New Zealand Socialist Party

Last updated
New Zealand Socialist Party
Founded28 July 1901
Dissolved1 July 1913;106 years ago (1 July 1913)
Merged into Social Democratic Party
Ideology Marxism
Political position Left-wing

The New Zealand Socialist Party was founded in 1901, promoting the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The group, despite being relatively moderate when compared with many other socialists, met with little tangible success, but it nevertheless had considerable impact on the development of New Zealand socialism. It later merged in 1913 with a faction of the United Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party.

Karl Marx German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist and journalist

Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

Friedrich Engels German communist political theorist

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, communist, social scientist, journalist and businessman. His father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford, England and in Barmen, Prussia.

Socialism in New Zealand

The extent to which socialism plays a part in modern New Zealand politics depends on which definitions of socialist are used, but few mainstream politicians would describe themselves using the word "socialist". The term "social-democrat" is more common, but the more general "left-wing" or "centre-left" are used far more frequently. New Zealand has a complicated assortment of socialist causes and organisations. Some of these play a considerable role in public activism—some commentators claim that New Zealand socialists are more prominent in causes such as the anti-war movement than in promoting socialism itself. Other groups are strongly committed to radical socialist revolution.



Delegates to the fourth annual conference of the New Zealand Socialist Party, held in Dunedin in 1911. New Zealand Socialist Party, fourth annual conference.jpg
Delegates to the fourth annual conference of the New Zealand Socialist Party, held in Dunedin in 1911.

The party was founded by members of the 'Clarionettes', a group of about 190 English Socialist immigrants recruited through William Ranstead's weekly publication. The original goal was to establish a socialist colony, though the colony was never organised. The Wellington branch of the party was founded on 28 July 1901, and the Christchurch branch in January 1902. The initial members were followers of Robert Blatchford's works. [1]

Wellington Capital city of New Zealand

Wellington is the capital and second most populous urban area of New Zealand, with 418,500 residents. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Wellington is the major population centre of the southern North Island, and is the administrative centre of the Wellington Region, which also includes the Kapiti Coast and the Wairarapa. It is the world's southernmost capital of a sovereign state. Wellington features a temperate maritime climate, and is the world's windiest city by average wind speed.

Christchurch City in South Island, New Zealand

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand's third-most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington. The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks.

Robert Blatchford British writer and activist

Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford was an English socialist campaigner, journalist, and author in the United Kingdom. He was also noted as a prominent atheist, opponent of eugenics, and English nationalist. In the early 1920s, after the death of his wife, he turned towards spiritualism.

Some of the most prominent leaders of the party were English-born Frederick Cooke [2] and Ted Howard. Visitors from England were Tom Mann in 1902 and 1908 and Ben Tillett in 1907. Robert Rivers La Monte from America was (briefly) an organiser for the party: he was a member of the "Wobblies": the IWW Industrial Workers of the World. [3]

Frederick Cooke (socialist) New Zealand tailor, socialist, trade unionist

Frederick Riley Cooke was a New Zealand tailor, socialist and trade unionist.

Ted Howard (politician) New Zealand politician

Edwin John (Ted) Howard was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party, and the father of cabinet minister Mabel Howard. He had been a prominent member of the New Zealand Socialist Party, a precursor to the Labour Party.

Tom Mann organiser and public speaker in the labour movement in England and Australia

Thomas Mann (1856–1941) was an English trade unionist. Largely self-educated, Mann became a successful organiser and a popular public speaker in the labour movement.

By 1903, Robert Hogg was publishing a party journal called the Commonweal in Wellington. The party was not prolifically active and stood no candidates at the 1902 election. The party received new vigor with the entry of several radical unionists from Australia including Paddy Webb, Bob Semple, Michael Joseph Savage and Harry Holland. [1]

Robert Hogg (New Zealand politician) journalist, chairman of the New Zealand Socialist Party

Robert Hogg was a New Zealand socialist politician, journalist and poet.

1902 New Zealand general election

The New Zealand general election of 1902 was held on Tuesday, 25 November, in the general electorates, and on Monday, 22 December in the Māori electorates to elect a total of 80 MPs to the 15th session of the New Zealand Parliament. A total number of 415,789 (76.7%) voters turned out to vote.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 26 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

By 1908 the party was tested by the Blackball miners strike and membership had increased to 3,000 by April of that year. Also that year the Socialist Party held its first national conference in Wellington. [1] Many of the early leaders were from the UK and Australia were radical ideologies were not uncommon among political parties, but were seen as out of touch in New Zealand were more moderate platforms were the norm. As such the party failed to gain much traction. [4]

Blackball, New Zealand Place in West Coast, New Zealand

Blackball is a small town on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, approximately 29 km from Greymouth. Elevation is approx 100 meters. The town was named after the Black Ball Shipping Line, which leased land in the area to mine for coal.

A different group, the Socialist Party of New Zealand, was founded in 1930 and became the World Socialist Party (New Zealand).

The World Socialist Party of New Zealand (WSPNZ) is a revolutionary socialist and anti-Leninist political party in New Zealand founded in 1930 as the Socialist Party of New Zealand (SPNZ).


The Socialist Party had a very leftist platform. Its members possessed Marxian views of class struggle and advocated the overthrowing of capitalisation by way of political and industrial action. It was then to make way for "the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange." [5]

Election results



(independents) Labour Party

United Labour

Social Democratic

Labour Party (1916)
Election Restlts [6]
Electioncandidatesseats wonvotespercentage
1905 201940.04%
1908 502,5210.58%
1911 809,0911.90%

Related Research Articles

New Zealand Labour Party Major New Zealand political party

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; observers describe Labour as social-democratic and pragmatic in practice. The party participates in the international Progressive Alliance.

Communist Party of New Zealand

The Communist Party of New Zealand (CPNZ) was a Communist political party in New Zealand which existed from March 1921 until the early 1990s. Although spurred to life by events in Soviet Russia in the aftermath of World War I, the party had roots in pre-existing revolutionary socialist and syndicalist organisations, including in particular the independent Wellington Socialist Party, supporters of the Industrial Workers of the World in the Auckland region, and a network of impossiblist study groups of miners on the west coast of the South Island.

The Social Democratic Party of New Zealand was an early left-wing political party. It existed only a short time before being amalgamated into the new Labour Party. During its period of existence, the party held two seats in Parliament.

The United Labour Party (ULP) of New Zealand was an early left-wing political party. Founded in 1912, it represented the more moderate wing of the labour movement. In 1916 it joined with other political groups to establish the modern Labour Party.

The Independent Political Labour League (IPLL) was a small New Zealand political party. It was the second organised political party to win a seat in the House of Representatives, and was a forerunner of the modern Labour Party.

Harry Holland New Zealand politician

Henry Edmund Holland was an Australian-born newspaper owner, politician and unionist who relocated to New Zealand. He was the second leader of the New Zealand Labour Party.

Paddy Webb New Zealand politician

Patrick Charles Webb was a New Zealand trade unionist and politician.

Alfred Hindmarsh New Zealand politician

Alfred Humphrey Hindmarsh was a New Zealand politician, lawyer and unionist. He died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

Frederick Pirani New Zealand politician

Frederick Pirani was a New Zealand politician. He was Member of the House of Representatives for Palmerston from 1893 to 1902, first as a Liberal, then as an Independent. He was part of the Liberal Party's "left" (radical) wing.

David McLaren (politician) New Zealand politician

David McLaren was a Mayor of Wellington and Member of Parliament in New Zealand.

Francis (Frank) Thomas Moore was a New Zealand political activist.

Walter Thomas Mills New Zealand politician

Walter Thomas Mills (1856–1942) was an American socialist activist, educator, lecturer, writer, and newspaper publisher. He is best remembered for the role he played in the Socialist Party of America during the first decade of the 20th Century as one of the leaders of the organization's moderate wing. He also was a key actor in the labor movement of New Zealand as a founder of the United Labour Party in 1912. He returned to the United States in 1914 with the advent of World War I and worked unsuccessfully to keep the country out of the bloody European conflict, eventually leaving the socialist movement in the 1920s.

Robert Samuel Ross was an Australian socialist journalist, trade unionist, and agitator best known as the editor of a series of political magazines associated with the Australian labour movement in the 1890s and early 1900s.

Elijah Carey Waiter, trade unionist, soldier

Elijah John "Jack" Carey was a New Zealand waiter, trade unionist and soldier.

Moses Ayrton Methodist minister, socialist

Moses Ayrton was a New Zealand Methodist minister and socialist.

Socialist Labour Party (UK, 1903) British political party active 1903-1980

The Socialist Labour Party was a socialist political party in the United Kingdom. It was established in 1903 as a splinter from the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) by James Connolly, Neil Maclean and SDF members impressed with the politics of the American socialist Daniel De Leon, a Marxist theoretician and leading figure of the Socialist Labor Party of America. After decades of existence as a tiny organisation, the group was finally disbanded in 1980.

James Roberts (trade unionist) New Zealand trade unionist

James Roberts was a New Zealand trade unionist, politician and was president of the Labour Party from 1937 to 1950. He was called 'Big Jim' and 'the uncrowned King of New Zealand' in recognition of the considerable influence he wielded during the period of the First Labour Government over policy creation and implementation.

Labour Unity Conferences

In April 1912 and July 1913, two "unity conferences" were held to discuss and determine the future of organised labour in New Zealand. The events mainly centred around the debate over whether industrial action or political activity should be the means of achieving the aims of workers and additionally to unite the "moderate" and "militant" factions within the labour movement. Whilst neither conference fully unified the labour movement, it laid a framework of co-operation that would later assist during the creation of the current New Zealand Labour Party in 1916.


  1. 1 2 3 Brown 1980, p. 7.
  2. McAloon, Jim. "Frederick Riley Cooke". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  3. Bennett 2004, pp. 64,65.
  4. Brown 1980, p. 11.
  5. Brown 1980, p. 10.
  6. Paul, J.T. (1946). Humanism in Politics: New Zealand Labour Party in Retrospect. Wellington, NZ: New Zealand Worker Printing and Publishing. p. 38.