"You're always telling us what you're against, Trotter. Why don't you tell us what you're for?"
I've received a lot of letters and e-mails like that over the years – not all of them so polite.
A column entitled From the Left conjures out of its readers imaginations a veritable phantasmagoria of political misconceptions. The most common of these is that, being "From the Left", I must favour the policies Joseph Stalin and Mao Mao Tse- tung.
Problem is, I rejected their credo of Marxist-Leninist communism long ago.
So, what do I believe?
It's a fair question, and here, for better or for worse, is my reply:
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 goal of keeping strong those innumerable threads that bind our communities in a functioning wholeness.
The source of fulfilment of 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 biosphere, and we share with them a fundamental dependency on its life-giving properties. Alone among all the creatures of the Earth, humankind possesses the power to consciously 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 could not rest till the ideas and institutions of their respective homelands had taken root in New Zealand. To the extent they succeeded, the conflicts and contradictions of their native lands 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 by superior strength or simple good fortune are endowed with wealth and influence, enjoy their advantages on the sufferance of that vast majority whose daily labours make possible a functioning society. Only so long as, in the judgement of the many, the possession by a fortunate few of social, political and economic privileges serves the community as a whole, will those privileges endure. Any attempt by a minority to transform the privileges granted to them by the majority into a system of permanent advantage 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 protection against adversity are rights due to all New Zealanders. Political institutions are established 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.
As a social-democrat I cannot countenance the arbitrary dispersal of the people's resources, nor the slow fragmentation and dilution of their rights. And, while recognising the fundamental kinship of all human beings, I will not surrender the sovereignty of my nation to the interests of foreigners. New Zealand's destiny, finally, is the enterprise of New Zealanders alone.
- The Dominion Post