Challenged by the uncompromising content of my latest posting, “Capitalism Kills”, some readers of The Daily Blog, have challenged me to state my own beliefs. Accordingly, I have hunted out part of a presentation I delivered to the Labour Party Summer School held near Thames in January 2007. For all those who have been asking me to spell out what I stand for – this is my answer.
I BELIEVE that human societies arise out of need. The need for food and shelter, the need for intimacy, the need for nurturing, and the need for protection – both from natural dangers, and the aggression of our own species. To secure these needs, human beings must work, individually or collectively, but always with the ultimate purpose of keeping strong those innumerable threads that bind our communities into a functioning wholeness.
The source of fulfilment of these human needs is the natural bounty of the planet on which our species dwells. Human beings are but one of the countless life-forms which inhabit the Earth’s surface, and we share with them a fundamental dependency on the planet’s life-giving properties.
Alone among all the creatures of the Earth, humankind possesses the power to radically alter the fragile environment of its home. Such power bears with it an awesome responsibility: our own future, and the future of all other living things, depends upon our willingness to accept that what is possible is not always desirable. To ensure its survival, the human species must recognise the limits of its power.
In New Zealand, two peoples co-exist in differing states of awareness of the essential collectivism and dependency of human communities. The indigenous people possess a clear and poignant vision of humanity’s place in these islands. But the colonising peoples would not rest until the ideas and institutions of their respective cultures had taken root in New Zealand. To the extent they succeeded, the conflicts and contradictions of their homelands were also transplanted here. Resolving these conflicts and contradictions, and discovering the best means of prospering together, is the historic task of the two peoples fated to share these islands – Maori and Pakeha.
As a social-democrat I am dedicated to furthering in all aspects of my country’s social, political and economic organisation the essential equality of human beings. Social-democracy defines equality in terms of the universality of human need. Old or young, male or female, Maori or Pakeha, we are all defined by the human and ecological relationships indispensable to our existence. None of us live but by the bounty of nature and the collective exertion of our fellow human beings.
That being so, we must reject all claims hostile to the reality of our interdependence. Individuals and groups who through inherited advantage or simple good fortune are endowed with disproportionate wealth and resources, enjoy their property on the sufferance of that vast majority whose daily labours make possible a functioning society. Only for as long as, in the judgement of the many, the accumulation of property by a fortunate few serves the interests of the community as a whole, will the private control of wealth be permitted to endure. Any attempt by a minority to transform this dispensation into a system of permanent and unchallengeable privilege cannot be deemed just.
As a social-democrat I look to the state, as the institutional expression of our interdependence, to secure for all citizens a healthy and abundant life. The provision of gainful employment, education, health, housing, and the guarantee of protection against the arbitrary curtailment of the citizens’ capacity, individually, to determine freely, within the constraints imposed by their interdependence, how best to pursue their own happiness, are rights due to all New Zealanders. Political institutions and the laws they create exist to secure these rights, drawing their authority from the freely given consent of all responsible citizens. Those charged with governing our country, hold in trust the resources – both natural and social – that are the common property of all our people.
Being a social-democrat, I cannot countenance the arbitrary dispersal of the New Zealand people’s resources, nor the slow fragmentation and dilution of their rights. Neither will I surrender the sovereignty of my nation to the interests of foreigners. Though the fundamental kinship of all human beings is indisputable, New Zealand’s destiny, finally, must be the enterprise of New Zealanders alone.