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Massey to go the way of Saddam and lose statue?

Written By: - Date published: 5:16 pm, January 25th, 2008 - 11 comments
Categories: history - Tags:

massey160.jpgNew Zealand Labour movement activists will support Irish unionists – the political sort – who wish to remove Reform Prime Minister Massey’s statue from Limavady in Northern Ireland’s Derry County.

Massey is remembered without affection by trade unionists here for the mounted special police known as “Massey’s Cossacks” who were used to hunt down strikebreakers in 1913.

Auckland historian and ACT party member Dr Michael Bassett says removing Massey’s statue would be over the top because he was “not an extremist”.

However Bassett says in his biography of Peter Fraser that a colleague of Massey described him as “unimaginative as a clam … he goes his way guided by a hard, cold obstinate bigotry, which is proof against argument, entreaty, ridicule and the lessons of the past.”

Massey led the Reform party, the hard right group that led through Coates (equally unsympathetic to working people during the depression), and after the merger with United to form the National Party in 1936 to Holland, Brash and now Key.

It’s no surprise that Brash supporter Basset also judges him kindly but he sounds like an extremist to me. They never change.

11 comments on “Massey to go the way of Saddam and lose statue? ”

  1. The last line of that article and a direct quote from one of the local bog trotter politicos…

    “if multicultural politics involves destroying the history of a place, well then it has no future”.

    Smart comment….

  2. Peter Wilson 2

    Correct on all accounts, except for your assessment of Coates. Coates was fairly moderate, and can be reasonably credited with undertaking a number of the crucial reforms required to get New Zealand out of the Great Depression. Once he was able to push it past Forbes that is.

  3. DS 3

    Massey was probably the most rabidly reactionary of New Zealand’s prime ministers. He tagged the Liberals as evil papists, Labour as evil Bolsheviks, and was nutty enough to believe that the British were descended from one of the twelve lost tribes of Israel. He was also a union-buster extraordinaire, what with his brutal handling of the 1912 Waihi Strike and the 1913 Waterfront Strike. The Industrial Arbitration process during his era was also very much one-way in favour of the employer (there’s a Labour Party election leaflet from the 1920s showing Massey gleefully pulling the average worker through the ‘arbitration court mangle’, with the Employers Federation commenting “it’s great – he comes out thinner every time!”).

    And then there’s WWI, where he presided over conscription, and the jailing of pretty much the entire Labour Party leadership for sedition. After the war, he kept wartime censorship going, allowing him to persecute political opponents via a Red Scare (included in this persecution was a Catholic Bishop). And to top it all off, he broke the flu quarantine, bringing the Influenza Epidemic to New Zealand, and killing thousands of NZers in the process.

  4. chris 4

    During the widespread industrial action of 1913, 1900 North Island farmers, heeding the call by conservative Prime Minister, William Massey, volunteered as ‘Special Constables’ in Auckland.

    Dubbed “Massey’s Cossacks”, their role was to protect scab labour working on Auckland’s docks, and to break the waterfront strike. It appears that the Government saw it as an opportunity to ‘destroy its class enemies’.

    That same year, Auckland constables, upset at rates of pay and bad working conditions, had tried unsuccessfully to form a union. The Superintendent of Auckland Police refused to swear in the ‘Specials’, and was duly replaced.

    After forcibly taking control of the waterfront from the 14,000 protesters on November 8, the ‘Specials’ patrolled daily from their camp at Auckland’s Domain, across Grafton Bridge, and down Queen Street to the waterfront. They were armed with revolvers, batons, and axe handles.

    There were claims that 20 per cent of Auckland’s ‘Specials’ were King’s College Old Boys.


    I’m wondering if whale and his mates are Kings old boys.

  5. AncientGeek 5

    chris: It would fit – I believe that the school clings to old traditional ways.

    Doing things by rote, and using bigotry as a way of viewing the world are certainly very traditional.

  6. AncientGeek 6

    Just been reading about Massey..

    1966 Encyclopedia Of New Zealand
    Speech by Helen Clark on a book launch on the 1913 strike

    It is pretty apparent that the labour movement in NZ probably owes a great deal to Massey. His blatant over reaction, both in the 1913 strikes, and the jailing of the labour people for sedition during the first world war, probably forced the coalescence of the labour movement behind the NZ Labour Party. In effect by trying to defend against the rise of a class enemy of the freehold farmers, he helped to ensure their demise.

    I didn’t realise that Massey was the idiot who put our troops under British control during the first world war. The result of how our troops were used by the British imperialists like Massey (especially Gallipoli and Passchendaele) made sure that we didn’t make the same mistake in the second world war or later. Indeed our subsequent military history has been characterized by a determination to always have NZ control of NZ troops.

  7. AncientGeek 7

    For an alternative viewpoint – read The ten worst New Zealanders.

    It is funny, I disagree with almost all of the people on that list being there. John Bryce and Robert Logan should definitely be there. Both of them abused their positions to push personal agenda’s that had little morality or justification. Most of the rest is seems a bit wierd.

    I did like the comment from IceHawk:
    “Re conscription: WW2 and WW1 were different in many ways. Conscription in WWI in NZ was introduced not because we lacked sufficient numbers of volunteers. It was introduced because it was felt to be unfair that certain sectors of society were bearing too much of the burden (young white upper and middle class protestant twits were keener than the rest of us to die for King and Country). It was largely a class issue, though also partly a racial and religious issue – Maori and the Irish catholic immigrants weren’t generally as keen on dying for the English crown.”

  8. Daveo 8

    Seems to be a problem with your link Ancient.

  9. AncientGeek 9

    Yeah… Must have missed the paste.

    Try this

  10. Santi 10

    “It’s no surprise that Brash supporter Basset also judges him kindly but he sounds like an extremist to me.”

    What are your facts to call Michael Bassett an “extremist”?
    It it because his opposition to Labour? His books or newspaper column?

    He’s a distinguished historian and writer, so produce the facts before you launch into these sort of accusations.

    It seems your denigration of those who oppose the current socialist government knows no bounds.

  11. AncientGeek 11

    Yes he is a distinguished historian and writer, but with a distinct opinion. I’ve read a number of his biographies of people, and I read them like I read the economist – good facts with a known bias.

    I mainly remember him from the Lange’s “cup of tea” days where he was probably the most virulent opponent of slowing the pace of economic restructuring both inside and outside labour. I would have said that his tone was rather extremist.

    Have a look at some of things that other people say about him on …
    Gender based pay inequities
    Maori seats
    On brash losing the 2005 election

    That was from a few minutes looking through the net. There are a lot of people that find his opinions rather extreme on areas other then the labour party

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