Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 36, No 11 May 30th, 1973
Values: The Political Wing of the Arrowmint Crowd
Values: The Political Wing of the Arrowmint Crowd
Salient: You've got poster of Che a Guevara on the wall there upside down. Why?
Brunt: Someone else did that. I think the poster belongs to a guy in the flat. We thought it was a little pretentious having it on the wall in the first place so we thought we'd turn it upside down. There's no great symbolic meaning to it.
Would it be fair to say that the campaign you waged last year was one which concentrated onto quote— "the quality of life rather than the quantify of life"?
That would be right.
How does that square off with the fact that in your election manifesto you set out an economic growth rate that is in excess of that the National Government had been achieving? Well we didn't... if you have a close look at the Manifesto. We suggested that perhaps a small growth rate might be necessary to stop the economy going into active recession. But we did advocate a stable economy once we've stabilised the population. What we did say there, I think, was — I'll go and get a copy........"It may well be desirable to couple zero population growth with a small economic growth rate of one percent each year if this is sustainable with a stable population and with the maintainance of a congenial environment." Now this was to stop the economy going into active recession because, of course, if you try and balance the national economy on the no growth borderline it's quite possible you could send it into recession through the reverse accelerator effect.
And how do you tie this in with the question of zero economic growth?
Ah, well, yeah, o.k., we, lets face it — we haven't done a tremendous amount of research into a stable economy, in fact no one anywhere in the world has. We held it up as an ideal and we said — it's only a fairly short section of the Manifesto: "There are many problems connected with a policy of planned zero economic growth" and obviously a hell of a lot more study has to go into this. And we say here it may well be desirable to have a small economic growth rate, after study has been done to see if its possible to have a stable economy or whether it's advisable, economically. As far as I'm concerned the ideal of the stable economy holds.
Wouldn't the effect of having a zero economic growth rate tend towards freezing social relations as they exist at the moment?
Oh yes, this is very important — not to freeze in social inequality and in fact we tried to get around this in our industrial relations policy with pushing for a greater degree of worker ownership, worker control of industry.
So that would be actual worker control as distinct from worker participation in decision making?
Ah, well... participation in Norway at least has lead to a de facto control. Seems to be very hard once you start enriching jobs — it's very hard to stop the movement.
Well, who then would you envisage owning the means of production — the workers who operate the means of production?
I don't think we should... it would be very hard obviously to make a total transition from a privately owned economy — or substantially — to a wholly publically owned one and I don't know whether I'm in favour of a rapid — I'm certainly not in favour of a rapid transition. I don't know whether I'm in favour in the long term of a gradual transition because I feel that the private enterprise system at the moment is the worst possible form of economic organisation except for all the rest. It seems to me that the socialist alternatives throughout the world aren't tremendous advertisement for public ownership. But I do feel there should be a substantial degree of worker ownership. Social Credit actually had that in common with us and they have quite a substantial part of their industrial relations policy devoted to it.
What it boils down to is you favour the retention of a capitalist mode of economic organisation but with a high percentage...
Yeah, that's right. In this way one would hope that you could stop the freezing of social inequality once you'd stabilised an economy. But don't forget that our proposal to stabilise an economy would follow a stable population, because obviously with an increasing population you'd need increased resources to maintain a steady standard of living.
That may be something we'll come on to — the aspect of zero population growth. But this question of the means of production and ownership of them. Why exactly do you favour — apart from what you cite as the bad example of socialist economies elsewhere — why do you wish to retain a capitalist mode of social organisation when you say it's the worst possible?
Because I feel that the costs of transition to a publically owned economy far outweigh the advantages. Let's face it, there would be tremendous opposition to it in New Zealand because I think most people are reasonably satisfied with the present system of a mixed economy.
How do you reason that?
Well.....there seems to be no widespread sentiment in the public — from what I can gather — for complete socialisation of the means of production in New Zealand. It's just an intuitive thing — I think overwhelmingly most people in New Zealand would agree with me. That's how I put it together.
It's just difficult to ascertain where you get your information from, given that the media, for example, is in the hands of those who have most to lose by the transition to a socialist economy.
It's just an intuitive thing coming into contact as I do with a lot of people in the course of every week, walking around, working. As it so happens at the moment I've got a labouring job — but none of my fellow workers at the moment have expressed an urgent desire for a socialist state in New Zealand. If it was reasonably widespread I would think I'd come into contact with it a number of times in a month. As it is I don't think I've come into contact with it among people I've met for quite some time.
Have your fellow workers come across with the view that they'd like to see zero population growth and zero economic growth?
No, they haven't.
One of the functions of the Values Party, then, is to educate people to this point of view?
Yes, that's right.
Might not the same be true of socialism?
As it so happens I don't agree, I don't agree, as I have said, with complete socialisation. Sure, there may be some people who want to educate people to accept full socialisation of an economy — good on them. As it is I feel the costs of the transition to socialism probably outweigh the benefits so I'm not particularly trying to educate the public to it. I do feel, as I've said, that there should be a substantial degree of worker ownership.
One of the most outstanding features of a capitalist mode of organisation is the element of competition which exists within it....
Presumably in your ideal situation that would remain and the result of that would be the holding out of materialistic incentives in a society which you would wish to concentrate on values?
Yeah, well we dealt with this in the Manifesto to a certain extent. Our policy section devoted to advertising for example in which we said we'd make advertising non tax deductable in order to double its cost and thereby discourage it. But the stable economy probably would involve depressing economic activity and perhaps competition through monetary and fiscal means — as indeed our economists do it at the present time when they feel an economy needs to be deflated to a certain extent to reduce inflation. They've got broad fiscal and monetary policies which have the overall effect of reducing economic activity and economic competition.
Would you agree that there's a significant difference between those who hire and fire and those who are hired and fired?
Yeah the ability to hire and fire.
Do you think, then that certain social consequences flow from these differing relations?
Well I guess basically I don't see society in class terms as many of the reporters on "Salient" apparently do and the way I look at society is not shaped by class interest, or what I perceive to be class interest, at all. I think New Zealand is a fairly egalitarian society with a fair degree of mobility within the social rankings. And I just can't relate to terms like—you know — employers and employees or—you know — the boss class, as "Salient" called it recently, and those underneath.
You do recognise there is a distinction here nonetheless?
Oh yeah, sure. But I don't see them as inflexible classes.
That leads to a point where many seem to find great difficulty with the whole Values approach. This question of social mobility — you seem to assume that everybody's living this affluent life and the need now is for everyone to turn to the quality of that life.
Yeah. I would say it would be an incorrect assumption to assume that the Values Party felt that everyone is leading an affluent sort of life. It's bloody ridiculous and I certainly don't agree with that. And that's why we have a social welfare — the supportive social welfare policy in our Manifesto.
What percentage of New Zealanders would you say were leading an affluent life — just at a generalisation?
I would say the overwhelming majority. I would say there's less poverty in New Zealand than in any other western country I would think.
Last year there were reports of kids in Auckland suffering from malnutrition, kids in Nelson I suffering from rickets.
Yeah, well, I've just said that I believe there's less poverty in New Zealand than in any other western country.
The average wage in New Zealand is somewhere around three and a half thousand per year.
That's more than what I'm getting.
How do you think the man with a family gets on with that?
Well, they seem to make do.
Yeah, they seem to make do but is making do sufficient to justify your telling them they should look to the quality of life. It just seems that what is happening is that you're telling people who live in depressed city areas, you're telling people who find it hard to make ends meet that now is the time to stop looking to the quantity of things and turn to the quality of things.
Yeah, well I think it's timely to do so because I think a greater number than ever are moving into a — or, you know. New Zealand society overwhelmingly now finds that its material needs are being met and I believe that there should be a political party addressing itself to the whole of the needs of the population. Now don't forget we did have a fairly active social welfare policy in our manifesto and I also, there was also the worker ownership thing which one would hope would lead to a redistribution — a greater degree of redistribution of income in New Zealand than we have at the present time. So probably in these areas we went further than Labour in fact did in redistributing income in the country as a whole.
Jack Tanner, in his article on the Values Party in the Latest "Monthly Review" stated that as far as the middle class is concerned the children are merely the extension of the parents' egos—they inherit their genes, they inherit their wealth, they inherit their respectability and so on. That being so it's relatively easy for middle-class, persons to accept the Values idea of Z.P.G. because children are not an integral part of the social milieu. For working class parents, though, the whole idea of having a family is part of the milieu, part of the way they operate, an integral part of their social existence. Therefore working class parents are not likely to be quite as happy about Z.P.G. How would you go about introducing it in the face of such a dichotomy?
Well, I'm well aware of that dichotomy, I'm well aware of the sentiments of people who do want to have large families. But I should stress that all the measures we outlined in our Manifesto were voluntary measures. There was nothing of a compulsory nature at all. Firstly, we wanted a widespread and thorough sex education programme in schools. Secondly, we wanted increased availability of contraceptive facilities within the country. And thirdly we desired a liberalised abortion policy during the first three months of pregnancy. All of which relate to voluntary measures.
Moving onto a different area — foreign relations. I understand that your Manifesto's approach was to say that New Zealand, under a Values Government, would maintain links with existing allies.
Yeah, that's right. Let's have a look at it. I'll read it out to you if you like. "The Values Party supports a more activist, and independent approach in foreign affairs while still maintaining close links with our traditional allies" — that's what we said.
As far as the quality of life is concerned on a Global scale: are you familiar with the figures put out by the United Nations in which the population of the world was compressed into one thousand people? Of that one thousand sixty earned an average wage of $3,200 a year page break and the other 940 earned an average wage of $22 a year. Of the $3.200 c year the sixty each earned something like $850 wet spent on defence, $87 on gambling, $54 on alcohol and $1.67 on the other 940 Yeah, yeah.
It seems that what you're advocating there is that New Zealand align herself with those nations which have remained tied to the orbit which produces these gross global inequalities and the Governments of South East Asia which seem to be quite prepared to let that situation be perpetuated rather than the Governments in South East Asia and other third world countries — or the movements in these countries — that are seeking to fight the exploitation that is going on.
Well, I prefer rather than severing relations altogether with these countries, working through their existing governments and thus maintaining diplomatic relations with them.
What would be your policy in relation to Vietnam for example. Would you recognise the P.R.G.?
I can't speak for the Party because I'm really acting Regional Coordinator for the Values Party. My personal point of view would be that there is a good case for recognising the P.R.G.
Would that imply that you'd wish to see recognition of the South Vietnamese Government withdrawn?
Yeah, I think, I think that's, that's certainly got a hell of a lot to commend it.
Would that policy be carried over into, say, Cambodia?
We're getting into deeper water here. Quite honestly I'm not as conversant with the situation in Cambodia as I am with other countries.
I couldn't really say.
Another area of questions, where geographically would be your strongest area of support?
Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, just going on mail lists. Auckland is as big as Wellington. Although I would think within the public itself Wellington's our strongest area.
Tanner levels the accusation that the Values Party members are more or less the political wing of the arrowmint crowd — they're a bunch of young technocrats who sit up on Kelburn heights and gaze down with a little Wellington view on the rest of society, project their own view on the rest of society, project their own effluence on the rest of society. Do you think that's unfair?
Yes I think it is. The membership of the Party is fairly diverse, certainly I don't think we're a bunch of middle-class elitists as a few people try to label us. It was rather interesting during the actual campaign that most Labourites were quite scared of the likely impact of Values. It wasn't until after the election where we polled quite well in Karon and Remuera that they pulled out the label of limousine liberals. I was rather interesting to see the change once the electoral results had come out. They were scared beforehand because they didn't apparently see us as a bunch of liberal elitists. Certainly Values is interesting in that its membership is schizophrenic. We've got a number of young — quite a lot of young activist people in the Party, many of them not activist—just sort of liberals. And we've got a fairly affluent older wing. It seems to me Values is rather interesting in that while other political parties might have a split between the old and the young. Values is the only party in which the young really have control of the party.
The idea of values — Values Party — does the word itself connote some distinction between the party and other political parties in terms of the way it operates — is it intended to mean an end to machine politics and so on?
To a certain extent yes, that's certainly what it was hoped it would try to symbolise during the election campaign.
What did you say your position in the party was at the moment?
Acting Regional Coordinator. We've got a full Regional Meeting next week — May 31, Thursday — at which we'll elect a coordinator and we'll also start from scratch on Regional organisation.
The region being Wellington?
Will you be standing?
I don't know—ah, well, put it this way, it's going to be nominations from the floor. There could be a number of nominations.
Apparently there's been some hassle about the fact that the meeting is being held on a date when a likely contender — that's Guy Salmon — is not able to attend.
That's purely coincidental. I didn't know about it until after we decided upon the date of the meeting.
Would it not have been possible to change the date of the meeting?
No, no. The date of this meeting was sent out in a previous newsletter. It wasn't until after the newsletter had gone out that I learned that Guy couldn't make it on that night and it was too late to close it, too late to change it because it had gone out to the full Wellington membership.
Do you think he would have stood for the position of Regional Controller had he been able to attend?
He can still if he likes. I won't be getting up—if someone nominates me, I won't be getting up and saying I'd be tremendous in the position. If someone likes to nominate Guy I guess they can do so.
You're not going to make any predictions as to the outcome?
No, I'm not.
This brings us to the whole leadership question. There were reports circulating before the Values Party Conference that certain sections of the party were disatisfied with your leadership, that they wished to get rid of you as leader. There were further suggestions that the rigamarole of doing without a leader was a political ploy organised to enable you to save face. What would be your comment on that?
I'd say rubbish, I had to fight to get that reform through. It was.....
But you stated yourself at the beginning — when it was first put up to you — that you weren't in agreement with it.
Oh that's right, yeah, yeah, I was totally opposed to the idea of doing away with a leader because I did think that like other political parties we needed a leader, Guy Salmon was the one who proposed it and we had quite an argument there. By the end of the argument, which went on for some time, he convinced me, or he almost convinced me, there wasn't a need for a leader. I reacted against the idea then Guy isolated what functions a leader did and then pointed out fairly persuasively, that these could be decentralised to the Regional level. It wasn't until fairly late in the day that I came round and the more I though it over in the days following the more I agreed with him. By the time of the Conference I was quite keen on the idea and in my opening speech advocated it. As for this report that there was quite an element there in party wanting to get rid of me, I would be completely unaware of this.
Well, given the fact that there's no national leader, given the fact that Wellington is both central and the Values stronghold, would it be safe to say that the Regional Co-ordinator in Wellington would be the de facto leader of the Values Party — especially if that happened to be you?
It's possible that in the media's eyes I would still be de facto leader, sure.
Would you be happy to allow the media to propogate that idea?
If I'm elected Regional Coordinator every press release that we got out under, over my name will, my particular position within this will be, at the bottom of the press release would be Wellington Regional Spokesman.
Is Guy Salmon at all upset about the date on which this meeting's being held?
Well, I heard through a third source that he wouldn't be able to come to the meeting so I rang him up and said that I was sorry. Everything was quite happy — there were no re-criminations.