GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – How I Became A Radical By Standing Still.


Anyone under the age of 45 will not remember the New Zealand in which I grew up and was educated. Perhaps more to the point, I find many of my fellow Kiwis simply do not know that ours was once a socialist country and folk who have immigrated to our shores over the last four decades have begun their new lives in a very different society to the one I was brought to by my parents in 1956.

The New Zealand Government of the 50s and 60s saw it as their duty to make sure that as a child and then youth growing up in Aotearoa that I had healthy food to eat, a warm, dry, affordable place to call home and a virtually free education up to and including university. All of which gave me a huge start in life, free from student debt, for which I will always be grateful.

As part of my 2011 documentary Inside Child Poverty (which is available to watch for free on this site), I worked with the brilliant political cartoonist Tom Scott to create a brief watchable history of how we changed from a WE society into a ME society.

So today I thought it might be useful to post that clip for those of you who don’t know that New Zealand was once governed in a very different way.

From time to time I am accused by commentators on the political right of being a radical leftie journalist. My hope is that by watching the attached clip you might understand why the words of the English playwright Alan Bennett, railing against the changes he had witnessed in society since the Thatcherism of the 1980s, have resonated with me ever since I read them.

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“One has only had to stand still to become a radical.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am not nostalgic for the past. There were attitudes we thought once thought were acceptable that I am delighted to have seen the back of – strapping and caning children, imprisoning gay men, denying work, promotional and aspirational opportunities to women simply on the basis of gender.

But I do think that since the introduction of the Neoliberal “economic reforms” of the 1980s and 90s, New Zealand has forgotten that the purpose of an economy is not to make a few people very wealthy at the expense of the many, but to create the greatest good, for the greatest number of its citizens over the longest period of time.



Bryan Bruce is one of New Zealand’s most important and respected documentary makers. His work is available on


  1. “New Zealand has forgotten that the purpose of an economy is not to make a few people very wealthy at the expense of the many, but to create the greatest good, for the greatest number of its citizens over the longest period of time.”
    Ain’t that the truth – and, sadly, how far we have wandered from the path of Michael Joseph Savage, Peter Frazer and Norman Kirk!

  2. That why I say vote ‘TPM’ that has a collective socialist approach unlike ‘ACT’ who champions individualism capitalist anti-socialism policies.

    • I sometimes wonder if Seymour actually understands the impacts of the policies he champions. He often appears much like the possum in the headlights when questioned deeply about the impacts of neoliberalism – able to spout some of the benefits for the some but never being able to articulate how neoliberalism is good for the many. The truth, whether he know or accepts it, or not, is that this damaging set of policy imperatives only serves the relatively wealthy of the population it ‘serves’ and the rest can eat cake.

      • ” He often appears much like the possum in the headlights when questioned deeply about the impacts of neoliberalism – ”
        You’re onto it.
        Deep questions like,
        Question: Why Little Dave do you want to stick the shiv into annihilating ‘ customary law ‘ of governance  in contradiction to your scholastic Libertarian Superiors’ views , such as Van Notten’s ?


        A) NZ journalists aren’t that deep
        B) It’s Science Fiction Ideology and there’s as many rationale by David as there are imaginations.
        C) David’s not that deep just an android puppet
        D) Pick and Choose values for Power

      • Seemore is just a quirky puppet. Someone’s hands are up his vitals and he squeaks on demand.

    • ” There is no such thing as society ” Margaret Thatcher. We are merely tax payers and consumers. Citizenship? What’s that?
      Community, mutual aid and benevolence are hindrances to profit and the accumulation of wealth for those able to.
      The state does not represent the all but only the market to make more profit.
      If your country falls apart because not invested in there’s always another country to move to with your riches!
      Don’t build state houses support private wealth by capital gain by subsidising landlords. Resultant house price increases another wealth opportunity! 🙂

      Some of the me me is good policies of neoliberalism. Ordinary workers are a necessary cost of your wealth pursuit.
      do everything you can to enrich your fellows like foreign banks and privatising the people’s assets. Employ private advice rather than nut it out yourself they charge heaps more!

    • Sorry Mr. Seymour, there is WE or there is nothing. You will create a NOTHING. A desert.

      Bryan is right, you realize you have become a radical leftie just by getting older.
      The world of Atlas Seymour forgets that people aren’t economic units, we are people. We are what the economy is there for. We created the economy for US, WE New Zealanders. That’s why so many people want to live here, because our forefathers created a pleasant fair land which is the envy of the world.

      Seymour has been brain-washed with ideas from abroad. He’s fallen prey to grandiose propaganda spread by people who have so much wealth it’s unhealthy, for them and for everyone. He’s being used by those people to make NZ vulnerable to a hostile takeover.
      There’s nothing ‘radical leftie’ about disagreeing with that plan. It’s simple survival. Many people need a hefty dose of our radical leftie-ism, so they are to be able to grasp what will happen, before it’s too late.

  3. But which political party isn’t strongly wedded to Neo-liberalism? And who will make the changes required?

  4. Growing up in NZ prior to 1984 young people didn’t realize they lived in a socialist economy. It was black and white you didn’t live in a communist planned economy you just lived in an economy. Occasionally someone would say “mixed economy” no one ever said “socialist economy”.

  5. Also remember that New Zealand’s ‘socialism’ of the time and huge wealth was obtained through imperialist plunder, as part of the British empire.

      • New Zealand had become the wealthiest country in the world by stealing Maori land being the farm of the Great Britain. White New Zealanders were simply the beneficiaries of British imperialism.

        Whereas Africans and Indians and Maori and Pacific Islanders were its victims.

        • It’s a good story – were one an agent provocateur.

          But the great majority of NZ land was not stolen.

          Our success in our early days of nationhood was quite broadly based – there was timber and coal and gum and flax and wool and whale oil. Maori even sold potatoes to the Australians.

          But by all means promote a dishonest narrative of victimization – the Uyghurs of course deserve to be wiped out by the superior Han – a different thing altogether.

        • Bullshit!!!! Maori SOLD the land. A pernicious LIE spread by whinging racists who have NEVER read any of NZ’s history.

        • I understood we got wealthy through a period of time when our wool was in demand for making into uniforms for fighters in an Asian war. And the market required and would pay for our mostly agricultural goods well. My Asian economic tutor woke me up when he told the class that no agricultural economy could ever become a solid, wealthy economy. Our wealth was temporary and agriculture was always just a commodity producer – we have sold off any advances in other more advanced industries.

    • You think that looking back at the 1970s and the average bloke(tte) getting a fair go with State Houses, free health care, subsidized food staples (milk & bread), cheap government mortgages for first home buyers, free primary and secondary education, school nurses checking kids eyesight and hearing, almost free tertiary education for all who passed UE, two day weekends for all, unlimited town water included in your rates, ACC, decent pay rates because bosses would be too ashamed if it was to be known they were paying themselves a pay rate five times more than their staff, was all due to British Imperialism and not the first Labour Government and Compulsory Unionism?

      Maori or Pakeha on the killing chain were paid the same.

      The nation was fairer and being fairer there was less inclination to crime.

      Sure there were no ethnic restaurants and opportunities for “contracting” but the whole nation was able to indulge in The Sport Of Kings.

  6. Yes – socialism, when progress was a measure of advancement for the common good, not that at the expense of it, was the way we were. But then, sadly, rather than proudly proclaiming our Socialism, cold war propaganda was allowed to disparage its principles and we were seduced into embracing Capitalism, a beast which perennially eats its children.

  7. I think I prefer the term ‘the decent society’ to socialism, which Americans are unable to read without frothing at the mouth. Certainly, had I a magic wand, none of Roger Douglas’s naked thefts of public property would survive.

    We have become a stupid, backward, and unproductive nation – mirroring the quality of our leaders.

  8. The days to which you refer there was relatively speaking very little financial demand on Government funded welfare.Since then there has been exponential growth in welfare funded by Government.

    • If you bothered to read Bruce’s well laid out and defined research it was neoliberalism as to the reason our economy is tanking. Greed of the rich is the biggest driver of economic inequality in our once brilliant country. Neoliberalism is responsible Bob the fister.

    • To achieve great wealth for a select few there also seems to be an essential requirement for dire poverty for the many… I wonder if there’s a connection..?
      The Kiwi criminal political elite which is every one of them except Chloe Swarbrick simply walked in, stole our shit, then walked out again while we went ” B’ hey! Tha’s not…. Hey! You’s! Hey! Come back an’ that. Jezz, whada cheek. Right! Time t’ sort things out! I’m a gonna get drunk, whack the Missus, drive the kids out then I’m gonna attempt suicide. That’ll learn them lopsided, pro fascist politicians. ”
      What we should do is to convince our farmers to stay in bed and take it easy while the collective we starve the urban rich and their political minions out from under the woodpile.
      I’ve just tried to work out graeme hart’s hourly rate. ( Graeme hart was a huuuuuge donor to the Twatzo’s. ) It’s said that graeme has a fortune of upwards of 12 billion of the dollars. Try and get you head around that figure?
      12 of the Billions! Twelve! Each of the Billions is one thousand of the millions and each million is one thousand of the thousands and each thousand is one thousand of the one hundred dollars you scrape by on down at the Super Markup. How? I reckon hart bought the national party to make sure no one figured out just how a scrawny old Kiwi tow truck driver is four years into his retirement with 12 Billion dollars and counting, aye boys?
      And he’s just one of the 14 other multi-billion dollar multi-billionaires. Are we missing something? Well, yes, our money. But what else are we missing? Could it be unbiased, a-political, political representation? Could it be that? Could it be that the reason why we have multi-billionaires, multi-millionaires and four foreign owned banks shamelessly exploiting us is because we have no real nor actually political representation. At all. They say blah-blah-blah. We hear blah-blah-blah. Then, we see zero change unless tilting further into poverty could be regarded as change.
      Are we just plain and simply being ripped off? If so then what’s hilarious is that we vote for them then pay then to fuck us over.
      How does that make you feel? Tell me about your ‘feelings’? You work hard. You live in a box and hypnotise yourself with junk media. No wonder so many people are addicted to P.

    • Just Maths on exponential growth.

      2013. 11% of working age population received a main benefit
      2023. 11% of working age population received a main benefit.

      2013 Superannuation and Veterans 607,035 =
      $10.9 billion

      2023  Superannuation and Veterans 808,050 =
      $ 19.5 billion

  9. The UK pauperised India and China, narcotized Chinese, dispossessed Maori and Aboriginals if their land, and New Zealand was simply an appendage of the UK and supported it’s imperialism. That’s how NZ became wealthy
    In the 1970s things quickly changed when the UK abandoned us for Europe, and then we had to look for new markets and trade with those yucky middle Easterners and Chinese, and living on borrowed money, and time. That is what necessitated the reforms of the 80s, like it or not

  10. The one fact so often never mentioned about this country, is its entrenched racism.

    I grew up in the 1950’s / 1960’s New Zealand ..don’t recall it being a warm, cozy, equal place to grow up in.

    I do recall the blatant discrimination against Maori.

    60 years on , seems like we’re going down that path again.

  11. Socialists are always running out of other people’s money, so it ran out before the 1980s.

    • Since the 1980s capitalists have always stolen other people’s money and the more they steal the more they want to continue to do so.
      It’s called the trickle up effect.
      Socialism is the answer.

    • ” Socialists are always running out of other people’s money, so it ran out before the 1980s ”

      Actually Muldoon acting unilaterally foolishly mis appropriated a large amount of it.

      And now the money is stolen from the working poor and reaching in to the middle class and the destitute including children and given to the parasites and there are many to ensure their lavish lifestyles and position are maintained.

      That is SOCIALISM for the rich which you obviously think is a great idea.

      All enacted legally by National and Labour governments and the will of parliaments and its MPs.

  12. Socialists are always running out of other people’s money, so it ran out before the 1980s.

  13. Didn’t read, because Lefties from then know, so, boring to us.

    Unlike me, you’re a great champion for the people’s cause.

  14. Now it seems we are paying taxes on yesterday’s principles? but today there are none, because THEY (those in business with rules that are bendy and twisty) are in touch with enlightened reality, and those who haven’t broken the Code are The Others. These others are condemned to grub around for grubs until they are very grubby which shows they are not of the Right Stuff, so can be ignored, except by the erstwhile Samaritan (thankfully still lurking in rarely accessed places).

  15. ” I think I prefer the term ‘the decent society’ to socialism, ”

    Ah Stuart that has been promised and failed by the National party in 1990 and then used to launch the next stage of draconian new liberal policies starting with the ” crisis ” of the BNZ conveniently ready to collapse when the government changed and similar to Roger’s run on the currency in 1984 to scare the population into accepting his crisis management cause we were ” broke ” and we needed to pay back the debt and even Lange got in on the act to threaten the country with the I.M.F.

    But after selling everything not nailed down we have ten times the debt.

    Democratic socialism ( that Bernie Sanders campaigned on and won huge support in the 2016 primaries ) was the norm and accepted before 1984 and at every election it was voted back in despite when Holland in 1951 attempted to crush the union movement and declared a state of emergency and won.

    It was pretend socialism or Keynesian and not he horrific system long despised and ridiculed by the unregulated capitalists who now have us all by the balls.

    ” We have become a stupid, backward, and unproductive nation – mirroring the quality of our leaders ”

    Exactly the aim of Jim and Ruth’s Decent society reforms that Bolger now publicly has renounced as destructive and a mistake thirty years on and has now to late realised the horror he and his colleagues have inflicted on New Zealanders.

    ” From time to time I am accused by commentators on the political right of being a radical leftie journalist ”

    Anyone espousing a more inclusive economy and society is some how a ” radical ” a denigrating term used to threaten and provoke fear that by promising a fairer distribution of the economy’s wealth is shared by all who contribute and not held by the top echelon and their enablers.

    Bernie Sanders argued that there is nothing radical in wanting decent pay, union protection for working people who are entitled to be protected , affordable healthcare , dignity not destitution when you retire after a lifetime of work , security of home ownership and fully funded public services whose aim is to provide for not continually cut back so the hospital or prison can return a profit.

    Whenever you hear the slant and insult of the word radical in a debate you know the right are scared and might have to share their countries wealth.

    Thy will do everything and anything to stop it.

  16. Btw the “warm dry homes” you talk about that we had is an illusion. None would pass modern day healthy homes standards. I recall as a kid having ice on the inside of my bedroom windows and our only heating was an open fire.

    I also remember waiting 6 months for a phone, bloated inefficient railways and
    state controlled broadcasting. All things indefinitely improved by getting the govt out the bloody way.

    • I remember there being work for Africa no matter where or when you applied.
      I yearn for those glorious days unlike today where capitalism requires a dog eat dog mentality.

      • Absolute nonsense,capitalism has raised more people out of poverty than any other economic model.

    • I remember those same things growing up in the 70s. I also remember both my parents working (may father multiple jobs) so they could give their kids the best education they could get.

      I guess I missed the utopia that others speak of

      • The utopia of when we were lucky to have one murder a year and now there’s at least one a day. Almost zero poverty, employment for the unskilled. Yes those glorious days. That is the truth that people can’t face, instead they will undermine others opinions to try to inflate their egos to hide their own insecurities.

  17. I have the same memories Bg the issues we have are people who have no time for the truth instead they make things up.

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