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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 8. 10 June 1970

Salient Interview

page 5

Salient Interview

Photo of John O'Brien

John O'Brien was interviewed by Owen Gager during the Social Credit Political League's Conference in Wellington last month and shortly after Mr O'Brien had been elected leader of the League.'

The Social Credit Political League has had four leaders since it began. Would you think this makes for instability?

No. Those four leaders have all given Social Credit something that it vitally needed. Wilfred Owen gave it creation. Now if it hadn't been for a man like Wilfred Owen, we would never have established the League, He was a very, very strong, a very hard, a very firm man, and fortunately, of course, he was also a man of quite respectable financial means. Wilfred Owen established the League, and this was the contribution he made. The second man who came along was Bruce Matthews. This man was probably, well, to my mind, he is one of the greatest philosophers that I have ever met. He brought the philosophy of Social Credit into full flower. This was his contribution. No party can win on pure philosophy, it's got to be political. Now Vernon Cracknel), he gave Social Credit its first scat, its first taste of politics. Vernon by nature was an extremely conservative man. Having tasted politics Social Credit has got to have, to my mind, strong progressive, and aggressive, leadership. And I don't say this in the nature of one person, because the leadership now is different to what it has ever been. The leadership now is not vested in one man, it is one man leading a team. Call it a cabinet, call it an executive, call it what you like . . . it's not important. But you've got this team of men who are now going to build this image and this team will be your frontline troops, and this is what a reformed party, or any up and coming political party, must have. They're four natural steps in a reformed organisation. We have reached, I think, the last step in our progress to Parliament. It would not be necessary for the League to go through any more steps now to actually achieve political victory. They could find a better man than myself—possibly very easily, actually—and this would only be a question of improving on what they've got, that's all. There would not be any change. But those four men have each brought something which has been vital to our organisation as such.

You have suggested that the League failed in the last election because it didn't pay enough attention to Social Credit principles. Does this mean that you'll lay down other issues besides Social Credit economic philosophy?

No, no, not at all. I've been one of those people who have always insisted that we don't go back to Douglas, that we go forward with Douglas. We go back to our fundamental Social Credit. In other words, we give the people real Social Credit, instead of a sort of a watered-down, or apologetic Social Credit. It doesn't mean that we'll drop or abandon any other policies. The whole approach to politics, as I see it, must be broad and aggressive in every field. Our attack will actually be widened, it will be widened to cover more fields, and in all these fields well be precise. Now this is where we've fallen down badly in the past. We've become almost famous for the fact that we speak in vague terms, and this is no way for a reformed party to go places; it's got to be precise.

Mr O'Brien, I believe that you have spoken of Social Credit's economic policy as resembling that of West Germany and Japan . . .

No, I haven't spoken of Social Credit resembling West Germany and Japan. I've spoken of West Germany, or more particularly Japan, in terms of what I have called neo-social credit. The principle is the same; that is, that they make financially possible what is physically possible. Within the functioning of that system, of course, there are things which are very, very foreign to Social Credit. But the principle is right, that they make financially possible what is physically possible, and if one looks at Japan's fantastic growth rate, and Germany's fantastic growth' rate, since the war, one must see that they're doing something financially and economically which is "cry different from the rest of the world. And this is what we should be starting. And if we look closely at Japan, we'll find that the Japanese nation is using money as a means rather than let that money become the master of the nation.

Would you agree that a lot of people vote Social Credit in spite of, not because of, the economic policy?

I'm prepared to accept that the majority of our votes are protest votes, if this is what you mean. I think that one would be naive indeed to believe that most people who voted for Social Credit were Social Credit adherents, in the sense that they completely understood Social Credit.

What will you do to tie these protest voters closely to the League?

Well, the thing is that we're not going to tic any voters to Social Credit, unless we can give them leadership, and this is the key to it really. You can take any political organisation you like, except those that are motivated by an extreme philosophy, such as you would see in Communism . . . We have a philosophy, sure, and this is terribly important, but our way of life doesn't lend itself quite so much to the dramatic use of these philosophies, if you like to put it this way. Therefore, what we have to do, is to instil confidence in the people by showing that we can give them leadership, building confidence in them that we can do the job, we are going to do the job. Now, you're going to get protest voters anyway, until you become the majority party, then someone else becomes the receptacle for protest votes. I don't really mind why people vote for us. I'm just hoping that well get enough people to vote for us.

People have suggested, Mr O'Brien, that your image of Social Credit is as a radical party. Is this correct?

Only partly. Only partly. It's radical inasmuch as it's a reform party anyway. Yes, but not radical, in a generally accepted sense, I wouldn't be inclined to think so. I think it must use a radical approach, but 1 don't see that it is strictly what you'd call a radical party. It's radical in the sense that it's a reform party.

Other people have said that yours are radical right-wing views ...

No. 1 wouldn't be inclined to think so. Throughout the whole world there's this tendency towards more and more of what you might call a socialised state. Even in countries such as America—which is what you might call the home of capitalism—we see more and more tendency towards state control, state administration, state domination. Social Credit is, fundamentally, based on a private enterprise structure, and I don't mean this in a monopoly sense, either, because we're opposed to monopolies, so that in itself eliminates the right-wing. We're concerned primarily with individual people having the right to own and work as much as possible for themselves. And this incorporates the principle of the industrial co-operative.

Well if Social Credit is not a radical party, and not an extreme right-wing party, it must be a centre party. Would that be a correct analysis?

Well, you'd have to tell me we're the centre of what.

Well, you stand between the left and right.

An extreme left and extreme right?


I would say that Social Credit takes the best of both, and adds more. It does incorporate. Take for example, the productive system; there is no question that the capitalist system of production is the finest in the world. Now the purpose of production, or the purpose of industry, is to produce. And this is its function, the sole reason for it. So we believe, we constantly point out, give industry its head, now this tends to, say, perhaps, lean to the right. On the other side, the capitalist system as it is known today makes no provision whatsoever for consumption. It lives by the axiom that if you don't work you don't cat. Now this of course is completely contary to Social Credit. We say that it is the function of government to ensure and to assist and to make the necessary provision for people to consume what has been produced. This tends, I think, to leave in most peoples' minds the idea of the benevolent sort of state, which, if you like to put it in that context, would tend to swing towards the left wing. So that we draw the best from the left, the best from the right, and we add our own philosophy in the middle that the individual right of the person to own, to work for himself, to share in the ownership of industry and so on and so forth.

How would this affect policy on other issues? In foreign policy, for example, do you support a policy of non-alignment?

I think that this would be very consistent with our policy, certainly very consistent with our philosophy, this policy of non-alignment. Take for example, the Vietnamese issue, well, we have been involved, 1 believe, purely for the sake of the American market. We have been involved in a military situation to which there is no military answer because it is not a military problem. All that we're doing is killing off an awful lot of people who are not really responsible for the whole situation anyway. And we're not making friends for ourselves in South-East Asia. We're not making friends for ourselves anywhere in the world except the armament makers and the money-lenders.

What do you have to say about the Rhodesian question?

As far as the Rhodesian issue is concerned, our first responsibility is to put our own house in order. We hear a lot from one side, we hear a lot from another side, and I don't think that Rhodesia is any of our business, until we've settled our own problems here, and a lot of these are racial too.

What sort of race-relations policy would you advocate?

A policy of non-hypocrisy, starting right here in New Zealand and its dependent territories.

Would you advocate a change in immigration policy?

Our immigration setup actually is something that must be sort of looked at. Immigration has been used for various means. It's been used to sort of, in some respects, assist industry. There are tremendous numbers of injustices in the way that we see immigration used. I think myself that you must come back to a pretty basic sort of concept on immigration. What is the purpose of immigration? Do you want to have more people in your country? Do you want to have more people here to work, or are you trying to assist a country by relieving their population load? If you have a specific reason for bringing in people, and it's associated with one of these things, well, all right, fair enough, you select them. But if you're immigrating for the sole reason that you believe New Zealand should have more people generally, it needs more people, the basis must surely be the maintenance of your ethnic balance. This gives justice to all your people, be page 6 they Islanders, Europeans, Asiatics—it doesn't make any difference. On top of this of course, you may have to bring in specialised immigrants for specialised things but on a broad, just increasing population, basis I think that the adherence to the maintenance of an ethnic balance is just.

Photo of John O'Brien

I notice at your Conference there's a suggestion that at the last election Social Credit policy on State aid to private schools was unwise. Would you agree with this?

No, I wouldn't agree with this at all. Unfortunately this question is taken in isolation, and it should not be so. This tends to create a division between State and private schools and playing up what they call State aid to private schools tends to convey the impression that the private school is going to be assisted where the State schools' problems are not going to be solved. Now this is unfair. You cannot take them in isolation-they're part of a whole, and we've constantly pointed out that any contribution which we make into the private school sector would not be at the expense of the other, but would be proportionate. Both would move together; justice would be given to the State system as well. The current phrase I think is very adequate: we need more State aid for State schools.

Briefly, why do you think Social Credit lost the last election?

Because it didn't win the confidence of the people.

Do you see any particular reason for the result in Hobson?

No. This was just one facet of it. It was generally nationwide that the League did not as a political body—as a political vehicle, if you like to put it this way—give the people sufficient confidence, and unfortunately of course, our leader, Mr Cracknell, had to carry the weight of this, and it was felt mostly, I believe, in his own electorate. Vern has said himself that he was caught in the squeeze there, in Hobson. This may or not be. It could well be correct. I'm not really in a position to comment because I just don't know.

Since the election there's been quite a lot of controversy about rising prices. One would have thought this would have been grist to Social Credit's mill but Social Credit doesn't seem to have been very involved in the protests. Does it intend to be in the future?

Very, very much so. Following the election, of course, people in positions of comment, if you like to put it that way, dismissed Social Credit and said that it was dead and dying. Well, I made up my mind that people were not going to be given this impression at all. And I had commented myself and made quite a number of press statements on this question of rising prices. We'll be doing a great deal more on this one—but at the present point of time our policy has been vague, and this has been one of our problems. Our policy is far too vague and this is one of the things that I will be asking this Conference to attend to: to give us more precise policies. I hope that we'll get them over this weekend so that we can go straight into this question of rising prices and rising costs and hammer specific points that should be done, call on the Government to do it, call on the opposition to support me, and in other words, throw the ball into their court and force them to play it one way or the other if we possibly can. In regard to industrial disputes, again here we plan that we'll bring forward specific policies. We'll take them to the Federation of Labour, we'll take them to employer organisations, we'll take them to the Government, we'll take them to the opposition, we'll take them, of course, to all forms of news media. And this is going to be the line that we're going to follow. There'll be no more putting a press release out and leaving it at that. We're going to hammer our policies, and do it the hard way, and we're going to hawk them.

Now on youth policy, how far do you think Social Credit will take its policy of lowering the voting age to 18?

I don't think that this is really important, myself. Our policy has been of course, that we would lower the age to 18, but we can't of course do anything about it until we do become the Government. I don't see that it's of any advantage to us to be constantly hammering this one. I think the problems that young people face are far greater than whether or not they're going to get a vote at the next election or at the following election. And I think that these are the problems that we should be dealing with. Attract young people to Social Credit for what Social Credit is, rather than for the fact that when we do become the Government they're going to get a vote at 18. Well they won't be 18 then anyway.

You've described one youth organisation—The Progressive Youth Movement—as "a fascist organisation". Would you care to elaborate on that?

I think the word "fascist" here was incorrectly used. I regard the PYM as merely an outwards expression of what is felt inside so many other people. I've talked to a lot of people about this and I've said to them "All right, you don't agree with what the PYM do, but you must agree that on a thousand occasions you've felt like doing what they were doing, and but for the lack of courage you would have joined them." And in most cases people will smile and say, "Well, yes, hat is right." So I think that we've got to look at it from another point of view, and if you ask yourself the right question of course, you'll always get the right answer. Why this external expression? Why this opposition to the establishment? It's only a reflection of the simple fact that people, and particularly young people, have little or no confidence in die establishment—of government, of authority—because they see the sheer hypocrisy and dishonesty that exists in the whole system. We can't blame them. This comes back to a point that you mentioned earlier about this question of fascism. And let's face it—we're educating these young people growing up. We're teaching them to think for themselves. We can't blame them if they look at our institution of government and they say this thing is dishonest, the Members of Parliament are not honest people. Now what other means do they have in a western country bar take to the streets with placards? Perhaps in some of the less fortunate countries they'd take to the jungle with machine guns. We thank our lucky stars that the PYM only arm themselves with placards.

Would you have any specific policy on university affairs?

This is one that we've got to have a complete look at. I do honestly believe that we must now, at this point of time, because of this new technological age that we've moved into, have a complete re-look, if you like, at our whole university structure. Personally, I think that we must start off by asking ourselves the important question "Have universities, as they exist, fulfilled their functions in the course of time?" We have a tremendous number of people going through university who leave there equipped to do—and I would say, "what?" And this tremendous sense of frustration that exists in these people, it's bad, it's bad in a person. So we must look at the whole of education again and start off with the person. What does a person want to be as a person? What sort of education must we provide to bring this person to this state, rather than adding to an education system, that I think is probably in drastic need of overhaul from top to bottom.