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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 6 6 May 1970

The Democratic Society

The Democratic Society

The Democratic Society was founded in 1965 by Wellington businessman Fairlie Curry, and grew out of an earlier body, the Anti-Communist League, which had become defunct. Curry, who stood for the National Party in the Island Bay electorate in 1960 and 1963, said at the time of the Democratic Society's formation that he believed that well-organised groups of political extremists, whose aim was to supplant the present democratic system with totalitarian government, were working in New Zealand. "Members of these groups have infiltrated the Public Service, local government, and the trade unions", he said.

The Society campaigned for members through press advertisements, meetings, leaflets and public statements. On 27 November 1965 they staged their first demonstration. About 20 members, with an old truck, placards and a loudspeaker, demonstrated against a Vietnam protest outside Parliament. The following February, the Society organised a further counter-demonstration, this time on the occasion of the visit of US Vice-President Humphrey. Key man in this protest was a young Wellington publisher. Bill Horne, whose suburban giveaway Metropolitan espoused a virulently right-wing political line. This protest took on a rather unpleasant note, and at one time nearly degenerated into a fight. Shortly after this Horne broke with the Society and left Wellington, his newspaper and a nightclub venture having both failed leaving substantial losses.

The Democratic Society faded from the protest scene a little at about this time. On its own figures, its supporters numbered about 100, and its active membership was from 50 to 60. At its 1966 annual general meeting 27 attended.

The Society then turned its attention to press statements, pamphlets, and meetings. Truth and South Pacific News Service (which supplies feature to New Zealand provincial dailies) gave the Society sympathetic coverage. Said Truth's Kevin Sinclair: "Fairlie Curry is a tough man with a tough assignment. He has declared war on Communist infiltration in New Zealand. And it is a war he expects to win." Said South Pacific's John Newport "A short, stocky, balding army veteran is at war again—this time against the Vietniks and the spreading threat of communism in this country."

The publicity was good—but it was no match for performance. A further counter-demonstration announced for President Johnson's visit drew wide press coverage—but was canceled when Curry realised that embarrassingly little support was forthcoming. He later admitted that the publicity given was out of proportion to the Society's size.

A pamphlet Communism and the Churches was produced and distributed. Then, in August 1966, the Society promoted a public meeting in Wellington to be addressed by Canada's leading spokesman of the right, Ron Gostik. Mr Gostik, whose position closely parallels that of Eric Butler in Australia, was to speak on Vietnam. On arrival he proved to have Mr Butler in tow, and the two addressed the Society's meeting. Supporters and opponents were there in equal numbers, and the discussion was fierce.

After this the Society faded completely. It was not radical enough to enjoy the support of the ultra-right (Curry and other Society members were at pains to dissociate themselves from Butler's background when it later became known), and too dependent on a philosophy of opposition to left-wing ideas. Many who might have been expected to support its Vietnam policy found expression of their views through the National Party, and Curry continued his loose association with that Party throughout the period of his involvement in the Democratic Society. And, of course, he stood as National Party candidate for Island Bay in 1969.