Independence and Foreign Policy: New Zealand in the World since 1935

By Malcolm McKinnon | Go to book overview

4. Independence and the postwar world order

The period 1944-46 is sometimes set alongside 1935-38 as a period of radicalism in New Zealand foreign policy. At the United Nations in particular, and also on colonial issues, New Zealand took stands, occasionally in conflict with British positions, which echoed pre-war initiatives. Close scrutiny reveals that, like the independence of the pre-war era, this independence did not present a radical challenge to New Zealand's place in the Commonwealth or the ' United Nations', as the alliance of wartime allies was known. Nor was New Zealand's stance in 1945-46 so different from its stance in the Cold War era that followed. Through both periods New Zealand foreign policy was aligned with that of Britain, which indeed now had a Labour government led by Clement Attlee, elected in July 1945 in the first British election in ten years. The difference lay in the orientation. Immediately after the war, dealing with the defeated enemy powers was a major preoccupation and therefore anti- Fascism was the focus--from 1947, relations with the Soviet Union were the major preoccupation and therefore anti-Communism came to the fore. But, as we have seen, Labour in power had a record of hostility to both Fascism and Communism.


Independence at war's end: the United Nations

The argument for Labour radicalism in 1945-46 revolves particularly around Fraser's activities in the United Nations. In the discussion and debate over the shape of the planned United Nations organisation, Peter Fraser played an active role. He wanted a strong United Nations, much as the Labour government had sought a strong League in 1936. When the draft for a postwar organisation, which had been drawn up by the great powers, was disseminated in August 1944, Fraser was critical because small states did not have enough influence. Berendsen told the British that the biggest failing of the draft was that the great powers had made 'no pledges, no guarantees and no undertakings'.1 Fraser argued his positions with the British both at the

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1
McIntyre, 'Peter Fraser's Commonwealth', p. 49.

-57-

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