internal tensions developed in the new party, with Barnard accusing Lee of behaving in an egotistical and autocratic manner this was ironic, considering Lee's criticism of the old Labour Party leadership on the same grounds.

In the 1943 elections, the DLP fielded 52 candidates including Lee, Keith Hay, Alfred E. Allen, Colin Scrimgeour (who stood against Peter Fraser in Wellington Central) and Norman Douglas. They were all defeated. [2] The DLP candidate for Auckland East, F.O. Leo Steve Dromgoole (RNZAF) got Captain Paul Lenihan (USMC) to drop election leaflets from a C-47 on a “test flight” over Auckland and Devonport on 22 September [5]

Barnard stood for re-election as an independent rather than a DLP candidate, but was also defeated. The Democratic Labour Party received only 4.3% of the total vote, and ceased to exist in 1947. [2]

The party did not stand any candidates in the 1946 general election, but Lee again stood as a DLP candidate in the 1949 general election for the Grey Lynn electorate and got 2,627 votes, coming third.

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  1. Bassett, Michael (2000). Tomorrow Comes the Song: A life of Peter Fraser. Auckland: Penguin. pp. 172, 182–4. ISBN   0-14-029793-6.
  2. 1 2 3 McLintock, A. H. (1966). "DEMOCRATIC LABOUR PARTY". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  3. Heydon, Susan. "McMillan, David Gervan - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  4. Beaglehole, Tim. "Fraser, Peter - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  5. Evening Post (Wellington) 24 September 1943 & Archives file R18871853

See also