New Zealand Socialist Party

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New Zealand Socialist Party
Founded28 July 1901
Dissolved1 July 1913; 105 years ago (1 July 1913)
Merged intoSocial Democratic Party
Political positionLeft-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.


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]

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]

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]

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]

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


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[edit]

Election Restlts[6]
Election candidates seats won votes percentage
1905 2 0 194 0.04%
1908 5 0 2,521 0.58%
1911 8 0 9,091 1.90%


  1. ^ a b c 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.
  • Brown, Bruce (1962). The Rise of New Zealand Labour: A history of the New Zealand Labour Party. Wellington: Price Milburn.

External links[edit]