Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 8. 10 June 1970
1970 Social Credit Conference
1970 Social Credit Conference
The Social Credit Political League's Conference—tweedy, pipe-smoking and toothbrush-moustached—has now gone home. It opened, warned by political scientists and by the media that the League faced extinction as a political force. The Conference responded to this warning by electing as leader the senior Social Creditor who has consistently polled a lower vote than any other Party leader. No other positive step was taken. The factional infighting that preceded O'Brien's coup ("I will never let anyone in Party do what I did" he laid after his election) spilled over into the Conference. Mr Dempsey, the President elected on the O'Brien ticket, clearly owed his position to his ability to publicly savage the Cracknells. He kept up the savaging unnecessarily long after the Cracknells had crept back to Palmerston North to lick their wounds. And he possessed no other qualification for chairing a Conference—as the chaos of proceedings showed. O'Brien opened the box of factionalism, and he couldn't close it again. The League's three most competent bureaucrats, its Managing Secretary, Public Relations Officer and Research Officer all resigned—their reports to Conference were jeremiads about schism. Even if Cracknell does not form an alternative
Social Credit League, Social Credit could still disintegrate into two sectarian Douglas-quoting quarrelling halves.
The future of Social Credit lies solely in its new leader. He impresses journalists and television commenters, he initially possessed the support of fully three-quarters of the 1970 Social Credit Conference. But he has destroyed the existing organisation of the League and pulled away the props which kept the League's offices and newspaper as going concerns, He inherits a club of devotees to a dogma, who cannot satisfactorily define what they believe in, and continually dispute alternative definitions. He is pledged to procure for Social Credit a parliamentary balance of power in 1972, though he does not fully understand, on his own admission, the reasons why his Party lost Hobson. He has built into his Party a division between a 'political executive' and a 'national council' which can only accentuate tendencies to schism. As he told me in his Salient interview, he believes that simply by 'leadership' he can win the 1972 election. Only an honest neo-fascist could say this and mean it; O'Brien is not even an honest neo-fascist. Although his basic instincts are right wing and he is on record as stating the world is a tool of International Communism, he tries to give the League a mild left wing veneer for the sake of its 'image'. The result is yet another middle of the road politics—slightly more middle than most.
Social Credit, if it could escape from its economic theories, could be a viable party. But it shows no signs of abandoning its love affair with Major Douglas—even the Party's modernists have to quote Douglas in order to dismiss him-and this is not surprising considering the history and structure of the Party. It simply takes Labour's idea that economics are a dirty word to its logical conclusion: economics should be abolished. This is the view, in one form or another, of most members of the lower middle class. But it is impossible to displace the existing economic system except by a reactionary counter-revolution, and for this more is needed than lower middle class discontent. The Social Credit Conference demonstrated all too clearly that the lower middle class is incapable of any role of political leadership. The class, like the Social Credit Political League, is incapable of defining its distinctive economic objectives, and therefore incapable of defining distinctive political objectives. It borrows ideas indiscriminately from left and right, according to a Conception of bourgeois political expediency which parodies the real sense of the bourgeoisie. But its inclinations are to follow the group to which it attributes most strength: the right wing of the National Party, With the collapse of the League, which should be indisputable by 1972, its members should move, if the prejudices of its leader are any guide, to supporting the too conventional economics of Muldoon.
Let us realise that the rugged individualism of Social Crediters is more effective if it is welded into team action. To achieve our aim we must maintain unity of policy and effort because we have no choice but to fight the system on its own ground.
We regret that in the article-by Owen Gager on the Labour Party Conference published in our last issue, we omitted a paragraph which made it clear that the article took the form of a draft speech for the Deputy-Leader of the Labour Party. Sir Watt. As a result, Mr Gager appeared to be endorsing opinions which might have been those of Hugh Watt had he used the speech notes drafted for him by Mr Gager.