United Labour Party (New Zealand)

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United Labour Party of New Zealand
Founded7 April 1912
Dissolved7 July 1916;103 years ago (7 July 1916)
Preceded by Labour Party (1910)
Succeeded by Labour Party
Ideology Social democracy
Political position Left-wing
International affiliation International Socialist Bureau [1]
Colours     Red

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.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. It has a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

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.



The United Labour Party has its origins in the first Labour Party, a distinct organisation from the modern one. The first Labour Party had been established in 1910 after the perceived failure of its predecessor, the Independent Political Labour League. The Labour Party represented the moderate wing of the labour movement, with the Socialist Party representing the more radical faction.

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.

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.

Initial unification

By 1912 there was growing recognition that the division of the labour movement was costing votes, and a "unity conference" was called. The Socialists and the associated Federation of Labour (the "Red Feds") refused to attend, however, saying that they would continue to advocate their more hard-line positions. As such, the Unity Conference consisted only of the Labour Party, various moderate trade unions, and independent labour candidates. [2]

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.

At the conclusion of the conference, it was agreed that the Labour Party, the moderate unions, and a number of independents would together form a new party. The new group was called the United Labour Party. The outcome of the conference was slightly disappointing for its organisers, as it had been hoped that the Socialists would join, but hopes for the new party were nevertheless high.

Later the same year, the Waihi miners' strike occurred. The labour movement was split, with hard-liners praising the strikers and moderates condemning the action as dangerous and misguided. The United Labour Party took the latter path, believing that cautious negotiation was more effective than militant action. The strike was eventually suppressed by the government of William Massey, with one miner being killed.

The Waihi miners' strike was a major strike action in 1912 by gold miners in the New Zealand town of Waihi. It is widely regarded as the most significant industrial action in the history of New Zealand's labour movement. It resulted in one striker being killed, one of only two deaths in industrial actions in New Zealand.

William Massey Prime Minister of New Zealand

William Ferguson Massey, commonly known as Bill Massey, was a politician who served as the 19th Prime Minister of New Zealand from May 1912 to May 1925. He was the founding leader of the Reform Party, New Zealand's second organised political party, from 1909 until his death.

The strike created much disunity in the labour movement, and many believed that active measures were necessary to bring the movement closer together. As such, another "Unity Conference" was called in 1913. This time, the Socialist Party was willing to attend. After extensive negotiations, it was decided that the labour movement should speak with a single voice, and that the United Labour Party and the Socialist Party should merge. The new party would be called the Social Democratic Party. The union elements of the United Labour Party would be merged with the Socialist-affiliated Federation of Labour to produce the new United Federation of Labour.

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.




(independents) Labour Party

United Labour

Social Democratic

Labour Party (1916)

Some members of the United Labour Party did not accept the decision to merge, however. Of particular concern to them was a clause in the Social Democratic Party's charter that obliged it to support strikes in certain circumstances. These members decided to remain outside the Social Democrats, and continued to use the United Labour label. They became unofficially known as the United Labour Party Remnant. The Remnant officially repudiated the more Marxist tendencies that the Social Democrats had inherited from the Socialist Party, and promoted arbitration as a better alternative to strike action. The Remnant considered itself to be vindicated when, later in the year, the Social Democrats were thrown into disarray by a heavy-handed government response to dockworkers' and miners' strikes. In the 1914 elections, the United Labour Party Remnant won three seats in Parliament, with the victorious candidates being Alfred Hindmarsh, Bill Veitch, and Andrew Walker while the Social Democrats won two seats, and a labour-aligned independent John Payne won another seat. [3]

A rump party is a political party that is formed by the remaining body of supporters and leaders who do not support a breakaway group who merge with or form another new party. The rump party can have the name of the original party, or a new name.

Marxism Economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

1914 New Zealand general election

The New Zealand general election of 1914 was held on 10 December to elect a total of 80 MPs to the 19th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Maori vote was held on 11 December. A total number of 616,043 voters were registered, of which 84.7% voters turned out to vote.

Creation of the present Labour Party

Despite the differences between the United Labour Party Remnant and the Social Democrat Party, the two worked together in Parliament after the 1914 election. Alfred Hindmarsh of the United Labour Party served as the leader of the six labour-aligned MPs. [4] Gradually, this increased co-operation caused the ULP Remnant and the SDP to conclude that full unification was not impossible, and in 1916, the two finally came together (along with various independents) to form the Labour Party, which still survives today.

List of presidents


  1. Gustafson 1980, pp. 49.
  2. McLintock, A. H., ed. (22 April 2009) [First published in 1966]. "Labour Party". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand . Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Te Manatū Taonga. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  3. Hislop, J. (1915). The General Election, 1914. National Library. pp. 1–33. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  4. Paul 1946, pp. 70.

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